When the blind lead the blind.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) Report on the Christchurch terrorist attacks has been released and the verdict is mixed. Some are pleased that systemic failures were identified and acknowledged while others are disappointed that no single person or agency was held to account for those failures. The Muslim community, although given a prominent place in the RCI investigations and Report and offered direct apologies by the Prime Minister and heads of Police and the Security Intelligence Service (SIS), remains unsatisfied with the outcome even if it accepts the recommendations that derive from the Report (as does the government).

Under its terms of reference, the RCI investigation was very broad and very shallow. Because of its scope it eventually had to be extended a year beyond its original six month mandate and have its budget doubled. It was broad in the sense that it had to address the terrorist and his activities, the impact his actions had on the targeted community, the actions and inaction of State security agencies (not just those involved in counter-terrorism (CT) efforts) that contributed to the event and a host of extraneous factors considered relevant to the investigation (for example, European and US experiences with rightwing terrorism).

It was shallow in the sense that, even though it could have availed itself of powers of compulsion under oath under the Inquiries Act, it chose not to. Instead, the RCI engaged in a self-limiting investigatory approach where it was dependent on the voluntary cooperation of State entities and officials when it came to evidence provision and testimony. Because of concerns about national security, no government officials (other than agency heads) identified during the course of the investigation were publicly named and their testimony is to remain sealed for thirty years. Although available to security authorities, the terrorist’s evidence is permanently suppressed in order to avoid copy-cat behaviour. 

One view is that this was done to encourage honesty and candor on the part of witnesses with potential liability exposure, but it also meant that in terms of transparency and public accountability, the RCI was hamstrung from the start. A more cynical view has it that this covers up culpability and whitewashes the truth while absolving the guilty.

Others have written about the before and after-effects of the attacks on New Zealand’s Muslim community as well as the history of local white supremacists and rightwing extremists. The work of the RCI has been amply scrutinised. The Report itself has been dissected at length. Given that, here the focus is on the institutional deficiencies within the New Zealand Intelligence Community (NZIC) that were uncovered by the RCI.

If one phrase sums up the Royal Commission of Inquiry’s Report on the Christchurch terrorist attacks, it is “systemic failure.” The failure was institutional and individual, within and across New Zealand’s borders and involved errors of commission and omission.

The most salient finding is that there was a pervasive obsession with Islamic extremists within the NZ Counter-Terrorism community dating to 9/11. This myopic focus was shared by collection (operational) agencies, analytic agencies, oversight and coordination agencies, foreign partners, the governments and most politicians of the day. The media and the public, while largely unconcerned about the possibility of domestic terrorism, accepted the official line that after 9/11 and given events in the Middle East, Islamic extremism was the most likely threat to the Kiwi way of life.

The problem with this perspective is its lack of grounding in fact. Before and after 9/11, no Muslim has been charged, much less convicted of any act of ideologically-motivated violence in Aotearoa. A couple of people have been arrested and imprisoned for possessing jihadist materials, a few have been detained for objectionable social media posts, some have been sent into de-radicalisation diversion programs and some have had their passports cancelled based upon fears that they would travel to the Middle East to join ISIS or al-Qaeda. Two have been killed in drone strikes in the Middle East and one is languishing in a Syrian opposition jail. Back at home, at any given time, 30-35 people are monitored by the intelligence services because of their perceived jihadist sympathies. They may be inclined towards violence but as of yet none have decisively acted on their impulses. When it comes to contemplating acts of terrorist violence on NZ soil, would-be jihadists have been relatively few and far between, and all talk and no lethal action.

During the same timeframe, right-wing extremism world-wide grew bolder in terms of violent acts and larger in terms of numbers, starting with the mass murders perpetrated by Anders Breivik in Oslo in 2011 and accelerating after 2015 with murderous attacks in places like the US, UK and Germany as Daesh was defeated in Iraq and Syria and refugee flows increased from the Middle East and Northern Africa into Europe. On-line white supremacist forums proliferated, as did the number of self-radicalised “lone wolves” who populated discussion groups focused on who, when and how to commit violence against Muslims, Jews, immigrants, gays, Arabs, Africans, and other perceived undesirables.

