Bob Carr: US cyberspying aimed at nuclear terrorism

As promised, here’s a transcript of part two and three of The Observer Effect broadcast on SBS1 last night. For me, there were three highlights in these segments: Bob Carr suggesting the reason for the US spying on foreigners was to prevent nuclear terrorism (just imagine the Boston Marathon bombers with nuclear backpacks); the foreign minister appealing to the audience to explain why he didn’t want to comment on Labor’s woes and Ellen’s reply; and the wily campaigner calling on the goddess Fortuna to help the ALP win the election (the latter got a mention in The Australian today And SBS On Demand has a video of the entire show on its website now in case you missed it. Here’s a transcript for part two and three of the Bob Carr interview:
ELLEN FANNING: Welcome back to The Observer Effect. Viewing the events of the week through the eyes of the people who shape Australia. And this week our Observer is Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr. Critics of US president Barack Obama are saying he’s sounding more and more like George W Bush every day. Yesterday, the President defended a surveillance program which taps into the servers of nine of the world’s leading Internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo and YouTube to spy on foreigners. The data can reveal the user’s contacts as well as their location.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This does not apply to US citizens and it does not apply to people living in the United States. You can’t have a hundred per cent security and also then have a hundred per cent privacy and zero inconvenience.
Kathleen McClellan, Government Accountability Project: They secretly go to a secret Court that produces secret orders and then they collect information on secret and it turns out on millions of Americans on an on going daily basis.
ELLEN FANNING: Look, Bob, I know you’re the Foreign Minister and you’re not supposed to, you know, you’re supposed to be careful in what you say about the Americans, but how Obama is standing there saying, “Well, don’t worry, it doesn’t affect Americans.” Hello, hello, over here, down here. (Ellen waves.)
BOB CARR: I would like more information. This story is just breaking. I got a desire to know how it might impinge on the rights and responsibilities the rights and freedoms of Australians. Beyond that, I’m not going to venture into it because it is in the realm of security and intelligence and there’s a longstanding practice on both sides of politics not to comment on that for very obvious reasons.
ELLEN FANNING: Will you ask them about it?
BOB CARR: I’ll certainly get a report on what this means for Australia and for Australians.
ELLEN FANNING: I notice that Malcolm Turnbull came out and said that he was seeking clarification from the US. I would have thought that was your job.
BOB CARR: Well, I’m in the same position. I’m seeking clarification of this report and what it means for Australia.
ELLEN FANNING: I wonder how we ended up here, though. I mean, more Americans would die from criminal acts in America than from terrorists, not to underplay the terrorist threats, but that’s the reality.
BOB CARR: No, but the answer to that objection is simple.
BOB CARR: The reason for the height of detention to security post September 11 is that some time in the future the attack could be a really substantial one, not just turning planes into bombs at, .. with the destruction of those thousands of lives, but detonating a nuclear weapon in the heart of a popular city. That’s what this is all about after September 11.
ELLEN FANNING: And that’s why the Americans do things like this if in fact they do.
BOB CARR: Well, the challenge is nuclear terrorism.
ELLEN FANNING: And is that …
BOB CARR: And the essence of September 11 is that it’s a harbinger of serious sustained attempts by terrorists to produce mass atrocity crimes. Mass atrocity crimes. The ultimate would be detonating a nuclear weapon in Times Square.
ELLEN FANNING: You say Times Square. What about Martin Place, what about Federation Square?
BOB CARR: We’re all very conscious of this in Australia. In Europe, the focus would be on terrorists with the capacity not just to detonate a bomb in a subway system, Madrid, London. Not just to attempt what we know terrorists have attempted in Australia is they’ve put the ingredients for a bomb together, but attempting to get fissile material in the form of a backpack or a suitcase nuclear weapon.
ELLEN FANNING: Has that ever happened? Has anyone ever tried to do that in Australia as far as you know.
ELLEN FANNING: Let’s stick with security matters. Greens Senator Scott Ludlam asked you some difficult questions about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. One was whether Assange is entitled to protections under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Now, that’s the part of the Bill of Rights that protect freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In other words, should you impress on the Americans that Assange is really a journalist, a legitimate publisher and, therefore, should not be prosecuted?
Senate Estimates Committee video:
BOB CARR: Not to my knowledge, no, wouldn’t be a matter of concern to Australia to make a case for him, no.
Scott Ludlam: Okay.
BOB CARR: Why would we do that? There’s nothing more to say about it, and we’re not going to over-service these consular cases.
Scott Ludlam: Is that grand jury investigation still on going or has ..
BOB CARR: I don’t know.
Scott Ludlam: You don’t know.
BOB CARR: I can’t tell you. You need to address that to the American country.
Scott Ludlam: We’re not interested to know whether it’s still on going?
Scott Ludlam: Why is that?
BOB CARR: Well, it doesn’t affect Australian interests.
ELLEN FANNING: Since when was it not in Australia’s national interests to represent a citizen in strife aboard?
BOB CARR: Well, the assumption of the question is wrong, and that is we know there is a grand jury taking place in America. We don’t know that.
ELLEN FANNING: And a grand jury for clarity is a group of people who come together to decide whether criminal charges should be laid against someone.
BOB CARR: Yes. And this story has been going on for two years now. Wouldn’t the Americans have announced something if there were? They don’t tell if there’s a process going on in the US justice department, it’s not vouchsafe to their own government let alone to a foreign government. That’s the first thing to say. The second thing to say is that no Australian in trouble had received more consular support than Julian Assange. I don’t think it’s appropriate that we go on providing that in London. His difficulties in London have got nothing to do with the US government. Nothing. If America were seeking to extradite him, we would have heard about it in the last two years in which he’s been resident of the UK because the UK has got an extradition treaty with the US. It’s all about the Swedes seeking him on a criminal matter and winning in the British Courts. Therefore, it’s not a matter for Australia except into its consular aspects. Is he receiving due process? And will he receive due process in Sweden? And we’ve satisfied ourselves on both counts.
