The New Zealand Prime Minister’s office has dodged specific questions from Scoop on a warning concerning a South East Asian terrorist attack reportedly given to Taiwan on Friday by US intelligence officials.
A spokesman for the PM referred Scoop back to comments made during Monday’s press conference by Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff, and to a Goff interview on National Radio this morning.
Yesterday afternoon, following publication of two reports on the Taiwan warning - ”More News On Taiwan’s Attack Warning From The US” and ”Translation: Taiwan Report On Bali Attack Warning “ - Scoop forwarded the following questions to the Prime Minister’s office:
” Questions For The Prime Minister Re: Reported Taiwanese Bombing Warning
1. Did the New Zealand Prime Minister, defence forces, SIS or any other NZ security agency receive a warning on Friday similar to that reportedly received by the Taiwanese Premiere - and reported in the above articles - concerning an imminent terrorist attack in SE Asia.
2. If so what did the warning say? And did the warning include a proviso that the information be kept from the public as claimed by the Taiwanese Premiere?
3. If not, is the PM at all concerned that the US is warning Taiwan about such matters but not NZ? “
The PM’s office replied forwarding the following extract from Monday’s press conference transcript:
There has been various speculation in the last day about what the Australian intelligence may or may not have known beforehand about the attack. Can you tell us anything about that?
Hon. Phil Goff:
No, there's been nothing that I've seen that suggests that anybody had evidence that there was a potential for an attack in Bali. There were certainly warnings, and they were issued publicly by the American Embassy about activity by the terrorists in other areas. They focused particularly on Yogyakarta and Jakarta.
The American Embassy, a couple of weeks ago, closed for a couple of days. They closed their consulate in Surabaya. The Australians, of course, closed their embassy in Dili. We have had reports around the regions.
We do take those reports seriously. Fortunately, most of the events that are warned of don't come to pass. This is an instance where it came to pass, where there was no apparent warning that certainly we were aware of.”
Scoop replied to the PM’s spokesman saying that it did not really address the questions raised by the Taiwanese reports.
Specifically, Phil Goff refers in the above transcript to publicly issued reports – which were issued on September 26th (See... Stuff.co.nz - "Warnings did not mention Bali") - while the Taiwanese report is about a secret warning delivered by U.S. Officials on the Friday before the bombing.
The PM’s spokesman then suggested that the Taiwanese warning was not particularly specific either, according to the reports of it.
Scoop replied to this saying that is partly because it is not public, but that said the warning report was specific in two respects - 1. that there was a warning issued on Friday, and 2. that it included a request that it not be made public.
This morning media discussion of the issue of a possible intelligence failure has intensified following a report in the Washington Post and the Sydney Morning Herald that the CIA received a warning mentioning Bali specifically 14 days ago. ( See... Scoop Links: CIA Warned Of Attack 14 Days Before )
Australian Media has also questioned the public warnings issued by the U.S. State Department concerning public gatherings of tourists in Indonesia were not passed on to the public.
When interviewed on Radio New Zealand’s Nine-to-noon show this morning Foreign Affairs Minister Phill Goff further clarified matters, though he was not asked about the Taiwan report, and several key question still remain.
Under intense questioning Mr Goff eventually conceded that there needed to be an inquiry into whether or not there was an intelligence breakdown in this case.
Q: There appears to have been an intelligence breakdown
A: I am not yet convinced of that.
Q: The Australians are talking about holding an inquiry into this.
A: I am sure there will be a close investigation. Just like there was an investigation in the United States after the September 11th attack.. If the allegation is made that the information was held by someone and not passed on, then the obligation is to investigate that so we can learn from the mistakes. I haven’t seen enough information yet to say there was a breakdown. There should be an inquiry among the intelligence agencies about this and I will not pre-empt that.
Notably, at this stage Mr Goff is not talking about a public inquiry, but rather about an internal intelligence agency inquiry. Will the results of this be made public? At this stage we do not know.
(Scoop breaking news coverage is continuing…)