Tuesday 9 March 2021

Will The Much-Criticised SIS Have The Last Laugh?

Be Careful What You Wish For: At the very heart of the Left’s stupidity on national security matters is its lamentable unfamiliarity with the basic techniques of counter-intelligence. In their reckless, ideologically-driven haste to smash the infrastructure of white supremacism in New Zealand, the far-left critics of the SIS and the GCSB are openly embracing the maximum possible deployment of state surveillance and interception technology.

LEFT-WING NAIVETY is nothing new, but its power to astound and enrage has not diminished. The scorn heaped upon the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) for failing to intercept a recent threat to the Christchurch Muslim community is a case in point.

The official version of this event has the Police receiving a tip-off from a member of the public. Someone who just happened to be hanging-out in the digital neighbourhood of 4-Chan’s most dangerous white supremacists stumbled, quite accidentally, upon plans to car-bomb the two mosques attacked by Brenton Tarrant in 2019, and like any public-spirited citizen, he called the cops.

Hmmmm …

This may, of course, be a true story. The informant’s accidental discovery of a terrorist plot may, indeed, be just one of those amazing examples of pure dumb luck that sometimes happens in this funny old world. Then again, it might not.

Maybe, just maybe, the official version of events bears absolutely no resemblance to what actually happened.

Because, let’s face it, if the SIS is doing exactly what the Left has been urging it to do since 15 March 2019; if it has made the surveillance, interception, infiltration and disruption of white supremacist groups its top counter-intelligence priority; then what possible motive would it have for announcing the fact – and offering public proof of its effectiveness – to the individuals and organisations it is watching?

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the SIS and its sister organisation, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) have not only been monitoring the “chatter” on 4-Chan, but that they have an agent, or agents, masquerading as hardline white supremacists participating energetically in any number of extremist chat-rooms. Let’s also assume that they are receiving a steady flow of HUMINT (human intelligence) from spies embedded in far-right and white supremacist groups. In these circumstances, only an imbecile would jeopardise these operations by waving their hands in the air and shouting “Lookit! Lookit! We’ve caught ourselves a terrorist!”

Surely, the SIS’s more likely response, in the event of it learning of a credible plan to car-bomb Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre on the second anniversary of Tarrant’s attacks, would be to let the world believe that the plot’s discovery was due entirely to the initiative of a sharp-eyed and public-spirited citizen who saw something and said something … to the Police?

If this was indeed the SIS’s response, then the loud braying of the Left will, for once, be a welcome noise. Criticism of the SIS’s “failure” to take white supremacism seriously will be music to the Service’s ears. The longer the far-right can be persuaded that the national security apparatus remains blind to the threat posed to New Zealanders by their most extreme elements, the better chance the government’s secret agents will have of shutting these extremists down.

It is, however, unlikely that the SIS chiefs will be placing too much faith in the Left’s condemnation of their inadequacies. Merely by reading the public disclosures of experts on the far-right, like Professor Paul Spoonley, they will be aware that more and more of New Zealand’s right-wing extremists are learning the basic trade-craft of clandestine political organisation. Aware that unfriendly eyes are on them, these groups are encrypting their communications and vetting with great thoroughness every potential recruit to their cause. Such people and groups are unlikely to risk saying anything potentially incriminating on 4-Chan – not when there are many much safer places on the Internet in which to take refuge.

Given that one of the persons arrested by the Police was released without charge, and the individual in custody was charged under the Crimes Act – rather than the Terrorism Suppression Act – with Threatening To Kill, one might even speculate that there is more than a faint whiff of public relations about the whole incident.

Face it, rigging a car-bomb – especially one intended to be detonated remotely, rather than delivered directly to the target by a driver willing to sacrifice their own life for the cause – is not a game for amateurs. A former, or active duty, soldier, highly trained in the use of explosives and detonation devices, might be capable of such an attack. Alternatively, skilled and experienced operatives with similar backgrounds might be imported to perpetrate the outrage. With New Zealand’s borders closed by the Covid-19 Pandemic, however, this latter scenario can be confidently discounted. It is also inconceivable that the arrest of a suspect with such a military background would not have prompted a significantly higher security response on the part of the authorities.

