Mining in the Jungles of West Papua

July 2017 

“Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and cruelties; it accepts certain sufferings as matters of course, puts up patiently with certain evils. Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap.”

– from Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse  

Part 1: Overview 5
Introduction 5
Part 2: The Personal Toll of War 9
A military architect’s pangs of conscience 9
West Papua 1977: Minor sabotage provokes US backed apocalypse 9
West Papua – extending the atrocities of the colonial era 12
Indigenous rights and a colonial past 15
A boy’s death: A West Papuan story 20
US House of Representatives: No sign of relief: 22
East Timor 24
Part 3: Where on Earth is West Papua? 25
A brief history to West Papua and Indonesia 25
Indonesian occupation of West Papua 26
1961: A merciless military invasion and administration 27
1969: Military annexation 28
US betrayal of West Papua, an ally of WWII 30
Suharto, Freeport and the U.S. 32
Part 4: Militarized Mining and Freeport 34
Riches beyond the wildest dreams: Ertsberg and Grasberg mining district 34
Traditional owners and social impact 36
Traditional owners: Forced removal and conflict 37
Freeport security: underwritten by US ambassadors, spies and military 39
Part 5: 1994 Christmas Day Massacre Triggers Global Opprobrium 42
1994: Freeport’s land holding surges to nearly the size of Switzerland 42
1994 to 1996: Christmas Day massacre and military crackdown 43
Human Rights reports of the Christmas period 1994: 45
Under pressure: fallout for Freeport 49
March 1996: riots and Grasberg shutdown 50
Jim Bob in the eye of the storm 51
Jim Bob’s first option: appease the traditional owners 52
Revenue to royalties: Freeport’s “Option 1” – a low ball offer 54
Jim Bob’s military “Option 2”: A secret meeting; precursor to a large death toll 56
Other human rights reports 57
Eye witness reports of Freeport’s human rights abuses 60
Part 6: Hedge funds, environment, court and revolution 64
Hedge funds and pension funds blacklist Freeport 64
Environment 65
Salient comparisons: PNG mines – Bougainville and Ok Tedi 70
Europe’s new standards to stamp out conflict minerals 71
Part 7: Concerns of Corruption 73
US government sees no breaches 73
Court orders: efforts to sue Freeport 76
The reach of US laws 80
Kissinger hovering in the shadows 81
Part 8: FBI targets Freeport critics 86
Meeting in Freeport’s boardroom: May 1996 86
The strange intrusions start 88
Multiple critics of Freeport systematically targeted 89
Part 9: Wall Street and Intelligence Agencies 93
A toxic culture: foreign financial institutions 93
FBI: Crafting the narrative 94
Western intelligence agencies: distorting perceptions about West Papua 96
Part 10: Conclusion 99
Peace for West Papua? 99

Part 1: Overview


West Papua has always been a sacred land, brimming with natural wonder and indigenous natural and preternatural mystique. Unfortunately, since their arrival, the forces of modern change have cast a different kind of mystery over this glorious land and its people, a dark and violent kind, perpetrated by a military coloniser whose methods are protected by a robust media blackout. Banned and blacklisted reporters, limited travel access by foreigners, violent reprisals against free speech “violators” and leakers, backed by the world’s most powerful elites. The frequent military crackdowns and exacting incursions into West Papuan civil society by the armed forces and intelligence agencies, with US assistance, is motivated by the promise of extracting untold riches, that go way beyond even the most grandiose dreams of men closely involved with this story, some of whom have benefitted immensely at a personal level, like the vainglorious Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State. This story of conquest is about hubris, status and money; fake reputations made and sustained while committing shameful atrocities against defenceless people, including children, in a hidden part of the world.

Their crimes, however, are not hidden to everyone, and those who go looking for the facts behind the sporadic rumours that find their way out into the rest of the world will find evidence of a truly disturbing story in West Papua. One of the world’s largest investment funds, a sovereign wealth fund, the Government Pension Fund of Norway, dropped and blacklisted Freeport McMoran in 2006 and Rio Tinto in 2008 over their role in the Grasberg mine in West Papua. Others, but not many, have followed its lead.

The people of West Papua never agreed to Indonesia’s take-over which ensued from a sham referendum in 1969. They have suffered greatly, experienced gross injustice and violence at the hands of the Indonesian military backed and supplied with western armaments, advice and support. Most shocking has been the intensity of the brutality inflicted against the traditional owners in the communities around the Grasberg mine – those that lived there before the mine was established. They are the forgotten victims of decades of brutal repression that has included the carpet bombing of their villages.

Indonesia backed by American military might has deployed widespread violence against the local inhabitants in a war that has lasted decades and at times mirrored the most horrendous tactics of destruction unleashed in the Vietnam War: napalm, cluster bombs and aerial strafing. This violence is the means by which Indonesia and America, with Australian and UK support, jointly imposed and accelerated cultural change to achieve financial gain in West Papua. No more so is this evident than in the area around Freeport McMoran’s Grasberg mine; a huge area, the leases alone are nearly the size of Switzerland.

The mine has had a devastating impact on the traditional owners, both directly and through environmental degradation. Mine tailings deposited into rivers have damaged fishing and hunting grounds; and the loss of land, military assaults and the forced removal of indigenous inhabitants has caused massive social dislocation.

To assure continued operations at Grasberg, Freeport has built its own private security force, frequently recruiting from US forces, the FBI and CIA. The company has also paid for and provided material support to the Indonesian military and police, to the tune of millions of dollars a year, and offered material support to military operations in West Papua.

Freeport is heavily reliant on the military to maintain control of its operations in West Papua, a project with practices that would not be tolerated in any developed democratic country in the world. Certainly the U.S. would never tolerate any operation like it inside U.S. borders! The US is strict in enforcing the law, drawing on international standards, when it comes to companies operating on its home turf and rightfully so. However, it does not appear to be equally strict on US companies, over which it retains jurisdiction, when they operate in other countries.

Where major environmental disasters have occurred at natural resource projects in recent years within US borders, the government has come down hard on those at fault, such as the large fines levied on Exxon Valdez after the oil spill that contaminated the Alaskan coast line in 1989; or on BP after the massive oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, co-incidentally, not far from Freeport’s former head office in New Orleans, for which vast damages and fines were imposed by US courts for violation of the Clean Water Act. In 2016, BP agreed to settle charges of gross negligence and pay US$20.8 billion – the largest civil settlement by a single entity in history (only US$5.5 billion is deemed a non tax deductible Clean Water Act penalty). BP estimates the entire cost, including clean up of the environment, will exceed US$53 billion.

The deleterious impact to local communities and the environment from tailings deposition directly into rivers, such as Freeport’s discharges from Grasberg in West Papua, has been much more fully revealed and assessed in court documents in relation to the Ok Tedi mine in PNG where BHP has been prosecuted for this practice. There were also attempts to challenge Rio Tinto in US courts over allegations it committed war crimes at its Bougainville mine also in PNG. The parallels of both these operations to practices at the Grasberg mine are ominous for Freeport, though unlike PNG, Indonesian courts lack independence and Freeport’s activities in West Papua appear to be condoned and protected by powerful branches of the US government.

Unlike PNG, the large military presence in West Papua leaves no doubts about who holds the power. Under Suharto, Freeport and its mining interests in West Papua were recognised as national assets. Emblematic of the notion of militarised mining, the area around the mine became the most heavily militarised and arguably one of the most abused regions in Indonesia and the world. The military still is everywhere and permeates all facets of society including the bureaucracy, media and judiciary in West Papua, as with Indonesia more broadly.

Indeed, the project has had a long history of killings continuing up to the present (2017) with many hundreds of deaths of indigenous people documented by human rights agencies, and tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands killed more broadly in West Papua. At times, eye witnesses have reported Freeport involvement in some of the killings, including the 1994 Christmas Day massacre of 7 indigenous protestors, some of whom were reportedly killed at point blank range, inside steel shipping containers on Freeport property. (Alleged human rights abuses were never proven in relation to Freeport in U.S. courts).

The Indonesian government, Freeport and the US government are taking no chances in West Papua with the heavy militarization of the mine site in significant part paid for by Freeport, plus Freeport provides logistical support to the Indonesian military; and in the US, Freeport’s extensive, high level political connections protect it at home. Included in this protection is a dark arts flanking manoeuvre provided by the FBI to silence commentators that might otherwise raise the public profile of the project and jeopardise the company’s legitimacy in the US.

What is little known, and never reported is the role the FBI has played over this time to protect Freeport from scrutiny and lower the profile of its controversial Grasberg operation by silencing discussion in the US through means that include targeting Wall Street analysts. The use of FBI power in this way is all the more disturbing given the agency’s dual role in helping to identify and interview eyewitnesses to the alleged Freeport human rights abuses on location in West Papua.

The economic returns to Freeport in profits, and to the US and Indonesian governments in taxes and royalties, have been huge. Encouraged and empowered by support from their countries, these men have had the ability to take what they wanted and used every means at their disposal to do so.

A few facts about the Grasberg mine: It is owned and operated by the United States conglomerate, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc (Freeport) through its 90.64 per cent interest in PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI). The Indonesian government holds the remaining 9.36% and parts of the Grasberg mine are held in joint venture with Rio Tinto. Freeport’s head office is in Phoenix (previously it was in New Orleans) and the company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It is one of the largest copper and gold mines in the world; expected to remain in operation till at least 2040, at its peak it produced operating profits of nearly $3 billion ($3,000 million) per year. Freeport’s long term Chairman, also the company’s CEO for many years, James Robert Moffett—Jim Bob Moffett to his friends, was removed in 2016 after activist investor Carl Ichan took a large position in the company.

The American electorate would be aghast if it knew the killings of indigenous people in West Papua by the US government and corporate backed Indonesian military was one of the tactics to maximise profits and dividend streams to Freeport’s shareholders. The governments responsible seem to think there are no available alternatives to military action: No possibility of a moratorium on mining; no possibility of conducting operations in line with international environmental and social standards as per those you find in the US; and no possibility of the expense of paying much higher royalty payments to traditional owners dispossessed by a commercial mining operation – that is, royalty payments at levels in line with that received by landowners who hold mineral rights in the US.

Part 2: The Personal Toll of War

A military architect’s pangs of conscience

US Secretary of Defence and Vietnam War architect, Robert McNamara in his old age panged with guilt declared ruefully in the documentary The Fog of War: “How much evil must we do in order to do good?”

The ten year Vietnam War saw the US escalate conflict to absurd levels – blanket bombing by B52’s, immeasurable quantities of napalm, massacres – most infamous being My Lai, and estimated 2 million innocent civilians slaughtered. McNamara’s confession was as unexpected as was the scale of the calamity of the war itself. What was clear to much of the public at the time, US foreign policy advisers had made serious errors in judgement; the war should never have been fought. If McNamara’s wartime actions are to be damned, his contrition and public confession is to his eternal credit.

Vietnam was not his, or America’s, only dirty war. Laos, Cambodia too. And later, the same destructive and terrifying battlefield tactics were used in East Timor and West Papua indiscriminately killing men, women and children; apocalyptic massacres in small, isolated villages.

McNamara could have said the same of West Papua as he said about Vietnam, where the US Vietnam era military tactics have been deployed with no less devastating impact. It has been a silent, ruthless war in West Papua supported by U.S. money, advisers and weapons. It is especially the brutal killings and other violent human rights abuses that stem from their military assaults, the asymmetric and systematic napalming of villages, strafing and bombing of indigenous communities, innocent people living traditional forest lifestyles that so forcefully renders the psychic scars, not only on US political and military leaders but on the public they represent. The silence surrounding the slaughter is testimony to the strength of the fear that enforces it, a fear that will remain with these officials to their graves and beyond.

