(Above: all aboard for the Chattanoonga Times Free Press choo-choo, tweeting here, Pardon me boys, we're on the same line and the pond will give you a shine).
Before the pond stops ranting about metadata like a Tony Abbott in full paedophile flight, might we just point out this story in The New York Times, in relation to the killers in the Charlie Hedbo matter, Gaps in France's Surveillance Are Clear; Solutions Aren't.
First on the matter of resources. After surveillance of one of the killers for a decade:
The surveillance on the Islamist, Saïd Kouachi, had turned up nothing for over two years, and monitoring of his younger brother, Chérif Kouachi, had been abandoned the previous year, French officials say. Earlier in 2014, the intelligence service had transferred Saïd Kouachi’s case for several months to the Paris police, a sign that it was no longer considered a priority.
The three-member commission scrutinizing requests for cellphone monitoring by the intelligence agency had signaled that its recommendation would be against further surveillance. And the prime minister, Manuel Valls, was under intense pressure to focus on what seemed to be the more immediate threat emanating from Syria; the previous month, Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old Frenchman who had fought in Syria, had gunned down four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels.
Second on the matter of resources:
Current and former officials say the surveillance on the Kouachis had turned up nothing to indicate that they were an imminent threat. They point to the lack of resources to conduct physical surveillance on large numbers of targets, estimating that 25 agents, working in shifts, are required to watch over a single person day and night.
“You can’t follow everyone,” said Bernard Squarcini, who was Mr. Calvar’s predecessor as head of the domestic intelligence agency and was in charge when the Kouachis were placed under surveillance after a tipoff from the United States in 2011. “These were two inactive targets that had been quiet for a long time. They were giving nothing away.
Then, on the matter of direct telephone tapping. Forget sifting through the shifting sands of metadata for that needle in the haystack of confused metaphors, how about listening in?
The electronic surveillance employed in France was limited largely to listening in on cellphone conversations. But Chérif Kouachi, who had previously been arrested based on intercepted phone conversations, was almost certainly aware of the likelihood that his phone was being monitored, reducing if not eliminating the possibility that he would have discussed planning for an attack on it. The agencies handling the cases of the Kouachis had few other legal options for surveillance.
“The phone tapping yielded nothing,” Marc Trévidic, the chief terrorism investigator for the French judicial system, said in an interview. “If we had continued, I’m convinced it wouldn’t have changed anything. No one talks on the phone anymore.”
So let's overlook the 13 French intelligence organisations, racing around collecting information on potential terrorists, while a couple of killers who showed all the classic signs were put on the back burner. What other strategies might have been employed? Well yes:
Since the Charlie Hebdo shootings, there have been questions about whether the case might have been better handled by the prosecutorial system that falls under the judiciary, an entirely separate bureaucracy that has broader powers than the intelligence agencies to monitor terrorism suspects. “Ideally, this should have become a judicial affair,” Mr. Trévidic said. “We can bug homes and track cars and confiscate computers. When we’re worried about someone, we get a warrant and go into their flat. We take what we need and analyze their computers, which is something the intelligence services can’t do.”
Get a warrant and do a direct physical investigation? How strange ...
And where was metadata in all this? Well the French operate with limited access to metadata, but it was largely beside the point. They already had their targets, and their suspects were hiding in plain sight. The intelligence agencies knew they were people of interest, they just hadn't done anything, and doing actual intelligence work - tracking, following, investigating in depth - is an expensive business. Fiddling around on the fringes with a desk job wading through data is immensely more appealing. No need to get down and dirty with jihadists or right wing extremist ratbags ...
Does the French situation bring anyone else to mind? Like Man Haron Monis, well known but dismissed as harmless, no matter his form with offensive letters and being on bail for 40 sexual assault charges and accessory to murder (here at Fairfax, with forced video).
So how is metadata analysis going to sort all this out?
Or any of the other intelligence failures that can be cited, from awareness of Pearl Harbour, or the failure to decipher the signals coming in about 9/11, or any of the other examples where the public has been given, in the parlance of Americans, the opportunity to play Monday morning quarterback?
Instead, we're likely to add to the track record described yesterday in The Graudian in Australia's response to 9/11 was more damaging to freedom than any other country's ...
In short, chances of the new metadata regime stopping paedophilia in churches and random acts of terror in the community?
Remote, as might be discerned by reading how it all really went down, with the silence and the moser and the cover-ups and the shunning and the abuse in David Marr's exemplary tracking of what went down in Rabbis' absolute power: how sex abuse tore apart Australia's Orthodox Jewish Community. (Echoed, as noted yesterday, by Tony Abbott's support of the absolute power of the Pellists when determined to act in a Catholic, but not a Christian, way, when confronted with similar matters).
But enough, it's Friday, and the pond isn't up to the usual survey of the reptiles at the lizard Oz - besides, today is the Swiss bank account man's day at the lizard Oz, and the pond always finds it hard to go there, even when the "anything it takes" man is making an obvious point:
And many other of the reptiles are distracted, wailing and gnashing their teeth about the David Hicks matter.
It was so much simpler when you could invent a law, apply it retrospectively, and find someone guilty. What a simpler, more expedient world it was, what an exemplary example to the Taliban ... with bonus physical and mental torture thrown in ... how better to deal with witchcraft and treason?
