Here are three articles I’ve had published recently. The newest is this article in the journal Democracy and Security, co-authored with Shandon Harris-Hogan:
Mantiqi IV: al-Qaeda’s failed co-optation of a Jemaah Islamiyah support network.
On July 14, 2000, a man called the Perth office of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and stated, “I’ve just returned from Afghanistan, I’ve just met with Osama bin Laden … I would like to have an interview with an ASIO officer … I would be willing to work for ASIO should the need arise.”1 The man was a member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a group that would gain the reputation as Southeast Asia’s deadliest terrorist organization following the 2002 Bali bombings. He had been sent to Afghanistan by the leaders of Mantiqi IV, JI’s Australian branch, where he was trained and tasked by al-Qaeda to assist an attack timed to occur during the 2000 Sydney Olympics. If successful, this plot would have constituted the first al-Qaeda-directed act of terrorism within a Western country and the first act of jihadist violence conducted on Australian soil.
The plot’s origins were not unique. Al-Qaeda’s strategy has long involved co-opting other jihadist organizations and redirecting their focus toward Western targets, often making use of their Western-based support networks. Al-Qaeda utilized UK-based support networks of Pakistani jihadist groups for attacks such as the 7/7 London bombings.2 Yet unlike London, this early Australian plot did not result in mass casualty violence. Instead, as the voluntary phone call to ASIO demonstrated, the plot fell apart. It is hoped that a detailed examination of this planned attack will help to identify factors that both enable and hinder al-Qaeda’s ability to attack the West through co-opting existing jihadist groups and their external support networks.
This article draws on interviews with former members of Mantiqi IV, court material, media sources, and existing scholarly accounts of al-Qaeda and JI to assess the factors that shaped the outcome of this plot. The first section outlines a number of key concepts such as jihadist movements, external support networks, and al-Qaeda’s strategy of co-optation. The article then provides a historical account of Jemaah Islamiyah’s emergence in Southeast Asia and the antecedents of its external support network in Australia. This is done in order to demonstrate the characteristics that made JI susceptible to co-optation by al-Qaeda, as well as those factors that would later prove to be obstacles. This is followed by an examination of Mantiqi IV and of al-Qaeda’s attempt to co-opt JI for its global war against the United States and its allies. The final section examines how this co-optation process played out among Mantiqi IV’s members and the resulting terrorist plot within Australia………
I also have a new post out in The Strategist:
In defence of ASIO’s passport powers.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation often cancels the passports of suspected terrorists, and has increasingly done so to prevent Australians joining jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq. ASIO has issued adverse security assessments for more than 100 passports since 9/11, with over 60 cancellations in the past two years alone.
This tactic has occasionally been criticised on civil libertarian grounds, but has recently faced criticism from a different direction. Some commentators have argued that passport confiscations keep dangerous terrorists in Australia, and that it’d be better to let them leave and work to ensure they never return.
However, that approach would create bigger problems…….
And a couple of weeks ago I had short piece published in the Alternative Law Journal:
Australian citizens continue to join proscribed terrorist organisations in Syria and Iraq. This has gone from being a neglected security concern to becoming the Australian government’s ‘number one national security priority’.
The result is that three sets of new national security legislation are being introduced in quick succession, which carries great risks for human rights and effective counter-terrorism…….
However that last one is a bit out of date, as it was written a while ago. The laws it discusses have now been passed, and there have also been amendments. For example, I wrote that the no-go-zone proposal “could require any Australian returning from Syria and Iraq to prove they were not involved in terrorism”, but now there’s been a PJCIS amendment so that the law can’t apply to entire countries. Currently the law applies to al-Raqqa province in Syria.