Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The wheels continue to come off the Haneef case

I find myself in an odd position after the latest revelations in the Haneef matter.

First we had ASIO (the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation). I quote from the Sydney Herald report:

In a damning submission to the Clarke inquiry into the handling of the case, the head of the country's main intelligence agency said it told the government there were no grounds to believe Dr Haneef was linked to, or even knew about, the botched June car bombings.

Then in quick time we had the Australian Federal Police (AFP) statement that Dr Haneef was no longer a person of interest.

The two together have unleashed a wave of criticism of AFP Commissioner Keelty, including calls for his resignation. This is where I find myself in the odd position.

The crux of my original complaints about the handling of the Haneef matter (links at the end of the post) lay in what I saw as failures in process, compassion and common sense. These held independent of the evidence in the case - here the position was still uncertain.

I now have to apply the same test to Mr Keelty in the face of the attacks upon him. It may be that the calls for his resignation are justified. But let's wait here until we have the results of the current inquiry. The current rush to judgement is not dissimilar in some ways to the process originally applied to Dr Haneef.

In all this, what the evidence is now drawing out is something that I have complained about for some time, the failures in due process under the Howard Government. Here I am using the words "due process" not in the formal legal sense, but as a descriptor of administrative processes under Mr Howard's Government.

In looking at the reports on ASIO attitudes, I was struck by the fact that Minister Andrews does not appear to have been informed of ASIO's views.

I have no reason to doubt Mr Andrew's position here. However, it opens a can of worms because we have to ask why Mr Andrews was not so informed. Yes, Mr Andrews was an accident prone Minister. Still, it was the responsibility of his advisers - political, agency and departmental - to ensure that the Minister was informed.

Unfortunately we have seen this problem before. Children Overboard comes to mind.

Returning to my opening theme, let's wait for the report of the Haneef inquiry before we form final views.

The Haneef related posts

4 comments:

Bob Q said...

Jim,

Agreed about final views, but I think we can still form some preliminary ones. If ASIO's opinion is as reported, why didn't Keelty know? He has maintained for the longest time that Haneef is still 'a person of interest', long after Andrews had departed the scene.

And the crux of the matter still relates to process. Regardless of whether there really was a fix-up to ensure the detention of Dr Haneef on whatever spurious grounds possible (and remember he was basically let go on a technicality, because that process had been rushed too), I think it is totally clear that the process, for which Keelty as agency head is responsible, was fatally flawed.

His performance should be reviewed for competence. I'll leave claims about malfeasance, cover-ups and such to Clarke, but I think it's pretty clear cut that there were huge operational failures in this case. I have seen no statements of regret, of apology or of explanation, and expect none.

Given that ASIO has torn the security veil away (to reveal, perhaps, the AFP wearing the emperor's new clothes), it may be that AFP can at least advise where, if not from ASIO, they got their security advice which they stuck by long after the collapse of the case.

My preliminary view is therefore that Keelty has such evidence against him as an administrator that he actually needs to show cause why he should not have action taken against him.

Jim Belshaw said...

I agree, Bob, that it does seem this way. I thought so at the time, and I have seen nothing so far to make me change my mind. But I think that we still need to know all the facts.

In reading the material, I really zeroed in on Mr Andrew's claim that he did not know about the ASIO view, but relied on AFP advice. If this is so, and if the ASIO advice was in fact current at the time and supplied to the AFP,then the failure of the AFP to refer to that advice would seem to be yet another serious error.

Jim Belshaw said...

As a PS, I would love to know what Mr Ruddock told the inquiry. By the way, because of your comment, I spotted and corrected the incorrect spelling of Mr Keelty's name.

Bob Q said...

My final comment on this is that i greatly doubt that we will be given all the facts, as some will be suppressed in the name of national security, pace ASIO's findings. Speaking personally, if that happens, my final conclusions will be based on AFP chooses to release. That may not be quite fair, but is the best any of us can do.