‘Surprising’ New Zealand has no strategy to prevent terrorist attacks

Can terrorism prevention in New Zealand be effective without having a strategy. The risk of terrorism can’t be eliminated completely, but some sort of strategy must be a help.

RNZ – Christchurch Attacks: What security agencies are keeping us safe?

The minister responsible for New Zealand’s spy agencies says it’s “surprising” the country doesn’t have a strategy to prevent terrorist attacks.

But Andrew Little maintains the country’s intelligence systems are effective.

“We like to think we have a counter-terrorism means, the ability to respond to something. But we don’t have a strategy that anticipates and prevents or seeks prevention of a terrorist act happening,” he said.

According to research by former army officers Chris Rothery and Terry Johanson, both now academics at Massey University, New Zealand’s entire national security system is “reactionary”, and does not focus on anticipating and preventing terrorist activity.

“There are not many countries that do have a national security strategy, but they do have a more formulated policy [than New Zealand] in regards to a lot of the threats that they’ll face,” Mr Rothery said.

The pair said New Zealand has no national security strategy, no counter-terrorism national strategy and – unlike in Australia,Canada and the United Kingdom – no independent body to check threats are being prioritised properly.

Andrew Little, who is responsible for the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), admitted the focus had been on reacting to events.

“We’ve focused a lot on building up the components you need to have a system that can act and respond, but what we haven’t done is lift it up to the next stage which is having got good foundations, to then think strategically and think ahead and think more robustly about preventative measures.”

This was the case despite a four-year rebuild of the SIS and GCSB, an extension of their legal powers and $200m extra ploughed in since 2016, once an extra $50m included in last week’s Budget is factored in.

The SIS and GCSB did not begin, in earnest, looking into far right activity until mid-2018. The agencies were yet to get to the point of focusing on individuals or organisations when the Christchurch terror attacks happened.

The DPMC stated its counterterrorism approach covered prevention and preparation, plus there was a terrorism risk profile and a framework for preventing violent extremism.

It added that there was a strategic framework drawn up just last year.  The department delayed Insight’s Official Information Act request to be supplied with the framework until later in June.

Governments can’t be fully proactive with everything.

A lot has changed regarding earthquake proofing requirements and guidelines of buildings since the Christchurch earthquakes. And insurance premiums have gone up a lot – it wasn’t just the Government who was unprepared.

There were immediate reactions to the Christchurch mosque massacres, with changes to firearms laws to make it harder to get high capacity rapid fire weapons.

There were also immediate reactions from the Police who arrested a number of people on firearms and hate speech related charges.

We can expect that our secret services are working secretly to substantially improve counter terrorism and deterrence of and prevention of terrorism.

Helen Clark Foundation report: Harmful Content on Social Networks

Helen Clark backs Jacinda Ardern’s Christchurch call: ‘All key players should be there’

Former prime minister Helen Clark says those who aren’t attending the “incredibly important” Christchurch call meeting in Paris are saying more about themselves than the summit itself.

Speaking to Stuff ahead of releasing a report on reducing social media harm from her new think tank, Clark said the call was a “huge deal” and “all the key players should be there”.

“I think this says more about the people who are not going than the call itself. It’s an incredibly important call and why would those people not be there. That’s what will get the interest,” Clark said.

She said getting an issue like this on the table at a G7 meeting was “unprecedented” for New Zealand and praised Ardern for carrying on momentum.

“I think that New Zealand is going to be defined not the by the horrific attack itself, but he way she has responded. New Zealand is making a significant statement about who it is and what needs to be done locally and globally.”

The Helen Clark Foundation report key recommendation:

We recommend a legislative response is necessary to address the spread of terrorist and harmful content online. This is because ultimately there is a profit motive for social media companies to spread ‘high engagement’ content even when it is offensive, and a long standing laissez faire culture inside the companies concerned which is resistant to regulation.


Harmful Content on Social Networks

Executive Summary

Anti-social media: reducing the spread of harmful content on social media networks

