Australian terror plot targetted Sydney and Melbourne - homegrown suspects linked to Laskar Al Toiba in Pakistan
November 2, 2005
Plot suspect had LET links'
The Australian revealed this morning that Melbourne and Sydney were the targets of the plot. ( Read the report)
The plot was still in its early stages, he said, which would explain why the government did not raise the national terror alert level.
One of the group had trained with the listed terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Toiba in Pakistan.
"At this stage, as I understand it, the activity is largely in the very early planning stages. It's two persons in Sydney talking to others in Melbourne about potential targets," Dr Williams said on Channel 9.
"So it's sort of very early stages and that's why the government wants to change the law in the way it does."
Prime Minister John Howard said today suggestions yesterday's announcement was timed to divert attention from controversial new workplace laws were "ridiculous".
"This idea that yesterday was some giant manipulative conspiracy is ridiculous," Mr Howard said.
"It's a conspiracy incidentally that involves not only me and the Attorney-General and the director-general of ASIO, the head of the Australian Federal Police, the ministerial members of the national security committee of cabinet, the leader of the opposition, the shadow minister for homeland security and the premiers of the six states."
Police conducted three raids in Sydney in June in relation to the threat and the suspects had identified targets in Melbourne, Dr Williams said later.
"I believe that (the suspects) had videoed some potential targets in Melbourne," he said.
Prime Minister John Howard has rejected suggestions his announcement of a potential terrorist threat was timed to coincide with the introduction of controversial new counter-terrorism laws.
Mr Howard said he had received intelligence indicating an attack on Australia was possible.
Although he refused to give details, he said an urgent amendment to existing anti-terrorism laws was required to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies to protect Australians.
The Senate is being recalled so that the laws can be enacted today, immediately giving police greater powers to arrest terror suspects.
Dr Williams said the Government's decision to announce the legislative change may have compromised the ability of authorities to charge the suspects.
"To change the legislation you had to have a reason for it and the prime minister had to come forward with some reason for doing that, which is what he's done," he said.
"At the same time of course it's now compromised the operation and means that it'll probably be very difficult to get a conviction.
"The alternative of course was to allow it go through to the point where there was specificity as to time and place, but then there's the danger of it getting closer to actual fruition, so may maybe the government didn't want to take that chance."
The suspects could still be picked up for questioning, Dr Williams said.
AM - Thursday, 3 November , 2005 08:05:00
Reporter: Michael VincentPETER CAVE: Australian security analysts say that the intelligence, about a potential terrorist threat announced yesterday, was likely to have been locally-generated and related to suspects in Sydney and Melbourne.
ASIO and police carried out raids in both cities in June.
The Head of Terrorism Studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in Canberra, and a former defence intelligence official, Clive Williams, spoke to Michael Vincent.
CLIVE WILLIAMS: It probably relates to discussions that have been held between a couple of people in Sydney and others in Melbourne about what sorts of things they could do in Australia.
MICHAEL VINCENT: This is possibly phone intercepts or recorded personal conversations?
CLIVE WILLIAMS: It's most likely, I would think, phone intercepts.
MICHAEL VINCENT: Who is it these people are believed to have been connected with?
CLIVE WILLIAMS: Well, it's been suggested that one of the persons involved in Sydney had previously been identified by an American informant as having attended a Lashkar-e-Toiba camp in Pakistan, and on the basis of that I understand the police did three raids, I think it was, in June of this year in Sydney. But this more recent information seems to be suggesting that there had been some consideration of attacking targets in Melbourne.
MICHAEL VINCENT: How far do you believe that discussion has gone in terms of planning?
CLIVE WILLIAMS: I believe that they had videoed some potential targets in Melbourne.
MICHAEL VINCENT: At this stage, with the legislative change that the Prime Minister was mooting yesterday as the reason for the press conference, do you believe that they could be picked up in the next week or so?
CLIVE WILLIAMS: Well they could have been picked up already. I mean, it's an issue of whether you actually then have something to charge them with.
If they continue to do what they're doing after the legislation is passed, then clearly they could be charged. But under the existing legislation, I don't think they probably could be charged, because they haven't been sufficiently specific about what they're doing, and as you're aware, the reason the Government wants to change the legislation is because there is a requirement for specificity in relation to time and place to be able to sustain a conviction, so I guess therefore in law these people didn't do anything after the legislation was passed, then they could certainly be picked up for questioning, but they probably couldn't be charged with anything at this stage.
MICHAEL VINCENT: Do you think these people should've been alerted to the fact that this legislative change was being made?
CLIVE WILLIAMS: Well, I can understand the reasons for it, obviously to change the legislation you had to have a reason for it, and the Prime Minister had to come forward with some reason for doing that, which is what he's done. But at the same time, of course, it has now compromised the operation, and it means that it will probably be very difficult to get a conviction.
The alternative, of course, was to allow it to go through to the point where there was specificity as to time and place, but then there's the danger of it getting closer to actual fruition, so maybe the Government didn't want to take that chance.
The legislation has needed to be amended for at least 18 months. So that could have been done well before this. I guess it's because of the information the Government has it's become timely to do it now, because it not only sort of works well from a government point of view, but it also creates a good climate for the legislation, the new legislation, to go through as well.
MICHAEL VINCENT: What do you think will happen to these people that it's believed have been planning something?
CLIVE WILLIAMS: Well they could be picked up for questioning, or it could be decided just to leave it for the moment and see what happens and see whether they continue to discuss these sorts of things with each other, in which case they would be committing an offence, once the legislation has been changed.
So really it's up to I guess the security authorities and the police how they want to handle this now.
PETER CAVE: Clive Williams from the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in Canberra speaking to Michael Vincent.