19 Jun. 2006

A dark day: the first* person convicted of terrorism in Australia for having terrorist fantasies

Call me old-fashioned, but I think there's a difference between ideation and acting. I've fantasised about killing myself and killing other people about a billion times and I don't plan on stopping any time soon. But I've never so much as self-harmed or punched some guy in the face, even in retaliation. Indeed, the ideation is in my case, as I suspect in many others, a psychological sublimation of the urge actually to hurt other people.

Today, despite the jury's unwillingness to reach a verdict (and if you're told you can't go back to your life till you reach a verdict, that's a lot of duress), Faheem Khaled Lodhi was found guilty of "planning a terrorist act".

The evidence against him seems to suggest some planning indeed, assuming it's all accurate. The terror manual, the contacts with other terror suspects, the attempt to buy chemicals the purcahse of materials necessary to conducting terrorism. But here's the thing: this guy didn't do anything that was illegal in itself. He wasn't ready to go. They didn't catch him in the act of conducting terrorism. They didn't catch him with the means to conduct terrorism. They caught him at a stage before that,assembling the expertise to conduct terrorist acts, without actually conducting the acts. One suspects there's a fair number of people in the ADF, in the reserves, with this amount of knowledge, but they don't come from Pakistan, so their knowledge is not to be interpreted as the preparation for terrorism, but rather is considered legitimate.

The thing is that obtaining this knowledge, even with a terroristic intention, does not imply that the guy was a terrorist, only that he had fantasies about being a terrorist. From a security point of view, of course, locking up people with fantasies of terrorism may be a good idea, in that if they get everyone with fantasies, then there'll be no actual terrorists, since actual terrorists are a small sub-set of those who consider conducting terroristic activities. Of course, that logic is pretty poor, even excluding its lack of respect of people's right to think about doing things that are illegal, since those who are really serious are far more likely to evade capture than those who are just pissing about. It's also quite possible that in Australia there are no bona fide terrorists to capture, but that it is necessary to create the impression there is to justify Australian imperialism. And it's also quite possible that this repression will in itself generate the terrorism which will justify the 'anti-terrorism' measures, the imperialism and the repression.

*As opposed to Joseph Thomas who was convicted of terrorism for associating with terrorists, despite neither actually being one, nor fantasising about terrorism.