How much more likely is it that a couple of idiots, talking big on what was effectively an “open line” were easily intercepted by the SIS and GCSB “watchers”; and that their identity was made known to the Police – not because they posed a serious threat to the Christchurch Muslim community, but because announcing the arrest of a couple of far-right, Islamophobic terrorist wannabes, just days away from the second anniversary of the Mosque Massacres, would constitute a major public relations coup?

Such an operation would achieve a number of objectives. First and foremost, it would reassure Muslim New Zealanders that their fellow citizens and, of course, the Police, still have their back – thereby reconfirming “They Are Us” in the most dramatic fashion. Secondly, it would serve as a reminder that there was still a great deal of hate out there – murderous hate. Precisely the sort of hate that the Labour Government is determined to keep in check with its proposed legislation outlawing “hate speech”. Thirdly, as intimated above, the circumstances of the alleged offender’s apprehension would set up the SIS and the GCSB for exactly the sort of left-wing bollocking that has, in fact, occurred. Criticism which, hopefully, will make the Service’s surveillance, interception, infiltration and disruption operations all the more effective. Assuming, of course, that the far-right is as predictable in its stupidity as the far-left!

At the very heart of the Left’s stupidity on national security matters is its lamentable unfamiliarity with the basic techniques of counter-intelligence. In their reckless, ideologically-driven haste to smash the infrastructure of white supremacism in New Zealand, the far-left critics of the SIS and the GCSB are openly embracing the maximum possible deployment of state surveillance and interception technology.

To root out Islamophobia and silence hate speech, they are happy to have the national security apparatus secure the demise of far-right extremists by any means necessary. That their own uncompromising demands are as predictable as they are extreme does not appear to have occurred to them. That their antipathy to the far-right might be used to the long-term advantage of the security services has, similarly, never crossed their minds.

Nor, apparently, has the realisation that, when they have rounded up the last ethno-nationalist extremist, those same security services will come after the Left with exactly the same surveillance technology and censorship powers. More tellingly, they will be able to do so citing precedents with which the Left itself has furnished them. The far-left critics of the national security apparatus will be hung by a rope which they, themselves, have twisted.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 9 March 2021.


Shane McDowall said...

I think the SIS have improved since their meat pie and Playboy days.

And they could no more have prevented the Christchurch mosque attacks than the Trades Hall bombing or the Rainbow Warrior.

John Hurley said...

Paul Spoonley: "expert on the far-right" and someone with the "good sense and sensitivities" to think Maori and European culture are equal.

Unherd takes Harry to task over commonly derived meaning (white supremacy)

AB said...

"To root out Islamophobia and silence hate speech, they are happy to have the national security apparatus secure the demise of far-right extremists by any means necessary."

Um - "by any means necessary"? Is anybody on 'the left' saying that - that they want an infinite extension of security services powers? Or are the simply (and unremarkably) pointing out that the security services seem historically to have been somewhat biased in their perception of what constitutes a threat? It is quite possible to simultaneously make this simple observation and to be very cautious about the powers of the SIS. Chew gum and walk Chris, chew gum and walk.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant." Karl Popper

I'm not sure that it's impossible to find out how to rig a remotely detonated bomb though. It may well be there somewhere on the Internet, On 4 Chan or 8 Chan – I'd have a look myself, but the CIA are probably watching. At least with all the pornography on the Internet these days the SIS won't have to carry playboys around.:)

John Hurley said...

pointing out that the security services seem historically to have been somewhat biased in their perception of what constitutes a threat?
Is it any wonder when you attempt a new type of society based on the assumption that an ethnic group (descendants of British, Irish etc) had an ingroup preference for people them percieved as them.

Lisa Meto Fox [Unite Union]
White supremacy is everywhere. The main thing that brings me comfort is that even in settler colonies like New Zealand it isn’t long until there will be more Māori and POC then white people. #HarryandMeghan

Who rules a multi-culture. Why should Maori & POC be on average more virtuous that any other group. I can't say I have seen it. What has been achieved here. Social cohesion is now conflated with suppression.

