Sandy Hook and Peshawar

A couple of news items that struck me recently

* Two years after the Sandy Hook massacre, a US Federal Appeals Court has ruled that people with a history of mental illness have a constitutional right to gun ownership.

* In the immediate aftermath of the Peshawar massacre, a Pakistani judge granted bail to the alleged planner of the Mumbai massacre, Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, a leading figure in the (military-backed) Lashkar e-Taibi terrorist group.

Obviously, these decisions were neither aberrational nor the product of a legal system divorced from any social context. Rather, they reflect deeply ingrained views in the societies from which they emerged. Beyond that point, I don’t have a lot to say, but I’ll be interested to read the views of others.

89 thoughts on “Sandy Hook and Peshawar

  1. As a general observation on the Sydney siege, my experience is that initial reports are nearly always incorrect.

  2. There was one bit of live footage, shown repeatedly, in which people are escaping through a second storey window, assisted by police. The ABC were among those showing this footage. My understanding is that these people weren’t hostages but were trapped by the siege happening on the ground floor. I wondered at the time and still wonder at why the TV stations would have shown that footage during the siege itself? It would surely have been information best kept from the hostage taker. I guess it is too easy to forget how any thing put on any electronic media may be viewed virtually in real time, by anyone; in this case, the hostage taker could watch the whole thing unfold, including the location of the police.

  3. Apologies for being a little off-topic:

    I read an article on how a lawyer’s first phone call with a client, who was being held at Surry Hills cop shop, was tapped and listened to. I’ve been bothered by this ever since. The difficulty I have with this carte-blanch tapping of lawyer-terrorist suspect phone calls is that if the terrorist suspect should use any of the standard keywords, the lawyer could be put on the terrorist watchlist as well. This possibility must surely play on the mind of a lawyer representing a terrorism suspect, the tacit threat being that if you play hard for your client’s benefit, the secret service will keep you on the electronic surveillance list indefinitely—including for future, non-terrorist suspect clients. We are well and truly in the Stazi state era.

  4. @Donald Oats

    To my mind, even more concerning is the abuse of the fundamentally sacrosanct lawyer-client privilege. We cannot have a functioning justice system if we are willing to let that be abused in the name of “security”.

    What was the famous quote? “Those who would trade liberty for security will lose both, and deserve neither.”

    Der Spiegel has a mindblowing piece of journalism from the Snowden documents about the illegal and immoral “death lists” the fascists create to murder people (including an allowance of up to ten innocent women and children per strike – they averaged about 4 a day, so they willfully and happily execute about 40 absolutely innocent women and children daily).

    The US decided they’d like to expand it from “terrrsts” to anyone they thought might be involved in drugs in any way, on the “logic” that the money from that trade could end up with the Taliban.

    Indeed these are fascists – and we are on their team, so trials in the Hague are likely in future for Australians.

    To tie it in to the topic at hand, a quote from the article:

    The classified documents could now have legal repercussions. The human rights organization Reprieve is weighing legal action against the British government. Reprieve believes it is especially relevant that the lists include Pakistanis who were located in Pakistan. “The British government has repeatedly stated that it is not pursuing targets in Pakistan and not doing air strikes on Pakistani territory,” says Reprieve attorney Jennifer Gibson. The documents, she notes, also show that the “war on terror” was virtually conflated with the “war on drugs.” “This is both new and extremely legally troubling,” says Gibson.

  5. @Donald Oats

    [stupid moderation, I’ll try again]

    To my mind, even more concerning is the abuse of the fundamentally sacrosanct lawyer-client privilege. We cannot have a functioning justice system if we are willing to let that be abused in the name of “security”.

    What was the famous quote? “Those who would trade liberty for security will lose both, and deserve neither.”

    Der Spiegel (no link thanks to Stasi moderation system, but it can easily be found by searching: secret-docs-reveal-dubious-details-of-targeted-killings-in-afghanistan) has a mindblowing piece of journalism from the Snowden documents about the illegal and immoral “death lists” the fascists create to murder people (including an allowance of up to ten innocent women and children per strike – they averaged about 4 a day, so they willfully and happily execute about 40 absolutely innocent women and children daily).

    The US decided they’d like to expand it from “terrrsts” to anyone they thought might be involved in dr^gs in any way, on the “logic” that the money from that trade could end up with the Taliban.

    Indeed these are fascists – and we are on their team, so trials in the Hague are likely in future for Australians.

