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CSG intelligence failure: not the first, tells former insider

July 5, 2009 – 6:10 pm26 Comments

CSG

The following is a guest post by a former member of the CSG who has previously commented on this blog under the nom de plum “Former CSG Insider.”  Their authenticity as former member of the CSG has been verified by the Sensible Jew editors.

Please note that this is a guest post and does not necessarily represent the views of Frochel or the SJ editorial committee.

Last week, a guest post by the now well-known photographer Jono David elicited a comment by a reader of this website concerning the alleged ‘blacklisting’ of a member of the Melbourne Jewish community.   The comment read as follows:

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine – let’s call him Josh – agreed to take a good friend of his from uni – let’s call her Aliya – on a tour of the Jewish sites of Melbourne. Aliya and Josh had been in the same study group for some time and had shared many interesting debates and discussions on religion, culture, society, etc. Aliya happened to be a religious Muslim who wore a hijab. Josh, a non-observant Jew.

So one Saturday morning Josh picked up Aliya from Balaclava station and they drove down Carlisle St, discussing Jewish customs such as kashrut, dress, prayer, Shabbat, etc. Josh drove Aliya past some of the major synagogues in Caulfield to further familiarise her with Jewish traditions. For example, he pointed out the external architectural features that are typical of synagogues, and explained the various shuls’ ideological and religious differences.

As they were passing one particular shul, Josh thought he noticed one of the CSG guards – an acquaintance of one of his siblings, who he knew by name – observing him and Aliya in the car closely, but a second later they were well past the building and he forgot about it.

Josh’s sibling later informed him that he (Josh) had been ‘listed’ on some sort of blacklist of people of ‘note’ to the CSG, simply because he had driven past the shul with an obviously Muslim passenger in the car with him. (His sibling had heard this directly from a member of the CSG.)

Josh thought his sibling was joking – he had gone to a Jewish school, been involved with various youth groups and communal organisations. He was known and respected by many people in the Jewish community. Why would anyone assume he was doing anything suspicious simply because he had a Muslim passenger in the car, particularly when he and the CSG guard on duty knew each other?

Without being aware of all of the details, I was aware of this incident.  The reader who wrote up this anecdote, named the Jewish person with the pseudonym of Josh, implying that this person was male.  This person was in fact female.  I am not sure if the reader was misinformed of the details, or if they deliberately wrote it up as such in order to further protect the identity of the allegedly blacklisted individual.  The reason I draw attention to the gender of the person is that a religious (hijab wearing) Muslim woman riding in the car alone with a young Jewish man is a more unlikely (and thus more suspicious) sight than a religious Muslim woman riding in the car alone with a young Jewish woman.

Nevertheless, the fact that the same hijab-wearing woman (in an area of Melbourne where the hijab is not a common sight) was seen in a car cruising by a number of synagogues should rightfully raise a moderate amount of suspicion amongst the CSG officers on duty, who would have been in communication via radio.

My criticism of the way the CSG handled this incident is not that suspicion was aroused, but rather the way this suspicion was handled.  I must confess that I do not know what this so called ‘black-listing’ involved.  What I do know about the incident is that the young Jewish woman in question was never actually approached by any CSG personnel for a debriefing.

From what I know about the background of the Jewish woman concerned, we can rule out that she would be knowingly in cahoots with some nefarious terrorist organisation.  If there was any reason for the CSG to be concerned, it would be that the woman in question was unwittingly recruited (befriended) to aid such an organisation.  I’m certainly not saying that this was likely the case (most likely both the Jewish and Muslim woman were totally innocent in their intention), only that it would be a legitimate concern for the CSG, which they should have followed up on.

Someone from the CSG should have got in contact with the Jewish woman to ascertain the background facts and assess the risk of the situation.  However, this was not done.  Rather, the woman was apparently derided behind her back, and any investigation that took place, if any, did not involve interviewing the Jewish woman, who would obviously have been the best source of information.

Like the Jono David case, this is another example which highlights the dysfunctional nature of CSG intelligence gathering and decision making.

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26 Comments »

  • Gumtree says:

    This story is a few years old, I heard it ages ago myself and it has no relevance to the current modus operandi of CSG.