One can’t help but wonder how much US supported violence around the world against foreign nationals, including in West Papua, would be the subject of similar cleansing confessionals if the responsible officials were as honest and strong as McNamara. There is still time for others from that era, and obviously officials from more recent eras, to kneel and confess before the public altar. In McNamara’s case, the weight of conscience as a force to confess, and hope of atonement, presumably overwhelmed him as the reality of his own impending death dawned.
West Papua 1977: Minor sabotage provokes US backed apocalypse

Reflecting the dissatisfaction of the local traditional owners to the presence of Freeport’s mine, and the loss of their ancestral land and homes, a key slurry pipeline was sabotaged in 1977 by the indigenous independence movement OPM. This caused the mine to temporarily close.

In response, the military unleashed a brutal reprisal against the local people; a scorched earth policy to which they were virtually defenceless. Overwhelming force against a stone age people armed with bows and arrows included use of cluster munitions and napalm reminiscent of a US style Vietnam War offensive – a war which the US had recently lost. It was only 2 years’ since the US surrender, ending the Vietnam War on 30 April 1975. But the tactics used in the that war survived its end.

The small villages built around extended family units were napalmed, strafed by modern military aircraft, bombed, shelled and invaded by well armed US backed land forces. It was a full scale military assault by Indonesian forces using American supplied hardware, armaments, munitions and advisors. Surrounding villages at Akimuga, and later Ilaga and throughout the Baliem Valley, once dominant Dani communities, were systematically napalmed, then strafed using Bronco OV-10 aircraft, followed up with commando raids involving 10,000 troops. Entire villages were wiped out by the grotesque weapons of modern warfare: men, women and children killed – bombed, burned and shot. The death toll from the Akimuga and Ilaga massacres alone stand at about 3,000 villagers.

The ability to run into the jungle and hide was the main means of protection for the locals and even that had severe shortcomings. Malnutrition, starvation and exposure to the elements frequently claimed further lives. There was no guarantee to life and limb, let alone any law that recognized traditional land holder rights or offered compensation for their taken land.

Robin Osborne, an officer with an Australian military mission in the area in 1977 reports:

“We were sitting in Wamena, having a break, when we saw Bronco aircraft land, reload and then take off again, heading along the valley northwesterly. We saw them dump napalm on villages and follow up with strafing…and…quite a few villages were wiped out.”

The operation against the local villagers in and around the Freeport concession was described by academic Denise Leith: “American Broncos and helicopter gunships carpet bombing, strafing, and reputedly napalming the surrounding villages. This operation was aimed at punishing the perpetrators and deterring further attacks on the mine.”

An investigation at the time by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) confirmed that the military used helicopters and other military equipment supplied by Australia and the US to bomb with various munitions, including cluster bombs and napalm, and strafe the local villages which indiscriminately killed men, woman and children:

“[A] member of the RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] assigned in Wamena at that time also mentioned that he witnessed several Bronco planes drop napalm bombs over villages around the Baliem valley. One of the survivors interviewed by the AHRC confirmed the RAAF officer’s stories by mentioning that at least three planes landed on Yangguruk Hill in Bolakme. The planes dropped bombs on the villagers around that area who were told earlier that the planes were delivering aid from Australia. The British newspaper Morning Star reported that on 5 July 1977, over 1,000 villagers were killed by napalm and anti-personnel cluster bombs dropped in the Yamsi-Arso border area.”

A Yale Law School report for the Indonesia Human Rights Network (April 2004) reported:

“Strafing and bombing missions killed numerous West Papuan villagers and caused thousands to flee their homes into the jungles. In May 1977, OV-10 Broncos dropped antipersonnel “Daisy Cluster” bombs near the village of Ilaga, located on the other side of the Puncak Jaya mountain chain from Freeport’s mine. At the end of August, two OV-10 Bronco Bombers shelled the region of Akimuga. Soldiers also destroyed most of the food gardens belonging to Papuans in the region. As a result, many Papuan children suffered severe malnutrition.”

A footnote stated: “Daisy Cluster” or “Cluster bombing” is a high-altitude delivery of a 15,000-pound conventional bomb designed to kill everyone present within a huge area. Originally it was designed to create an instant clearing in the jungle.

The Yale Law School report also cited a report by Amnesty International:

“The military arrested and detained local Papuans, many for months. According to Amnesty International, the army used steel containers to incarcerate thirty men in total darkness for three months in the Freeport mining site, where night temperatures approached the freezing point.”

Australian academic Denise Leith reports the operation against the indigenous people in and around the Freeport concession:

“American Broncos and helicopter gunships carpet bombing, strafing, and reputedly napalming the surrounding villages. This operation was aimed at punishing the perpetrators and deterring further attacks on the mine.”

The Amungme people from the highlands near the mine were especially targeted by the military to clear them from the area of the mine. Those that that survived this napalm fuelled fire were forced to move to the lowlands where many died from malaria, a pervasive disease to which highland people had little or no resistance.

After being bombed and strafed, the Indonesian military swept highland Dani villages with impunity, beating, torturing and killing as it went. People, homes and infrastructure were targeted. Most terrifying, the tribal chiefs and leaders were singled out for special treatment.

As if further intimidation were required, the military captured the headmen at different villages in the Baliem Valley, took them up in helicopters and hurled them to their deaths into the jungles or sea below. It was a chilling tactic of fearsome colonial domination. Eerily, the tactic is reminiscent of Chile’s US backed dictator general Augusto Pinochet who dealt in a similar way with Chilean dissidents in the 1970s and 1980s – kidnapped, drugged, and pushed from helicopters far out at sea. It seems a strange and frightening common thread of military dictatorships supported by the West, and USA in particular, a cold blooded campaign of murder intended to neutralise opposition to the regime.

Later, a systematic campaign of state sanctioned assassination of West Papuan political leaders “is all but affirmed” according to reporters. It included the assassination of West Papuan’s attempting peaceful, diplomatic pathways to independence. The highest profile killing was the 2001 slaying of Chief Theys Eluay, widely reported, who was strangled in his car after attending an Indonesian military dinner.

West Papua – extending the atrocities of the colonial era

Colonial history is repeating in West Papua in the 21st century. Large numbers of traditional landowners have been killed in recent decades in an undeclared war that has wiped out villages, entire communities, their livestock – all trace of them gone. It is the frontline of another, seemingly interminable war, financed and supported by America in the jungles of South East Asia. Unlike colonial wars in Australia, and the war in Vietnam, this war is on-going, part of a grim “general silence that surround[s] the process of occupation.”

Where colonial-era powers washed their hands of the plight of indigenous populations in Australia, and in America, today the Anglo Bloc leaders inculcated with that same cultural mindset, wash their hands of responsibility for the conflict they have unleashed and still support in West Papua, from which their geopolitical and corporate interests benefit.

The parallel history of the Anglo onslaught against the Australian aboriginals, nearby neighbours to the Melanesian natives of New Guinea, in the 18th and 19th centuries is harrowing, recounted by historian and poet Judith Wright, no less noted as an Australian national treasure. “[I]t was Evolution, not Divine decree, which had doomed the Aboriginal races and the dark people of all other lands to extinction in the interests of Western Civilization,” declares Judith Wright in her book The Cry of the Dead . Here she provides a detailed record of the plight of Australia’s indigenous people confronted with “merciless persecution, murder and exclusion from their own land.”

The parallels between the indigenous conquest of West Papua and Australia are indeed striking. The brutality of colonialism is mostly silent, brooding and bloody warfare supported by the chilling indifference and callous connivance of distant powers. It is a state of undeclared war against indigenous people: a frontier in which murder and conquest is inspired by legendary heroes and rewarded with bloodied spoils and untold wealth.

The quest for ownership and control through a formal system of property rights that motivates Western Civilization is not the only form by which people may hold a sense of attachment to land. Indigenous people everywhere have held a strong attachment to land, though a different kind of attachment, that of steward as opposed to owner. Theirs is a connection based on birth, and a deep gratitude for the bounty and life that the land nourishes them with, a lifelong connection based on hunting, gathering, farming, housing and protecting their families, and as homes to the spirits of their ancestors that dwell as totems in the trees, forests and the natural landforms. The Dani and Amunge and Kamoro, as with the other indigenous people of West Papua, have a deep connection to their ancestral lands through an attachment that is accepted as an inalienable right.

West Papuan’s face the same impacts and destiny as many indigenous people under 18th-20th century European colonialism. West Papuan’s today live under the rule of military annexation and gun boat forced cultural assimilation, political oppression with claims of genocide. These attacks are still occurring, not yet something relegated to a distant past, closeted in a dark and white washed history of antiquity, but in the present. A present, with like tactics to the colonial era, defined by silence, by journalist and media blackout, travel restrictions, government dissemblance, legal corruption, business complicity and of course, military force. However, as Wright perceptively points out, it is not only the vanquished that bear the burden of injury: the victors too pay a high price amidst the carnage they unleash – forever they carry the “psychic wounds and pangs of conscience”.

In West Papua today, the toll on indigenous people is no less horrific than that experienced by others in colonial times. Innocent and defenceless people have died “violently and miserably” across West Papua as a result of this secret war. UN reports estimate 100,000 indigenous people have been killed as a direct result of military assault; and for every individual that dies of violence and trauma, there are many more that die or suffer from “shock, deprivation and displacement.” Survivors traumatised, their lives thrown into extreme flux, with the almost unimaginable pain of what it must be like to survive the loss of family, community and land. Their physical and spiritual connection to the land uprooted, their cultural identity fragmented, as these living souls are set adrift without any more consideration or compassion than that given to the direction of the napalm smoke that blows away on the wind.

Judith Wright described an 1837 British report in relation to the Australian Aboriginals that said: “Native populations have an incontrovertible right to their own soil.” Like American influence in West Papua, the government of the day heeded neither the letter nor the spirit of the law. In defiance of their own laws, through murder and forced removals they assumed the land of the native population. The government was complicit and at best there was “very little care taken to protect [the native population] from the dregs of our country men.” At worst, direct government complicity enabled and hid the myriad tragedies in schemes of violence and fraud.

In West Papua, as in Australia, historians tell of the killing of the local indigenous population that occurred with impunity: unaccountable encounters and attacks to take and secure the land for the colonists. The indigenous people targeted have little or no sense of the motivations of their “opponents”; there was “no way the locals could guess the assumptions on which the invaders worked.” Facilitated by a shamed but greedy ruling power, the new occupants’ excesses are, as they were then, beyond the reach of the law.

In West Papua, just as in colonial Australia, the results of the inquiries into the killings and atrocities were predictable. The murder and massacres of the indigenous populations were not seen, almost never officially acknowledged, eyewitness reports never filed by officials, or muted and suppressed. Just as the aborigines in Australia were officially declared British citizens, as are the Melanesians in West Papua declared Indonesian, the government turned a blind eye to their killing and ensured the deaths were not officially reported or investigated: “whites drew together in a conspiracy of silence that was never to be broken.” Any investigations, on the rare occasions they occurred were invariably perfunctory, partial and incomplete, the political leaders of the day exonerated in predetermined outcomes. Those who attempted to make official complaint through the nation’s political authorities and institutions of law and order were marginalised, denied justice and insulted by their colleagues. Appeals direct to the public offered about the only chance of remedy.

Indigenous rights and a colonial past

The rights of indigenous people have long been overlooked. Recognised by the father of the anti slavery movement in the UK 200 years’ ago William Wilberforce, and officially recognised more recently by the UN in 2007 with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is little consolation to West Papuan’s today that the truth of the atrocities committed a century or two ago in Australia, the US, South America, Africa, Asia and everywhere colonisation occurred only partially raises world awareness of the nature of the oppression they live under. Only slowly is the extent of the atrocities being acknowledged in the official history of those countries.

Understanding the pattern of historical colonial treatment of indigenous people offers clues as to what the West Papuan experience is today. Australia, with its brutal treatment of indigenous people by its Anglo masters, sheds light on how future generations might think about events of the past.

Below are some excerpts that describe the unvarnished process of colonisation during a brutal period that denied the rights of indigenous people, and a brief reminder of what those rights are.