Groups like Atomwaffen Division, English Defense League, Proud Boys and Boogaloo Bois moved from their keyboards to the streets. NZ was not immune to this phenomenon, with groups such as the Dominion Movement, Northern Front, National Front, White Defense League, New Order, Right Wing Resistance, and more recent off-shoots like Western Guard and European Students Association waxing and waning before becoming more visible and vitriolic over the last ten years (other violently-inclined groups have formed after March 15, including Action Zealandia). 

This suggests that post-2011 NZ counter-terrorism (CT) threat assessments should have incorporated the rising global trend of irregular right-wing violence. Yet in the period 2010-2019 right-wing extremism was mentioned only a handful of times in CT reports, most in reference to terrorist attacks overseas. When and where the possibility of a right-wing terrorist attack in NZ was mentioned, such as in a 2011 Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG) report that the Oslo attack was a model for copycats and that New Zealand’s firearms regimes allowed for the legal purchase of military-style weapons with that intent, it was ignored by other agencies. Bureaucratic rivalries may have contributed to that.

The organization of the NZIC and the business model used by front line collection agencies made detection of non-Islamicist terrorist threats difficult. Collection agencies like the NZSIS and NZ Police operate on a “lead-based” and “customer” focused business model, in which the agencies react to tips about suspicious behaviour and frame their operations and analyses according to the perceived needs of their sponsors and patrons—primarily the government and foreign partners. The decentralised and siloed nature of the NZIC is another contributing factor to the failure to detect terrorist plots, whereby the alphabet soup of intelligence shops in areas like Customs, Immigration, MBIE and coordinating and analytic agencies like CTAG, the National Assessments Bureau (NAB), Security and Intelligence Board (SIB), Counter-Terrorism Coordination Committee (CTCC) and a number of others compartamentalise and narrowly share classified information on a “need to know” basis.

There are no strong hierarchies in the chains of command linking the functionally-differentiated agencies within the NZIC, with various intelligence units answering to different ministers and seldom to each other. This led to duplication of functions and tunnel vision within the community. Although the NAB ostensibly serves as the lead agency in the decentralised NZIC organizational pyramid, vertical as well as horizontal accountability between NZIC members was and is limited.

Then there was the issue of emphasis. In terms of overall organizational focus, domestic terrorism was a secondary concern for the NZ security community in the decade prior to the Christchurch attacks. Only 20 mentions of domestic terrorism were made during that period. The bulk of those referred to home-grown and returning jihadists.

The dysfunctional organizational arrangement and myopic mindset was compounded by the fact that there is little proactive or “over the horizon,” futures-forecasting strategic analysis within the NZIC’s component parts. Under extant funding models and given the security orientation of political masters and foreign partners, there was little incentive for intelligence shops to expend resources on discerning distant threats via strategic analysis or convincing political funders that the CT focus needed to be expanded in light of an emerging global right-wing extremist movement that uses the internet as a recruiting, radicalisation and irregular warfare tutorial platform.

This was obviously short-sighted and (still) leads to institutional lag when confronting the threat environment (whereby agencies play steep learning curve catch-up because their focus is on the last and not the next major threat). It also violates the basic professional requirement that threat landscapes be divided according to an objectively-determined differentiation between possible, probable, proximate, immediate and imminent threats upon which preventive measures can be predicated.

