by Crikey reporter Sophie Black

It’s not often that Aussies get top billing on the Al Jazeera news bulletin but that’s what happened yesterday when claims by former ASIO officer Michael Roach – that
suspected Islamic militants are based in Australia’s two main cities – ran as the top story.

retired less than two years ago after a 30-year career at ASIO, namely
as an assistant
director with ASIO’s T4 group, responsible for security of government
facilities. He first made the claims on
Lateline when he told Tony Jones there could be up
to 60 Islamic extremists living in terrorist cells in Australia. Roach
also suggested that police and security guards should be targeting
men of
Middle-Eastern appearance who are acting suspiciously – there’s another
name for it: racial profiling.

“Unfortunately, Middle-Eastern people
are going
to be approached more often than not and that’s just the way it goes at
moment. We can’t do anything about it,” he told Lateline.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has dismissed the prospect of racial
profiling, saying that using racial features to identify terrorist
suspects would leave
Australia vulnerable and exposed to attack. And according to last night’s
Lateline, it seems Roach, too, is backing down from his earlier
comments – “let’s just take this racial card right out of this because
this is
what’s not good for their community and it’s not good for Australia.”

But, as a subscriber pointed out, there’s
a glaring discrepancy between the government’s past denunciation of
government “whistleblowers” and Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty’s confirmation
of Roach’s claims. “It’s something that’s not news to the
intelligence agencies and the AFP (Australian Federal Police),” Keelty told Lateline, “We’ve been aware for
some time roughly the number of people who have trained overseas, and they’ve
been the focus of the attention of both ASIO, the AFP
and also the state police in our joint operations.”

ASIO has refused to comment on Roach’s claims, so
why is Keelty confirming this sensitive information?

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey