ISIS extremists fight for Aussie passports


They might be defeated on the battlefields of the Middle East but Islamic State has upped its use of family ties and the internet to spread its hate ideology in Australia and is using the courts to combat moves to boot them out.

A Melbourne university student, a Toowoomba office worker, a Sydney Catholic Church goer even a man found to have provided logistic support to a 9/11 US terror attack affiliate, are among those fighting their ASIO-backed cancellation of visas and citizenship.

These are not those being prosecuted in courts across the country for terror-related offences but rather are challenging having their visas torn up in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for terror-related links or actions.

Their cases would not normally be publicly known as they are quietly removed from Australia but some are now fighting ASIO's "adverse security assessments" to gain a valuable Australian passport, that ASIO says has become high "value when sold to fund other Politically Motivated Activities".

And such is the sensitivity around the cases, ASIO has had to hold some of the hearings and "classified evidence" in secret and use the Crimes Act to allow ASIO operatives to use assumed identities such as the mysterious agent "John Ward", apparently one of Australia's foremost authorities in counter terrorism providing expert evidence to the courts.

The domestic spy group cites the caseload of cancelled visas to come and or stay in Australia as highlighting the continued desire by those with direct terrorist affiliations or support for ideologies committed to politically motivated violence to set up here.

ASIO would not comment on its cases but confirmed "a small number" of visa-related adverse security assessments on counter terrorism grounds had been made but declined to say how many.



It is however known ASIO provided more than 11,000 general security assessments to the Department of Home Affairs this last financial year to decide on whether to issue visas and citizenship.

"ASIO has continued to make a relatively small number of visa-related adverse security assessments, most of which were issued on counter-terrorism grounds," a spokeswoman said yesterday.

In one case this year, a Lebanese man married to an Australian citizen and on a partner visa, was assessed by ASIO to be a direct/indirect risk to the nation's security as he communicated with his brother and uncle in Syria, the latter found to be an ISIS leader.

The phone was specifically used to communicate with those ISIS-linked figures in Syria via an encrypted messaging app, before the brother was killed in combat.

"ASIO assessed that the applicant has support for politically motivated violence and ISIL and employed security tradecraft practices while engaging with individuals of security concern, including Syria-based individuals affiliated with ISIL," his assessment reads.


Jailed terror bride Zehra Duman.
Jailed terror bride Zehra Duman.


In some cases on legal technicalities ISIS suspects or supporters are winning the right to remain in Australia while others like terror bride Zehra Duman are fighting to come back.

ASIO agent Mr Ward said ASIO drew a clear distinction between fundamentalism and extremism and was only concerned about the latter when making security assessments. He warned of the dangers of Facebook used to promote or incite extremists views and actions and refuted suggestions ISIS/ISIL battlefield losses meant it was less significant.

"ISIL has become much more than a military force in countries such as Iraq and Syria it has extended its reach beyond those lands by means of attacks, successful and otherwise, in Australia and elsewhere and by remaining a source of inspiration for those who would carry out those attacks in its name."

He told a recent Administrative Appeals Tribunal foiled terror plots in Australia showed intent remained and many suspects wanted Australian passports as they had great value on the black market: "In ASIO's assessment it is likely that these plots have been fostered by a combination of ISIL's online propaganda calling for attacks in Australia, the resonance of this message with an increasingly younger and a less predictable cohort of individuals. There is a trend towards targeting violence towards easily achievable and unsophisticated targets."


Originally published as ISIS extremists fight for Aussie passports