    To tie it in to the topic at hand, a quote from the article:

    The classified documents could now have legal repercussions. The human rights organization Reprieve is weighing legal action against the British government. Reprieve believes it is especially relevant that the lists include Pakistanis who were located in Pakistan. “The British government has repeatedly stated that it is not pursuing targets in Pakistan and not doing air strikes on Pakistani territory,” says Reprieve attorney Jennifer Gibson. The documents, she notes, also show that the “war on terror” was virtually conflated with the “war on dr^gs.” “This is both new and extremely legally troubling,” says Gibson.

  6. @Megan

    I find it easy to believe that the success rate of experienced trained police negotiators in ending sieges without injuries is high, but I find it hard to believe that it is 100%.

  7. @Megan

    So I’m not sure what conclusion (if any) about the Martin Place siege you think is supported by the statement that experienced trained police negotiators have a high rate of success in ending sieges without injuries.

    If it could be established that experienced trained police negotiators have a 100% success rate in ending sieges without injuries, that by itself would be sufficient to establish the further conclusion that the police could have ended the Martin Place siege without injuries.

    But if the success rate of experienced trained police negotiators in ending sieges without injuries, although high, falls short of 100%, then it’s not established that it was within the power of the police to end the Martin Place siege without injuries.

  8. Initially the Channel 7 guy that sat next to the police sniper in their studio opposite ,filming the ending from there, said there were 90 shots fired in 30 seconds. I havent heard any ch7 repeat of that claim since.

    Christmas provided a wonderful juxtaposition – jubilant gluttonous gloating over how many billions we spent on ourselves v’s cancelling our foreign aid .They wonder why sometimes people hit back.

  9. Since this (Lindt Cafe siege) has now been labelled an incident of “terrorism”, wouldn’t the various new secrecy laws apply? I wouldn’t be surprised if we never find out what actually happened. Anyone reporting anything could get 5 years in jail.

    Overall, I find it very strange that this fellow, with his “colourful” history, is not on the police radar and then suddenly shows up with an unlicenced weapon and holds hostages. In spite of the (presumably known) fact that he is armed with a weapon of limited capacity, the siege then ends in a blaze of gunfire from military weapons and stun grenades, reminiscent of blockbuster Hollywood movies, with three people dead and others wounded. Bizarre actually.

  10. Regarding the bail for the good Mr. Lakhvi, of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the judge is simply following the law. Mr. Lakhvi is not a flight risk as his continued attendance at the court would have been guaranteed by leading members of the Pakistan ruling elite. Furthermore his activities and alleged crime cannot in any way be considered as harmful to society in Pakistan. Why incarcerate the poor fellow?

  11. Re the Lindt siege and deaths – there is clearly a cover up. The official ‘investigation’ wikk be conducted in house, by bureaucrats who will make recommendations and it has been weeks since the terrorist incident (he was mentally ill, yes, but being mentally ill doesn’t take away from the shooter’s capacity to commit an act of political terrorism) without a single word to the public from any of the survivors. I’m guessing that they’ve been slapped with some sort of prohibition about speaking out under anti-terrorist legislation.

    We are entitled to full disclosure, and soon.

  12. @jungney

    If an internal police investigation of a shooting by police is a cover-up, then it’s a kind of cover-up that happens routinely, not something that’s a special exception just for this case. I’m not clear on what kind of alternative (if any) you’re recommending. This is not a case where a normal procedure of investigation by an outside body is being avoided, it’s a case where there is no outside body that normally carries on that kind of investigation.

  13. @J-D
    According to an ABC site that I won’t link because of Das Automod the review announced by Abbot is thus:

    The review will be carried out by senior bureaucrats at the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Prime Minister and Cabinet and will report back by the end of January.

    In the same article it was declared:

    The NSW Police, the Australian Federal Police and the NSW State Coroner will hold separate investigations into the siege.

    And if you think that any of those reviews will disclose truth then … I am undone for words lest I be offensive. Think Mick Keelty and the spooks discouraging refugees from arriving in Australia by boat, the major thrust of which appears to be by collaborating in sinking those boats at sea.

    I’ll take an informed punt here and wager that the same sorts of geniuses who were behind the By of Pigs, the Hilton bombing and so many other idiotic f*ckups as anyone has the time and patience to enumerate, are wll and likely to have a hand in the sh*t that happened in Martin Place.

    The whole thing stinks.

  14. If I might add: What is the difference between Mr Lakhvi and Mr Obama? Both of them are alleged to have plotted (and allegedly been complicit in) the killing of persons in another country. If anyone can tell me what the difference is, I will be happy to be corrected.

  15. If it is the case that there will be separate investigations by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the other Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (there are two? maybe it’s a joint Commonwealth-State review and somebody at the ABC meant to write ‘the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Premier and Cabinet’?), by the NSW Police, by the Australian Federal Police, and by the NSW Coroner, then that’s more scrutiny than there would normally be in the case of a police shooting, not less.

