There is no reason to cancel the passport of any so-called "Jihadi brides". And Chris Lynch is a bit of a moron for suggesting that this should happen.

I have had past occasion to poke the borax a bit at Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne. But I have to say that this week he's been a refreshing breath of sensibility on the shock-horror issue of New Zealanders setting out to become "Jihadi brides".

First off, note the way that this story has morphed over time.

It started with the director of the SIS, Rebecca Kitteridge, telling a select committee that there had been a "rise" in the number of young NZ women heading over to Iraq and Syria ... but that the numbers were still "less than a dozen" and that the SIS isn't really sure exactly why they may be going over there. The most she would say (in response to a specific question from John Key) is that "presumably" some may have gone to marry "Jihadis" (whatever that means in the unholy mess that the region is in).

(As it turns out, applying this general presumption looks to be fairly shaky - as The Wireless has uncovered!)

Ms Kitteridge's refusal to give a clear affirmative response didn't stop John Key subsequently announcing that "one or two" of these women had gotten married shortly before leaving the country, which he said pointed to the fact that they must be going to be "Jihadi brides". A fact that came as news to the Islamic Women's Council, who said they hadn't heard of (or been asked by the SIS about) anything like that. 

Yet this small detail didn't stop RNZ News from hardening speculation into fact by telling its readers: "According to the SIS the number of women travelling to Syria and Iraq to marry jihadist fighters is fewer than a dozen." It then went on to ask whether such women could return to New Zealand, reporting Peter Dunne as saying:

I'm not going to go into any particular details, but any passports that have been cancelled have been cancelled because people pose a threat to national security or who are going to engage in terrorist activities, marriage doesn't usually come into that category. 

And quite right to! For as I/S helpfully has pointed out so I don't need to, there is absolutely no basis in law for cancelling the passport of someone who just has married another person - even a person as deeply unpleasant as a member of Daesh. And even if a "Jihadi bride's" passport was cancelled, that fact wouldn't then mean that they can't return to NZ (they'd just have to get a temporary travel document for the purpose of doing so).

All of which raises the question, why exactly are we talking about "Jihadi brides" at all? Setting aside the obvious confluence of the topic de jour - terrorism - and gendered concerns about "our" women being corrupted by evil "others", Peter Dunne had more sensible things to say on his "Dunne Speaks" blog:

[Ruling out the alternatives] leads to the inevitable conclusion that the comment [about women travelling overseas] was part of a softening-up process for the outcome of the independent review of the security services due in the first quarter of next year. After all, heightening the perception of threat would boost the case for increasing the powers of the security agencies. This is a little too obvious and we should be careful not to become too taken in by it.

But there is another, potentially more subtle aspect to this. The softening-up process may not be directed so much at the general public and the politicians, as it is to the review itself. After all, the review could recommend curbs on the way the security services operate, or even worse from their point of view, some rationalisation and reorganisation. That would be anathema to the shadowy practitioners of the craft, who since virtually forever have operated largely as a law unto themselves. But what if a tighter line was to be drawn between their activities, and those of say the Police under the Terrorism Suppression Act, for example?

Now all this I freely concede is but unsubstantiated speculation on my part, but I suspect issues like this will be focusing the minds of the spooks as they huddle furtively around their summer barbecues. They should also be topics for the rest of us to ponder as well.

To which I say, that sounds pretty ... sensible! So kudos to Peter Dunne for how he's dealt with this whole matter.

Unfortunately, this morning he came up against someone who, it appears, found the whole "Kiwi girls hooking up with terrorists and then coming home!" story just a bit too juicy. Some fellow named Chris Lynch, who may or may not be a big name in Canterbury morning radio, got him on his show to explain why it was that such "Kiwi Jihadi brides" - note the assumption that such things exist - would be able to freely return home. Which Peter Dunne did in an admirably succinct fashion.

Apparently that left Mr Lynch with no real story to tell to his audience ... so he did what bad radio hosts the world over do when they want to create a headline and haven't got the arguments to do so. He went after the interviewee personally in an effort to provoke a fight. At the risk of giving Mr Lynch the clicks that he was after, you can have a listen to the interview here if you want to.

Let me just voice my own opinion that in that interview there was only one moron involved ... and it was the guy still on the air at the end of it.

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