BTW if a Bomber Bradbury says Jacinda doesn't need the boomer demographic - ZB - Mike Hosking (boomers listen to talkback) why the cancelling of Magic Talk?

David George said...

What Karl Popper was making there GS was a tribute to the value of the free exchange of ideas, not a call for it's opposite as is frequently asserted. The Muslim religion itself, for example, would be the subject of suppression if what you've copied above was applied literally.
Terrorism, the use of force and violence against the innocents is clearly wrong regardless of the motivations. Their protection is the number one priority of the state and, by extension the SIS.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Kiwidave. Citation needed.

Mark Wahlberg said...

Back in the early 1970's I worked alongside one of Wellingtons more radical political agitators. We called him "Lush" ( it should have been Rasputin) after he came to work one day with a hangover. He was a fellow traveler of the Marxist/Trotskyite/Anarchist variety and regularly attracted the attention of the security services of the day.
I remember he was arrested once and made the front page of the Evening post after shouting "F..k The Police" during an anti Vietnam war demonstration outside the then Warring Taylor Police Station.
The G-Men, wearing suits and ties, would sit outside our work place in their 73/74 Chocolate coloured economy class Holden Belmont and watch "Lush" coming and going.
If we approached and attempted to engage them in conversation, they would drive away, wait 10 minutes then return, parking a little further down the road. They had a camera they tried to conceal, but no communication device that we were aware of. Pencil and paper, carrier pigeon perhaps?
To suggest "Lush" was paranoid would be an understatement. He would bring his household rubbish to work and get us workmates to each take a bag full of confetti like material and deposit it in the public rubbish bins scattered around town.
"Lush" told us we were helping to fight the imperialist capitalist oppressors of the working class.
We just thought it was fun to be little naughty. Fond memories of the good old days.

David George said...

It's in Karl P's statement, the one you pasted above GS. James Lindsay (of Cynical Theories fame) wrote a very good explanation of it and why it's particularly relevant today.

His point seems pretty clear. A tolerant society should only suppress the intolerant when they refuse to debate and instead answer arguments with violence.

“This is exactly what the woke do,” Lindsay said. “They are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument but begin by denouncing all argument,” he quoted. This hearkens back to something Lindsay wrote earlier about why the woke won’t debate you. I wrote about it here. Here's a summary of his argument:

"Most of us look at a disagreement over some topic as an ongoing debate in the public square. Some believe one thing and some another and there’s a give and take over which views hold up to scrutiny and which don’t. But for the truly woke, there’s a deep skepticism of the entire process which has its roots in postmodernism. For these academics, the debate itself is really a kind of falsehood which exists to reinforce structures of power. And because the ultimate goal of critical theory is social justice, anything which gets in the way needs to be dispensed with, even if that includes things like reason and argument."

Here's a short clip from Lindsay expanding on the KP proposition. How the Woke Fail the Paradox of Tolerance. https://youtu.be/v_uJLWOhFJk

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"His point seems pretty clear. A tolerant society should only suppress the intolerant when they refuse to debate and instead answer arguments with violence."

Which is exactly the way I interpreted it. Not what you seemed to think from your previous post.

The "woke" won't debate? Bullshit! Not only do you see it in every post here, but you said all over YouTube. Except of course in the "non-woke" echo chambers of the Conservatives. The number of conservative websites I've been banned from for respectfully disagreeing – less than the fingers onto hands, but certainly more than the fingers on one. On my favourite blog site, only a few conservative bloggers actually allow comments. And of the others, only one will not delete anything that disagrees with them. That champion of free speech and general arse Cameron Slater used to block people and throw them off his site regularly if they disagreed with him. I got thrown off for saying "Well the science actually says..." So don't try to Bullshit me about the woke not debating. Conservatives try to shut down debate all the time.

John Hurley said...

Speaking of James Lindsay
I was working on my roof listening to a What a Load of Colony Podcast where Tina Ngata talks to Jess Berentson-Shaw.

She could have called her podcast 2 + 2 = 5 as she assumes that there is no universal truth.
As far as I can make out JB-S's "good information" is purely an ideological truth blending Western science while giving priority to the views of marginalised groups. They both praised Linda Smith author of Decolonising Methodologies.