    It really misses the point – if GA seeks some sort of new status quo for the Melbourne Jewish community, CSG are not the organisation to attack. It’s made up of dedicated volunteers with their hearts in the right place and a limited political agenda.

    Move on to the many other more constructive ways in which you could engage with the community’s stale infrastructure. CSG is not to be demonised for no reason at all.

  • frochel says:

    Hi Gumtree,

    Thanks for your response.

    We are not trying to attack the CSG, and especially not its volunteers. Nor is our guest poster. As far as we understand it, he is concerned that at the higher levels of CSG, poor and unaccountable decisions are sometimes made which have an adverse effect on the community.

    From the point of view of this website, the purpose of publishing such a guest post is to promote discussion. We feel discussion is a way to facilitate improvement of the valuable service CSG provides the community. We disagree with the often held sentiment that the efficacy of the CSG should be a taboo topic.

    Finally, we invite the new director of the CSG to contact us should they wish to have a right of reply (frochele@gmail.com).

  • Gavin Queit says:

    Hi All

    First of all, it’s been fun watching the “bash the CSG” session. An intelligence failure huh? You guys are kidding yourselves.

    I know the story that “former CSG insider” tells, I believe I spoke to the relevant person at the time and told him how we operate. There is no such thing as a “CSG blacklist”. How ridiculous.

    What I can tell you, is that the registrations of suspicious vehicles are passed to relevant areas in Victoria Police for follow-up. It’s that simple. Apologies to the conspiracy theorists out there, it’s not quite as mysterious as you might think.

    The problem with this blog, is that people are able to throw falsities out there, put them in a public forum, possibly cause damage, and the CSG should not and probably will never be able to defend itself publicly. So I guess you guys can go nuts with an easy target.

    There are lots of rumours, stories etc. Frochel, I saw that you’re quite interested in the Glicks incident. If you want to know what really happened, feel free to contact me, I was there not long after (within minutes of the first incident), and was involved in the second stage of the incident that night. Pls ring the CSG office and leave a message, I’ll ring you back.

    The CSG is involved in protecting you – if you feel you need to question or criticise, then there are legitimate ways for you to do that that won’t ultimately lead to compromises in community security – it’s you and your families that the organisation is trying to protect.

    Gavin

  • frochel says:

    Hi Gavin,

    Firstly, thank you for your comment. Your willingness to contribute to this discussion is appreciated.

    We are not about ‘bashing’ the CSG. We have an appreciation for the time that the CSG volunteers contribute to the community. While we have provided a forum where people have been able to write posts that have criticised some of CSG’s actions, we would also like to publish the CSG point of view. If you were to choose to not take up this option, we feel this would be a loss to the community who deserve to hear both sides of the story.

    As for the above guest post, our understanding is that “Former CSG Insider” was not suggesting that there was actually a CSG ‘blacklist’, but rather using the language of the commenter on Jono David’s thread, who sparked this story.

    Could you clarify for us who you were referring to (not by their actual name) when you wrote “I spoke to the relevant person at the time and told him how we operate”? According to Former CSG Insider, the person in question was definitely a Jewish woman, contrary to the anecdote of the original commenter on a previous thread. Or were you referring to the CSG officer? Alternatively, are you referring to a different incident?

    As for the Glick’s incident, we genuinely appreciate your offer, and we will be in contact with you should we pursue the story.

  • The Truth says:

    From sjeditorial: This comment has been deleted as it is a personal attack on other commenters and contributors to the blog.

  • jewinthefat says:

    Well I’m a modern orthodox, heterosexual, tolerant Jew with a family who love and appreciate me inspite of my propensity to shoot my mouth off at the dinner table.

    Somehow the truth is easier to swallow when you construct it to suit your agenda, hmm?

    The CSG issue has come under the radar of these sensiblejews(I believe) because it lacks the transparency that this blog is advocating for. And understandably, there is a reasonable expectation that a community funded group should leave itself open to criticism of its operations.