The Report repeatedly references Police and SIS complaints that they were under-resourced during the decade prior to the attacks, something that contributed to their inability to monitor right-wing extremism. The SIS reported that it had 225 personnel in 2013-14, of which 35-50 percent were engaged in security vetting and the rest in domestic and foreign espionage and counter-espionage functions, with only 4.5 full time equivalent staff dedicated to terrorism investigations. By 2019 the total staff had increased to 328 full time equivalents but the functional distribution remained the same. During the same period the SIS budget increased 245 percent, from $33,751,000 in 2007-08 to $82,843,000 in 2018-19. This does not include at least one dedicated cash injection of over $175 million provided by the National government in 2016-17 to the NZIC and excludes any “black budget” expenditures (most intelligence agencies carry off-the-books “black budgets” for particularly sensitive operations).

The nearly $50 million operational budget increase and 100 staff added during the half decade leading to the attacks was not reflected in SIS CT operations, so the question begs as to whether it was not so much the lack of resources that impeded improvement in that operational area but a maldistribution of resources within it that contributed to the SIS failure to detect the threat emerging from the extremist Right. After all, it dedicated between a third and half of its staff to vetting security clearance applications. Assuming that clerical staff occupy five-ten percent of personnel numbers, then the amount of people dedicated to domestic espionage (including CT), foreign espionage and counter-espionage within the SIS is remarkably low for a front-line intelligence agency. The political priority given to counter-terrorism efforts by governments during the years after 9/11 and emergence of ISIS in Europe make it hard to fathom that only 4.5 equivalent full time staff were dedicated to CT efforts in 2014, and that the same distribution of personnel continued even with the 50 percent increase in staff by mid-2019.

The NZ Police also claim to have struggled with resources for intelligence work in general and CT work in particular. Citing shortfalls, the Police stopped investigating right-wing extremism in 2014 and no reports on the subject were issued until 2019 (after the attacks). The intelligence wings of the Police were said to be lightly staffed and spread over a number of issue areas that went well beyond CT concerns. Both the National Security Group (NSG)  and Security and Intelligence Group (SITG) claimed to not have enough resources to engage in the type of strategic intelligence assessments that would have made early detection of right-wing extremists easier. In 2010 the National Intelligence Centre employed 53 staff out of a total complement of 11,890, then 63 in 2012 and 52 in 2013 with similar total numbers, while in 2018 “International and National Security” functions employed 357 out of 12,467 staff (organizational changes made for different staffing statistic categories in Annual Reports after 2017). 

Even with the changes in statistics measurements that incorporated other liaison and analysis duties, it is clear that staffing of Police intelligence operations remained fairly constant and even rose slightly towards the end of the period covered by the RCI Report. It was therefore not a major impediment to CT operations per se. Instead, it appears that the allocations of resources within the intelligence branch were directed to areas other than CT, again, consistently throughout the years and paralleling the operational priorities of the SIS. Funding for additional CT staff at the national level was approved in 2018, but the problem remained that, to quote the Report, the “New Zealand Police had generally viewed right-wing extremism as more of a public order issue than a potential terrorist threat” (Part 8, Section 6.5 paragraph 30).

There is no mention in the Report of whether Police intelligence received information about violent right-wing extremists during the course of undercover operations targeting criminal gang activities such as drugs or weapons dealing (so-called “street crimes”). Yet, although no information on right-wing extremists was reported at the national level after 2014, “(w)e (the RCI) were also provided examples from the National Security Investigations Team of leads related to right-wing extremism that met the risk threshold and were pursued.” (Part 8, Section 6.5 paragraph 36). In other words, there were leads coming from somewhere about right-wing extremists and they were pursued, but nothing more is known about them (at least as far as the public record is concerned).

The “lack of interest” problem regarding right-wing extremism was compounded by the fact that tactical intelligence leads are mostly developed by each Police District, and during the time period in which the killer was planning and preparing apparently no leads on violent right-wing extremists were developed by the intelligence shops based in Dunedin and Christchurch, much less elsewhere. Instead, at both the district and national levels, in terms of strategic as well as tactical assessments, the NZ Police focused CT efforts on detecting and disrupting the plans of Islamicists (and had some success with that).