    I’m not against more scrutiny. I’m in favour of more scrutiny, and in favour of external scrutiny. On general principles I think that police activities should be subject to critical external scrutiny, and on general principles I think that police activities are probably not subjected to as much critical external scrutiny as they should be. But there’s no reason apparent yet for more suspicion of the police in this case specifically than should apply generally.

  16. @J-D

    But there’s no reason apparent yet for more suspicion of the police in this case specifically than should apply generally.

    Than “should apply generally”. In relation to what? Black deaths in custody? Trails of bloated reffo corpses in the Northern seas? Street level police executions in NSW, Qld and Vic?

    You have some sort of faith in state forces to rat themselves out?

    I don’t.

  17. @jungney

    Hmmm. Is there an institutional problem with the cops? Or is it just bad apples? As a rule of thumb, I trust the police to do their job, but not to do it without fear or favour. Now that I’m older, they will discriminate in my favour, which is nice.

  18. @John Brookes

    “Now that I’m older, they will discriminate in my favour, which is nice.”

    Lucky you! Try being black, brown or from any other category of the public that regularly “comes to the attention of the police” (e.g. dissenters, the poor or lower socio-economic kids).

    “Is there an institutional problem with the cops? Or is it just bad apples?”

    It’s institutional, it’s not even confined to Australia – but we have plenty of examples:

    The Victorian police force has avoided a trial over claims that its officers commonly resort to racial profiling.

    An undertaking to investigate the allegations was given to help settle a case brought by six young men of African descent.

    They claimed they were regularly stopped, searched, questioned and even beaten by police just because they were black.

    Maki Isse, who is originally from Somalia, says the outcome is particularly sweet.

    “I was pretty much stopped almost every second day for just riding the train or walking through the streets of Flemington,” he said.

    “Yes we are happy with the results, because this is a starting point to improve policing in Victoria, not just for our community but for the wider Victorian community.”

    The case against several police officers and the state began about five years ago after the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre in Melbourne’s inner suburbs became increasingly concerned about the dozens of complaints it was receiving from young African men.

    They alleged police were stopping them for unwarranted searches and questioning.

    There were also allegations of assault, including an assault in detention.

    Tamar Hopkins, a solicitor at the centre, said it was the first time a race discrimination case had gone all the way to the Federal Court.

    “Never before have the police been put under this kind of spotlight, their practices, their procedures,” she said.

    “It’s quite extraordinary.

    “Cases like this, on the other hand, are very common in other parts of the world but until now Australian police have escaped from the level of scrutiny that they’ve needed in this area.”

    Throughout the case, Victoria Police consistently denied it engages in racial profiling.

    It said the young men involved in the case were stopped and questioned for legitimate reasons and that excessive force was never used.

    But as part of today’s settlement, Victoria Police acknowledged that any policing involving racial discrimination was unacceptable.

    [that extract is from an ABC story from early 2013]

    There are definitely a few “good” apples. But they are institutionally the exception, the “bad” apples are far more protected by the system than are the “good” ones.

    Senior Sergeant Hurley, who killed Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island in 2004, has been promoted and received more than a million dollars in “compensation”.

  19. I cannot fathom for the life of me why that comment went to eternal moderation.

    No links, no ridiculously excluded words that I know of.

    Maybe it will clear censorship at some stage???

    Great to have all this “freedom” and “democracy” isn’t it?

  20. OK, sorry – I’ve worked it out. It was the African country which must not be mentioned.

    Take 2:

    @John Brookes

    “Now that I’m older, they will discriminate in my favour, which is nice.”

    Lucky you! Try being black, brown or from any other category of the public that regularly “comes to the attention of the police” (e.g. dissenters, the poor or lower socio-economic kids).

    “Is there an institutional problem with the cops? Or is it just bad apples?”

    It’s institutional, it’s not even confined to Australia – but we have plenty of examples:

    The Victorian police force has avoided a trial over claims that its officers commonly resort to racial profiling.

    An undertaking to investigate the allegations was given to help settle a case brought by six young men of African descent.

    They claimed they were regularly stopped, searched, questioned and even beaten by police just because they were black.

    Maki Isse, who is originally from S*m*lia, says the outcome is particularly sweet.

    “I was pretty much stopped almost every second day for just riding the train or walking through the streets of Flemington,” he said.

    “Yes we are happy with the results, because this is a starting point to improve policing in Victoria, not just for our community but for the wider Victorian community.”

