Chapter Six - Dissenting Report

Chapter Six - Dissenting Report

Senator Bob Brown, Australian Greens

Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, Australian Democrats

Militants may target Australian citizens and interests extremists see [tourist hotels] as havens of Western decadence a tourist hotel in Bali would be an important symbolic target. (ONA Report 27 September 2001)

Intelligence

6.1 The September 11 attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001 was a shocking event, warning the world of the reach, intent and capability of extremist Islamic terrorism.

6.2 Australia's intelligence agencies quickly gathered a considerable amount of information about terrorism in South East Asia and Indonesia itself.

6.3 Within 6 months of the realisation by ASIO in December 2001 that JI had converted to a terrorist organisation, the agencies knew:

6.4 Australia's intelligence agencies had been in constant communication with their counterparts in the US and elsewhere, and DFAT officials had been monitoring the advice of allied foreign affairs agencies.

6.5 In December 2001, Indonesia was assessed by ASIO as being at high risk of terrorist attack. Thereafter, as every month went by, more and more information emerged about the intensity of that threat and the capacity of the terrorists to realise it. Osama bin Laden and others issued unequivocal warnings to the West, even identifying Australia as a 'crusader' country. The Indonesian government was reluctant to take the necessary action to address it. It is not clear that the Australian Government made any representations to Indonesia to address the increasing threat within its borders.

6.6 In April 2002, the Committee has been told, Australian and US intelligence analysts carried out simulations which canvassed scenarios about possible alQaeda action arising out of the dispersement of terrorists from Afghanistan.[322] The Australian agents were part of group which built a scenario in which Bali became identified as an attractive alQaeda target.

6.7 Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Australian touristsroughly 20,000 per month - continued to flock to Bali, the vast majority of them ignorant of the assessed level of threat, with very few of them apparently having consulted the DFAT Travel Advices pertaining to Indonesia, and probably not one of them aware of ASIO's view that the level of threat across Indonesia, including Bali, was 'HIGH'.

6.8 In June 2002, ONA had become so concerned about the terrorist threat in the region that it sought a facetoface briefing with the Foreign Minister, Mr Downer. The ONA officials laid out their understanding of JI in particular. In their list of examples of targets that would be would be attractive to JI was Bali. The minister was told that Islamic extremists had the intent and ability to attack such targets as hotels, bars and airports. The DFAT official who was taking notes at the meeting subsequently briefed other DFAT officers who in turn sought advice from ONA about 'what evidence or theory is behind the idea that terrorists might target western interests in Bali?'.

6.9 In July ASIO reported to QANTAS that the threat across all Indonesia was high, and that Jakarta and Bali could not be considered exempt from attack.

6.10 Intelligence reports kept flowing to the government. These included advice that:

6.11 The increasingly frequent reports of planned terrorist violence, and the threats to target Western embassies obtained from the custodial interviews of alQaeda operative Umar Faruq, triggered DIO to warn of increasing evidence of capability and intent to mount terrorist attacks against Western interests in Indonesia.

6.12 Similar advice was issued on 9 August by ASIO, warning that Indonesian-based Islamic extremists may be planning a series of coordinated actions across Indonesia in the August/September period.

The nature of the action was not well defined but appeared likely to range from demonstrations to terrorist attacks. ASIO assessed the threat of terrorist attack against Australian interests in Indonesia remained HIGH and noted the following:

> The reports suggested Western interests, principally US, but also British and Australian, were among the intended targets.

6.13 However, the Travel Advice to tourists remained unchanged from 2001, at HIGH.

6.14 The debriefing of al-Qaeda operative Umar Faruq had delivered valuable information into the hands of the intelligence agencies. According to ONA's 13 September 2002 report, Faruq's disclosures 'reinforced earlier reporting that al-Qaeda has access to the extensive Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network criss-crossing Southeast Asia.'