  • In the wake of the March 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack, which was livestreamed in an explicit attempt to foster support for white supremacist beliefs, it is clear that there is a problem with regard to regulating and moderating abhorrent content on social media. Both governments and social media companies could do more.
  • Our paper discusses the following issues in relation to what we can do to address this in a New Zealand context; touching on what content contributes to terrorist attacks, the legal status of that content, the moderation or policing of communities that give rise to it, the technical capacities of companies and police to
    identify and prevent the spread of that content, and where the responsibilities for all of this fall – with government, police, social media companies and individuals.
  • We recommend that the New Zealand Law Commission carry out a review of laws governing social media in New Zealand. To date, this issue is being addressed in a piecemeal fashion by an array of government agencies, including the Privacy Commission, the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Internal Affairs, and Netsafe.
  • Our initial analysis (which does not claim to be exhaustive) argues that while New Zealand has several laws in place to protect against the online distribution of harmful and objectionable content, there are significant gaps. These relate both to the regulation of social media companies and their legal obligations to reduce
    harm on their platforms and also the extent to which New Zealand law protects against hate speech based on religious beliefs and hate motivated crimes.
  • The establishment of the Royal Commission into the attack on the Christchurch Mosques on 15 March 2019 (the Royal Commission) will cover the use of social media by the attacker. However the Government has directed the Royal Commission not to inquire into, determine, or report in an interim or final way on issues related to social media
  • platforms, as per the terms of reference.As a result, we believe that this issue – of social media platforms – remains outstanding, and in need of a coordinated response. Our paper is an initial attempt to scope out what this work could cover.
  • In the meantime, we recommend that the Government meet with social media companies operating in New Zealand to agree on an interim Code of Conduct, which outlines key commitments from social media companies on what actions they will take now to ensure the spread of terrorist and other harmful content is caught quickly and its further dissemination is cut short in the future. Limiting access to the livestream feature is one consideration, if harmful content can genuinely not be detected.
  • We support the New Zealand Government’s championing of the issue of social media governance at the global level, and support the ‘Christchurch Call’ pledge to provide a clear and consistent framework to address the spread of terrorist and extremist content online.

Helen Clark was interviewed about this on Q&A last night.

 

Arps pleaded guilty to distributing footage of mosque attacks

Christchurch man Philip Neville Arps has pleaded guilty of distributing video of the Christchurch mosque attacks. He told police that modified coverage (with cross hairs and a kill count added) was ‘awesome’.

That sounds despicable, but does it justify a prison sentence? He was remanded in custody when arrested, and seems likely to get a custodial sentence.

Stuff: Philip Arps guilty of sharing livestream of Christchurch mosque massacre

A Christchurch business owner who admitted sharing the Christchurch terror attack livestream told police he thought it was “awesome”.

Philip Neville Arps pleaded guilty on Friday to two charges of distributing the mosque murders video and was remanded in custody for sentencing on June 14.

When questioned by police about the massacre –  in which 50 people were murdered and 39 more shot and wounded – he replied: “I could not give a f…, mate.”

So maybe I shouldn’t give a fuck if he is imprisoned.

Arps asked for Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll to have him assessed for a possible home detention sentence, but the judge ruled it out, indicating Arps would be jailed.

His lack of empathy doesn’t help his case. His sentence is likely to be affected by whether he shows any remorse or not.

I see some need for deterrent sentences  – this seems well up the seriousness scale. If a strong signal needs to be sent he seems a good candidate for copping a jail term.

He is one of 10 people police have taken action against for objectionable publication offences relating to the video of the Christchurch terror attack, including a 16-year-old male.

I presume (hope) these are the worst examples that have involved more than just downloading or viewing the video.

Tarrant mad or bad?

Christchurch mass murderer obviously did a very bad, despicable thing. But can his badness be explained by madness?

The only viable starting point for opposing such people is to understand them as neither mad nor bad, but wrong.

In response to Understanding the ideology of the Christchurch killer barrieseargant posted this comment:


“Mad or Bad?

Is Tarrant a psychopath? He may be. The vast majority of ordinary people could not kill in cold blood as he has done.

Tarrant’s manifesto and actions are bad, not mad. Driven, cold and calculating, and fully responsible for his actions, he had been captured by an evil ideology, which made him a hero in his own eyes”

Why is it such people are often framed within a false dichotomy of mad/bad? Its true people have difficulty killing in cold blood, hence the millions of dollars governments spend on taking 18-year-olds, putting them in the army and indoctrinating them to kill people they otherwise wouldn’t say boo to if left to think for themselves.

I doubt the Christchurch terrorist is mad. That would be too easy to dismiss him as “not one of us” if he was just crazy. He could be safely dismissed as the ‘other’, we could locate his decision using some kind of pop-psychology…he was neglected as a child or bullied or didn’t get enough vitamins or his mum was an alcoholic or etc.

I suspect he had a normal childhood, went to the same schools as the rest of us, probably didn’t litter, watched the same TV programmes, and did all the other things the rest of us did. We don’t like the idea, but he is as sane as anyone else.

As for the ‘bad’ part. I don’t find the use of such moralistic categories useful analytically. Sure, his actions may have had repugnant consequences in moral terms but it fails to appreciate the political motivation. Having read his manifesto, it is undoubtedly an eclectic hodge podge of ideas that have been circulating on the far Right for decades, along with personal experiences. Isn’t that how everyone forms the basis of their political views ie reading stuff and experiencing things?