So instead the pond turned to the Fairfaxians to keep alive the flame of dissent, and for once they delivered. There was this:
Yes, if you read Fears Tony Abbott has damaged Bali nine diplomacy, there are more leaks than the Titanic, and all of them are negative about the role the blundering shirt-fronting boofhead played in the matter:
On Wednesday ... Mr Abbott appeared to depart from the diplomatic script to promise an "absolutely unambiguous" response if the executions went ahead. Mr Abbott linked the threat to Australia's generous humanitarian aid program following the Aceh tsunami of a decade ago.
Mr Abbott's comments not only attracted a heated response from Jakarta but have also caused dismay at senior levels of the Australian government, including inside cabinet.
"It's awful," said a senior source, requesting anonymity.
"It undid a lot of the good work," said another.
Tim Lindsey, director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at Melbourne University, said Ms Bishop had been consistently and respectfully articulating Australia's interests while "elegantly" pointing out deep legal and policy flaws in the Indonesian position.
Mr Abbott's comments, on the other hand, were "probably counterproductive" and certainly "unnecessary". "Rightly or wrongly, when it comes to diplomacy, Indonesia can respond positively to measured persuasion and historically it has always responds very negatively to threats," said Professor Lindsey.
Mr Abbott yesterday clarified that he was not imposing conditions on Australia's generous aid program.
There's a lot more, but once again, the man shot from the lips and then had to clarify the brain explosion ... and should the executions, state murders if you will, proceed, which still seems the most likely outcome, then it's likely that others will start to pay attention to what Abbott said ... and after the state murders, what he does ...
Others noted the folly:
Now the pond has had its disagreements with Waleed Aly in the past, but truly one of the greatest crimes in Tamworth in the days, when it was unreconstructed and unaware of indigenous issues, was to be called an Indian giver - you can Greg Hunt the term here.
Aly suggests Abbott got his policy and his words from that infernal parrot, Alan Jones, blathering on the radio:
But that's the problem. Abbott isn't running talkback. He's running international diplomacy. And in that world of maddeningly polite, highly coded speech, this is a rhetorical bomb. It says our aid is conditional, that it imposes obligations and that if we feel those obligations haven't been met, we might just withhold it in future.
That's a hell of thing to imply, even in private. Especially when you're a country currently slashing foreign aid, and already hugely outspent by countries like China. But said in public, it's a wealthy country with far less leverage than it thinks trying to lord it over a developing one.
And so on, as the blunderbuss does its best to imitate the bull in the china shop of mixed metaphors, only matched by the stupidity of the tweeting Mark Textor.
But that lead to a promise made by Mark Kenny in Dumping Tony Abbott has fringe benefits ending unpopular policies (with forced video):
...for Hockey, the primary question now must be whether he lasts long enough to deliver a second budget. He is as welded to Abbott as Abbott is to him. Liberals say they'll go down together.
Chatter in the government shows no signs of abating and could yet manifest itself in a sudden move to replace Abbott with Malcolm Turnbull as early as the first full sitting week beginning March 2.
If that happens, the IGR will still be an important document because the long-term problems aren't going away. But don't expect to hear much about university deregulation or the toxic GP payment, no matter what Orwellian name it has acquired by then.
What, no burdening of future generations with high personal debt, a debt which the founder of the scheme now suggests should pursue students if they head off overseas? (He was a lousy spin bowler, too, the pond is reliably informed).
And March 2nd? These sorts of promises made need to be promises kept Mr Kenny.
If nothing happens by that day, the pond will remember and dismiss Kenny as one of those pundits always ready to offer a date, but with a tone deaf ear as clunky as the one possessed by Sir Duke himself.
Speaking of the IGR, the pond just loved this headline by the Graudian:
If you earn $129,000 you're a low earner? And Abbott's considering a shake-up to favour these low earners?
If that's low earning, can the pond get a couple of low earners into the house?
Oh sure, there's another figure of $60,000 mentioned as the point where more benefits kick in, but the pond admires the way the middle class are now part of the poverty-stricken, struggling lumpenproletariat ... on a hundred clicks or more a year.
Happily the Fin was on hand to get agitated about the unfairness of it all:
Targeting the wealthy?! Will Abbott go socialist?
Well it's good for the Fin to look after its demographic, and it also allows the pond to revert to a David Rowe cartoon for a closer, and as usual, there's more Rowe here.
Which inevitably reminded the pond of Adam Brereton's We can no longer afford to give the benefit of the doubt. Just ask the PM, in which Brereton charted the many wondrous ways that "benefit of the doubt" emerged from the barrel of the blunderbuss in lieu of thought.
Which inevitably leads to the blunderbuss's maiden speech, recorded and available for posterity here:
Loss of faith is a social problem extending far beyond politics and far beyond Australia. Throughout the Western world we are living through a pandemic of doubt and introspection in which people are questioning their God, their country and even themselves. Nothing is safe from the corrosive cynicism of modern times: neither political goodwill nor institutional benevolence nor even parental love. Our challenge is to answer uncertainty with conviction and to refute doubt with faith.
This is not a matter of logical argument. No-one can be persuaded to believe. People must be inspired to believe; they must be picked up and carried along by other people—people who believe with heart and soul that no defeat is final, no unhappiness permanent and no evil invincible.
Yes, join the inspired Taliban of crusaders and be carried along by delusional thoughts of invincibility.
Okay, that's the nausea pill for the day. Roll on the weekend, and March the second ...