6.15 DIO reported on 26 September 2002, 16 days before the Bali blasts, that:

We assess that local JI capability will restrict any attack to small arms or improvised explosive devices. Although this might obviate mass-casualties, if timing and location come together a large number of casualties could result.[326]

6.16 In the post-September 11 2001 context, the regional intelligence pictureif still seeming somewhat surrealwas well fleshed out. In the case of Indonesia, it was a frightening picture, and it was staring Australian government decision-makers in the face.

6.17 Unlike most other Indonesian islands, Bali did not have a Muslim majority but did have a great concentration of nightclubs, bars and hotels seen as 'soft targets'. Bali was a highly predictable target, attracting some 1.4 million tourists each year. Kuta, with its nightclubs, bars and other congregating points, had a population of perhaps 7,000 Westerners, principally Australians, on 12 October 2002. Three of every four Australians visiting Indonesia were in Bali. It was a prime target and the government had been alerted.

Travel advice

6.18 During the first half of 2002, while intelligence agencies were becoming increasingly agitated about the terrorist threat in Indonesia, DFAT's Indonesian Travel Advice was not commensurate with that agitation. It was not until July 2002 that the Travel Advice began to pick up on the dangers.

6.19 Even so, the warnings in the Travel Advice, to the extent that they did refer to terrorist activity, were hardly likely to raise much concern in the mind of the wouldbe Bali tourist. While there was references to bombs having exploded, including in areas frequented by tourists, the headline in each Travel Advice concluded with the words: 'Tourism services elsewhere in Indonesia are operating normally, including Bali'.

6.20 While "operating normally" in the sense that there had been no disruptions to tourism services in Bali, those services were nevertheless operating under a significant threat of terrorism. For this reason, the reference in the travel advice to tourism services operating normally was misleading. Not only did it fail to counter the average tourist's false perception that Bali was especially safe, but it fostered the misconception that Bali was exempted from HIGH risk.

6.21 The public advice regarding tourism services in Bali 'operating normally' did not accurately reflect the intelligence available to the Government. Bali was a predictable target. It was mentioned as a possible target to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in June 2002 and it had been the location of a fictional attack in a training scenario involving Australian intelligence officers.

6.22 Given the thousands of Australians in Bali at any given time, coupled with the evidence concerning soft targets and the fact that Bali had been mentioned as a predictable terrorist target, the travel advice should not only have sought to counter the prevalent view that Bali was a safe haven, but should have specifically warned that tourist areas including Bali were highly threatened.

Findings

6.23 In terms of DFAT's Travel Advice, the main Committee report has argued cogently that it failed to contain the one factual piece of advice that was most relevant to tourists travelling to Bali was that Bali was just as much at risk of terrorist attack as anywhere else in Indonesia.

6.24 The DFAT Travel Advice failed to counter the flawed assumption embedded in the mind of the average Australian touristthat Bali was a safe haven. It failed to convey adequate warning to travellers to Bali.

6.25 Australia had significant intelligence about the extent and imminence of the terrorist threat to Australian interests in Southeast Asia more generally. It was clear that groups in Indonesia had the intent, capability and resources to mount terrorist attacks, and that Australian interests were not exempt from this high risk.

6.26 This risk was evolving in a context that included:

6.27 The Australian government was receiving regular and more insistent reports that conveyed a consistent upgrading of the level of threat, not only in the regular written reports of the agencies, but in meetings and briefings at high levels of officials up to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

6.28 When ONA briefed Minister Downer about JI in June 2002, the Minister inappropriately asked ONA officials for advice about whether consular advice should be changed. ONA is not a policy agencyits task is intelligence assessments. The Minister did not ask the DFAT official present to develop advice from the relevant sections of DFAT (namely SE Asia Division, Consular Branch and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta) and to report back to him.

6.29 It was a serious lapse. The minister, having been briefed personally about an issue considered to be of sufficient seriousness to warrant a facetoface discussion with the head of Australia's peak intelligence agency and key officials, then failed to ask his Department to provide formal advice on the matter. Especially is this so when it was the minister himself who, as a result of the ONA briefing and the examples of Western targets they judged to be on JI's hitlist, immediately thought of the implications for consular advice.