The first is from Australian colonial era squatter and Premier – William Forster whose evocative poem describes a brutal reality of colonial rule. Next is the Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, who in a seminal speech at Redfern park in 1992, acknowledged the impact and injustices for the aboriginal people of the colonial period and its legacy. Thirdly, the now famous abolitionist, distinguished UK politician William Wilberforce argued, nearly two centuries ago, for the rights of indigenous people. Finally, these rights accorded specific recognition by the UN in 2007 with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – included here as a reminder to modern day leaders that still seem all too often to act as if traditional landowners presence is an impediment their own development agendas.

Forster: blood and tears

William Forster wrote of the brutality of Anglo colonisation and conquest. A nineteenth century colonial Australian squatter, he was later Premier of New South Wales and Colonial Secretary. His poem offers poignant insight into the conquistador mindset still prevalent in frontiers like West Papua today.

‘Tis thus – a fatal race – where-e’er we go
Some phase of fitful tragedy appears.
We strew the earth with murder, crime and woe…
We pave our path with terror, blood and tears…
Thus with whatever good
Our conquest brings, or deems to bring,
Perpetual evil mingles or conspires.
Pale death and ruin round our footsteps spring,
And desolation dogs our civilized desires.

Excerpts of Keating’s speech at Redfern Park

In December 1992, celebrating the 1993 International Year of the World’s Indigenous People, Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating in the spirit of recognition and reconciliation gave what became a widely acclaimed speech acknowledging the impact of European settlement on Australian aboriginals. The audience comprised mostly aboriginal people at Redfern Park, an urban aboriginal enclave in an historically derelict inner city suburb of Sydney. Perhaps disingenuous, it is nonetheless seen as the beginning of the reinterpretation of Australia’s official history to reflect the extent of injustices by Europeans and impact on aboriginals of the colonial period and later. In his speech, history starts to accord more closely with the facts, such as those accounted for by historian Judith Wright in her work The Cry for the Dead.

Ironically, Keating was the presiding Prime Minister (1991-1996) in 1994 at the time of the US backed (with support from the UK and Australia) Christmas Day and other massacres in West Papua part of the military crackdown on the indigenous people there. John Howard became Prime Minister 11 March 1996, during the Grasberg riots and shutdown, the day before my analyst report was published on 12 March, and was the presiding PM at the time when ASIO and the FBI commenced their attack against me, and presumably others to silence dissent.

Excerpts below of Keating’s Redfern Park speech:

And, as I say, the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians.
It begins, I think, with that act of recognition.
Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing.
We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life.
We brought the diseases. The alcohol.
We committed the murders.
We took the children from their mothers.
We practised discrimination and exclusion.
It was our ignorance and our prejudice.
And our failure to imagine these things being done to us.
With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds.
We failed to ask – how would I feel if this were done to me?
As a consequence, we failed to see that what we were doing degraded us all.

Where Aboriginal Australians have been included in the life of Australia they have made remarkable contributions.
Economic contributions, particularly in the pastoral and agricultural industry. They are there in the frontier and exploration history of Australia.
They are there in the wars.
In sport to an extraordinary degree.
In literature and art and music.
In all these things they have shaped our knowledge of this continent and of ourselves. They have shaped our identity.
They are there in the Australian legend.
We should never forget – they have helped build this nation.
And if we have a sense of justice, as well as common sense, we will forge a new partnership.
As I said, it might help us if we non-Aboriginal Australians imagined ourselves dispossessed of land we had lived on for fifty thousand years – and then imagined ourselves told that it had never been ours.
Imagine if ours was the oldest culture in the world and we were told that it was worthless.
Imagine if we had resisted this settlement, suffered and died in the defence of our land, and then were told in history books that we had given up without a fight.
Imagine if non-Aboriginal Australians had served their country in peace and war and were then ignored in history books.
Imagine if our feats on sporting fields had inspired admiration and patriotism and yet did nothing to diminish prejudice.
Imagine if our spiritual life was denied and ridiculed.
Imagine if we had suffered the injustice and then were blamed for it.
It seems to me that if we can imagine the injustice we can imagine its opposite.
And we can have justice.

By doing away with the bizarre conceit that this continent had no owners prior to the settlement of Europeans, Mabo [land rights] establishes a fundamental truth and lays the basis for justice.

Aboriginal leader Patrick Dodson said in 2007: It was “a great speech because it was about leadership, principle and courage… He placed before Australians the truths of our past and the sad reality of our contemporary society. He laid down the challenge for our future, as a nation united and at peace with its soul.”

Unfortunately, Australia has not delivered on the promise, if anything, in recent decades it seems to have regressed on respect for human rights with frequent aboriginal deaths in custody, frequent abuses by its domestic intelligence agencies and illegal detention and abuse of asylum seekers – the last two points documented in a UN human rights report in 2016 highly critical of the Australian government.

Wilberforce: slavery and indigenous rights

William Wilberforce is well known as the English politician that led the anti slavery movement for 20 years’ against the British slave trade. His efforts culminated with the passage of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 which abolished the slave trade in the British Empire (though slavery itself was not abolished for another 26 years’ with the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833). At his death in 1833 he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Not as well known, Wilberforce was also a passionate campaigner for the rights of indigenous people. He had recognised the injustice of their plight in the colonies during the age of European colonial expansion. His effort to free indigenous people from this oppressive scourge was as determined as his effort to abolish slavery, fuelled with conviction motivated by Christian principles that all people are created equal.

Two of his quotes appear below that shed insight into how he thought about the world:

“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”

“We have different forms assigned to us in the school of life, different gifts imparted. All is not attractive that is good. Iron is useful, though it does not sparkle like the diamond. Gold has not the fragrance of a flower. So different persons have various modes of excellence, and we must have an eye to all.”

Unfortunately, his enlightened attitudes on indigenous rights seem to have largely fallen on deaf ears, and the passing of centuries has brought little relief for West Papuans. Irrespective of the formal end of colonialism, and proclamations from the UN on indigenous rights, the secret killing goes on in West Papua. Paraphrasing a well known aphorism: “Colonial powers established human rights in all their colonies. They simply forgot to abide by them themself.”

Excerpt: UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

As a blight on “civilised” people everywhere, the rights of indigenous people have been slow to be recognised, but in 2007 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which incorporates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An excerpt follows:

“Concern[ed] that indigenous peoples have suffered from historic injustices as a result of, inter alia, their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests,

Recognizing the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of indigenous peoples which derive from their political, economic and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources,

Recognizing also the urgent need to respect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples affirmed in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements with States,”

Reinforcing the universality of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Secretary-General said in 2012, “Indigenous voices are recounting compelling stories of how they are combating centuries of injustice and discrimination, and advocating for the resources and rights that will preserve their cultures, languages, spirituality and traditions. They offer an alternative perspective on development models that exclude the indigenous experience. They promote the mutual respect and intercultural understanding that is a precondition for a society without poverty and prejudice.”

There are 370 million indigenous people in the world today depending on how indigenous people are defined – non state, marginalised, with spiritual-ancestral-historical ties to the land. That’s about 4% of the world’s population – it is more people than the entire population of the US and about the same number as Europe. Indigenous people are spread across the globe and live on every continent except Antarctica. Of the 5,000 or so cultures documented in the world, indigenous cultures account for about 95%. Similarly, indigenous people account for a huge percentage of the world’s languages.

5000 years ago, everyone would have been considered part of an indigenous culture. Over the years many of these indigenous groups have been displaced, absorbed or killed. Surprisingly perhaps these groups survive today, despite none being outside the reach of global capitalism and all areas being claimed by at least one state. History is no excuse for the excesses of today. As modern civilised democracies, where government decisions supposedly reflect the will of the people, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) is a commitment signed by the US, UK and other powers to protect human rights. Similarly, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) is an undertaking to advance the interests and protections afforded the world’s indigenous people. It is time our representatives lived up to our nations’ commitments to protect the most basic of human values.

A boy’s death: A West Papuan story

Statistics can be numbing, revealing the scale of the death toll in West Papua, as in East Timor, while at the same time hiding the human tragedy that exists behind each number. The very personal journey of each of the victims and the friends and family that survive them, the heart ache and grief that churns palpably.

Author Peter Matthiessen , however, poignantly captures the human face of this tragedy, distils the tens and hundreds of thousands of deaths, into a single recounting of the death of a young West Papuan boy named Weake, and the impact his death had on his friends, family and village.

Ambushed near the river where he and a couple of his young friends were playing, Matthiessen describes how a young boy was taken back to his village. Weake had more than 20 wounds that lacerated and pierced his body. Badly wounded and in deep pain, small cries emanated initially with each breath as the adults in attendance tried to comfort him, powerless to do much else. His parents were not present as his father had been killed the previous year and his mother fled leaving the boy in the care of his warrior uncle.

No hospital existed in the region and the traditional means to dress Weake’s wounds were to no avail. Water was poured over the wounds, and where required, they were prodded with the stems of taro leaves in an effort to push the extruding intestines back into the stomach. The body was battered, nearly lifeless with little sound or movement, swelling around the head and with dry lips. It was difficult to speak on account of the pain. Peter Matthiessen describes that the suffering lasted many days, the wailing of village women, the tears of his muscled warrior uncle, snuffles from the old men. After many days of tending the dying boy, exhausted emotionally and physically, no more reserves of magic or bush medicine to draw on, the boy’s condition deteriorated and his uncle could see the end was close. Matthiessen recounts that the uncle in a final effort to save the boy, offered all that he had left, helpless pleas for the boy to stay with him in the darkness of the night: “You will stay with us, You will stay with us, and the child said Yes, yes, yes, and did not speak again”.

Weake’s funeral now followed the same rituals as for the rest of society in a process that can last in stages for months. Indigenous children traditionally grow up in the jungles playing hunting games if they are boys, with spears and bows and arrows from a young age, practical details of the natural world and mysteries of the spiritual world and where they overlap, learning about magic and their ancestors, and the importance of family. In West Papua children are valued all the more so given the high mortality rate, and those that survive beyond their infant years are warmly loved and preciously nurtured.

The morning after he died, his body was carried from the small, dark hut. The man bearing his small body knelt for a while in the morning sun after a long cold night’s vigil, holding him in the early rays of warm light. After a while Weake’s wounded body was placed naked in a chair in a foetal position with his knees pulled up under his chin. His legs were bound and tied to the chair, his head propped up by a banana leaf running under his chin. The chair and body were placed in the open yard of the village compound and anointed with special ointment like a magical elixir.

During the day extended family, friends, neighbours from nearby villages and their children arrived with traditional gifts, greeted each other and sat around the body on the ground. During the morning over two hundred neighbours and friends arrived from nearby villages to join the vigil, including many of Weake’s young friends. Wails and songs of mourning filled the air throughout the day.
One notable omission from the gathering was Woluklek. He did not attend, bearing the psychic scars of a survivor with the unreasonable burden of guilt and shame, a sense of personal responsibility he felt for Weake’s death having been the one that innocently led the three boys to the river where they were ambushed.

Many in attendance that morning bore traditional gifts. From the men belts made of colourful, precious shells were placed on the boy and over the chair, and from the women special nets were likewise draped. The body was again anointed with ointment.

Four pigs were killed for the funeral feast to be held in the afternoon, and the dead boy’s friends covered in yellow clay for mourning brought wood for the fire and the roasting of the pigs in the fire pit. Each of Weake’s friends in attendance was closely involved with the funeral.

I remember how it felt to bury a friend as a boy, a sense of acknowledgement of the loss to be included as part of the ritual; the responsibility; to bond with others there in celebration of life and acknowledgement of death, a connection to something bigger, transcendent. I imagined these boys had similar feelings as they let go and endeavoured to understand.

Near dusk, with the heat of the afternoon sun and feast finished, the valuable shell belts covering Weake’s body and chair were removed and distributed by the clan leader to selected family members and friends. The wood for the pyre was brought and arranged and holy stones placed within the fire pit. The body was then annointed for the last time and the ceremonial shooting of bow and arrow ensued to release the boy’s spirit from his body.

With the fire burning, Weake was laid on his side as if asleep atop the pyre, a log for a pillow to cushion his head and promptly the smoke and flames engulfed him.