    However, when that group is responsible for the safety and security of community persons and places, the request becomes unreasonable. I for one would be the first to make fun of their ‘men-in-black’ personas, the grim smiles that greet upon entry, and the ‘fight-club’ rules. It is a little crazy that these 18 and 19 year olds are the first step should something untoward occur.

    BUT – regardless of your personal ‘beef’ with the CSG, the reality is that they are a reliable, trusted source with solid links to law enforcement, should you receive as I have over the years:

    – Threatening prank phone calls to personal phone numbers
    – Anti-Semitic incidents
    – Bomb-threats

    So before we try to take apart the CSG, perhaps it is worthwhile remembering their preventative raison detre, and their position as a deterrent to those who would do the Jewish community harm. I am not advocating an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” position, but take a moment to think about the alternative –
    NO community funded security detail at all.

    Who you gonna call?

  • Almoni says:

    All I think many people are asking for in such a sensitive area is true accountability and transparency.

    Private eyes are licenced as are bouncers and security guards. I do not know if the CSG is licenced, but it it acts as it appears to be, as an outsourced community service, then it is a form of public-private partnership. The use of the CSG as a form of intelligence agency also leads to all sorts of concerns about what and how, and for what purposes it does its work.

    It has to be governed properly and an intelligent remit developed.

    The silly decision-making over the banning of Jono David, a photographer is a case in point. In fact, I have just been on several synagogue sites and what do you know–they have photos of their building interiors on line!

  • The Hasid says:

    Frochel and Former CSG Insider:

    I’m undecided on the relevance of this post – in many ways, I agree with Gumtree. If this incident occurred a few years ago, it may not be very relevant to how the CSG operates now.

    I also agree, to an extent, with Jewinthefat – who you gonna call, indeed.

    But, at the same time, just because CSG is responsible for the security of the community does NOT mean that they’re somehow exempt from standards of transparency and accountability. I’ve heard this assertion before – it’s just apologetics.
    There is no reason why CSG couldn’t have a website, wherein they outlined a ‘mission statement’ and their policies on how they deal with various issues (i.e. vandalism, bomb threats, attacks on personal property, desecration of Jewish cemeteries, protection of children at school, etc), as well as an explanation of their relationship with Victoria Police and other intelligence agencies.
    I really don’t see how publicising this information would negate their efficacy. (That seems to me to be people’s major concern, yet it is totally without empirical foundation.) To draw a… wide (hmm) analogy, the NSW Police Force have a lot of information on their website about how they operate. They even have a reality TV show on a commercial network. But the ‘exposure’ doesn’t render them incapable of apprehending criminals. If anything, it makes their organisation appear more accessible and accountable. Their PR office must be thrilled!

    As Almoni said, all we’re asking for is “true accountability and transparency”.

  • Almoni says:

    This is all reasonable. The British group appears to do this.

    But first, clarity of the structure and governance is necessary, particularly as to its remit, before the spin doctors get to work. Otherwise (I am being sarcastic here), we may as well impound all cameras in Melbourne due to the butterly effect “what if, what if, what if…”.

    Perhaps my scenarios have to many what ifs from the civil liberties end, BUT, as I have said earlier, there have been stupid mistakes made by public agencies here, and the Jono David issue seems to fall into a similar category. His reputation has been sullied by implication.

    Secondly, despite assurances of honesty and goodwill, who knows what techniques and tools could be used that are borderline to what it is supposed to be doing and/or associated with other forms of activity. I just don’t know and a private assurance that ‘all is OK is not enough. The private security industry breeds on perceptions of insecurity and marketing this.

    That is why external and proper governance is critical.

  • From Caulfield says:

    Although theoretically something that happened two years ago might not reflect current CSG practice, in this case Gavin Queit’s comment seems to suggest otherwise. He does not say that CSG processes have changed, rather that “What I can tell you, is that the registrations of suspicious vehicles are passed to relevant areas in Victoria Police for follow-up.”

    Now in the case in question, the vehicle whose registration seeems to have been passed on to Victoria Police belonged to a young Jewish woman. Former CSG Insider tells us that knowing who that woman is, “we can rule out that she would be knowingly in cahoots with some nefarious terrorist organisation.”