ELLEN FANNING: At the same time, we saw this week the trial of Bradley Manning. Now he’s the young American who leaked all these documents to WikiLeaks and the prosecutors in his trial have said really clearly, look, Julian Assange aided and encouraged Bradley Manning to do this. Julian Assange conspired with him. I mean, it seems there’s every indication from what they’re saying they’ve got their sights on Julian Assange. They’re saying he aided, abetted and helped him. They want him.
BOB CARR: That’s a big leap of logic. The Americans are trying to establish that there’s something malign and not innocent in what Bradley Manning did. I can’t comment on that. That’s not a matter of Australian interest. It’s between America and Bradley Manning.
ELLEN FANNING: And Julian Assange is a very divisive figure, he’s running for political office come September. Does he annoy you? He’s called you all sorts of things — arrogant and ignorant — and says you’ve been briefing the Americans; does he irritate you?
BOB CARR: No, he’s fallen out with every everyone he’s ever dealt with. The people on The Guardian; the people who have raised money for him during his campaigning. He’s fallen out with all of them, and it’s not surprising the amount of campaign that somehow Australia should swoop in and collect him and liberate him, but we have got no legal standing in this. The Swedes have won in the British Courts.
ELLEN FANNING: Does it irritate you? Does he irritate you?
BOB CARR: No, not remotely.
ELLEN FANNING: And we’ll be back with more in just a moment.
ELLEN FANNING: You’re back with The Observer Effect and our guest this week, Senator Bob Carr. There was a sense this week that the Labor party just gave up. Two Labor backbenchers got the cardboard boxes out to pack out their Canberra offices. Why wait for electoral defeat? Might as well pack up now, really. And Malcolm Turnbull looked quite moved on the telly when he started musing about the decline of Labor. Some, however, kept their sense of humour despite predictions by one Labor identity this week that the Gillard government is facing an electoral disaster.
Malcolm Turnbull, Shadow Communications Minister: One Labor person said to me the other day, said that he’d in his earlier life he’d been a divorce lawyer. And he gave up being a divorce lawyer because he couldn’t handle just the bitterness and hatred that you see sadly all too often in divorce and he gave it up and he said to me, you know, the hatred in our party room makes the most unhappy, vicious, bitter divorce look like a picnic. And that’s Labor’s tragedy.
BOB CARR: If things get that bad, I’ve got a different career pattern. I’m going to have a placard around my neck offering to recite slabs of Shakespeare for five bucks a time.
ELLEN FANNING: Bob, if I give you five bucks, what would you recite for me?
BOB CARR: Probably Macbeth, the shortest tragedy. Its images of blood and darkness appeal greatly to Abraham Lincoln, one of my heroes. So they’ll be my specialties, I think, when I’m walking around Martin Place after politics.
ELLEN FANNING: Not the comedies? Not the comedies.
BOB CARR: No, I don’t like his comedies.
ELLEN FANNING: The divorce analogy …
BOB CARR: And that’s savage age enough. I prefer Ben Jonson’s.
ELLEN FANNING: The divorce analogy seems apt. I mean, it does rather look like Kevin has had custody of the party this weekend.
BOB CARR: Okay. Well, you …
ELLEN FANNING: Took them on an access visit to Geelong.
BOB CARR: Okay. Yeah, there are two games taking place here.
BOB CARR: Let me explain to the audience. (He turns to the audience.)
BOB CARR: She’s getting me to say something about domestic politics because that will give, generate a headline in tomorrow’s papers. My game is a different one. My game is not to say anything about domestic politics because I don’t want my name attached to any inflammatory comment. Now …
BOB CARR: … I’m older, I’m more experienced. This is the key to who is going to win.
ELLEN FANNING (turns to the audience): Well, can I pitch it to you another way: what I am trying to do is to get him to tell me what he really thinks about what’s going on inside the Labor party because I think there’s a public interest in hearing it said. What he is trying to do is get through this without telling me what he really thinks.
(Audience applauds)
BOB CARR: There’s a US President, Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s, and he’s famous for being taciturn, no one can get words out of him. At a White House banquet once, a woman sitting next to him said, “Well, Mr President, I’ve taken a bet that I can get you to say more than three words.” He paused, looked at her, and said, “You lose.” (Laughter)
ELLEN FANNING: Well, I’ll admit defeat and I’ll ask you my last question. You took up the reins of the Labor party in New South Wales after a terrible electoral defeat. You were one of the last people standing and you took on that role and had seven years of opposition that I think your speech writer Bob Ellis called “The sour but bracing years of opposition.” What did you learn about endurance, about persisting in political life?
BOB CARR: I think I think you have got to worship at the shrine of the Goddess Fortuna, I think. That’s everything is luck, everything is fortune. And I was very fortunate. We came close in 1991, and then got over the line by a very modest margin in 1995, and I suppose anything I contributed along the way kept the party alive, kept the party united, kept the party and me modestly interesting, but then luck took care of the rest of it. It was good fortune that got us there in the end and, I suppose, like Julius Caesar, I should be making a sacrifice at the shrine every now and again.
ELLEN FANNING: Has Julia Gillard and Labor run out of luck?
BOB CARR: Yeah, but luck can change. The goddess Fortuna can come down and tilt things with a little touch of her forefinger, and … but I have gone too far. I’ve gone too far. My resolve is not to say anything that can be translated or transmuted into a comment on domestic politics.
ELLEN FANNING: Well, nevertheless, it’s been tremendously poetic, and I thank you for it. It’s been great fun. Thank you for being my guest.
BOB CARR: Thanks, Ellen. My pleasure. Thank you.