Again, the implicit assumption in a lot of discourse around such people is that if we hugged them enough and they had a better sense of morality, they would choose to repent and become good liberals/social democrats or conservatives like the rest of ‘us’. Few people can handle the idea that the terrorist, in this case, took an internally consistent (once he accepted his initial working premise, which could externally be viewed as faulty) and in that sense ‘rational’ decision as part of a political ideology.

The only viable starting point for opposing such people is to understand them as neither mad nor bad, but wrong. Then the challenge comes in offering a more attractive political alternative. That’s hard work but its the only starting point that has any real hope of working. Locating his actions in personal psychology or moral failure won’t do that.


See Mark Durie’s The Christchurch Killer’s Anti-Humanist Ideology

Understanding the ideology of the Christchurch killer

Understanding the ideology of the Christchurch mosque mass murderer may help prevent a repeat of something so bad happening again, or at least reduce the risks.

Mark Durie gives some good explanations in The Christchurch Killer’s Anti-Humanist Ideology

In the wake of the horrific Christchurch shootings, we need to thoughtfully engage with the ideology which influenced it. Just before the massacre, the self-confessed killer, Brenton Tarrant, distributed what is being called a manifesto, in which he unashamedly describes what he was about to do as a “terrorist attack”, and gives and account of his ideology.

We need to understand this ideology, not to give it a platform, but to learn and to equip ourselves to stand against such hatred.

Is Tarrant an Islamophobe?

Tarrant chose Muslims as a target, but his hatred is directed at all non-white immigrants. It is their “race” he objects to. He has nothing to say about Islam as a religion, making no mention of Muhammad, the Qur’an, or the Sharia.

Although Tarrant nurtures a number of grudges against Muslims, for example for the history of jihad against Europe, he makes clear that his primary reason for targeting mosques is to incite white people to rise up against immigrants in general, not just Muslims. He would drive them all out if he could.

Worshipping Strength

In Tarrant’s fascist vision, the primary good, overriding all else, is the success and dominance of the race-nation. This is a law-of-the-jungle, survival-of-the-fittest view of morality, which considers it entirely legitimate for one tribe to dominate and destroy another to its own advantage.

Tarrant’s solution to his crisis of white demographic decline is to incite conflict so that whites will be compelled to awaken, radicalise and grow strong. This is what his attack in Christchurch was all about.

Anti-Humanitarian

The deeply anti-humanitarian features of Tarrant’s ideology are particularly troubling, not least because Western societies’ movement away from humanitarianism is a discernible long-term trend, and not just among violent extremists.  Reverence for human life is no longer as dominant a characteristic of Western people’s thinking as it used to be.

…one of the reasons he says he hates migrants is that they come, he says, from groups that are “overpopulating” the world, so, he rants, “kill the overpopulation and by doing so save the environment”.

A Chaotic View of Past and Present

Tarrant’s ideology is as chaotically self-contradictory as it is revolting. His theory of history and of nations is all over the place: a complete mess.

Mad or Bad?

Is Tarrant a psychopath?  He may be. The vast majority of ordinary people could not kill in cold blood as he has done.

Tarrant’s manifesto and actions are bad, not mad. Driven, cold and calculating, and fully responsible for his actions, he had been captured by an evil ideology, which made him a hero in his own eyes.

How Tarrant was Radicalised

It is necessary to explore Tarrant’s passion over the “great replacement”.  He describes visiting France, and feeling grief-struck by the ebbing away of the French: “The french people were often in a minority themselves, and the french that were in the streets were often alone, childless or of advanced age. While the immigrants were young, energised and with large families and many children.”

In disgust and despair Tarrant pulled over by a military cemetery, overwhelmed, and wept at the sight of crosses from soldiers who were killed fighting in the two World Wars, stretching out to the horizon. He was weeping over their seemingly vain sacrifice.

By his own account, this was how Tarrant was radicalised. That was it. In front of those crosses he demanded of himself “Why don’t I do something?” Then and there he committed himself to violence in the belief that the radicalisation of other Western young men will be inevitable.

If radicalisation is to be prevented, the crucial thing is to short-circuit the progression from lament and trauma to violence. A sense of loss is and will be unavoidable, but a descent into violence need not be. To prevent this outcome moral leadership is required.

The Threat of Tarrant’s Ideology

The greatest threat is that the option of violence might become increasingly attractive to people who have turned their backs on love-thy-neighbour morality, despising it as weakness, and who also feel deeply challenged and uprooted, both emotionally and morally, by our rapidly changing world, not only by rapid demographic shifts, but also by cultural loss, environmental degradation and all of the other ills Tarrant rails against.