    The case against several police officers and the state began about five years ago after the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre in Melbourne’s inner suburbs became increasingly concerned about the dozens of complaints it was receiving from young African men.

    They alleged police were stopping them for unwarranted searches and questioning.

    There were also allegations of assault, including an assault in detention.

    Tamar Hopkins, a solicitor at the centre, said it was the first time a race discrimination case had gone all the way to the Federal Court.

    “Never before have the police been put under this kind of spotlight, their practices, their procedures,” she said.

    “It’s quite extraordinary.

    “Cases like this, on the other hand, are very common in other parts of the world but until now Australian police have escaped from the level of scrutiny that they’ve needed in this area.”

    Throughout the case, Victoria Police consistently denied it engages in racial profiling.

    It said the young men involved in the case were stopped and questioned for legitimate reasons and that excessive force was never used.

    But as part of today’s settlement, Victoria Police acknowledged that any policing involving racial discrimination was unacceptable.

    [that extract is from an ABC story from early 2013 – emphasis added]

    There are definitely a few “good” apples. But they are institutionally the exception, the “bad” apples are far more protected by the system than are the “good” ones.

    Senior Sergeant Hurley, who killed Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island in 2004, has been promoted and received more than a million dollars in “compensation”.

  21. @faustusnotes
    All I know is that until the witnesses are interviewed, that being the hostages, and the police involved in the actual response (and other people as well, but principally the hostages and the police), there’s little point in speculating as to what happened and why. I’ll wait for the report. I’m most definitely not putting forward any theory, and especially not one as you have described.

  22. I can’t see how anyone could possibly read into the discussion so far that anybody suggests “the police intended to kill the hostages”.

    The possibility that police were careless as to the deadly consequences of their actions, perhaps. But not “intended”.

    There is plenty of room for speculation. There is also room for discussion about the known facts.

    As I’ve said, I watched the last hour or so live on TV. So there are some things we know:

    1. Ambulances, about 20 or so, began rolling into the area near Martin Place shortly before the shooting began – the media filmed/broadcast this and reported it at the time.

    2. The police went in with guns blazing and “stun grenades” flying.

    3. The manufacturers of “stun grenades” warn that their use, especially in confined spaces such as rooms, can cause heart failure.

    4. The Barrister died of heart failure, not gunshot wounds – in fact there is no suggestion that she had any gunshot wounds at all.

    5. Therefore, at least one person most likely died at the hands of the police – two if we assume that they also killed the hostage taker Monis.

    6. The café manager also died and several other people were injured as a result of gunfire.

    7. Monis was known, all day long, to have been armed with a shotgun – and several hostages had escaped over the previous hours who would have confirmed that to police.

    There was a military style raid at about 2am (just in time for a gory News Ltd front page to be printed and wrapped around the next day’s paper- which happened).

    Expert police negotiators don’t give commands. They do their job and report to their superiors, but every tactical decision is made higher up. Therefore, regardless of whether any negotiators were involved in the situation, the decision to go in with guns and grenades blazing was taken at a higher level.

    As I’ve already said, I believe that this situation could have been resolved – as so many others have been previously – without any deaths or injuries through experienced professional police negotiators. That of course is speculation, because the establishment media and authorities are blanketing out information, as they so often do.

  23. The police chief claimed. “Well, at this stage I understand there were a number of gunshots that were heard which caused officers to move to an EA, an emergency action plan, and that caused them to enter.”

    Thus the police claim (as officially as we have it at this stage) is that a weapon was fired inside first “a number” of times.

    The police assault, as near as I can judge it now, after viewing more footage, involved at least 40 or 50 shots. And the footage shows at least three flash grenades being thrown inside during the assault. The room was in darkness, lit only by the flashes of guns and flash grenades. Was a firm visual on the target possible in these conditions? Were more than silhouettes visible? If the shots had been well aimed at the known target, would more than 5 to 10 shots have been required to bring down the target? Why were 40 to 50 shots at least fired? Were the police uncertain of the target and firing wildly?

    There should be a Royal Commission into all aspects of this assault.

  24. @jungney

    What I wrote was that I think the activities of the police should be subject to critical external scrutiny and that they probably aren’t subject to sufficient critical external scrutiny. That’s the opposite of your suggestion that I have faith in the police. Why would you want to misrepresent me in that way?

  25. @Megan

    What is the basis for your belief that this situation could have been resolved by experienced professional police negotiators without any deaths or injuries?

  26. @Ikonoclast

    What is the general principle underlying your view that there should be a Royal Commission in this case? For example, is it your view that there should be a Royal Commission into every incident in which shots are fired by police and people are killed?