David George said...

Screaming "bullshit" isn't "respectfully disagreeing.
I've only once been kicked off a blog site - Granny Chaston banned me for pointing out a few truths about Mohammed, I don't think I broke any rules or if he disagreed with me. Often it's not so much that folk are banned for disagreement but for breach of the rules. BFD don't allow swearing, even mild stuff like "bullshit" on their comments section so perhaps that's where you've infringed. Kiwiblog have regular posters with quite far left views and they're not kicked off though they do get a bit of a tune up from the other commentators.
In any case that's all pretty tame stuff compared to the intolerance of opinion and the life changing repercussions being dished out to folk that question the orthodoxy. Tom Slater:

12 March 2021
Free speech comes with consequences. This is a statement that, on the surface, no one disagrees with. If you speak your mind and express an unpopular opinion, you might be criticised, ridiculed, called names. This is what free debate looks like.

But so often when people say ‘free speech comes with consequences’, they mean something very different. They mean it as an implicit threat. They mean ‘shut up, or else’. They mean ‘you are entirely free to express your opinion, but if you do so we will get you sacked’.

This is how cancel culture works. To suggest that this kind of behaviour is just ‘more free speech’, that it is just a form of protest, is absurd. The entire point of it is to punish people for their opinions, and to scare everyone else into keeping their mouths shut.

When illiberal liberals talk of the ‘consequences’ to speech today, they are not calling for lively debate. What they have in mind is closer to what the Charlie Hebdo killers thought. They believed free speech came with consequences, too. Deadly ones.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Screaming "bullshit" isn't "respectfully disagreeing."
1.I don't need to be respectful here. There are places where I know I need to be respectful or at least pretend to be, and I am. Or pretend to be. Unfortunately I can't really pretend to respect your opinions here because I don't.
2. I've no idea what BFD is, it's obviously not one of my particular blog sites, some of which are censored for swearing – and even for some strange reason the use of the word rum. But there are ways around this. You've only been banned from one website presumably "liberal" where as I've been banned from at least half a dozen conservative ones – to me that shows that liberals are not the ones who are trying to shut down debate. Can't quite see why you can't see this but...
3. I can quite easily give you a list of liberals/progressives/social democrats who have been victims of cancel culture, which was invented by the right by the way. It wasn't liberals who tried to ban the Dixie checks, it wasn't liberals who refuse to give Colin Kaepernick a job because he knelt at the national anthem. Conservatives have had a go at Starbucks, they managed to get the film 'The Hunt' cancelled because it showed rich people hunting poor people for sport. Your hero Trump played a big part in that. A Palestinian speaker was deplatformed in Toronto not too long ago. Anglican minister and columnist Michael Coren was fired from several conservative platforms for his opinions. The book 'Something Happened in our Town', about racial justice was the subject of conservative cancellation as was the teacher who read it to her class. Princeton professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor received death threats for criticising Donald Trump in a speech.
Not to mention that a huge proportion of the conservatives supposedly cancelled consist of half a dozen at most, of people like Milo Yiannopoulos who deliberately provoke it and glory in it, because it makes them more money.
So I think that perhaps whoever is without sin should cast the first stone here? And that certainly shouldn't be conservatives.

David George said...

"I don't need to be respectful here"
Perhaps you should read the site rules.
I'm not making a claim that cancellation of opposing views is the sole preserve of the left so I don't know why you're banging on about that. Some of the examples you have managed to find are obviously absurd - that Palestinian was a terrorist so hardly surprising he was de-platformed.

"The language police have become so emboldened that they are even hounding people for using ‘out of touch’ or ‘outdated’ language. Think, for example, of the poor local councillor in Bolton who had to apologise for publishing a newsletter that used the phrase ‘invalid carriers’ to describe vehicles for disabled people.