Even so, the NZ Police did allocate intelligence resources to monitoring some non-Islamicist groups. During the period covered by the Review, which came in the wake of the infamous Urewera Raids, the Police followed intelligence leads and conducted operations against environmental, animal rights and anti-1080 activists along with the ‘normal” business of providing intelligence for non-ideologically motivated criminal investigations. This is worth noting because terrorism involving lethal mass attacks is most likely to be ideologically rather than criminally motivated (following the logic that criminal activity is a form of commercial rather than advocacy enterprise and public violence is generally bad for business). Amongst ideological activists in NZ, environmental and other Leftist groups are less prone to supporting terrorism to advance their goals than either aspiring jihadists or right-wing extremists (including so-called “eco-fascists” involved in anti-1080 campaigns). And yet they received more attention from the intelligence services than neo-Nazis did, and CT efforts remained focused on would-be jihadists.

It was therefore not just a lack of resources allocated to CT efforts within the Police, SIS and other agencies that impeded the detection of right-wing terrorist threats. Instead, it was the lack of priority given to them that contributed to the systemic intelligence failure. Intelligence work done by the Police and the SIS involve at their core human intelligence collection. That essentially means boots on and ears to the ground, which in turn is an issue of trained staff dedicated to the task on the one hand, and objective threat recognition on the other. In spite of the evolving threat landscape in the decade prior to the Christchurch attacks, CT staffing numbers remained small and steady, with low emphasis placed on non-Islamicist threats. When they were, the objects of scrutiny were not from the extremist Right.

The GCSB was exonerated of any culpability in enabling the attacks. That is because, according to the Report, it basically serves as a foreign signals intelligence agency and only engages in domestic espionage when tasked to do so under warrant by a NZ partner agency. In the decade before March 15 it was never tasked by the SIS, Police or other security agencies to monitor right-wing extremists.

Although it exposes the disorganization and biases of the NZ intelligence apparatus when it came to CT prior to March 15, the Report claims that these systemic failures did not contribute to the attacks because the killer’s operational security made discovering him a matter of “chance.” That, in spite of reports about his peculiar behaviour at a gun club, his social media rants and use of IP addresses associated with extremist views and weapons purchases, his drone surveillance of the al-Noor mosque and his stockpiling of military-style weapons and ammunition (which are attributed to deficiencies of the firearms licensing regime and failures by vetting authorities to discharge their duties properly). The dots were there to be connected but, according to the RCI, only by chance could they have been.

That has the makings of a Tui ad.

What is clear is that foreign intelligence partners and domestic intelligence agencies saw right-wing extremism as a low priority local law enforcement issue, not a pressing national security threat. In spite of some brief warnings and occasional mentions, the NZ Police and SIS did not see violent right-wing extremism as posing an imminent danger to society and other frontline agencies did not screen for it in their threat assessments. Instead, the security community prioritized the domestic aspects of  the so-called “War on Terror” (sic). Local politicians supported and funded that approach, which was generally given low priority because domestic terrorism was, in spite of the anti-jihadist fear-mongering of the Key government, a secondary concern in the NZIC collective assessment  of NZ’s threat landscape.

With the overall likelihood of domestic terrorism downplayed and jihadist threats over-emphasized within potential domestic terrorism scenarios, when it came to local right-wing terrorism the NZIC was not just looking the wrong way—it was not looking at all. Instead, for political and operational reasons the CT focus could and would not see terrorist threats beyond those rooted in Islam. Even though the domestic terrorist threat landscape changed in the years after 9/11, the NZIC was disinclined to move beyond threat assessment parameters that supported the anti-jihadist narrative. That is why the it failed to see the danger coming from the extreme Right.

More than “chance,” it was these institutional deficiencies, both in outlook and organization, that wound up costing people’s lives.

An earlier version of this essay was published in The Spinoff, December 15, 2020.

26 thoughts on “When the blind lead the blind.

  1. Would the report’s recommendations of a new intel agency be the way forward, if old dogs can’t be taught new tricks? Or can existing agencies be retooled?