  27. @J-D

    Yes, it is certainly the case that Australia needs a Royal Commission into the rate of deaths caused by police in this country today. It is certainly the case that Australia also needs a Royal Commission into t-rist policing powers in this country.

    The general principle underlying my view is that every civilian death in Australia caused an act of human commission ought to be mandatorily tried before jury as a possible case of manslaughter or murder. This would include all deaths caused by police as an act of commission in the official line of duty.

    Is that clear enough for you?

  28. Pr Q said:

    Obviously, these decisions were neither aberrational nor the product of a legal system divorced from any social context. Rather, they reflect deeply ingrained views in the societies from which they emerged.

    The Parable of the Young Man and the Old

    So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
    And took the fire with him, and a knife.
    And as they sojourned, both of them together,
    Isaac the first-born spake, and said, My Father,
    Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
    But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
    Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
    And builded parapets the trenches there,
    And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
    When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
    Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
    Neither do anything to him. Behold,
    A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
    Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
    But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
    And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

    Wilfred Owen 1920

  29. As to the barbarous slaughter of children in Pakistan, a diligent search threw this up at OpenDemocracy:

    …the Taliban have used the element of barbarity as part of a larger effort to destabilize the Pakistani military by attacking their families directly. Children and teachers with military backgrounds were singled out, either to be burnt alive or decapitated. By hitting at the military’s soft underbelly through a dastardly attack inside the garrisoned city of Peshawar, Taliban militants confronted the military leadership with a situation in which retaliation is inevitable as the only option.

    I hope that advances understanding.

  30. @Ikonoclast

    You suggested that there should be a Royal Commission relating specifically to the Martin Place siege. I asked you whether this was based on the general principle that there should be a Royal Commission into every similar incident. Now you suggest a Royal Commission into the rate of deaths caused by the police. One Royal Commission into the general phenomenon of deaths caused by the police is not the same thing as a separate Royal Commission into each incident in which deaths are caused by the police; which are you advocating, or is it both?

    As the law stands it is not the case that every instance in which one person is killed by the act of another constitutes a crime, and that’s as it should be. As the law stands, it is not the case that every instance in which one person is killed by the act of another must proceed to a jury trial; in some cases a magistrate decides at a committal hearing that there is not enough evidence to justify a jury trial; in some cases a prosecutor decides that there is not enough evidence to bring charges; it would be a mistake to eliminate all such possibilities in favour of jury trials in every case.

  31. @J-D

    Truth. You deliberately nitpick to annoy people. My substantive views were plain and they substantively answered your question. Of course, you were free to agree or disagree with my susbstantive points. Instead you chose mainly to nitpick. You do this to almost every other commenter too. Clearly, your intention is to nitpick to annoy and then you are gratified when you get the angry response you desire. Pettifog means to quibble about petty points. You do this do troll for angry responses. So, identifying you as a pettifogging troller is accurate.

    You put out three baits in a row to three different people. I was the fool who got hooked: more fool me.

    You made an interesting point on the debate about MMT. I thought there was hope for you to rise above your pettifogging. Clearly I was wrong.

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  33. In Peachtree City in the US, the Chief of Police managed to shoot his wife while sleeping with a gun in his bed. Assuming that it was not intentional, then we have a Chief of Police who decided to sleep with his 9mm Glock service pistol in bed with him. This is a pistol that has no external safeties. This means that if the trigger is pulled and there is a round in the chamber the gun will fire. So the Chief of Police apparently decided to sleep with a loaded pistol in his bed, with a bullet in the chamber, with a weapon that is the type that will fire if the trigger is pulled. So a person who has gone through police training, had years of police experience, and was deemed mature and responsible enough to be made Chief of Police for a city of 34,000 people, decided to engage in an activity that anyone with even a modicum of gun safety knowledge would know was completely reckless.

    It appears that in the US even the best of the best can perform the stupidest of stupidities. But I should not single out Americans because we are all decended from the same hominid stock and we all instrinsically stupid when it comes to assessing risk. For most people it takes a lot of training to overcome this. But it appears to me that the culture in America fails to prepare people to sensibly analyse the cost/benefit ratio of private gun ownership. Perhaps they need an, “If you sleep with a gun you’re a bloody idiot,” campaign.

    Now it is possible that this event wasn’t an accident but was actually an attempted murder. But in that case we’ve just gone from US Police Chiefs can’t be trusted to carry out basic gun safety to prevent innocent people being shot, to US Police Chiefs cannot be trusted to not use their guns to attempt to murder family members. In either case it displays the disutility of letting Police Chiefs keep loaded pistols in their homes.

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