2 thoughts on “Bob Carr: US cyberspying aimed at nuclear terrorism

  1. The “Observer Effect” seems to be a bit like “Niteline meets Inside the Actors Studio.”(Two American based programs) Bob has always had the knack of “Ars Oratoria” The clever mix of questions between personal and political worked a treat. Did it give you an insight to Political events of the week, I think perhaps not. Ms Harmers interview, out of a politeness of recognition, was also a treat. Tom, I thought the audience worked well this week. With the interaction, between a side of Ellen I have never seen with her guests, the audience responded.
    I noticed the fine tuning of the shots, the camera angles. Oh what a difference a week makes. The MCU’s and the two shots worked.
    The program did indeed get a mention in the Australian and ABC24 ran a grab re: fortuna. They gave a recognition to the source.
    To Ellen, great job. To Paul, your good-self, and all the production staff,great job.
    I hate to say it but it was a great show. Please next week give me something I can criticise.

    • Slam, What can I say? Thank you for your insights. I agree about the audience and Ellen’s responses. The guests also played a part in making the show “great,” as you put it. I hope you don’t mind, but I would prefer to give you nothing to criticise next week. I’m seeing a side of you I haven’t seen before, and I like it. I’ll pass on your comments to Ellen, Paul and the staff. Cheers, Tom

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