17 June 2003

Downer and intelligence
From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer today said he was told Bali could be a terrorist target four months before the deadly attacks that killed more than 200 people - but Australia had no intelligence information or specific advice that the Bali attack was likely to occur.

Speaking to reporters in Darwin, Mr Downer said the warning came from an Office of National Assessment (ONA) analyst who was theorising about likely targets for terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) in the South-East Asian region.

Officers from the ONA met Mr Downer on June 18 and 19 last year and one officer told him Bali, the Indonesian province of Riau, and Singapore would be attractive targets for the JI terrorist network.

"This was hypothesising, it was theorising by one particular analyst; it wasn't based on any (specific) information that he had," Mr Downer said.

"Of course, perceptive as it turned out, ... (because it was) based on theorising by one particular analyst and not based on any hard information, there was no sense among the officials or ONA that we should upgrade our travel advisories.

"Our travel advisory was already warning people about possible terrorist attacks in Indonesia."

I'm glad the foreign minister views intelligence with such a sceptic eye. Now if only he had done the same with the intelligence on the missing WMDs, but somehow when there's a war to justify mere hypothesis seems good enough for the minister.

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