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Do you believe terrorism is a real threat?

Philip Dorling
December 15, 2010
.A SECRET Australian intelligence assessment has declared the al-Qaeda terrorist network a failure and claims its regional offshoot, Jemaah Islamiah, has been broken in Indonesia.

The head of Australia's intelligence analysis agency, the Office of National Assessments, told US diplomats in October 2008 that al-Qaeda ''ultimately has failed to achieve the strategic leadership role it sought within the Islamic world''.

The assessment undercuts a key argument of the Gillard government to justify Australia's continued commitment to the war in Afghanistan: that al-Qaeda could return to use the country as a terrorist training ground.

Advertisement: Story continues below Australian intelligence officers instead blamed Taliban success in Afghanistan on the failings of the Afghan government and the involvement of Pakistan's intelligence and security agencies.

Pressed by the US diplomats for an overall assessment of Islamist terrorist threats, the then ONA director-general, Peter Varghese, gave a strongly upbeat view.

He told the visiting head of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Randall Fort, that terrorism was ''a good news story that is getting better, with the violent Islamist threat receding''.

The US embassy reported that Mr Varghese ''commented that in personal meetings and intelligence exchanges with the Office of National Assessments and other Australian services, Pakistani [Defence chief] General [Ashfaq] Kayani continually comes across as ambivalent on the issues of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, reiterating that India remains the core mission - and priority - of the Pakistan defence and intelligence establishment''.

''ONA assesses that Pakistan's military and security elite view this as 'an American war', which combined with a very hard sense of anti-Americanism combines into 'a very dangerous cocktail','' Mr Varghese was reported to have told his American colleagues.

Mr Varghese said developments were especially positive in Australia's region, where ''the growth of Islamic extremism-based movements is constrained, thanks in part to ongoing successes in combined counterterrorism efforts, but more because of societal factors in south-east Asia that reject the Middle Eastern Jihadist model''.

But the secret US embassy cable, leaked to WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to the Herald, warned the southern Philippines was emerging as a terrorism haven.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, told Parliament on October 19 during the debate on Australia's military deployment that it was vital ''to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for al-Qaeda''; she warned that Osama bin Laden's group remained ''a resilient and persistent network'' and noted past links between al-Qaeda and extremists in Indonesia.

But the US record of the high-level intelligence exchange states: ''Varghese and his analysts assessed that Indonesia Islam was 'returning to its main course following a detour' driven by personal linkages to the global jihad that were formed in Afghanistan in the 1980s''.

''ONA analysts assess 'the tide has turned' on Jemaah Islamiah in Indonesia, noting that its leadership has been devastated - with most seniors killed, captured or on the run - and that it has lost its local support networks and funding,'' the US embassy reported to Washington.

''ONA judged JI was shifting near-term goals to its local … anti-Western interests while otherwise 'creeping back to the shadows' and focusing on survival.''

Australian intelligence analysts proffered the view that JI could ''endure and regenerate over the long term'', but that it would be ''a more localised terrorist threat''.

This latest disclosure comes as the former JI leader Abu Bakar Bashir was yesterday committed for trial in Indonesia on terrorism charges

Mr Bashir, convicted of conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombing but acquitted on appeal, has been charged as the alleged inspiration of, and fund-raiser for, an Islamic militant training camp in Aceh that was broken up in February.

The leaked US cables also reveal that ONA considered Indonesian counterterrorism successes to be ''a study in contrast'' to ''the ongoing downward slide in the Philippines, where the collapse of the peace process in the south threatened to make this area 'the new regional incubator of terrorist jihadis' ''.

The US embassy in Canberra reported that: ''ONA terrorism specialists noted signals and human intelligence that JI 'structuralists' embedded with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were rethinking plans to return to Indonesia, while JI 'freelancers' were becoming more active and better linked with Abu Sayyaf Group operatives.''

According to the US diplomatic reporting, ONA judged that the southern Philippines increasingly contained ''all the ingredients'' of al-Qaeda's ''favoured tilling ground''.

Answer Question

Asked by Friday at 6:22 PM on Dec. 21, 2010 in Politics & Current Events

Level 19 (7,317 Credits)
Answers (34)
  • YES!! Of course, I believe terrorism is a real threat!! Just because ONE extremist faction of a "peaceful religion" has failed to materialize as they had hoped, doesn't mean there are OTHER extremist groups out there who would love to destroy the people, places and interests that do not fall in line with their ideology!!


    Answer by LoriKeet at 6:27 PM on Dec. 21, 2010

  • I'm not questioning their intent, just their capabilities. Terrorists are weak, in general. I think pulling off 9/11 was a fluke because we believed 'it can't happen here'. Now that we are paying attention I know they will keep trying and probably succeed here and there but I don't believe they are a real threat to our nation or way of life.


    Comment by Friday (original poster) at 6:32 PM on Dec. 21, 2010

  • Yes, and even moreso with the current administration.

    Answer by cbk_mom3 at 6:34 PM on Dec. 21, 2010

  • Not only do I believe it's real, I believe they are winning. When they see us evacuate airports the way we did yesterday, they sit back and laugh at how we are running scared. I'm not saying that we should not take every precaution possible, because we should. But our whole way of life changed on 9/11. We never thought it could happen to us, and it did. We had to wake up and realize we are not universally loved, in fact quite the opposite. I'm not generally an alarmist, but I fear for America.

    Answer by elasmimi at 6:35 PM on Dec. 21, 2010

  •  Yes, and even moreso with the current administration.

    Why do you think that? Obama, to my disappointment, has continued many of the same terror fighting programs that Bush had. Like warrantless wiretaps, Gitmo.



    Comment by Friday (original poster) at 6:38 PM on Dec. 21, 2010

  • No terrorist just want to come over and play tea party with us, they aren't a threat (sarcasm)

    Of coarse they are and it doesn't help our country when our leader(s) want to stick their nose where it doesn't belong. They are more concerned about what's happening in other countries more then what's happening in their own back yard.

    Answer by mommy_of_two388 at 6:39 PM on Dec. 21, 2010

  •  We never thought it could happen to us, and it did.

    We were naive. The only thing that changed on 9/11, was our perception. The hatred and threat have been there many years since we insist in mucking about in others business where we don't belong.


    Comment by Friday (original poster) at 6:40 PM on Dec. 21, 2010

  • Terrorists can do a lot of damage, but not to the whole U.S. Our way of life, however, is more threatened by our own current government who wants to destroy democracy and socialize the U.S. The socialized medical care they are pushing through congress right now is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Answer by neebug3766 at 6:40 PM on Dec. 21, 2010

  • No terrorist just want to come over and play tea party with us, they aren't a threat (sarcasm)

    I've never denied their intent just their abilities. I sincerely doubt they have the resources to make a real impact on our way of life.


    Comment by Friday (original poster) at 6:41 PM on Dec. 21, 2010

  • Our way of life, however, is more threatened by our own current government who wants to destroy democracy and socialize the U.S. The socialized medical care they are pushing through congress right now is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Please feel free to start your own post about our govt and perceived movement towards Socialism, this is about terrorists. I think our govts actions taking away our rights to 'keep us safe' helps the terrorists do their jobs easier. The healthcare passed was a give away to the ins companies, who wrote the legislation. What is it called when the corporations run the govt? Not Socialism, something else.


    Comment by Friday (original poster) at 6:45 PM on Dec. 21, 2010

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