Matthiessen’s account concluded: “The last of Weake was a sweet choking smell, carried upward by an acrid smoke from the crackling pyre, and diffusing itself at last against the pine trees, the high crest of the mountain wall, the sky.”

The next morning, in respect and silence, the clan’s holy stones were removed from the ashes of the pyre by the older men and warriors, wrapped and placed on mats for safe keeping. It is stage 2 of the funeral, and another feast is held later in the day during which time other ceremonies take place. Often, a third day of feasting follows, and sometimes months later, stage 3 of the funeral occurs with a gathering and further feasting.

Weake’s death was not the result of US backed Indonesian military, though many deaths like his have been. It is the young especially, killed in their innocence with bright hopes for the future that are powerful symbols of disappointment and injustice. All the more so in a state where children are born into a world fused with the injustices of apartheid. Concerns of apartheid and genocide have frequently been levelled at West Papua but never been adequately investigated.

In South Africa where the apartheid state became a notorious symbol of man’s inhumanity, like Weake, another poignant symbol of injustice and oppression arose in the form of Hector Pieterson, a 13 year old boy shot and killed by police. In 1976, he was protesting in the streets of South Africa with other students against apartheid when he was killed: his death became a rallying point that marked the turning of the tide against the brutality of apartheid government policies. The Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum in Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg now stands as a memorial on the street where he died.

US House of Representatives: No sign of relief:

A speech to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999 by U.S. congressman Faleomavaega directly informed congress of concerns about US mining company, Freeport McMoran, alleged human rights abuse:

“Since Indonesia subjugated West Papua New Guinea, the native Papuan people have suffered under one of the most repressive and unjust systems of colonial occupation in the 20th century.

Like in East Timor where 200,000 East Timorese have died, the Indonesian military has been brutal in West Papua New Guinea. Reports estimate that between 100,000 to 200,000 West Papuans have died or simply vanished at the hands of the Indonesian military.

While we search for justice and peace in East Timor, Mr. Speaker, we should not forget the violent tragedy that continues to play out today in West Papua New Guinea. I would urge our colleagues and our great nation and the international community to revisit the status of West Papua New Guinea to ensure that justice is also achieved there.

Geo-politics aside, since the Indonesian government seized control of West Papua, the Papuans have suffered blatant human rights abuses, including extrajudicial executions, imprisonment, torture and, according to Afrim Djonbalic’s 1998 statement to the United Nations, ‘environmental degradation, natural resource exploitation, and commercial dominance of immigrant communities.’

Sadly, Mr. Speaker, a U.S.-based company mining copper, gold, and silver in West Papua New Guinea allegedly shares in the exploitation and abuse of Papuan lands and its people. In West Papua, New Guinea, Mr. Speaker, Freeport-McMoRan, an American company in partnership with the Indonesian leaders and leading Australian and British mining companies, operates the world’s largest gold mine and the world third largest copper mine in West Papua, New Guinea.…Freeport pays Indonesia more money than any other company in the entire country.”

‘‘Specific allegations have been made to Freeport’s direct association with human rights abuses undertaken by the Indonesian government on Freeport land. Freeport facilities are policed both by Freeport security and the Indonesian military; Freeport feeds, houses, and provides transportation for the Indonesian military; and after any incidence of indigenous resistance against Freeport, the military responds while Freeport looks on.

In 1977, when West Papuans attacked Freeport facilities, the Indonesian military bombed the natives using U.S.-made Broncos and a Freeport employee sent an anonymous letter to Tapol on August 6, 1977, writing ‘any native who is seen is shot dead on the spot.’ …. Although Freeport likes to shift blame onto the Indonesian government, press reports that ‘One recent Western traveller was told by a Freeport security employee that he and his coworkers amuse themselves by shooting randomly at passing tribesmen and watching them scurry in terror into the woods and Amnesty International reported that the military used steel containers from Freeport to incarcerate indigenous people.’

Mr. Speaker, ultimately I believe in the goodness of people and in the goodness of the Members of this body. I believe that, as we are made aware of human suffering and gross injustice, we will rise to say enough is enough.”

Unfortunately, the U.S. Government has done very little to redress the injustices of West Papua which still seem a long way off.

East Timor

The extent of human rights abuses committed by the US backed Indonesian military is evident in not only West Papua but also the Indonesian provinces of Ambon, Aceh, Maluku Islands, and East Timor. In particular, it was the horror of East Timor that caught the world’s attention.

West Papua is not the only region to have been brutally annexed by the Indonesian military. East Timor was colonised by Portugal in the 16th century. It came under Indonesian rule in 1975 following Portuguese withdrawal and subsequent military invasion by Indonesia, and was ruled as a province of Indonesia for 24 years till 1999. Following a brutal and highly public massacre, the Dili Massacre, in 1991, Indonesia experienced global opprobrium and came under deeply critical international scrutiny. The Asian currency crisis and collapse of the Indonesian economy saw the forced resignation in 1998 of Indonesia’s President Suharto. Still under the world’s glare and verging on pariah status, Indonesia’s new leaders reluctantly relinquished control of East Timor in August 1999 after accepting the result of a UN managed plebiscite.

It is the same military that in 1975 invaded newly independent East Timor with the approval of President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. In the aftermath of the US defeat in Vietnam, US leaders were reportedly keen to maintain amicable relations with Indonesia, no matter the cost. The invasion of East Timor proceeded on the 7 December 1975 with US grace, the day after Ford and Kissinger met in Jakarta with Indonesian President Suharto.

It was a bloodbath from the outset. Reports indicate around 100,000 to 180,000 East Timorese died at the hands of the military , about one third of Timor’s population. Like in West Papua, the Indonesian military conquest in East Timor involved ethnic cleansing, rape and torture.

East Timor, subsequent to independence in 1999, indicted 391 individuals for crimes against humanity, though none of them has been brought to justice by the international community.

Part 3: Where on Earth is West Papua?

A brief history to West Papua and Indonesia

Indonesia ranges across an archipelago of around 17,500 islands spanning over 5,200 kilometres from South East Asia to Australasia. Much of the archipelago is difficult to access, wild and remote. Indeed over 11,000 islands are uninhabited, exotic, and amidst the remote tropical mystique are towering cloud crested mountain peaks over 4,000 metres (13,123 feet) in height that dominate the terrain clad in jungle, in places equatorial glaciers, and over 400 volcanoes, 90 of which are active. In contrast to this, parts of modern Indonesia are densely populated, the country contains 250 million people (the world’s 4th largest country by population) most of Asian ethnicity who live on the main island of Java; it is predominantly conservative Islamic, and has a rapidly growing economy.

The island of New Guinea is the second largest island in the world covering around 900,000 square kilometres, and lies directly to the north of Australia. It is populated predominantly by people of Melanesian ethnicity and culture and is split into two countries. The western half known as West Papua is now part of Indonesia. The eastern half is the independent country of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

One of the most surprising things about the island is its extraordinary linguistic abundance. As a result of the extreme topography (among other factors) communities had little interaction with each other and over time the relatively small region developed around 840 distinct languages among 6.2 million people. It accounts for about 12% of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages, an average of about 7,500 people per language. West Papua itself accounts for about 300 of these distinct languages and an additional 200 dialects.

Well known author and academic Professor Jared Diamond who has visited and studied extensively in New Guinea for over 50 years points out that if Italy had an equivalent language density per person, there would be about 10,000 languages spoken there!

West Papua has been known by many names, always driven by political influences, the flux of which has led to some confusion. During the Dutch colonial period, West Papua was called Dutch New Guinea. In 1963, after the UN passed administration of the territory to Indonesia it was renamed West Irian, and in 1973 Irian Jaya in an attempt to ward off claims that it is naturally part of the singular Melanesian island of New Guinea. In 2000 it was renamed Papua in anticipation of being given “Special Autonomy” status from 1 January 2001, and in 2003 the region was split into two provinces – Papua and West Papua. General convention is to refer to the two provinces jointly as West Papua, the Melanesian name, for the western half of the island of New Guinea.

The colonial history of New Guinea was divided between the Dutch in the western part of the island (subsequently West Papua); and the eastern half (subsequently PNG) divided between the British and Germans, which was an Australian protectorate for much of the twentieth century till 1975 when it was granted independence. PNG today contains about 5 million people, while West Papua has about 1.2 million people.

The rest of Indonesia is territorially remote, as well as ethnically and culturally distinct from the people of New Guinea. The ethnicity of the indigenous people of New Guinea – both West Papua and PNG – is Melanesian, a black race with West Africa ancestry. The people traditionally live subsistence and hunter gatherer lifestyles with animist beliefs and scantily clad. It sits in stark contrast to the rest of Indonesia which is Asian, predominantly modern, Muslim and conservative, including in traditional Muslim dress code.

The racial and ethnic tensions between the people, as well as Indonesia’s political aspirations form an important antecedent to the political turmoil in modern day West Papua.

West Papua, Indonesia is situated on the western half of the island of New Guinea.
Indonesian occupation of West Papua

The colonial era of Indonesia, including West Papua, was dominated by the Dutch, who occupied the archipelago from the 1600s and colonised it in the 1800s. Dutch rule in most of the Dutch East Indies ended after the Japanese invasion and occupation of WWII. After the war ended in 1945 Indonesia declared independence, though it was not until 1949, following 4 years of military conflict, that the Dutch formally ceded the Dutch East Indies to Indonesia.

Initially, the Netherlands resisted handing West Papua over despite pressure from Indonesia. The Dutch were cognisant that the Melanesian population of West Papua, geographically part of Australasia, with different languages and ethnic background to Southeast Asia, was opposed to integration into Indonesia. The Dutch were also aware of the vast wealth of West Papua – timber, oil and minerals. Accordingly, West Papua was retained as a colony of the Dutch with the intention of eventually establishing it as an independent state under their patronage.

Like their neighbours in PNG, tribal West Papuans did not have a historical background as unified a nation state. The Dutch however, had promised the West Papuans independence. They invested in building democratic institutions in the province and groomed a small group of well educated West Papuan leaders for independence. By 1 December 1961 the New Guinea Council had been established and the independent state of West Papua was all but formally declared with the opening of the Papuan parliament. The name West Papua had been agreed for their country, a police force, military and national anthem established, and the West Papuan Morning Star flag flew alongside the Dutch flag. West Papuans had claimed key elements of sovereignty, however, officially they shared power with the Dutch. Today, West Papuans celebrate the anniversary of 1 December as their independence day though nominal self determination was short lived. Before the state of West Papua had a chance to gain international recognition and legitimacy, Indonesia invaded.

On 19 December 1961, less than 3 weeks after establishing the Papuan parliament, Indonesia launched an invasion under the command of the young General Suharto on the basis that Indonesian president Sukarno had ambitions to take control of all former Dutch territory in the region. The Indonesian military has been active there ever since. Within 8 months of West Papuan independence, in October 1962, the Indonesians had effectively taken control and the Dutch withdrew.

1961: A merciless military invasion and administration

The US keen to avoid a Cold War confrontation with Indonesia, and aware of Indonesian support for American access to the vast resource wealth of West Papua, chose to appease Indonesia’s aggression instead of defend West Papuan sovereignty. The US chose the pragmatic option, preferring to do business in West Papua as part of a unified Indonesia, where it could deal with Indonesia’s military leadership, rather than as a nation state under the rule of disparate tribal groups. As such, Indonesian unification and control of West Papua served America’s economic interests, and the dirty pragmatic military work to make that happen would ostensibly be Indonesia’s challenge, not America’s. There was no question of the US nurturing and backing a moderate to lead Indonesia. The well informed leaders of the West, like Kissinger, knew Indonesia well enough to know how bloody those efforts at control would be. They set their sites on, nurtured and backed a man of ruthless mien with the track record to make it happen, General Suharto.