    Of course we should have a group that seeks to protect us, but do we really need a group that passes other Jews’ numberplates on to Victoria Police, saying that they are suspicious? This hardly seems like Jewish security to me.

  • concerned melbourne jew says:

    Gavin Queit’s response re the “Glicks incident” was totally, depressingly predictable (& in fact predicted). It’s top-secret stuff, so that in response to a very specific, serious allegation, the CSG can’t comment publicly, & “If you want to know what really happened” contact me privately. This epitomises the problem.

  • leesa says:

    it seems like quite a major point has been missed in this – the problem with the incident is not (just) the lack of accountability, but much more importantly the anti-Muslim sentiment. It’s unbelievable that a Muslim woman driving through Caulfield is seen as a potential security threat. This points to the biggest problem with not just the CSG but the seige/fear mentality that governs so much of the Melbourne Jewish community. That is, the idea that we’re constantly under attack, victims all the time. And that it is Muslims who are our greatest enemies. Both these ideas are, in the end, rather false.
    It’s sad that this was lost amongst the discussion above.

  • Almoni says:

    Leesa I raised this in an earlier related discussion (with some editing)

    Ever since antiquity, it has been said

    quis custodiet ipsos custodes?–Juvenal “(if the guardians watch us) then who watches the guardians. ”

    –Do we not face the absolutely classic case of many organisations dealing with ’secrets’ when there is no external scrutiny in the security area? We’ve had too many problems with ASIO and various special branches in the past to know how things can go absolutely haywire. They make (political) errors too easily–that’s why police are now required to get degrees and get educated. But it’s a tough call to crack the culture. By the way, I have 2 friends with many years of police force experience, so I am not anti-cop,and we talk about these things.

    — This actually raises the point: is the CSG keeping files on people? If so, who? Under what legal authority, and what scrutiny is there?? What sort of profiling is being conducted?

    The potential for abuse is extraordinary, to come to think of it.

    I know what the response will be ‘We can’t discuss security matters’. Blind obedience and trust are scary things, and create an institutional dynamic of their own.

    — Furthermore, there is the phenonmenon of the ‘tough Jew’ in response to the Shoah, both in Israel and in the diaspora. I suspect that is part of the apppeal of the CSG to some people, as it has also been of appeal to people in both left and right Jewish youth movements and parties.

    — Linked to this, as I have suggested in other posts, is the ‘existential threat’ factor that has been promoted in various Zionist political circles that leads to heightened suspicion and paranoia & this permeates the community

    Yet, I know there are probems. I have been to shul in London, the old synagogues in Ferrara, and elsewhere and seen what the situation is like. The Hakoah club was bombed in Bondi, there are arson attempts, and we have had assaults that appear to be more like opportunistic crime more than deliberate anti-semitic acts, but others will disagree about the relationship between the two.

    But Melbourne is not London, nor is it Hebron. A proof of this is the widely variant degree of security around different shuls–from virtually none that I can see, to a fortress mentality.

    — It’s therefore time for some openess and an annual report, and statement of principles and modes of operations and a justification of that, and perhaps an oversight report by a retired Judge.

    The case of the Jono David is a very good example of something gone haywire.

    We only live in a democracy in which no one should be above or outside the law or accountability when claiming to act in ‘our’ name. That’s all

  • Former CSG Insider says:

    Leesa,

    If an officer is on duty outside a synagogue, and a vehicle slows down to take a good look at that synagogue, then this should immediately draw the officer’s attention.

    Now, if that same vehicle has done this in front of several synagogues within a short time period, then red flags should be raised. Thanks to the use of radio, CSG personnel on duty would likely be aware that the vehicle had visited several synagogues.

    The fact that one of the passengers in the vehicle in question was wearing a hijab would unfortunately add to the level of alarm. I say unfortunately, because it would be nice if this wasn’t the case, and hopefully one day it won’t be. Nevertheless, it would be bad practice if such stimuli were not taken into account. Frankly, it’s naive to suggest otherwise.

    Let’s not lose sight of the facts: the CSG does have an important job to do. They were correct with their initial concern about the stimuli they were observing, even discounting the hijab.