  2. Thank you for your comprehensive analysis Pablo. I have a couple of thoughts: 1) is it likely that our NZIC were mainly acting on apparent threats from Muslim extremists because that is what our major partners in Five Eyes expected of us through the intelligence provided by them, thus eclipsing any other threat from right wing extremists? 2) As both international media and our local media were also completely focused on Isis and Islamic terrorist actions which were very well documented at the time (and terrifying) could this also have been the reason a right wing terror attack was far below the radar?

    The lack of funding and resources to monitor right wing groups was disastrous, and the disparate agencies who seemed not to talk to each other is odd to say the least and a recipe for disaster, but not surprising given it is public service. I hope this will be high on the list of being remedied. I also wonder if the type of candidates for the roles in the intelligence service need to be looked at. I have no idea if it is only newly qualified graduates who enter these agencies (apart from the police) but having real world experience in a number of areas would be vital to ensure the general focus is not too narrow, I would think.

  3. KR:

    IMO there has to be a complete overhaul of the NZIC. However, I doubt that will happen because there is no political will to do so, there is not major public interest in doing so, and the bureaucracies involved will resist doing so.

  4. Di:

    There was a bad synergy going on. The NZIC’s partners were also obsessed with islamic terrorism so emphasised that in their shared reporting. The NZIC’s foreign partners also discounted rightwing extremists as “nutters” that were at best a matter of local law enforcement concern, so until recently they did not share intel about them between each other. Politicians in NZ and other liberal democracies saw no political gain to be made in publicly demanding that the hard Right be investigated or monitored more seriously, much less have State resources targeted at them, but they did see gain in scapegoating Muslims (even when obliquely through allusions to the “violent minority” who made up al-Qaeda, Daesh and other Islamicist groups). The corporate media dutifully played along with the Islamist fear-mongering and the Rightwing media hyped the “Islamofascist” threat while ignoring the true heirs to the early 20th century race supremacists. All of this influenced public opinion and played into stereotypes about the Islamic “other:” beheadings, genital mutilation (which is not a Muslim practice but instead a North African tribal custom), veils, hijabs, polygamy, etc.The result was a dramatic rise in assaults on, and even murders of Muslims and others (like Sikhs) who were perceived to be a threat to Judeo-Christian societies.

    Mind you, while Islamic extremism was never an existential threat to liberal democratic societies (unless those societies succumbed to the authoritarian temptation to impose a national security regime on Muslims or everyone in the name of public safety, which played into the Islamicist’s hands), it was a very dangerous and contagious global irregular warfare movement that needed to be defeated. That required a carrot and stick approach whereby the sources of ideological and material discontent that they preyed on for recruitment were addressed while they were defeated as an armed force via focused intelligence and kinetic operations of various types. Unfortunately, the dominant approach by the US and its allies in the so-called “War on Terror” was and is all stick and very little carrot. The West still backs Sunni Arab despots that use Islam as a means of tyrannical control while it bleats powerlessly about the plight of Uyghers in the PRC. It demonises Shiia Iran as a theocratic autocracy when the Iranians hold the fairest elections in the Muslim Middle East and support far less vicious extremism than do the Sunni oligarchies (because Shiia Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as Assad’s Alawite regime in Syria, while brutal when they want to be, are political movements that enjoy some degree of legitimacy in the eyes of those they rule, something that Sunni al-Qaeda and Daesh never really could. Only the Taliban offer an example of a Sunni irregular warfare movement that can stake such a claim, and that has lot to do with Afghan culture, not their brand of Islam).

    So in the end, in spite of the threat of rightwing extremism looming over the horizon as of the late 2000s-early 2010, then rolling in like a malignant fog by the mid-2010s, the NZIC focused on the local Muslim population as the potential source of home grown jihadists and foreign fighters while the National government publicly hyped the threat of jihadi brides and other Muslim subversives even while it devoted relatively little resources to counter-terrorist efforts overall. This could have been justified by the absence of a domestic terrorist threat and the press of other intelligence concerns like Chinese espionage, but that case was never made to the public.

