11-02-2005, 08:07 PM
Re: They can't help themselves
Howard warns of new terror threat
Australia not under imminent threat of attack - Clark
SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australian Prime Minister John Howard warned Wednesday that he had received intelligence information about a specific terror threat to his country, though he refused to divulge details of the threat, citing security concerns.
At a nationally televised news conference in the capital of Canberra, Howard said releasing details of the threat would compromise security concerns.
"You will understand that there are sensitive operational matters and I cannot and will not go into further detail," he said.
"I don't want to overstate the situation, but I don't want to understate it," he added.
"I can't go into any more detail because if I do I might weaken the capacity of authorities to respond."
The Associated Press reported that Howard later Wednesday introduced an amendment to counterterrorism laws in the House of Representatives, in a bid to boost intelligence agencies' powers.
Australia's upper house of parliament, the Senate, which the government also controls, will be recalled Thursday to vote on the amendment.
The government is seeking urgent passage of the legislation, which has raised concerns over its "preventative detention" provisions and restrictions on freedom of expression.
After initially supporting the legislation, state premiers and some opposition members have expressed anxiety over the proposed laws, citing civil liberties concerns.
Howard's proposed amendment raised similar concern on Wednesday. (Full story)
Howard said he had received advice that the amendment, which is part of a larger package of anti-terror legislation, would improve the "operational capabilities" of security forces to combat the latest threat.
The terror warning also comes a day after Australia's leading spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), publicly warned of what it said was the extent of the "home-grown" Islamic threat.
In it's annual report, ASIO says there are an estimated 700-800 Muslims who have expressed support for politically motivated violence.
Australia "has been of interest to terrorists every year for the last six years," the report says.
Australia has not had a terrorist attack on its soil but it is believed to be a target because of Canberra's steadfast support for the Bush administration in the United States and its sending of troops to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Australian embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, was the target of a suicide bombing in September last year. Additionally, 88 Australians were killed in the Bali nightclub bombings in 2002.
I'm starting to think it's time to move to Kiwiland
The Government was not given advance notice of the announcement about a possible terrorist threat to Australia, a spokesman for Prime Minister Helen Clark said last night.
"We heard through news reports that John Howard had made the statement," the spokesman told NZPA.
"At that point New Zealand officials contacted their Australian counterparts."
Mr Howard said in his announcement in Canberra that Australia had received "specific information" which raised serious concerns about a potential terrorist threat.
"I don't want to over-alarm people. I have said for a long time the possibility of an attack is there," he said.
Miss Clark said through the spokesman she could not disclose details of the information provided to the Government since the announcement was made.
"Australian officials have confirmed that there is no imminent threat of terrorist attacks in Australia," she said.
"We have also been advised that the Australian general threat level has not been raised. It remains at medium. A terrorist attack is assessed as feasible and could well occur."
Really? Can I come with you?
Even better, how about we trade places?
You and your family can live in America, and I'll move to OZ.