The concept of ‘outdated language’ has no legal or institutional formulation. There are no formal laws against the use of outdated language. And yet anyone accused of this cultural crime is at the very least forced to issue an apology. Gordon Beattie, the boss of a public relations company, discovered this when he tweeted the following:

‘At Beattie Communications we don’t hire blacks, gays or Catholics. We hire talented people and we don’t care about the colour of their skin, their sexual orientation or religion. That’s the way it should be with every Company — only hire people for their talent, experience, knowledge, and wisdom.’

As a result of this tweet, Beattie was forced to apologise and then resign.

The power that the cultural elites now have to decide what language is out of date, and what language people should be punished for, is not unlike the power once possessed by the Church, which could determine what was blasphemous or profane. But at least the Church was a publicly recognisable institution. One knew where one stood.

That is not the case today. Cancel culture appears as an invisible power without a name. Hence its practitioners can deny its existence, just as they deny the existence of the crisis of free speech. That they do so while cancelling and censoring with impunity makes the task of defending free speech more urgent than ever."


Frank Furedi

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Ah Kiwi Dave. I have read the site rules. I have called out Chris several times for not living up to them. I have been vilified on this site to the point where I almost left. Almost cancelled in fact.

If you're not making a claim that cancel culture is solely the preserve of the left, it would be nice if you provided some alternative examples, rather than idiot neo-Nazis being deplatformed and the like.

Beattie communications I presume made a business decision that they would lose money if Beattie would not resign. Welcome to capitalism. Man should have joined a union right? After all, isn't it conservatives that push for "at will" employment? I guess it's a case of be careful what you wish for.

Surely, even people designated as "terrorists" by the Israelis, the Americans, and people like you – who may or may not actually be terrorists – are entitled to free speech? You people never seem to put restrictions on your conservative speakers some of whom are simply Nazis who have learned to colour inside the lines. (That phrase is getting a bit of a workout today I suspect) Surely free speech should be judged on what someone says rather than what someone thinks they are.

David George said...

"terrorists – are entitled to free speech"
Surely Karl Popper's point, in the quote you originally posted, was that once you promote (or participate) in violence, the murders of innocents for political ends then no, sorry, you and your intolerance won't be tolerated.
If that wasn't his point then what was it. What's your's.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

You don't "not tolerate" their speech, unless it advocates killing people. If they make a speech without advocating killing people you tolerate it. What you don't tolerate is their violence. You see KiwiDave you people are always going on about Jordan Peterson and his ideas about rights and responsibilities. Too much emphasis on rights you say, and not enough on responsibilities. I couldn't agree more. And yet ....You want the free speech, but you don't want the responsibilities that go with it. And you only want it for your own people, not for anyone you don't like. Here's a thing – there's a pamphlet apparently circulating in NZ put out by some anti-vax nut jobs outright lying about vaccinations. Some people will read this and refuse to be vaccinated and it's quite possible that some will die because of it. Personally I'd have them in jail, or at least if a relative of mine died because of that stupid bloody thing I'd sue them. What would you do?

David George said...

It's a difficult one that's for sure and there's always the danger that repression (of bad ideas) will lead to the claim (by the C. theorists) that "they" have something to hide. Unfortunately sometimes "they" do.
Recently there was the widely promoted belief in Samoa (prompted by a few deaths of the recently vaccinated - related as it turned out to bad medical hygiene) that vaccines were dangerous. Over sixty kids subsequently died of measles. Perhaps the anti vaxxers should have been thrown in prison, though it seems a bit harsh. Perhaps they were only repeating their genuine concerns and would be have been horrified with the consequences. For better or worse we live in a world where all sorts of opinion, advice and information is available; sorting out the good the bad and the ugly is no easy task and the education system is not placing the emphasis on the practice of critical thinking that it should.

Apropos of this and Chris's latest post on free speech:

Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP, the UK Secretary for Education, who is proposing new legislation to counter the disproportionate influence that a minority of students and academics are having in censoring free expression in the UK:

“Throughout history, free speech has been a constant sword against tyranny, injustice and oppression… Ideas in themselves are not worthy of respect, only tolerance – and to thrive they must prove themselves in the arena of evidence and debate. But in amongst the oddball, incorrect, challenging or downright offensive ideas will be found those that will transform our society and revolutionise our worldviews. By their very nature we cannot know which these are in advance.”