    It remains to be seen what the classified version of the RCI Report had to say because there are some clear discrepancies in the public version. Take one example: the RCI says that members of the Police Security and Intelligence Board told them that leads about rightwing extremists were developed and pursued. But nothing in the public version of the Report mentions what happened to those leads, or how many there were, etc. There is just the incomplete mention and nothing else. That leads me to believe that there is much more to the RCI findings than is being publicly released. But given the suppression orders in place, we will likely never know about them.

  5. Thank you for the comprehensive answer to my questions. It all makes much sense. The problems in the Middle East are so very complex it is hard to get one’s head around it all.

    I think you’re right – there more than likely is far more the the RCI’s findings and I am pretty certain I won’t be here to find out, Unfortunately. :)

    On another note, I think it might be time for me to re-read John Le Carre’s back catalogue. Vale to the man who started my interest in what was happening in the darker corners of the world.

  6. Surely the Kashmiri militants are also a Sunni irregular warfare movement with a claim to popular legitimacy?

  7. Not a good story. Inaccurate and biased.
    911 did not need to be mentioned. Stay on subject. Arabs could not have carried out 911, see report by Egyptian General.

    The Royal Commission had terms of reference. To investigate the lead up to the shooting. It was not an investigation of the shooting. We still do not know what really happened. That the guns were taken immediately is suspicious and smacks of a conspiracy.

    The Royal Commission speaks of the gunman acting alone
    which is ridiculous because they did not investigate the shooting. The shooting was bigger than a one man operation.

    Referring to New Zealand as Aotearoa suggests the above author could be left wing. Rabbiting on about White Supremacists which do not exist is crazy left wing talk.

    Para: During the same time frame…Whole paragraph is rubbish.

    Anders Brevik need not be mentioned. He was a construct.

    Rattling off a list of right wing groups and calling them vitriolic and violent is incorrect. Causing trouble which does not exist. There is no problem with being a nationalist, patriot or a raising a national flag.

  8. Every so often someone with a room temperature IQ shows up just to make Paul Scott feel like he is the kiwi former dentist equivalent of Henry Kissinger. Today, sir, that person is YOU.

  9. Well I think I know a little bit enough that my Lukewarm IQ will allow but not as much as I would like to know (top secret stuff and all that nonsense).

    So I guess a few observations is not enough rotten fruit & veges have been hurled at the intel community because my god all this technology and resources should have been damned well celebrated because it should have meant that these tired pricks wouldn’t have had to work as hard.

    On the other hand, I’m not opposed to defence intelligence but do some god damned work. It’s kind of the same as the Greens goal of de militarising the NZDF, it may sound nice to some but we will end up being controlled by professional militaries or Intel partners as the case may be.

    So I am for total defence. Probably every single person won’t like it but I think every Kiwi should make themselves available to defence intelligence more as friends than potential enemy combatants or whatever.

    There’s something ironic in Pablo’s analysis and that’s when forecasting future events there has to be a little bit of a secret fear of the other or whatever. It’s like the old joke when your worst fears come true.

    So a compromise, seeing as we are living through this stupid age of kindness with no vulgar words and rotten fruit, the compromise would be we have a defence intelligence but we each take good care of not really needing it. The Greens would happily disband the whole thing and they’ve had electoral success but as of yet been unable to form a government of there own, and then it’s yet to play out whether or not they have the intelligence or guts to implement there most radical ideas because they talk a big game it’s they’re just gutlless in the face of military strength. And no, standing in front of an adversary like a deaf and mute Muppet is not in anyway considered strength.

  10. Sam:

    No amount of fancy technology can help early detection if the agencies are not looking for trouble in any given direction. That is because in liberal democracy there are limits to how much the intel agencies can do by way of bulk collection and mass surveillance, which most often require warrants and still need to have some algorithmic filters in order to separate wheat from chaff amid the “noise” of intercepted communications etc. And nothing beats boots on the ground when it comes to discerning intent and will.