The greater the sense of loss, the more attractive the worship of strength could appear.  What ethical alternatives will be made available to those who are tempted by this path?

The Real Battle We Must Face

Calls to suppress Tarrant’s views from being known and discussed are mistaken. The real struggle we face in the West is over moral worldviews which despise the value of human life.

It was Tarrant’s rejection of the inherent value of each and every human life that opened the door to his raging collectivist hatred.  The challenge for us all is to discern and uproot the seedlings of his deadly ideological trend, and to plant something better in its place.

To do this we must understand and acknowledge such thinking, understand how such a worldview might germinate and grow, and be able to trace the paths of its influence, so that we can intervene and oppose it, lest it spread.

But to achieve all this we must take our heads out of the sand, not put them in it.

To understand more it’s worth reading Durie’s whole post – The Christchurch Killer’s Anti-Humanist Ideology

 

 

 

 

 

Another person in custody for “making or copying objectionable material” after Christchurch attacks

There has been a third arrest (that I’m aware of) for “knowingly making or copying objectionable material”, with a Christchurch schoolboy being remanded in custody.

NZ Herald:  Christchurch teen arrested for objectionable material after mosque terror attacks

A Christchurch schoolboy has been arrested for objectionable material after the mosque terror attacks.

The teenager cannot be named because of legal reasons. His school is also protected from being made public.

The boy appeared in the Youth Court in Christchurch yesterday. He faces one charge of knowingly making or copying objectionable material.

He was refused bail and was remanded in custody.

He is due back in court next month.

The Herald understands police were alerted after concerns about the boy’s behaviour.

All three reported as arrested have been remanded in custody, which seems harsh given the charges, but all of them seem to have been involved in more than just copying or distributing the mosque shootings video or the killer’s manifesto (in the latest case it isn’t clear what material was involved but the presumption is it is related to the mosque shootings).

There have been other unrelated cases appear before the courts since the Christchurch terror attacks.

An 18-year-old Christchurch student, who has interim name suppression, has also been charged with distributing a livestream and of showing a photograph of the Deans Ave mosque where 42 Muslims were shot dead with the message “target acquired” and further online messaging allegedly inciting extreme violence.

Christchurch businessman Philip Neville Arps, 44, appeared in court appeared in court last week on charges of distributing footage of one of the mosque shootings.

Arps, who runs an insulation business, faces two charges of distributing the livestream “of the multiple murder victims at the Deans Ave Mosque”.

The alleged offending occurred on March 16, the day after the shootings at two Christchurch mosques, in which 50 people died and dozens were injured.

More on Arps:  Nazi-themed company owner charged with possessing objectionable material

Beneficial Insulation, which Arps owns, features a number of Nazi-related themes in its name and branding.

The company’s white extremist branding and Arps’ racist views, which he promotes online, sparked a public outcry in the wake of the mass shooting in Christchurch that left 50 people dead with another 30 still in hospital.

Stuff has also sighted an angry email from Beneficial Insulation owner Phil Arps sent to a customer which was signed off with a false Adolf Hitler quote and featured right wing extremist views.

Beneficial Insulation’s company logo is a sunwheel, or black sun, which was appropriated by Nazis.

Beneficial Insulation also charges $14.88 per metre for insulation – 14.88 is a hate symbol popular with white extremists.

The company’s website www.BIIG.co.nz, is an acronym for the company’s full name Beneficial Insulation Installs Guaranteed. BIIg was the name of a barracks at Auschwitz concentration camp, operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II and the Holocaust.

The company’s staff wear camouflage print uniform.

Being remanded in custody means that the police, the prosecutor and judges all considered it appropriate in the circumstances. Without knowing all the details it is not possible to know whether this is concerning or not.

There have been other arrests following the shootings – Police arrest several people for ‘inciting fear’ after Christchurch terror attacks

In the days since, police have arrested several people, including a 25-year-old Auckland man who is accused of threatening members of the public.

The man allegedly addressed people on Stoddard Rd in Mt Roskill and said: “I’m going to kill someone … F*ck New Zealand.”

He appeared in the Auckland District Court on Tuesday and has been charged with offensive behaviour or language. He was remanded in custody and will appear in court again next month.

Another remanded in custody.

A Wairarapa woman was also was arrested on suspicion of inciting racial disharmony after a message was posted to her Facebook page.

Police said on Wednesday a decision was still to be made about whether the woman, believed to be in her late 20s, will be charged.

