15 April 2004

Stuffing up intelligence

This week's Bulletin reports

Collins then proceeded to chronicle a list of Australian intelligence failures in recent years (formatting mine):

  • 'Iraqi weapons of mass destruction
  • delay in the (Willie) Brigitte case, warning of the Bali bombing
  • breakdown of order in the Solomons
  • the independence of East Timor
  • death of an intelligence officer in Washington
  • resumption of Indian nuclear testing
  • fall of Suharto
  • the media-reported Indonesian capture of an ASIS officer
  • the Sandline affair
  • the testing of sarin nerve agent on an Australian farm by a Japanese religious sect.

That is a stunning list, more so because it extends over many years and governments of both parties. More so because most of these spectacular failures have occurred in our region where we claim special expertise. What it proves is not special expertise but systemic failure.

It is hard to recall an event in the Asia-pacific they have not missed. Why then are calls for reform and investigation being ignored? Apparently vigorous prosecution of the War on Terror is not thought to require good intelligence.

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