Behind the scenes of counter-terrorism

November 30, 2015 by Henry Benjamin
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Counter-terrorism expert Detective Superintendent Richard Stamford spoken of his work at The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s annual conference.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has held its annual conference in Sydney with leaders from around the country.

Standing: David Denver, Jeremy Spinak [NSW] Jennifer Huppert ]VIC] Jason Steinberg [QLD] Yael Cass {ACT ], Daniel Albert [TAS] Seated: Norman Schueler [SA]. president Robert Goot, Executive Director Peter Weretheim Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

Standing: Presidents David Denver [WA], Jeremy Spinak [NSW] Jennifer Huppert [VIC] Jason Steinberg [QLD] Yael Cass [ACT ], Daniel Albert [TAS] Seated: Norman Schueler [SA]. president Robert Goot, Executive Director Peter Wertheim Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

President Robert Goot welcomed all delegates telling the delegates “we need to challenge anti-Israel politicians tactically in a calibrated way, and to try to influence them. We have to work out whether we do it by shaming them or castigating them publicly or having a private meeting or sending a letter in the same way we publicly denounced MP Melissa Parke’s endorsement of BDS.”

He added: “It’s a matter of meeting with people and deciding  who you have to make the contact and who you send as you advocate…and what is the message you want to convey and what is the tone you want to adopt in conveying it.”

Goot advocated holding forums to convey the messages and to increase the frequency of speakers brought to Australia,  with focus on bringing specifically those with the necessary skills and knowledge to effect successful advocacy.

Robert Goot said it was necessary “to increase our Canberra presence”. He said that not only were they currently organising visits to politicians in Canberra but also to bureaucrats and people in academia.

The ECAJ president spoke of the necessity to target next generation leaders saying:  “There’s a whole new generation and we have to go out and get them.” He referred to the need to get Jewish involvement in civil areas”otherwise you vacate the field and leave it to activists”.

He added: “We have got to mobilise young professionals. There are plenty of very talented people in the Jewish community who are time poor and understand the issues…we want to engage them to do a job of work. We have an army of volunteers but we need more. We need to utilise the vast resources we have in the community.”

Canberra-based Richard Stamford addressed the conference speaking about  his 30-year career  with the Australian Federal Police.

Detective Superintendent Richard Stamford Photo: Henry Benjamin

Detective Superintendent Richard Stamford Photo: Henry Benjamin

He told the conference that ASIO have over 400 investigations currently underway…and that does not include investigations at State level.

D-S Stamford said that he had worked for the AFP in Lebanon between 2005 and 2007 and from which he covered Israel.

He said: “I have been working in counter-terrorism since 2001. We knew nothing about terrorism in this country  believing the tyranny of distance would work in our favour. 9/11 and Bali in the following year changed that forever. At the time of 9/11, there was no counter-terrorism legislation in place in Australia.”

Following his term of duty in Lebanon D-S Stamford visited Israel where he completed an executive leadership course in counter-terrorism at Herzliya…”where I learned so much”.

On his return to Australia D-S Stamford became co-ordinator of counter-terrorism operations for the AFP.

He explained that in Australia each State capital houses a Joint Counter-Terrorism Team known as a JCTT staffed by State staff, by the AFP, by ASIO and other specialised agencies. The JCTTs work on all matters of counter-terrorism pertaining to their relevant states.

Australians who have gone overseas to fight in the conflict areas in the Middle East with no obvious State connection are dealt with by the AFP in Canberra.

He said: “Since the advent of the foreign fighter problem and the rise of the Islamic State, the federal government has pumped a lot of money to set up new programs to deal with this. We have a problem where ASIO will be monitoring persons who may be suspected of going off to be foreign fighters but they haven’t crossed that criminal threshold. However, they are rightly viewed as being a danger to our society…so how do we deal with that?

The AFP has set up diversion programs “where we take people in to a preventative space and let them know they are being investigated before they reach the threshold of committing a criminal offence. We would prefer try to take them down another path and try to provide support following psychological assessment, spiritual guidance and help with employment…that is the way of future.”

D-S Stamford acknowledged that some would invariably need “the full force of the criminal law upon them”.

He spoke of the National Disruption Group. This includes the Tax Office, Border Force, Immigration…”just about every federal agency and department”. He said: “If we suspect or know of terrorism activity bu we can’t prove it to an evidentiary standard to bring about a prosecution, we will refer that matter to the National Disruption Group.”

The lure of the Middle East and particularly the Islamic State are the biggest problems D-S Stamford faces today. He said: “Those who actually succeed in getting over to conflict zones learn methodologies for fighting and mange to come back here with the knowledge, the ideology and the motivation to commit horrendous acts. It’s a huge problem for us.”

There are those who remain here prevented from travelling having received an adverse security assessment and who have their passports cancelled.

He said: “They resent that to the point of getting into their own localised attack planning or provide financial and other support to those who have travelled to conflict zones.”

Detective Superintendent Stamford told the conference that this year had seen three attacks take place…but “six others had been prevented”.

The specialised police officer turned his attention to the Hizb ut-Tahrir group one of whose leaders appeared on a YouTube video earlier this year calling death to the Jews.

He said: “This group is not proscribed as a terrorist group in this country. The AFP continues to review the activities of HUT and to identify breaches of Australian law. The expression of hate speech is not an offence nor does it necessarily indicate a security threat. A person may hold or express extreme views but they may have no intention to act violently.”

He said that the Government has committed nearly $20 million to understand, to limit access and undermine the appearance of extremist material online. On Twitter alone ISIS puts out approximately 100,000 messages daily.”

He said: “It is very difficult to provide a counter-narrative to reach the hearts and minds of the young.”

He said that Australia’s Muslim communities ‘have been excellent allies” and they assist the AFP in its work. The federal body has liaison groups on the ground in each state to reach out to those why may need help and with whom they develop trusted relationships.

“We don’t target any religious groups…we target criminality”.

He said that the AFP has offices around the world as “the motivation or the philosophy for terrorism in this country will come from some place else.”

Senator Penny Wong addressed the conference on the ALP’s position regarding Israel and Israeli ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel updated the delegates.

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