Bin Laden Arrested at Apec?

Would APEC security notice if Osama Bin Laden arrived at APEC in the Canadian diplomatic convoy? Apparently not.

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly Osama Bin Laden, but rather a popular Australian media personality dressed as the world’s most wanted man, who managed to infiltrate the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) security red-zone before being arrested 10 metres from the Sydney’s InterContinental Hotel, where American President George Bush has been staying during the summit.

The stunt made world headlines when several team members of the successful Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) satire television program, Chaser’s War on Everything, were arrested and charged under section 19 of the APEC Meeting Act 2007 on Thursday September 6th, after being waved through security checkpoints with a fake motorcade consisting of three hire cars flying Canadian flags accompanied by a motorcycle escort and security guards on foot.

Canada was chosen by the Chaser team because they thought it was a country that would not be heavily scrutinized by police in a comedy sketch intending to mock the overkill that is APEC security.  But the lads got more material for their efforts than expected as they were welcomed through two security checkpoints with team members wearing no more than an “insecurity” id blatantly stating the convoy as a joke. 

The Chaser crew was denied media accreditation prior to the summit, and in an article published on September 2nd, executive producer and cast member Julian Morrow warned, “We’re hoping at least three of the team will be arrested,” in plans to “play with APEC”. Morrow was among the 11 detained, which also included the 3 hire car drivers. NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione says The Chaser team were specifically told not to conduct “dangerous stunts” during APEC week.  Speaking for the first time since his arrest Morrow said, "lucky it was us and not Al Qaeda."

The skit has thrown doubt over the effectiveness of the AU$170 million security operation which has had large portions of the Sydney CBD in lockdown since the start of the conference on September 2nd.  It involves some 3500 officers, including riot police and military personnel.  Authorities and organisers are in desperate denial hoping to save face over the bungle, with Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer quoted as saying “The point is they were in any case arrested, so I think the security works”, while NSW Police Minister David Campbell said, “I think this reinforces that APEC security has been successful by the mere fact that 11 people have been arrested”. 

What both fail to mention is that “When The Chaser reached the perimeter of what they thought was the APEC restricted zone, they voluntarily turned around,” said The Chaser in a statement released today.  It was only when Chaser comedian Chas Licciardello emerged from the vehicle wearing a long white robe and fake beard stating “I’m an important world leader. Why don’t I have a seat at the APEC table?” that Police finally realised and moved in to conduct arrests.

Also revealed yesterday, two police identification passes were incorrectly issued to staff members of the government Opposition which theoretically gave them unrestricted access to all APEC secure zones.  The passes were eventually revoked and new passes issued in replacement, but again the error confirms uncertainty in what is the biggest security operation the country has ever seen.

The Chaser team was released on bail to appear in court on October 4th and face a maximum of six months jail for entering a secure area.

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