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Why Scott Morrison is right on encryption but wrong on Muslims

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On the one hand, the federal government is getting pretty excited over its new counter-
terrorism bill, demanding Parliament pass it this week. On the other, the scale and number of terrorist attacks in Australia is small and the problem seems in check. Is this just a piece of political theatre by a government desperate to show how tough it is and how feeble the Labor Party is? Or is there serious need?

I'd like to call an independent expert witness.

Illustration: Dionne Gain

Nick Rasmussen is an American with impeccable credentials. He's a career diplomat with nearly two decades as a senior counterterrorism official. For the last three years he led the overall US effort as head of the National Counterterrorism Centre. He was director of the agency under both Barack Obama and Donald Trump, a reliable clue that he's a respected professional, not a political hack.

"It's hard to argue that the threat is receding," Rasmussen tells me. A Washington think tank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, reports that the number of violent jihadis in the world has quadrupled since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

It estimates their total population at 200,000 to 250,000. "That's the gross number of people engaged in the project of being terrorists," says Rasmussen. "So whatever success we've had in reducing attacks on the scale of 9/11 or 7/7 [in London] there are more bad guys in more places that aim to do us harm. It requires not just vigilance but more work."

Why have the world's security agencies and governments failed to curb the number of terrorists? "I think I can pinpoint one reason," says Rasmussen, now at the McCain Institute for International Leadership and also a professor at Arizona State University. "Their........

© The Age