    The truth is that the entire Western intelligence community discounted the threat of rightwing extremism until it was too late (after 2015, when attacks accelerated but still 4 years after the Oslo attacks). And they still have not coped with the infiltration by rightwing extremists into the security services (mostly local law enforcement) of most of these countries. From Germany to France, UK, US, Canada, Norway, Belgium, Holland and beyond, there are now serious concerns that neo-Nazis have quietly been filling the ranks while soft-peddling their true beliefs. Let’s hope that it is not too late to weed them out before they use their positions for sectarian ideological purposes.

  11. ” I think every Kiwi should make themselves available to defence intelligence ”

    What does this mean?

  12. Personally I don’t try and hide from the internet with pseudonyms or fake profiles or what ever. Just the energy use alone for filling out the sign up process is enough to make me roll my eyes. Guess that’s why I’m with social media platforms that allow to sing up simply by clicking the sing up with Facebook or Google tab. As an example during corona I left my google locate on wide open incase authorities need to know so just check that. It’s just convenience.

  13. There is a lot to unpack there but I am not going to discuss it since I know Pablo does not like commenters discussing things that are not his main post.

  14. “From Germany to France, UK, US, Canada, Norway, Belgium, Holland and beyond, there are now serious concerns that neo-Nazis have quietly been filling the ranks while soft-peddling their true beliefs. Let’s hope that it is not too late to weed them out before they use their positions for sectarian ideological purposes.”



  15. @ sam
    ” I think every Kiwi should make themselves available to defence intelligence ”

    I think this is already happening

    Consider the tracking ability with the following information
    – mobile no, email address, street address, bank card no

  16. @Edward. I’m not a lawyer but it’s all an illegal search and seizure to hover up all out communications. I know bad men but not even they could be considered terrorists, mass murder maybe, but having the skills or imagination to write let alone write a manifesto I think not.

    Besides that sentence of mine was me just being cautious.

    I guess I’m saying we are losing a lot of rights to billionaires who get to profit off the intelligence community infrastructure. I’m okay with people earning money that way and I’m okay with having a defence intelligence but I do think that corporations should only have power that the people give to them so we should be more cautious about how we each present and promote our online identity.

  17. Sam, I am very confused about your point. Earlier you were saying people should go out of their way to make their online activity trackable, e.g. using their real name and not pseudonyms, but now you are saying people need to be cautious about how they present themselves.

    Which should we be doing? Making ourselves available, or being cautious?

  18. One of the reasons people do not use their real names, etc on social media is in order to exercise the kind of caution about sharing their data with corporations that you are recommending.

  19. You just spam red hearings and I don’t even think you’re aware of it.

    Okay I stop mocking you for a sec. So what you call “sharing,” I would say that users are producing a tradable commodity for free. I’m not opposed to billionaires making money like that and neither am I uploaded to them using the intelligence infrastructure. But what I am opposed to are morons who can’t navigate the English language or switch between descriptive or prescriptive.

  20. Sam:

    My only recommendation at this point is to stop feeding the troll. The comments thread has yet again been hijacked and derailed, so it is time to put a halt to the argument.

  21. Welp I’m late but whatever.

    Two events should have been the wake-up calls to prepare the intelligence agencies: Ahmed Zaoui, to show that they were caught up in a hype train; and Anders Breivik to show that right-wing domestic terrorism was a real and major threat.

    “Unfortunately, the dominant approach by the US and its allies in the so-called “War on Terror” was and is all stick and very little carrot. The West still backs Sunni Arab despots that use Islam as a means of tyrannical control while it bleats powerlessly about the plight of Uyghers in the PRC. It demonises Shiia Iran as a theocratic autocracy when the Iranians hold the fairest elections in the Muslim Middle East and support far less vicious extremism than do the Sunni oligarchies.”
    Very much this!

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