The Indonesian government, with support from the US government national security establishment under President John F. Kennedy, and US companies interested in oil and minerals in West Papua, brokered a deal in 1962 between the Netherlands and Indonesia known as the New York Agreement. Under the agreement, the UN took responsibility for West Papua and in 1963 formally placed it under the authority of Indonesian administration with the condition that a referendum for West Papuan self determination be conducted within 6 years to ascertain the genuine preference of West Papuans.

Indonesian authority in West Papua between the years 1963-1969 was ruthless from the outset, even before formal annexation. The Asian Human Rights Commission reported:

“[t]he military approach by Indonesia resulted in civilian deaths, refugees and growing resentment. The use of national symbols and the words Papua or Melanesia were prohibited and serious limitations were set on freedom of assembly and opinion, while the education system was disintegrated.”

1969: Military annexation

The populist summer of love in 1967 had not long passed in the West when political ambitions were set on adding West Papua to the ranks of the world’s annexed territories, joining the likes of Palestine, Tibet and formerly East Timor. Like people in these territories, West Papuans were about to be torched in the forced military integration of one people subjugated by another.

The mandated referendum for West Papua in 1969 was a sham, and widely viewed to be such, managed by the Indonesian military with coercion and violence. It was anything but genuine and free. Nonetheless, with US support it received United Nations ratification which bestowed international legitimacy on the process. In reality, the annexation of West Papua has been a ruthless, brutal and bloody process of incorporation of this half of the island into Indonesia, similar in carnage to Indonesia’s earlier invasion and occupation of East Timor.

The 1969 referendum in West Papua was contentious to say the least with the military handpicking 1026 delegates to indirectly “represent” a population of 800,000 people, of whom 1024 voted as a unanimous show of hands. It was not a free and direct election as required. The delegates were under duress to vote in favour of Indonesia’s annexation, with widespread reports of coercion and death threats by the military . Perversely named the “Act of Free Choice”, the process was unequivocally corrupted, the evidence supporting such views well documented by the UN itself through UN appointed observers. Despite the fact the referendum did not reflect the genuine will of the people, and therefore did not meet Indonesia’s obligations under the New York Agreement, the UN and Western powers, concerned with practical matters of access to West Papua’s wealth rather than justice, ratified the outcome nonetheless. In doing so, they ensured the subjugation and brutalisation of West Papuans by the Indonesian military for generations to come. The reality was, and still is, that there is widespread popular support in West Papua to be independent of Indonesia.

Handing West Papua to Indonesia was an arbitrary political settlement that satisfied US interests, but did not meet any of the normal claims to nation statehood, particularly those of ethnic and cultural unity. The outcome, predictably, has resulted in widespread resentment, resistance and bloodshed in West Papua.

Excerpts of statement by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South Africa

….It is with deep concern I have learned about the United Nations’ role in the take-over of West Papua by Indonesia, and in the now-discredited “Act of ‘Free’ Choice” of 1969. Instead of a proper referendum, where every adult male and female had the opportunity to vote by secret ballot on whether or not they wished to be part of Indonesia, just over 1,000 people were hand-picked and coerced into declaring for Indonesia in public in a climate of fear and repression.

The UN had just 16 observers to this Act for a country the size of Spain. The then Secretary-General’s Representative reported on the conduct of the Act to the UN General Assembly in 1969, which noted his report on 19 November of that year.

One of the senior UN officials at the time, Chakravarthy Narasimhan, has since called the process a “whitewash”.

A strong United Nations will be capable of, among other things, acknowledging and correcting its mistakes.

I would like to add my voice to growing international calls for the UN Secretary General to instigate a review of the UN’s conduct in relation to the now-discredited “Act of ‘Free’ Choice”.

Western powers led by the U.S (and including the UK and Australia) justified their support for Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua by arguing that West Papua would be a Cold War liability if left independent and potentially destabilise the region. However, the US, and corporate interests maintained financial, military and political support for the region, even after the cold war ended in 1991. Another option may have been to unify West Papua with PNG, (which had been an Australian protectorate from 1920 till 1975 when it received independence), with its ethnically identical Melanesian tribal culture to form a unified island of New Guinea, though this would not have satisfied the arbitrary appetite of Indonesia for sovereignty over the entire former Dutch East Indies.

Noam Chomsky eloquently summarises the devastating effect of imposing artificial and discretionary borders that divide people and cultures:

“Like many borders around the world, it is artificially imposed and, like those many other borders imposed by external powers, it bears no relationship to the interests or the concerns of the people of the country — and it has a history of horrible conflict and strife.”

US betrayal of West Papua, an ally of WWII

Many saw the UN decision as a U.S. backed power grab to secure corporate access to mineral and oil wealth in the province. Indeed, Freeport had signed its first Contract of Work (COW) with the Indonesian government in 1967, within months of the US backed President Suharto taking power, and two years before the 1969 referendum. This COW gave the company broad rights to the land and mineral resources around what was to become known as the Grasberg complex in West Papua.

In a stark act of realpolitik the US betrayed West Papua which had served the US as loyal World War II ally under General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of operations, in the critical Pacific War against the Japanese. Now West Papuan’s found that their sacrifice to support American victory in that war was to provide no lasting security.

“Our Melanesian friends of the critical Pacific War years were quickly forgotten when General MacArthur and the Allied forces left their headquarters in Hollandia (Jayapura) [capital of West Papua]. Their post-colonial plight remains a stain on the national and international collective conscience.”

After the 1969 referendum, nationalist freedom fighters’ movements, including the Free Papua Movement (OPM), called for independence, and have persisted to do so ever since. The Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI, TNI ), present since 1962, and already in control of the territory, took measures to secure Indonesia’s sovereignty. At the outset of Indonesian control of the province, the indigenous people rebelled with protests, riots and armed insurgencies directed at the Indonesian military and foreign mining activities.

Anthropologist and academic Hugh Brody, Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley, wrote in 2011 of the annexation and US betrayal of its former ally:

“What we have to understand is that Indonesia invaded an independent country. It did so with the help of UN confusions and many forms and levels of trickery, and with US collusion. This invasion depended on a profound disregard for the rights and aspirations of the people of Papua.”

“The flow of political turmoil in Jakarta, the resultant deals with US military interests and the unleashing of unrestricted mining in West Papua – this set of events was the underlying cause of the oppression, imprisonment and murder of horrifyingly large numbers of tribal people, as well as the total destruction of many of their homes and villages.“

The history of the Indonesian military, not only under Suharto but since, reveals the military authority in Indonesia acts with a culture of impunity, is responsible for gross human rights abuses including murder, rape and torture. The country has one of the worst human rights records in the world. The indigenous people have never had much of a chance in defending themselves with primitive weapons against an army supplied with modern US weapons, technology and supported by US military advisers. The death toll in West Papua has been horrendous. While it is difficult to pin down firm numbers, Australian observers estimated in 2005 that 100,000 West Papuans have been killed by the military since 1969; and other sources indicated another 100,000 thousand or more people displaced.

The brutality of the Indonesian military in West Papua is documented only sporadically. Nonetheless, enough information has emerged to paint a clear picture of the devastating consequences for the traditional Papuan landowners and in particular the original inhabitants of the Freeport concession area, dominated by the Amungme and Kamoro, but also the Moni, Nduga and other peoples. Though closed to the official media, news reports of ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua still today find their way into the western media via NGO’s and the internet.

The military violence and brutality inflicted on the indigenous people of West Papuans has not been limited only to the various regimes of Indonesian dictators. Indonesia has had democratic elections since 1999, though democracy appears to have offered little in the way of improved conditions to West Papuans, with ongoing reports of military atrocities against the indigenous people that include torture and extra-judicial killings.

Suharto, Freeport and the U.S.

In some ways, the goals set by US leadership in its most fearful and darkest days, were the clearest, most noble expression of a responsible global leader, a government with conscience that reflected the grandest principles set forth in the American Constitution. President John F Kennedy said in his inaugural address in 1961:

‘‘Let every Nation know that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty.’’

Living with the heightened threat of nuclear annihilation symbolised by the Cuban missile crisis in the early 1960s, America faced its most fearful and darkest days, and also its most liberal and enlightened. It was the best and the worst of times. Kennedy was brilliant at expressing positive government aspirations and aligning them with universal human values. The Cold War was a war, first and foremost, for the hearts and minds of the world’s people, not only for Americans, but globally as a bulwark against a communist foe that was intent on global revolution.

Unfortunately, reality rarely lives up to the aspirations of such noble rhetoric. The Kennedy government, keen to prevent Russian influences increasing in Indonesia, was a supportive ally of Indonesian General Suharto who led Indonesian forces in the conquest of West Papua. While the extent of US military involvement in West Papua remains unclear, the government’s strategic intent seems unambiguous:

“it was [US] national policy to sacrifice the lives and future of some 800,000 West Papua New Guineans to the Indonesian military in exchange, supposedly, for Sukarno and Su[h]arto to become our friends, and yet organize the most repressive military regimes ever in the history of Indonesia.”

The military was everywhere in Indonesia, supported by US military advisers and weapons. Following Suharto’s military campaign in West Papua that commenced in 1962, later US administrations successfully backed Suharto for the Indonesian presidency after a bloody, extended coup that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists and sympathisers. Suharto’s New Order regime ruled Indonesia for 32 years from 1967 till 1998, when he stepped aside under pressure from the political and economic fallout of the Asian Financial Crisis.

Suharto depended on the military not only to maintain control of the disparate provinces of Indonesia but to retain his grip on power. The abhorrent dictatorial techniques he used to retain power are here described by academic Denise Leith:

“For the thirty-two years of the New Order regime, the apparatus of the state maintained the cohesion of the archipelago by violating the tenets of the Constitution. Coercion, repression, and systematic violation of human rights were instrumental in amassing phenomenal private wealth and power at the center. The ability of one man to remain at the apex of power rested not only on the dispensing of largesse to the newly emerging middle classes in Indonesia but also on his control of the judiciary and the forces of coercion. Through this control Suharto was able to distort the Constitution, delude the public with rhetoric, depoliticize the masses, and suppress working-class opposition while periodically jolting the collective amnesia of the nation by threatening a return to the chaos of 1965 in order to legitimize his authoritarian rule.”

It was during Suharto’s ruthless dictatorship that Freeport consolidated its position in West Papua. Freeport, in an unholy alliance of sorts, paid the Indonesian military millions of dollars every year to fund its activities in West Papua – the military targets the secessionist movements and protects the mining interests of Freeport – one of the country’s key revenue sources. Freeport McMoran continues to provide millions of dollars of financial and logistical support annually to extend the Indonesian military presence in West Papua.

Part 4: Militarized Mining and Freeport

Riches beyond the wildest dreams: Ertsberg and Grasberg mining district

Ertsberg was discovered in 1936 during the era Dutch colonial rule by Jean-Jacques Dozy, a geologist working for the Dutch company Shell Oil. Shell did nothing with it, overtaken by the events of WWII and the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies. The property dropped off the radar screen and it was not till 1959 when the discovery was brought to the attention of Freeport geologist Forbes Wilson that Freeport picked up the ground.

Freeport developed the Ertsberg mine (part of what became known as the Grasberg complex) which produced from 1972 to 1991. Compared to the massive Grasberg mine which commenced production in 1990 and which continues to be mined, Ertsberg was small with ore milling capacity of 25,000 metric tonnes per day. On a global scale Freeport was a relatively inconsequential company. However, after the discovery of Grasberg in 1988 everything changed. It was a massive discovery about 1.9 miles from Ertsberg and it catapulted Freeport into the league of global mining majors.

The open pit mine was depleted in 2016, at which time production shifted exclusively to what is the world’s largest underground mining complex. Production is anticipated to continue for around another 30 years, into the 2040s with further mine life extensions likely beyond this, as additional resources are discovered.

The Grasberg mining district comprises the large Grasberg open cut mine which removed the top part of a mountain 4,100 metres high (2.5 miles), and today includes a number of large underground mines which are progressively expanding production. The complex currently produces with a nominal milling capacity of nearly 250,000 tonnes per day (about 10 times the size of Ertsberg), with approval to expand up to 300,000 metric tonnes per day.