6.30 The government was not alerted or, if it was, no commensurate public action ensued. Mr Downer could have taken the evidence of the danger of an attack to cabinet. He could have used his considerable influence to persuade the Indonesian authorities, who appeared unwilling to recognise the terrorist danger, to act. The ministers inaction contributed to Australias unpreparedness for the attack in Bali.

6.31 More recently Mr Downer said of the FBIs failure to pass on to Canberra, from the Jabara interrogation in August 2002, the Bali bombing mastermind Hambalis intention to attack soft targets in the region. I am sure it was nothing more than an oversight, but it wouldnt have added to the sum total of the knowledge we had .

6.32 The Minister's comment is unsatisfactory and the Jabara episode warrants more scrutiny and analysis.

6.33 It is not possible for this committee to judge whether the destructive intent of the Bali bombers might have been interdicted.

6.34 The limitations on the committee, and the gravity of the issues which have not been resolved, warrant the recommendation of a judicial inquiry into the Bali bombings.

Recommendation

A Royal Commission should be set up to fully assess the performance of agencies and government in the lead up to the Bali bombings on 12 October 2002 and, more particularly, to help prevent any similar attack on Australians or Australian interests in the future.

Senator Bob Brown Senator Natasha StottDespoja

Timeline to terror

Date

Event and source

1998

Osama bin Laden states that there is no difference between military personnel and civilians. ASIO, 1.54[327]

1999

April 19

Terrorists bomb Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta (?JI).

April

ONA co-ordinates National Assessment dealing with Islamic terrorism and Osama bin Laden (OBL). Conclusion: The main danger to Australian interests is collateral damage from attacks on US or UK targets, including in the Asia Pacific. ONA, 1.38

April

Possibility of OBL links with Indonesian terror groups such as Laskar Jihad being explored. ASIO, 1.39

1999--2000

Thousands slaughtered in Moluku in Islam extremist attacks on Christians and retaliation. JI involved.

2000

During 2000

ONA advises: the security apparatus that has held militant Islam in check has been gradually dismantled and Islamic Jihad groups, such as those now operating in Maluku, could become a permanent threat to communal harmony elsewhere in Indonesia . ONA, 1.41

August

DIO reports that Al-Qaeda has the potential to influence terrorist action elsewhere in the world through its support and encouragement of proxy terrorist organizations. DIO, 1.42

AugustSeptember

Two embassies and the Indonesian Stock Exchange bombed in Jakarta.

Late 2000

ONA Research Report notes that in Indonesia militant groups are becoming more assertive; they could increasingly turn to terrorism .. ONA, 1.43

December 24

Christmas Eve bombings of churches in four Indonesian cities (by Hambali, Imam Samudra and others, but this is not then evident).

December 28

Pekanburu church bombed. Singapore police later blame JI.

2001

JI runs 'dozens' of training camps throughout Indonesia.

Early 2001

ONA convened a meeting to inform intelligence collectors of the higher priority it was giving to radical Islam in Indonesia and its external links. Collection agencies made a concerted effort to increase coverage of Islamic extremists.. ONA, 1.44

May

DIO indicated that Indonesia provide(s) fertile ground for extremist groups with diverse motivations and international connections.

July 22

Gereja HKBP bombed in Jakarta (?JI). DIO, 1.46

August 1

Atrium Mall (Christian church) bombing in Jakarta by JI (Imam Samudra later found to be responsible).