    My only problem here is with the follow-up. It was ultimately unfair to the innocent driver of the vehicle, thus it was bad from a community relations perspective. However, it was even worse from an intelligence gathering perspective, had there actually been a threat.

  • eli says:

    Yes, if i was a terrorist intent on casing the Jewish community i too would dress in a Hijab and purposely slow down on shabbat. in the middle of caulfield.

  • concerned melbourne jew says:

    look eli, the title of this blog is “CSG intelligence failure…”: a great double entendre.

  • Nathan says:

    Almoni/Eli,

    We live in a world that has walls.
    And those walls have to be guarded by men
    with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You,
    Leesa? The CSG have a greater
    responsibility than you can possibly
    fathom. You weep for the woman in the Hijab, and you
    curse the CSG. You have that luxury.
    You have the luxury of not knowing what I
    know: That this so-called blacklisting, while tragic,
    probably saved lives. And the CSG’s existence,
    while grotesque and incomprehensible to
    you, saves lives.

    You don’t want the truth. Because deep
    down, in places you don’t talk about at
    parties, you want the CSG on that wall. You
    need them on that wall.

    The CSG uses words like honour, code,
    loyalty…they use these words as the
    backbone to a life spent defending
    something. You use them as a punchline.

    I have neither the time nor the
    inclination to explain myself to a man who
    rises and sleeps under the blanket of the
    very freedom the CSG provides, then questions the
    manner in which they provide it. I’d prefer
    you just said thank you and went on your
    way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a
    weapon and stand a post. Either way, I
    don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

    Lt. Col. Nathan R. Jessep, Unites States Marines (Retired).

    Fort Leavenworth

  • concerned.melbourne.jew says:

    yep, it just gets better & better. they’re coming out of the woodwork now. i got news for some: there is a realist ground between the unrealistic extremes of gungho, paranoid, self-important delusions & everything’s-ok-do-nothing. those who question whether CSG & others have chosen this ground don’t need the condescending attitude of “I’d prefer you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”. my way or the highway as a basis for community discourse in a free country? i don’t think so.

  • uneducated jewgirl says:

    Lt Col. Nathan R Jessep – sounds like a part of the script from that movie with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson ‘you can’t handle the truth’ yadayadayada

    While i appreciate the security CSG provides, this is not a military operation and this is not the USA. Without transparency and answerability (is that a word?) dictatorships thrive and so does corruption. There seems to be a great deal of paranoia …. not every hijab wearing muslim is intent on killing us and not every kippah wearing jew is pure of heart.

    Just my two incoherent 10 cents worth.

  • concerned.melbourne.jew says:

    sorry, i took the bait. i don’t go to the movies, but it was so outrageous, i should have checked (eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Few_Good_Men). although some other (what appear to be) “real” posts here have been a bit off the planet…

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Nathan Jessep, what a god complex you have. Do you honestly see yourself as above the law? No security organisation should ever be above justification of its methods. That is just ridiculous. It is worrying, the pedestal on which you place the men and women carrying out the task of security. Nobody is above reproach.

    Transparency of security methods is an absolute must. Without it, unspeakable crimes have and will continue to happen as a direct result. Unspeakable crimes which have been committed in the name of preventing crime. What a sad irony.

  • WA Veteran says:

    Daniel,

    You (and others, although perhaps to a lesser degree) seem to have not understood that Nathan’s post was satirical.

    Also, note the address that Nathan was supposedly writing from.
    Does that not have any meaning to you?

    Just in case you have any doubts:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5j2F4VcBmeo

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Heh, I’ve never seen the movie, unfortunately. He sure got me :P

  • ORLY? says:

    How funny :), the title of this blog was ‘CSG intelligence faliure’ but after Nathans post I think this little diatribe turned out to be a bloggers intelligence faliure!

  • frochel says:

    ORLY?,

    We thought’s Nathan’s post was an excellent satirical contribution to the debate.

    How did you read it?

  • ORLY? says:

    Hi Frochel,

    I agree with you, Nathans post was brilliant.
    My comment was about those bloggers that took his comment so seriously.
    Well done Nathan one of the funniest blog entries I have read for a long time.

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