In Monis’s case, following the conclusion of the 2008-09 investigation, ASIO and police agencies continued to assess all new information received on Monis. He remained the subject of consideration and information exchange in the NSW Joint Counter-Terrorism Team due to subsequent National Security Hotline referrals, active social media presence and progress of non-national security-related criminal investigations.

The National Security Hotline received 18 calls in relation to Monis between 9 December 2014 and 12 December 2014. All of these 18 calls were complaints about the offensive nature of the content of Monis’s public Facebook page.

Importantly, these Hotline reports were all considered by ASIO, AFP and, when deemed relevant to NSW, the NSW Police Force, prior to the siege.

Each time security or law enforcement agencies received new information, it was assessed in accordance with their policies and procedures.

So that means that a man who had a large dossier with every level of law enforcement agency in the country had 18 complaints made to the national security hotline about him and was still able to carry out the terrible events of 16th December.

Monis’ previous form, as well as the the fact he was actively being considered by the security services would have without a doubt been sufficient grounds for a targeted retention order or a warrant for his telecommunications data to be issued.

But it wasn’t.

This is nothing to do with the lack of a data retention scheme, but it was the result of an active decision by the intelligence analyst assessing his case.

Data is not intelligence

As we identified in our submission, the act of collecting data does nothing to prevent crime. Data needs to be processed, analysed and then used prior to it having any effect in preventing crime.  In this case, a person known to authorities had his case and current activities reviewed. The analyst concluded that – in their opinion, there was no evidence to suggest that the events of December were likely.  One thing that isn’t proven is that the availability of Monis’ phone records or internet browsing history (just the URLs, mind – never the content) would have changed the decision made by the analyst at the critical control point.

Even if telecommunications data had have somehow changed the decision made, the proportionality of mass surveillance and collection of all Australian’s data has not been addressed.  The co-founder of ISP Internode and current NBNCo board member, Simon Hackett explained the signal-to-noise ratio on twitter, which was subsequently made neater by twitter user @posty.

Simon Hackett's Data retention explainer
Simon Hackett's Data retention explainer, made pretty by @posty


The report of the review has done nothing to change our minds here at Future Wise that the data retention regime is not necessary or proportionate.  We hope that you will look at the straw-man arguments coming from the Government and law-enforcement agencies critically.

And we’ll be listening carefully to the Prime Minister’s statement.


Image credits: wild man of malin head, Sean Venn via FlickrCC-NC-SA-2.0 ; data retention table by @posty on twitter, based on table by @simonhackett – used with permission