August 15

Jakarta Embassy Bulletin to Australian Citizens Living in Indonesia: Bali is calm and tourist services are operating normally. Australian tourists on Bali should observe the same prudence as tourists in other parts of the country. DFAT, 2.38

August

DFAT Travel Advice: Tourist services are operating normally on Bali and Lombok. 2.36

September

Research project by ONA and its US counterparts reports that of more immediate concern is the potential for growth of Islamic militancy and international Islamic terrorism, especially given the difficulties Jakarta is likely to face in restoring law and order .. ONA, 1.45


September

DIO reported 'extensively on the growth of radical and extremist Islam in the region consistently and well before September 2001. There was clear agreement across the (intelligence) community about extremism and the capacity for terrorist attacks within South-East Asia. DIO, 1.46

SEPTEMBER 11 TERRORIST ATTACKS DESTROY

NEW YORK'S TWIN TOWERS

September 23

Jakarta's Atrium Mall bombed again.

September 27

ONA report states:

(It also observed that there was: no sign that Laskar Jihad plans to target hotels on Lombok or Bali though extremists see them as havens of Western decadence). ONA, 1.49

September 28

ASIO raised the threat level for Australian interests in Indonesia to HIGH, based on :

20012002

Between the New York bombings and Bali bombings, ONA hosts 13 meetings of the National Intelligence Collection Requirements Committee to provide guidance on terrorism collection priorities. ONA, 1.50

ASIO made 'dramatic resource reallocations': We devoted our resources overwhelmingly to counter-terrorism. ASIO, 1.51

17 OCTOBER AUSTRALIA SENDS TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN

October 17

ASIO considers the Afghanistan deployment to have raised Australias profile as a terrorist target but that the announcement itself did not change the threat of terrorist attack in Australia or against Australian interests abroad. ASIO, 1.53

November 3

Osama bin Laden (OBL) broadcast names Australia and crusader Australian forces. 1.54

November 9

Church bombed in north Jakarta.

November 9

The OBL statement 'must be seen within the context of (O)BL statements since 1996, which consistently have laid down general markers for subsequent terrorist action'. ASIO, 1.54

Looked at against (Osama bin Laden)s track record, ASIO considers this statement will have force, and significance, for at least the next 18 months.

the statement will be seen as particular encouragement for individuals or groups in Indonesia who are followers of (O)BL, and who may have the capability to commit violent acts. More importantly however, (O)BLs al-Qaeda network does have the capability and means to carry out an act of terrorism in Indonesia. The only question in respect of Australian interests there, is one of intent. In this context, since at least 1998, (O)BL has been explicit in stating there is no distinction between military personnel and civilians; both Australian official representation in Jakarta and other identifiable Australian interests certainly would be seen as extensions of the Australian crusader forces.'

November 9

DFAT determined that the (travel) advisories did not need further strengthening. DFAT, 3.56

Early November

Grenade thrown into the grounds of the Australian International School in Jakarta, clearly showing the increased threat to Australians in Indonesia. 1.55

November

US agencies convinced of links between OBL and south-east Asian radical Islamic groups: eg al-Qaeda training camp in Sulawesi revealed. 1.56

November 29

ONA report notes unsubstantiated claims of international terrorist camps in Indonesia. ONA, 1.56

November 29

Laskar Jihad says it will establish a presence in Lombok as a platform for ridding Bali and nearby island of non-Muslim communities. ONA, 1.57

December 2

Riau church attack. Man paid by Imam Samudra arrested and jailed.

December

Jemaah Islamiyah conversion to a terrorist organisation recognised after the Singapore bombings plot and capture and interrogation of terrorists. ASIO, 1.58

December

Report on 146 organisations: Many younger Indonesian Muslims have been attracted to the ideas of Osama bin Laden .. These external influences have also inculcated a belief that it is legitimate for Indonesian Muslims to engage in jihad anywhere within Indonesian borders'. ONA, 1.60

2002

Clive Williams: In 2002 there was perhaps a failure to pick up on the growing anger among Indonesian Muslim extremists about the US-led war on terror and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.' 1.62

January

Dr Gunaratna: Al-Qaeda operative Fathur Rohman al-Ghozis testimony revealed: a huge network of trained al-Qaeda operatives and sympathisers at work in South East Asia, about which more will doubtless be learned in the months and years ahead. 1.74