Grasberg hosts the world’s largest reserves of copper and gold. In 2011 these amounted to 31.6 billion pounds of copper and 32.2 million ounces of gold with an in-ground value approaching 200 hundred billion dollars.

On the back of Grasberg and later, after the turn of the millennium with the boom in demand for commodities fuelled by rapid economic expansion in China, the price of many metals sky rocketed. Grasberg’s principal products of copper and gold went up nearly 5 fold: copper increased in price from around 80 cents per pound to around US$4 per pound, and gold went from around US$360 per ounce to over US$1900. With its fortunes booming, Freeport’s market capitalisation rose into the tens of billions of dollars.

Grasberg is one of the largest, low cost mines in the world. It is also one of the most profitable. In 2011, production costs after allowing for by-product credits from gold and silver were only 9 cents per pound of copper produced, while the average price received on copper sales that year was US$3.85 per pound, a profit margin of US$3.76 per pound – or 98%!

The mine is not only high margin, it also has massive scale – production in 2011 was 882 million pounds of copper and 1.4 million ounces of gold, which contributed US$5.4 billion to Freeport’s revenues and US$2.9 billion to gross profit. It is a huge operation by all measures and its economic, social and environmental impact is felt throughout the region.

Reflecting their responsibility in managing the mine, political relationships in Washington and Jakarta, and the complexities of navigating security and military relationships, the Chairman, and the President and CEO of Freeport receive total annual compensation that routinely exceeds US$20 million. The Chairman of the Board, Jim Bob Moffett (he stepped aside in 2016) had total remuneration of US$36.8 million in 2010. President and CEO Richard Adkerson received total remuneration of US$39.5 million in 2010, down from an even larger total compensation of US$77.3 million in 2008.

Freeport employs approximately 12,300 people in Indonesia, most in the Grasberg minerals district, and an additional 10,500 contractors – for a total number of nearly 23,000 people, only a small percentage of which are West Papuan, though the company has been working to expand indigenous representation.

At the time of discovery the local indigenous population living in the concession area was less than 3,000 people, but by 2002, this number had grown to 120,000, leading to an escalation in social tensions. The growth was fuelled by transmigration to the concession area from other parts of Indonesia, and West Papua. There were also personnel living in the area employed by Freeport, their consultants, development agencies, NGOs, missionaries and security and military personnel.

The project area, due to its remoteness, required Freeport to develop most of the infrastructure in the region necessary to support its operations. This included construction of two towns with housing, schools, medical facilities and all essential services to support the mine work force.

The company also built an access road, port and airport. There were significant challenges on the mine engineering front due to the extreme topography and remoteness of the site that in cases required innovative solutions. For example, an aerial tramway was built to carry the ore from the mine to the processing plant due to the shear topography, a function in less challenging conditions performed by trucks, trains or conveyers.

Bechtel, the large American engineering group was contracted to build much of the mine and supporting infrastructure said it was the most challenging job it had ever undertaken up until then. In particular, Bechtel cites the challenges in building the road to the mine site: 119 kilometres long, carved into the sides of massive mountains and over narrow mountain ridges with huge drops on either side. There was also extensive tunnelling required. It was the first and only access road built to site, and reportedly accounted for about 30% of the initial capital required to establish the project.

From the processing plant, a pipeline 115 kilometres long was built to carry the slurried copper concentrate through the jungles, across swamps and over mountains to the coastal port site at Amamapare. There it is dewatered and shipped for smelting and refining.

Traditional owners and social impact

The indigenous people of West Papua, for the most part, live traditional lifestyles in scattered, isolated communities situated from hot coastal equatorial lowland jungles to the high, rugged, glacial covered mountain highlands, in total comprising about 310 known tribes.

Villages are small, supporting subsistence lifestyles, and centred around family units typically with 4 to 6 houses in each. The predominant traditional owners who occupied what became the Freeport concession around the Ertsberg and the Grasberg mine were the Amungme and the Kamoro. They lived traditional life styles with cultures based on ancestral worldviews. Around 2,000 Amungme occupied the three sparse and harsh highland alpine valleys, raising pigs and sweet potatoes, around where the Freeport mine, mill and associated infrastructure, including town, are now situated. One of those alpine meadows in the Wa Valley is the site for the mine’s massive overburden waste dumps, and the original, traditional village of Wa is now the site of the large company town of Tembagapura. On a nearby area, formerly an Amungme burial site, a helipad has been built. The Kamoro occupied swampy and coastal lowlands, and lived as hunter gatherers where the mine tailings are now deposited and associated infrastructure, including the company town of Timika and the airport are situated.

Initially, it had been difficult to determine who the “rightful” traditional inhabitants of the land were, in part due to the fact that some of them were nomadic. In any event, following annexation by Indonesia, Indonesian law proscribed that the state owned the mineral wealth and the traditional owners were not entitled to compensation.

The original occupiers of Freeport’s concession had no legal recourse to financial compensation for spiritual loss of their lands, though housing and rudimentary infrastructure was compensated. The Indonesian government merely handed their ancestral lands over to Freeport to explore and mine. Freeport believes its land tenure is legal under Indonesian law and says it has agreements in place with certain traditional owners that release the customary or traditional tribal rights for the company to use the land.

The contract, signed under Suharto, gave Freeport “the exclusive right to enter upon and to take possession of and to occupy the Project Area,” and the “right to arrange for the resettlement of any indigenous inhabitants who may be found permanently residing on any part of the Project Areas”. Under Indonesian law, Freeport was able to call on the military to resettle the traditional owners, which the company did, and also gave material support to the military in removing the indigenous people from their ancestral homes.

Traditional owners: Forced removal and conflict

The meeting of modern states with indigenous people that live subsistence lifestyles is always difficult. The clash of cultures and civilisations is frequently bloody, with one or both sides reluctant to embrace change, and each side struggling to come to terms with what can be very different worldviews and values. Expectations about what constitutes quality of life and well being in each society often vary greatly. Western culture defines quality of life by measures such as infant mortality, life expectancy, education and economic output (GDP); whereas traditional cultures measure it by kinship relations, ritual and spiritual connection to the land.

At the heart of the conflict Freeport considered the mining of a mountain as development and was unyielding in exercising its will, whereas the indigenous people considered the mountain sacred and feared its destruction: “The land is ourselves. The land is our mother.”

The significance of land is well described by the Amungme:

“[The Amungme’s] respect toward nature restrains them from causing any destruction to their environment. To destroy the environment is akin to their [own] destruction. To the Amungme, the most important thing is to maintain the harmony among the three elements of life: humankind, the natural environment and the spirit of the ancestors.”

The Amungme leader Tom Beanal indicates how his people felt about Freeport, and the mine’s impact on them:

“They [Freeport] take our land and our grandparents’ land. They ruined the mountains. They ruined our environment by putting the waste in the river. We can’t drink our water anymore.”

The Kamoro communities who are the traditional owners in the lowlands where the tailings are deposited, state:

“The 87 families and 300 people of our villages [who] have suffered from the disposal of mining wastes and environmental damage caused by [Freeport] for over thirty years in this area protest to you strongly about the continuous pollution and devastation of our tribal lands….The floods and the toxic chemicals caused by the mining waste dumped in the River Muamiuwa and River Ajkwa have [made some places dry up and poisoned others]. The sago palms and the trees which provide wood for our homes and canoes are dead; the animals we hunt have fled; the traditional medicine plants have gone. Our culture is starting to die out and we are suffering from increasing serious health problems.”

The mine has had a devastating impact on the traditional owners, both directly and through environmental degradation. Mine tailings deposited into rivers have damaged fishing and hunting grounds; and the loss of land, military assaults and the forced removal of indigenous inhabitants has caused massive social dislocation.

In stark contrast to the natural beauty of the ancestral lifestyle, many indigenous people forced from their lands subsequently live in squalid poverty:

“Separated by just a few kilometers of jungle, the village of Kwamki Lama was built by the company and the government to house Papuans moved from their traditional lands in the concession. It was a desolate place devoid of any redeeming feature and characterized by disintegrating concrete-block houses, children with distended stomachs, and open drains.”

Finding common ground between Freeport and the traditional owners for negotiation where the starting points are so different has been a key challenge for both sides. From the outset, Freeport was determined to develop the project which verged on being an obsession for management, a crazed passion which CEO Jim Bob described as a “religion”. However, there seemed to be little charity or love lost on Freeport’s part; it was the traditional owners who were forced to surrender their meagre material possessions and suffered under the Freeport zealots backed by a military invasion.

Freeport has made some concessions to the traditional owners. The company made specific efforts to bring about positive social and cultural impacts to benefit the traditional owners – providing roads, towns, schools, medical clinics, jobs for some, new agricultural techniques – though it has mostly been a case of too little too late, with assistance and “reparations” reflecting western paternalistic values. There is little indication that the company and its advisers have been sufficiently open minded or made the necessary efforts to understand and assimilate the world view and insights of the traditional owners.

Indigenous people can’t avoid Western civilisation’s inexorable expansion and influence where it pushes in on them. At some point the interaction with outside communities seems inevitable. Whether now or in the future, outsiders will encroach on traditional communities and attempt to change their way of life. Let’s hope those at the frontier, carrying the banner for the developed world’s values, will remember what these are, their commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and needs of traditional communities.

A US congressman said in a speech to the House on West Papua, quoting Conrad’s Heart of Darkness:

‘‘The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.’’

Freeport has been on a steep learning curve, taking on roles traditionally the preserve of government. Some of these roles it has evidently mastered – those pertaining to the establishment of military backed security and international diplomacy; but responsible custodian of the local environment and community development have been other matters altogether as West Papuan society over the decades has remained on low simmer, and hoping to avoid the next outbreak of violent social upheaval.

Freeport security: underwritten by US ambassadors, spies and military

The Indonesian military and police, in part funded by Freeport in West Papua, seem to operate with impunity in the province, their activities largely hidden from world view.

Extensive military and intelligence agency abuses have occurred in West Papua. Indeed, the Freeport project is associated with a long history of violence. These abuses have been well documented intermittently and include arbitrary detention, torture, rape and extra-judicial killings.

About 30,000 Indonesian troops are stationed in West Papua and the region is designated Indonesia’s only ‘zone of military operations’. Confrontations and military conflict have flared repeatedly since the Dutch departed, with peaks occurring in 1977, 1980 and 1996. There have been multiple instances of military deployment of modern warfare techniques against local indigenous cultures that likely constitute war crimes.

Unlike PNG, the large military presence in West Papua leaves little opportunity for indigenous protest and disgruntlement to manifest as a serious threat to the Grasberg mine. Under Suharto, Freeport and its mining interests in West Papua were recognised as national assets, and emblematic of the notion of militarised mining, the area around the mine became the most heavily militarised region in Indonesia. The military was everywhere and permeated all facets of society including the bureaucracy, media and judiciary in West Papua, as with Indonesia more broadly.

The human rights abuses committed against the indigenous people of West Papua are extensive and include the detention of political prisoners; transmigration – an Indonesian government policy whereby large numbers of people from other parts of Indonesia are relocated to West Papua on a scale that makes the original Melanesian inhabitants minorities in the province, and where the new arrivals historically have received benefits and opportunities not available to the indigenous people; and military and security agency atrocities.

The impact of the Indonesian military presence is felt throughout West Papuan society:

“The province’s civil service almost entirely consists of racially distinct Indonesians from other parts of the country, and most of Irian’s vast mineral wealth has flowed to Jakarta. The military dominates Papua’s local politics and also has vast business interests in timber and forest industries.”

Security has been and remains a key issue for Freeport operations at Grasberg. The company’s filings with the SEC indicate expenditures in 2011 on internal civilian security by PT Freeport Indonesia of US$37 million dollars and an additional US14 million dollars for government-provided security – a total of US$51 million dollars – in 2011 alone.

