VIDEO: Paul Buchanan and Selwyn Manning to discuss Commission of Inquiry into Christchurch Terrorist Attack

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VIDEO: In what will be a precursor episode to a planned Evening Report panel-series through 2021, Selwyn Manning and Paul Buchanan discuss and respond to elements of the Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terrorist attacks of March 15, 2019.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In correspondence after this live episode, government sector law specialist, Graeme Edgeler, wrote:

  • It’s a shame I missed the live-stream. I could have pointed out in real-time that Paul was inaccurate in claiming that the Royal Commission lacked the power to compel testimony. This is a power literally every government inquiry has in New Zealand. I think it may have previously been the case that the terms of reference of individual inquiries used to have to specify this power, but whether on not that is the case, since the Inquiries Act 2013 entered into force, this has not been true. It is a power all government inquiries have under section 23 of the Inquiries Act.
Paul G. Buchanan responded to Mr Edgeler’s correspondence:
  • Once again you fail to distinguish between general precepts under the Inquiries Act and the specific terms of reference for this RCI. It specifies that all testimony, statements and documentary provision is voluntary on the part of those who agree to appear before the Commission. The blanket name suppression of all such people below the Director level was in part designed to encourage whistle blowers to come forward when they otherwise would not under the voluntary regime. All classified material was supplied at the various agency’s discretion–the RCI could not compel production of anything that the agencies refused to supply. This is known as a self-limiting or self-binding approach, something that limits the legal exposure of people who otherwise could be held liable for actions that (however indirectly) contributed to mass murder.
Graeme Edgeler further responded:
  • The Royal Commission’s terms of reference are publicly available (http://www.legislation.govt.nz/regulation/public/2019/0072/latest/whole.html#LMS183988) They do no [sic] specify that all testimony, statements, and documentary provision is voluntary. In fact, the word voluntary does not appear at all. Nor do the words testimony, statement(s), document(s) or documentary. There are requirements in the terms of reference around secrecy, and confidentiality, around holding parts of the inquiry in private, etc, but there is nothing in them covering what you say is in there (feel free to suggest a clause you think has this effect). I do not rule out that as a matter of fact, the inquiry avoided using its power of summons in respect of material held by state agencies, but if it did, it was not because its terms of reference prevented it.
We thank Graeme for contributing to the discussion.

THE EPISODE:

  • EveningReport.nz Programme: A View from Afar
  • Live Discussion: Paul G. Buchanan (36th-Parallel.com) and Selwyn Manning (EveningReport.nz)
  • Interaction: Comments welcomed during the LIVE programme via Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter (via Periscope)
  • Time: Midday, NZDST (6pm, US EST), Thursday December 10, 2020.
  • The Report: Officially titled – Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mosques on March 15 2019.

The Inquiry’s terms of reference contained three areas:

  • The terrorist’s actions
  • Actions of public sector agencies
  • Recommended changes that could prevent future terrorist attacks of this kind.

LIVE DISCUSSION POINTS:

This A View from Afar discussion will explore takeouts from the Inquiry’s report and will include (Ref. https://chchroyalinquiry.cwp.govt.nz/the-report/):

‘The idea that intelligence and security agencies engage in mass surveillance of New Zealanders is a myth.’

In 2014, the intelligence and security agencies were in a fragile state. A rebuilding exercise did not get underway until mid-2016 and was still unfinished when the terrorist attack took place in 2019.

Between 2016 and 15 March 2019, the primary, but not exclusive, focus of the counter-terrorism resources was on what was seen as the presenting threat of Islamist extremist terrorism.

There was an inappropriate concentration of counter-terrorism resources on the threat of Islamist extremist terrorism.

In May 2018, there was one project focused on developing an understanding of right-wing extremism in New Zealand. At that time, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service had only a limited understanding of right-wing extremism in New Zealand and work on this was not complete when the terrorist attack occurred.

The intelligence function of New Zealand Police had degraded and from 2015 was not carrying out strategic terrorism threat assessments.

The SIS had a lack of capacity until mid-2018 both to deal with (its perceived Islamic extremist) threat and, at the same time, to baseline other threats.

Other agencies did not engage in informed discussion about the SIS approach nor consider the implications of this.

COULD THE TERRORIST HAVE BEEN DETECTED AND IDENTIFIED?:

Given the operational security that the individual maintained, the legislative authorising environment in which the counter-terrorism effort operates and the limited capability and capacity of the counter-terrorism agencies, there was no plausible way he could have been detected except by chance.

The fact the individual was not detected was not in itself an intelligence failure.

RECOMMENDATIONS (SECURITY/INTEL REFORM):

The creation of a national intelligence and security agency (NISA). This will deliver a more systematic approach to counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism efforts.

The CEO of a proposed NISA would be the national adviser on intelligence and security.

Full implementation of our recommendations will result in a better organised counter‑terrorism effort with enhanced capacity and capability and a less restrictive legislative framework.

NISA would provide:

  • Strategic policy advice.
  • Develop a counter-terrorism strategy.
  • Administer relevant national security legislation.

POLITICAL, PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT AND STRONGER OVERSIGHT:

The Inquiry expects to see far more political and public engagement and discussion and stronger oversight.

This will result in greater public trust and thus social licence.  We wish to see discussion about counter-terrorism normalised. Our recommendations provide mechanisms for this to occur.

PUBLIC DISCOURSE:

The Inquiry stated that should a public facing two-way discourse have been encouraged by governments through: a “see something, say something” policy, it is possible that aspects of the individual’s planning and preparation may have been reported to counter-terrorism agencies.

Such reporting, the Inquiry stated, would have provided the best chance of disrupting the terrorist attack.

RETROSPECTIVE CRITICISM:

If the known risk that a terrorist could take advantage of New Zealand’s lax regulation of semi-automatic firearms had been addressed earlier, it is likely that there would have been no terrorist attack on 15 March 2019.

INQUIRY ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:

It will take time to enhance public trust and confidence in New Zealand’s counter-terrorism effort, so work to do so should begin urgently.

The agencies within the scope of the Inquiry include: National Security Group of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Government Communications Security Bureau, Immigration New Zealand, New Zealand Customs Service, New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service.

Be informed: Link to Inquiry Report.

COMMENT DURING THE LIVE DISCUSSION:

You can interact with the LIVE programme by clicking on one of these social media channels. Here are the links:

You can also see video-on-demand of this show, and earlier episodes too, by checking out EveningReport.nz or, subscribe to the Evening Report podcast here.

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