January 6

SE Asia offers 'a range of soft and symbolic targets for anti-Western Islamic terrorists and the most vulnerable and numerous of Western interests in the region are tourists and expatriate business people. DIO, 1.61

January 16

ONA and ASIO: Joint report outlines 'planned terrorist attacks against Western targets in Singapore' and the evolution of Jemaah Islamiyah into a terrorist organisation. 1.63

February 21

DIO report notes

April

ONA attends US-sponsored seminar where the consensus is that terrorist activities are likely to be dispersed, with al-Qaeda contributing to operations in various parts of the world.

One scenario canvassed the possibility of terrorist attack on tourist facilities in Bali.

We actually used the scenario of al-Qaeda elements linking up with terrorists in South-East Asia and attacking Bali .1.66, 1.67

Early 2002

Al-Qaeda has a presence in Indonesia which gives it the capability to conduct terrorist acts in and from Indonesia. ONA, 1.68

Early 2002

We (ONA) 'were concerned that there was a local capability in Indonesia that was not necessarily reliant on al-Qaeda we were in fact dealing with a homegrown movement this was a pretty hard message to sell at the time. ONA, 1.70

May

Globalising Terror seminar at University of Tasmania attended by experts on terrorism.

A. Muir: The modern world provides terrorist groups with a plethora of potential targets (including) a vast array of people and facilities associated with the burgeoning tourism industry In terms of bombing targets there is a well discernable trend for attacking the softer vulnerabilities of liberal democratic states, primarily those of a social and economic nature.

Dr Rohan Gunaratnas report The Bomb and Terror: trends and possibilities notes the January 2002 al-Ghozi testimony and describes JI spiritual leader Abu Bakr Bashiyar as most vocal, always exhorting the people to join the jihad and utterly opposed to compromise'. 1.71, 1.72, 1.73, 1.74

June

Al-Qaeda's Omar al-Faruq spirited out of Indonesia for interrogation.

June

ONA wanted to draw to the Governments attention by means other than written reports its conclusions on the existence of a regional extremist network with connections to al-Qaeda. ONA, 1.75

June 18--19

Foreign Minister Downer briefed on 'the domestic, regional and international radical Islamic movements and the potential for terrorist activityfrom JI in particular'.

We were trying to make the impact on the minister and explain the danger we knew that there was no shortage of explosives available to them in Indonesia .

Much, but not all, of the briefing was confined to Indonesia.

In South-East Asia we knew there was no shortage of explosives and no shortage of weapons. We made these points clear. We said that basically they had the intention, they had the capability, and getting access to the kinds of equipment they needed would be no problem.

The briefing alluded to possible targets including hotels, nightclubs and the airport. ONA, 1.76. 1.77

Late June

Writes to ONA: 'What evidence/theory is behind the idea that terrorists might target Western interests in Bali?'. No reply. DFAT, 1.192

June 27

Al-Qaeda is actively supporting extremists in particular fostering a relationship with Jemaah Islamiyah. ONA, 1.80

July

The general threat to Qantas (and) to Australian interests in Indonesia (is) currently assessed as HIGH.

Australias profile as a potential target of terrorist attack by Islamic extremists has been raised by our involvement in the War on Terrorism.

Islamic extremists in the region have shown a capability and intent to conduct terrorists attacks

Islamic extremists associated with both Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and/or al Qaida are known to have transited both airports (Jakarta and Denpasar-Bali) in the past.

Hambali is still at large in Indonesia.

