Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Forum - terrorism and civil protection, the emerging digital dark age

Today Australian PM Abbott unveils the Government's proposed new security measures. Yesterday , the preliminary report into the Martin Place siege was released. This is the transcript of the joint press conference with NSW Premier Baird, this the joint statement, this is the NSW Government response, here is the report itself.

The PM has made it quite clear that he believes that the balance needs to be tipped between individual freedom and civil safety in favour of civil safety: "we are determined to learn whatever lessons we can and take whatever action is required to address the threat of such an event because the first priority of government is to keep our country safe."

I do wonder just what price we have to pay "to keep our country safe" and indeed just what the existential threat is that justifies the level of rhetoric. None of this makes me feel any safer. I just feel threatened. Am I wrong to feel that the core threat that I face is not terrorism but governments themselves?

Driving home from tennis yesterday, youngest commented on the coming digital dark age, the difficulty posed by the combination of ever increasing digital processing and storage demands with continuous technological obsolescence. The effect is that we store ever more records and information but for ever shorter periods, leading to permanent losses of slabs of critical personal and public material.

You can see all this at personal level in the way emails have replaced letters. Emails are a useful if increasingly overloaded communications device, but a hopeless way of record keeping. That got me wondering. How do you select and store information for future use, or do you just not worry?


I took the Review of Australia's Counter Terrorism Machinery out to lunch. That was an error. Quite spoiled my appetite. This is the PM's Statement on National Security. In reading the Review, focus not on all the recommended actions but on the threat analysis and the measures already taken, including the way that increased activity indicators are in fact directly connected with previous  actions. Look too at the language used.

Postscript 2

First, a further brief note on the terror stuff, triggered by further reading.

I don't know, but just to further explain my position.

I supported the first Gulf War. I supported the invasion of Afghanistan. Reluctantly, I supported the Second Gulf War. Then from the current position in Ukraine back to Afghanistan I now find fundamental foreign policy errors. In regard to the War on Terror, I started by worrying that the approach and rhetoric used would create the very thing that was feared. Then came the growing and egregious personal injustices supported on public interest grounds.

I find now that I have limited faith in the foreign policy judgments of Australian Governments, less faith in the ability of this Government to argue coolly and objectively, no faith that either it or a Labor Government won't misuse power in the name of the public good or national interest. Lost trust is hard to regain.

On a more positive note, on the emerging digital dark age, kvd pointed me to this piece by Jill Lepore, The Cobweb. He suggested that youngest might like this piece too, The Last Amazon. Lepore is a very good writer.     .



Anonymous said...

Jim, on the 'dark age' I found Jill Lepore's essay "The Cobweb" to be well worth a read.

Didn't link directly because I also wondered if your daughter might be interested to comment upon another very interesting piece further down the author's page titled "The Last Amazon"?

ps to anyone who likes a good read: save the above link for hours of fine writing.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi kvd. Brought the Lepore link up in the man post and passed your link onto Clare via Facebook.

Anonymous said...

Jim, sort of straddling both of your areas of discussion in this post, I would like to nominate Sensis and its various tentacles (this year it's TrueLocal) for addition to our terrorist watch list.

Or alternatively I hope the 'digital dark age' comes as soon as possible.

It is a long story, which unfortunately I am more than willing to expand, given the slightest opportunity.

Yours, in disgust

Jim Belshaw said...

I think that you have written on this one before, kvd! I am happy to nominate Telsta for the George Brandis award of the year as an organisation that should be placed on the terrorism watch list!

Evan said...

I've lost trust in government on foreign policy too - esp since Gulf War 1.

For storing data, gmail has an archive feature (it is stored but you don't see them in the inbox). However this will gradually exceed the capacity of free storage.

Jim Belshaw said...

I was comfortable with Gulf War 1, Evan.

Your comment on gmail archiving captures. Its actually shortish term storage!

Evan said...

Yes, I noted your comfort with Gulf War 1.

I didn't know that about gmail archiving, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Jim this mornings Conversation Hour was with Jill Lepore re her recent book on Wonder Woman. Only caught the last bit so will get the podcast when I return from grandfather duties in Canberra.


ps grandchildren are quite the best reason for having kids IMO :)

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi kvd and thanks. I'm listening as I write! I fear that it will be some before I join you on the grandfather frontt.