Senior Sergeant Jennifer Hansen said social media post “upset a number of people because it referred to the events in Christchurch”.

The policewoman said the post was brought down relatively quickly, but not before “a number of people had already seen it and raised concerns”.

A charge of inciting racial disharmony under the Human Rights Act can be laid against a person who “publishes or distributes written matter which is threatening, abusive, or insulting” to other people, on the grounds of colour, race, ethnicity or national origins.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of three months’ imprisonment or a $7000 fine.

It may be that the police and the courts are taking a hard line approach to any behaviour related to the Christchurch shootings to try to deter any escalation in violence or threats of violence.

ISP web blocks and online censorship debate

The Christchurch mosque attacks prompted unprecedented action from New Zealand Internet Service Providers, who tried to block access to the video of the attack.  This has just been extended.

We are heading into some important debate about censorship and free speech.

Newsroom:  ISP keeps Chch web blocks after Govt intervention

New Zealand’s largest internet provider has reversed plans to stop blocking websites which hosted videos of the Christchurch terror attack, after a last-minute intervention by the Government.

In the wake of the mosque shootings, a number of New Zealand’s biggest ISPs took what they themselves acknowledged was an “unprecedented step” – blocking websites which were hosting a video of the attack live-streamed by the alleged murderer, as well as his manifesto.

In an open letter explaining the move and calling for action from larger tech companies, the chief executives of Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees said the decision was the right one in “such extreme and tragic circumstances”.

On Tuesday evening, both Spark and Vodafone told Newsroom they would start to remove the remaining website blocks overnight.

“We believe we have now reached the point where we need to cease our extreme temporary measures to block these websites and revert to usual operating procedures,” a Spark spokeswoman said.

However, less than two hours after its initial response, Spark said the websites would continue to be blocked for several more days “following specific requests from Government”.

Newsroom understands the U-turn came after Government officials held discussions with the company, asking it to keep the blocks in place until after the official memorial service for the victims of the attack took place on Friday.

No indication of how much persuasion was required to prompt a rethink.

The ISPs’ original actions have raised issues of censorship, with the companies acknowledging that in some circumstances access to legitimate content may have been prevented.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said website blocking had been “a really useful short-term tool” to stop the spread of the content.

“They’ve [the ISPs] been really clear with everybody that they took on the filtering responsibility because they wanted to play their part in reducing the obvious harm occurring in the aftermath of the attacks, and they did that.”

But this leads to an important discussion on censorship. There is already online material that is ‘censored’, as it should be (child porn, snuff movies, terrorism related material), but there will always be pushes for more limits and also less limits.

Thomas Beagle, chairman of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties, said he had sympathy for the approach taken by ISPs following the “ghastly” attack, but the public needed to ask questions about whether similar blocking would occur in future.

“That was an exceptional situation and people took exceptional action – of course, the worry is now that it’s been done once, are people then going to start thinking, we can do it for other things as well?”

While there was an argument that the companies were simply exercising their contractual rights, Beagle said their near-monopoly in the telecommunications market meant there was a significant censorship issue.

“Civil liberties are traditionally concerned with government interference, but I think that when you’re talking about the dominant players who have 99 percent of the mobile market or more…that’s also an effective form of censorship as well.”

However, more traditional censorship by the Government could “extend and grow in an undesirable manner”, and would require a significant public conversation, he said.

There needs to be a lot of meaningful public discussion on the degree of censorship – as there has been over the Chief Censor recently ruling the terrorist’s manifesto harmful and there for illegal to possess or distribute in New Zealand (the easy availability internationally renders this a weak means of protection).

Censorship debate begins

What is clear is that the debate how to censor offensive material online is just beginning.

There has long been debate over censorship, but major events and actions in response will always draw more prominence to the arguments for and against.

Cocker said he supported the development of a formal, government-led process for blocking objectionable content when necessary, which would allow greater specificity in how content was blocked and set up oversight measures to avoid abuse.

“Those are the kind of things that come back to a government agency being empowered to take that responsibility, then all the telcos have got to do is just add the URL to the list and block it.”

However, Beagle said there was a question of whether ad-hoc arrangements would be preferable to a formalised process, given the rarity of an event like the Christchurch attack.

“Is it better to say hey, this is so out of the realm of normal day-to-day business we shouldn’t actually try and cater for it?

“I think it’s safe to say that we shouldn’t be rejigging our entire security infrastructure, internet filtering and censorship based on a one-off event which is utterly exceptional in New Zealand history.”

That’s an important point. A repeat of what happened in Christchurch seems very unlikely. Security measures should be reconsidered to look at how to minimise the risks, but public freedoms and free speech should not be over-restricted due to an abnormal one off situation.