'Given the JI presence in Indonesia, neither Jakarta nor Bali could be considered exempt from attack. ASIO, 1.80

July

Of this period, Mr Denis Richardson recalls we had

the threat level to Australian interests in Indonesia at high We could not separate out Bali from the rest of Indonesia. We were very conscious of the terrorist threat posed by JI and we were very conscious that it could pose a threat quite differently to Laskar Jihad. ASIO, 1.83

July 26

reports of planned terrorist violence in Southeast Asia are coming more frequently suicide attacks have not been part of militants modus operandi in Southeast Asia. But that may be changing. ONA, 1.84

July 26

We cannot dismiss reports that Indonesian Islamic extremists intend to launch attacks in Indonesia in August and Southeast Asia in September. (pre-Ramadan warning)

attacks on Christians, raids on brothels and nightclubs, bomb attacks, or terrorist attacks on US or other Western targets are all possible. (pre-Ramadan warning) ONA, 1.85, 1.86

July-- August

Warns of increasing evidence of capability and intent to mount terrorist attacks against Western interests in Indonesia (al-Qaeda operative Umar Faruqs interrogation). DIO, 1.87

August 5

Warns of increased threat of a terrorist attack against Western targets, possibly in August remnants of the regional extremist organization, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), continue to possess the capability and intent to undertake future attacks .

JI poses 'a greater threat to foreigners in Indonesia than do domestic extremist groups. DIO, 1.88

August 9

Warns: Indonesian-based Islamic extremists may be planning a series of coordinated actions across Indonesia in the August/September period.

The threat of terrorist attack against Australian interests in Indonesia remains HIGH.

'Reports suggested Western interests, principally US, but also British and Australian, were among the intended targets. The number and nature of the reports collectively warranted updated threat advice.' ASIO, 1.89

August

FBI had interrogated Jabara in US: gained information that Jabara had met (Bali bombing mastermind) Hambali in January 2002: Hambali wanted to hit soft targets like bars and nightclubs. FBI fails to tell Canberra. FBI Report

Alexander Downer: I am sure it was nothing more than an oversight. ABC radio, 12.07.04

August 22

Three associates of Imam Samudra (who supplied weapons) rob Banten goldsmith's shop. After October 12, it was alleged this robbery helped fund the Bali bombers.

September 13

Jakarta Stock Exchange bombed.

September 13

Interrogation of Umar (Omar) Faruq reinforced earlier reporting that al-Qaeda has access to the extensive Jemaah Islamiyah network

September 23

Grenade explodes near US embassy, Jakarta. ONA,

September 23

Time Magazine cover story: Omar al-Faruq's interrogation. He planned to destroy US Jakarta Embassy with a large car bomb. Story says JI boasts a cadre of 20 suicide bombers waiting and ready to carry out attacks.

September 26

We assess that local JI capability will restrict any attack to small arms or improvised explosive devices. Although this might obviate mass casualties, if timing and location come together a large number of casualties could result. DIO, 1.93

September 26

Warning to 'all Westerners to avoid large gatherings and locations known to cater primarily to a Western clientele such as certain bars, restaurants and tourist areas' (ASIO did not monitor such State Department advice). US Jakarta Embassy

October 6--8

Statements by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri suggest 'another large scale attack or attacks by al-Qaeda are being prepared'. 1.98

October 10

ONA reports that substantial numbers of terrorists remain free in Southeast Asia, capable of and intent on further attacksincluding against US targets in Indonesia.

Report states that weapons and explosives are still easily available in Southeast Asia, and that many potential attackers with the requisite skills remain active. Key JI leaders, who have even bigger plans, are still free. ONA, 1.96. 1.97

October 10

ASIO Threat Assessment issued after bin Laden and al-Zawahiri statements -- days earlier -- warning that attacks may be imminent.

The assessment noted that: the attacks could be against US interests abroad, including against US allies and, while there is no information specifically related to Australian interests, Australias profile as a potential terrorist target had increased since 11 September 2001. ASIO, 1.99


OCTOBER 12 BALI BOMBINGS 202 PEOPLE KILLED

November 5

Amrozi arrested

November 21

Imam Samudra arrested

December 3

Muklas arrested

2003

August

Hambali captured in Thailand

Abbreviations

ASIO Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation

DFAT Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

DIO Defence Intelligence Organisation

JI Jemaah Islamiyah

ONA Office of National Assessment

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