Freeport’s recruitment has reached into the heart of US justice and intelligence agencies, including recruitment of former CIA and FBI agents, and US military attaches to Jakarta. Former company board members include Henry Kissinger (currently a Director Emeritus) – a former US Secretary of State and also a long term advisor to Freeport; and former US ambassadors to Indonesia, including Stapleton Roy. James Woolsey, a former director of the CIA represented Freeport during arbitration with OPIC in 1995 and 1996 which saw the terminated policy briefly reinstated.

These are just some of the visible aspects of Freeport’s political and security measures. The overall state of security for the mine was put into context by Freeport Chairman and CEO Jim Bob Moffett who, in a widely reported remark, referred to the political interest in, and militarisation of the project, as the “new Cold War”.

Part 5: 1994 Christmas Day Massacre Triggers Global Opprobrium

1994: Freeport’s land holding surges to nearly the size of Switzerland

With the discovery of Grasberg in 1988 and subsequent commencement of operations there in 1990, a new COW was signed in 1991 expanding Freeport’s concession to 6.5 million acres (~26,300 square kilometres). This was further expanded to over 9 million acres (~36,500 square kilometres) in 1994 – an area larger than the landmass of Holland, and nearly the size of Switzerland. This compared with the original 24,700 acres (~100 square kilometres) in the original Ertsberg concession granted in 1967. Freeport’s massive land holding was granted without requirement to compensate the traditional owners, forced relocations undertaken by the military reportedly with Freeport’s material assistance, and without stringent environmental controls.

The traditional owners had no right to compensation from Freeport and many had lived through a recent history of forced removal and military attacks in the process of being removed from their ancestral homeland to make way for the mine and its expansive infrastructure.

The granting of the massive concession to Freeport in 1994 was a predictable catalyst for a new wave of uprisings and conflict as local opposition to the company increased. Not surprisingly, the indigenous people protested the loss of their lands and conflict escalated in the area in and around the concession.

Between 1994 and 1996 a period of provoked and elevated tensions followed. Hundreds of innocent people were reported murdered in and around the Freeport concession, many more were forcibly removed, some tortured. The military crackdown was brutal. Sourced from a Catholic Church report on human rights abuses in the area, academic and author Denise Leith described it this way:

“It is now well documented that in response the Indonesian military sealed off the Freeport concession and its surrounds from mid-1994 until mid-1995, set up new security posts, and systematically terrorized the local population with summary executions, murder, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, intimidating surveillance, destruction of property, and unexplained disappearances. Many of its victims were innocent men, women, and children.”

If clashing worldviews were not enough of a negotiating barrier, the traditional landowners felt they had been lied to and betrayed by Freeport with the company not living up to the promise of jobs and wealth sharing. According to Denise Leith, of the 3,500 people employed by the company at the mine in 1990, only 20 were local West Papuans and there were no royalty payments going to the traditional owners; nor was there indigenous share ownership and associated dividends in the project.

As the result of Freeport’s expansion, an eerie silence fell over West Papua.

1994 to 1996: Christmas Day massacre and military crackdown

Once again, the brutality of the military seemed to be spiralling out of control with seven indigenous protestors shot and killed in a short period around Christmas Day 1994 and others reported killed, tortured and detained.

I first heard of the killings on ABC radio a few days after Christmas while driving in the Australian outback. I was home on holidays with Susan that year visiting family for Christmas, after which we took a week off to camp out and drive along the Strzelecki Track to Cooper Creek and Broken Hill. We had been driving for endless hours through the heat on a nearly deserted road and it felt like we were a million miles from anywhere. The announcement blasted in over the radio and reverberated through the car like a bombshell going off. The news of the massacre around the Freeport mine had reached even out here, the middle of nowhere, and sent a slight shiver down my spine. It was an unexpected shock: a deplorable situation involving a company I covered, people I knew, senior management I had met and regularly spoken with.

News reports indicated some of the protestors were killed at point blank range inside steel shipping containers on Freeport property. Eyewitnesses reported Freeport security personnel and Indonesian military were directly involved in the killings (though claims of Freeport’s security personnel involvement were never substantiated in court).

In an instant I went from carefree insouciant in the desert summer heat in the middle of nowhere with my girlfriend, and suddenly found my thoughts back in a claustrophobic neon tube lit enclave at work in NY. I had no idea at that time how far reaching the effects of this news would be for West Papua, for Freeport and Susan and my lives.

This is how ABC Radio National journalist Kirsten Garrett subsequently reported events of the massacre :

Kirsten Garrett: This man, recorded by documentary maker Mark Worth, did not want to be named.

1st voice: Physical torture consisted of kicking in the belly, chest and head with army boots, beating with fists, rattan, sticks, rifle butts and stones, denial of food, kneeling with an iron bar in the knee hollows, standing for hours with a heavy weight on the head, shoulders, or cradled in the arms, stepping and stamping on hands, tying and shackling of thumbs, wrists and legs, sleeping on bare floors, stabbing, taping eyes shut and forced labour in a weakened condition. The torture caused the bleeding head wounds, swollen faces and hands, bruises, loss of consciousness and death because of a broken neck. The torture was conducted in Freeport containers, the Army commander’s mess, the police station and the Freeport security post.

Kirsten Garrett: The Bishop of Jayapura, Herman Munninghoff, spoke on ABC Radio on The World Today….

Herman Munninghoff: Many times they were interrogated, perhaps about one month and they have to stay in a container there for Freeport, there are several places but they have steel containers and the containers there often used as prison.

Interviewer: Are these people also beaten though?

Herman Munninghoff: On several occasions they were beaten, yes.

Interviewer: How reliable are the people that you’ve got your information from?

Herman Munninghoff: I myself spoke with all the people. I went there, I spoke with them and it was my stark opinion that they spoke the truth.
Interviewer: So you had no doubt that these incidents actually happened.

Herman Munninghoff: Oh no, no, no.

Kirsten Garrett: The fight is over land, and the fabulous treasure of copper and gold – huge deposits that lie in the spine of awesome mountains that rise like a dinosaur’s back right through the island of New Guinea. Metals that will become telephone wires and jewellery and plumbing pipes and dental work. For the Amungme people these things don’t yet have much meaning. They’re subsistence farmers and rainforest
people. Their meaning lies in land and most of their forests are now open for logging, and the Freeport mine has rights over 2-and-a-half-million hectares. Thousands of Amungme have been relocated.

The distant radio waves were not the only source of news to fill the car that morning. Susan, presumably sensing involvement of the FBI as perpetrator or crime scene investigator in the Freeport atrocities chose the occasion to make further disclosures to me about her undercover work with the FBI.

Human Rights reports of the Christmas period 1994:

Reports from mid 1994 to 1996 indicate the military undertook a brutal and relentless campaign of systematic terror against the traditional owners that involved murder, rape, torture and arbitrary detention.

Aside from the US State Department investigation into the alleged role of Freeport in the 1994 Christmas Day massacre and other killings, the report of which was not released to the public, other groups were also investigating the killings marked by a period that began around the 1994 Christmas massacre and extended into 1997.

The two highest profile, independent human rights reports made public were prepared by the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) – an NGO umbrella group that monitors Australian foreign policy; and a report by the Catholic Church of Jayapura, led by the bishop of Jayapura Monsignor H.F.M. Munninghoff, both published in 1995. These reports found their way out of West Papua with the result that international scrutiny of Freeport increased substantially.

ACFOA report:

Several months after the Christmas Day 1994 killings, in April 1995, the ACFOA report was released that documented eye witness accounts of the horrors inflicted against indigenous people on the Freeport concession during the Christmas period 1994. The report, Trouble at Freeport, was smuggled out of the country and received wide international media attention.

It cites eye witness testimony that pointed to the involvement of the Indonesian military and Freeport security in the abuses that included multiple killings. The report captures the scope of the human tragedy, the devastation of indigenous leaders in response to the killings, and poignantly portrays the personal context of the conflict.

A summary in the report of the abuses included the following:

“ABRI [Indonesian military] and Freeport security engaged in acts of intimidation, extracted forced confessions, shot 3 civilians, disappeared 5 Dani villagers, and arrested and tortured 13 people after an OPM flag raising in Tembagapura on 25 December last. In summary, the uprising in Tsinga and Christmas Day demonstration in Tembagapura resulted in, at least, 37 people killed and/or disappeared of whom 22 were civilians and 15 were rebels.”

Of particular consternation in the US, the ACFOA report accused Freeport security of direct involvement in specific atrocities, based on eye witness testimony. Subsequent investigations either avoided consideration of Freeport’s role in these or were hampered in ways that made it difficult to verify the earlier reports, such as intimidation of witnesses by the military, or inability to locate them.

Excerpts below from the ACFOA report: Trouble at Freeport are below:

Information from eyewitnesses said that the uprising in Tsinga from June to December 1994 and demonstration in Tembagapura on 25 December resulted in 37 people killed and/or disappeared of whom 22 were civilians and 15 were rebels. The sources stated, however, that since the ABRI troops [Indonesian military] are still searching in many places until today and detain indigenous people who are suspects, the figures of those killed or disappeared must be more than that.

The Tembagapura Incident

On 24 December 1994, many Freeport employees in Tembagapura moved down to Timika. There was no one in the barracks. It was very different to years before when many Freeport employees, except for those who have vacations, used to spend their Christmas time in Tempagapura. According to some Freeport employees, they had heard some information that the rebels from the forest wanted to demonstrate in Tembagapura.

As usual the sky on the early morning of 25 December in Tembagapura town was fairly bright. It was about 5.30 am and some local people of Tembagapura, Waa, Banti, and Arwanop were on the move to Kalvari Kingmi Church in Mile 68 for Christmas morning service. But they were very surprised to see a crowd of people gathering somewhere in between two ABRI posts in Mile 68 and Mile 67 in Tembagapura. They were singing traditional songs, marching and sometimes crying out yel yel. Most of them were wearing penis gourds, their bodies painted with rich colours and decorated with traditional accessories such as boar’s tusks, sea shells and feathers on their head covers. They had armed themselves with arrows and bows, spears and long blades, and very few guns. (Original reads ‘very few machinary guns’. Ed). There were about 300 people, singing and marching around a pole on top of which waved the OPM flag.

Not long after, ABRI and Freeport security suddenly spread around to cover the crowd. Without warning the people, they raised their weapons directly to the crowd and started shooting. The rebels cried out to the ABRI and Freeport security to stop shooting, saying that they had not come for a bloody war and that they just wanted to speak to Freeport officials and ABRI about their rights. However, those shooting did not care and kept shooting at the crowd from all directions.

(An extended excerpt from the ACFOA report is available in the appendix).

Bishop Munninghoff’s report in August 1995, reviewed eyewitness accounts from the April 1995 ACFOA report, however, significantly, it did not investigate reported eyewitness allegations of Freeport personnel implicated in the killings. Nonetheless, the report confirmed the brutal killings of 25 December 1994 of the Dani tribesmen that had travelled on the Freeport bus:

– Of the 15 Dani who went on the Freeport bus to Timika, 4 were killed and the others were detained, tortured and then released.

An excerpt from Bishop Munninghoff’s report below provides an eyewitness account of the arbitrary detention, torture and killing that is reported to have occurred in a steel shipping container in the Freeport workshop:

…They didn’t explain why we were detained. So we tried to explain why we were traveling and showed them the permit. But they didn’t want to know. Our permit was torn to pieces and thrown away. They even accused us of trying to deceive them, that we were GPKs [independence fighters], hitting us with their rifle butts and kicking us with their boots. At 08.00 we were beaten and escorted to the KOMOP office in Tembagapura where we were detained in Freeport containers. In a container about 3 x 6 metres the fifteen of us were beaten with sticks (about 5 x 5 cm), and rifle butts and were kicked with boots by the troops. They took turns beating and kicking us from 08.00 till 12.00 at noon. They stripped us stark naked, and took our belongings such as beads and money. A soldier to Rp. 260,000 from Biru Kogoya and then shared it with his friends. I could only look on, afraid and powerless.

[The Dani men were transferred to the Freeport workshop in Koperakopa]. Seriously wounded, blood running from all of my body, by face swollen, afraid, hungry and very weak, particularly because they did not want to hear our explanation, I only could hope to meet with Captain Yulius because I knew him. When at last we met him he asked why we were detained. I explained to him that we, particularly the 10 from Timika, went to Waa for Christmas celebrations. But when we went back to Timika we were arrested and tortured by the soldiers because they suspected we had taken part in the demonstration in Tembagapura. I also told that Wendi Tabuni was stabbed and shot by the soldiers at Mile 66. When he heard that Captain Yulius ordered the soldiers to separate us from the 5 Dani from Waa. When we were detained there three Dani from Waa were tortured by being beaten with sticks on the neck from behind, left, right and from the front, till their necks were broken and they died. I witnessed this torture together with my friends. They (the three Dani from Waa) were beaten and tortured with their eyes still taped shut. This happened on 25 December in the night…

An extended excerpt from the Catholic Bishop’s report of events is contained in the appendix, along with eyewitness testimony of the killing on a Freeport bus.

What does it feel like to be constrained and beaten in detention? Attacked while held down – people describe the feeling of absolute powerlessness, terror, fear and physical illness. Humiliated. Some describe it as one of the scariest moments of their life while being kicked, hit and taunted; they describe feeling panicked, dizzy and vomiting, disorientated, bleeding, bruised, swollen, limbs broken. There is uncertainty around what is happening, how long they would be held and whether they were about to be killed; the dry mouth, the dizziness again, dehydration, falling unconscious. People screamed and heard the screams of others, unable to do anything to help them. They lay on the ground, rolled up foetal like, writhing, arms clasped behind their head in an attempt to protect their heads from blows. Eyes taped shut, completely dark. Cuts into their bodies felt like they were burning. Some wished they were dead.

These were the lucky ones. They got to go home, eventually, back to their children and families who didn’t know where they were or what was happening to them. Their families spared the grief and mental anguish of living through a loved one’s death or disappearance.

In addition to detailing the human rights abuses, the report’s author outlines the indigenous people’s grievances as explained by Kelly Kwalik, the leader of the West Papua independence movement and emphasised the loss of the peoples’ spiritual connection to the land:

“…[the indigenous people] absolutely do not agree with Freeport that has taken over their lands and exploits the mineral resources within their sacred sites. They feel that since Freeport started in 1967 the lives of the indigenous peoples have grown worse, they themselves have been deprived of their lands and many of them killed every time they protest.

Mr Kwalik is very much concerned about the impact of Freeport’s Contract of Work (CoW) II on Bloc B covering 2.6 million ha of the Central Ranges (that stretches along the Weyland mountains in the west to Star mountains in the east on the border of Indonesia (Irian Jaya (West Papua)) and Papua New Guinea), that will affect thousands of indigenous people inhabiting the area. He said that with this new contract their lives will be more devastated, the environment and culture degraded and many people will be displaced. Finally there will be no future for them as indigenous people. This Amungme chief further pointed to the problems that today are faced by the Amungme and Kamoro people who since the Freeport mine began in 1967 have lost 10,000 ha or more of their customary lands without any compensation, mineral resources within their sacred sites are extracted without consent and the environment is destroyed. Today they have become victims in the hands of this gigantic American mining company. He declared that they will keep fighting for their rights with arrows and bows, spears and blades. He said that in this way they would appeal to the deepest heart of the international community to open their ears, their eyes and their minds to the slaughter, plight and streams of blood of Jo-Mun Nerek’s children (the indigenous people) that pour in this land.

Jo-Mun Nerek is the Amungme tribe’s ancestors’ spirit. This spirit lives in the mountains and it is there to care for and look after the Amungme people. They believe that when the Amungmes die their spirits go to the mountains. This is why the mountains are sacred to this people.”

The ACFOA report goes on to describe a meeting between chief of the Amungme, Narkime Tuwarek, Freeport officials and Indonesian military on 29 December 1994, several days after the Christmas massacre. It reveals some of the intriguing cultural elements at work in the negotiations between the indigenous people and Freeport. It shows Freeport attempts to placate the indigenous people with biblical references and the influence of missionaries who had been in the area for many decades:

“….Lexy Linturan of Freeport [Freeport’s head of security] gave his comments saying: ‘Mr Nakime, I have also had a missionary education when I was in Post VII Sentani in Jayapura. I learned much about Christian religion, about the life of Jesus Christ. We are aware that the Bible tells how Jesus had to go through much suffering, He was tortured and finally crucified. But He was never angry at anybody. Instead He loved and forgave those who hurt Him. Therefore I believe that God cares and has heard… So for those 13 people who are now under arrest and tortured God must be there to hear their slaughter and cries. So Mr Narkime you don’t have to be angry’.”

Under pressure: fallout for Freeport

The human rights reports that reached the international media, starting in April 1995, put the spotlight on Freeport’s hitherto overlooked activities and also had adverse political ramifications for the company, both at home and in Indonesia. Attempting to publicly distance itself from the company, in October 1995 the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a U.S. government agency, cancelled its US$100 million dollar political risk insurance policy for Freeport citing environmental factors and also “other factors”. These “other factors” were widely understood to be human rights related, as revealed in the human rights reports above.

Indeed, an FBI source told me that the unprecedented cancellation of OPIC political risk insurance was intended as a slap on the wrist to Freeport for human rights breaches. Freeport was reeling under pressure from every direction.

Freeport responded to the negative global publicity surrounding the Christmas Day massacre in 1994, the subsequent human rights reports and the cancellation of its OPIC political risk insurance with the hiring of James Woolsey, a former director of the US CIA to represent it in legal proceedings against OPIC .

The company also launched a massive advertising and PR campaign and launched reprisals against its critics.

Freeport, among other things, paid for a full page ads in the New York Times defending its environmental and human rights record, made an infomercial, threatened to sue journalists and academics covering the matter, and withdrew financial support to Loyola University in New Orleans where it had faced student criticism. The company is also reported to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars running ads in mainstream magazines like Newsweek and US News & World Report and buying scores of full page adds in local newspapers in New Orleans and also in Austin where Jim Bob was well known through his alma mater the University of Texas.

Freeport was facing other headwinds too – not just the fallout from the atrocities of 1994 to 1996. A massive US$6 billion lawsuit against the company was brewing, filed April 1996 by Amungme leader Tom Beanal (discussed further on). It was partially modelled on the successful lawsuit against BHP, a major international mining company, who operated the OK Tedi mine nearby in neighbouring PNG. BHP settled the case in June 1996 after a long running dispute with traditional owners in relation to its practice of riverine tailings disposal, that is the dumping of mine tailings directly into the local river system, something Freeport was also doing in West Papua.

In early 1996 the public backlash against Freeport from the US government and activists worldwide seemed to be snowballing out of control, and all the while further unrest was building in West Papua around the company’s Grasberg mine.

The resentment of traditional owners to the massive expansion of Freeport’s concession in mid 1994 continued to mount through 1995. To address the rising social tensions, the Indonesian military increased the number of personnel in the area and by early 1996 the military presence had increased to at least 1,850 soldiers.

March 1996: riots and Grasberg shutdown

In March 1996, riots and protests around Grasberg resulted in the mine shutting and the further killing of 3 indigenous people. The riots lasted 3 days, closing the mine for the duration. In response, by April the military had expanded its operation around the mine adding 3,000 to 4,000 additional troops and positioned a warship off the coast at the port of Amamapere. The closure of the mine and further killings of indigenous people were reported in the mainstream media around the world drawing publicity critical of Freeport and Indonesia. The riots, mine closure and military response also featured in a short Wall Street Journal article:

The army said it restored order in Timika, a remote Indonesian town were rioting on Mar 10 and Mar 12, 1996 between Irian Jaya tribesmen and non-Irianese shop owners forced the closing of a giant US copper mine. At least three people were killed and dozens injured. The huge mine is 82%-owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc of New Orleans, which shut the mine as a precautionary measure.

On the international level, President Suharto was feeling the backlash at personally as pressure from the international community intensified. The Indonesian military atrocities around the Freeport mine were hurting his reputation, and he in turn put pressure on Freeport to improve the situation. After decades of operating in West Papua free from scrutiny, dubious practices implemented by those with hitherto unchallenged power were beginning to attract unwelcome attention.

In response to evidence of mounting human rights abuses around the Grasberg mine and growing angst from Suharto, Freeport’s CEO Jim Bob Moffett swiftly flew to Indonesia to attend a three way meeting convened with the military and indigenous representatives.

Amidst this turmoil, my brief analyst report that touched on the conflict and was critical of the company’s handling of the situation was published 12 March 1996, which resulted in my blacklisting by the FBI. It was the day before Jim Bob’s hastily prepared, emergency trip saw him landing in West Papua.

Jim Bob in the eye of the storm

In the eye of the maelstrom, Jim Bob’s plane carried him to West Papua where he safely touched down in Timika 13 March 1996. There, the Wall Street Journal reported, he found the small airport locked down by military forces after it was nearly stormed by protestors who had heard he was coming.

Among the dozens of buildings attacked Tuesday by rioters was the Freeport-built airport. The Associated Press quoted Col. Sutan Iskandar, an armed-forces spokesman, as saying that about 3,000 rioters “practically took over the airport and they damaged some facilities.” Aviation officials said the airport will remain closed to commercial traffic until tomorrow.

Jim Bob’s agenda on arrival was clear, his intentions unequivocal: He aimed to secure the future of his mine any way he could. To do so he needed to find a way to silence the traditional owners anyway he could, through appeasement or force; and to do so he had arrived with a two pronged strategy.

Firstly, he had come prepared with a peace offer for the traditional owners – a package of financial and social assistance to the affected indigenous communities. Secondly, however, if the traditional owners didn’t like his offer, and there was little indication they would given how far off the mark it was in form and magnitude, he had a backup plan. This was the military option, which called for a marked increase in funding and support from Freeport to the Indonesian military in the area.

From the outset, the negotiation outcome was skewed by this power imbalance and duplicitous secrecy. At the time he was meeting with indigenous leaders and the military in an ostensibly open three way conversation to negotiate a peace offering, he was also negotiating separately in secret with the head of Indonesia’s Special Forces, General Subianto, to agree an enhanced funding package that he knew would underwrite an oppressive bloody crackdown on the locals.

It appears there was never any question that Freeport might willingly relinquish control of the mine. As such, there could never be any question that a dialogue with the traditional owners would be completely open, treated as a genuine dialogue between equals, one that posed the potential risk of an unexpected outcome for Freeport. Firm control of the mine by the company appeared to be the only acceptable outcome, and as such, one would be naive to think that Jim Bob’s “option 1” was offered with any sense of inspiring a genuine dialogue to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict. This is not to say the company would not have preferred a peaceful resolution, but it was never going to be on terms management considered unacceptable.

Jim Bob’s first option: appease the traditional owners

The peace offering, a conciliatory approach, involved Freeport offering a package of concessions to the traditional owners intended to quell their dissatisfaction with the way they had been treated. At the heart of Freeport’s offer was a 1% revenue royalty for ten years to contribute 1% of the annual gross revenues from Grasberg to support local community development in remote locations around the mine and to assist the tribes that had been forcibly displaced. (The company subsequently established the Integrated Timika Development Plan – the “1% Fund”). Other initiatives included increased recruitment and training of local West Papuans.

However, the traditional owners rejected Freeport’s offer as it did not address the heart of their grievance. The next day, the Amungme Tribal Council, LEMASA, unequivocally denounced the offer stating:

“It fails to answer the roots of the problem between Freeport and the Amungme,” the council said. The plan does not provide a way for the Amungme to sustain their livelihood; nor does it offer “compensation for the damage inflicted on their environment, for their resources, and for the human-rights abuses to which they have been subjected.”

Having seen their land expropriated, their environment devastated, their brothers and sisters subjected to repression and abuse, the people of Irian Jaya want more than a trickle of the wealth that Freeport has extracted from their land. Like victims of corporate offences elsewhere, they seek some measure of justice and retribution as well. In a statement that echoes from Jakarta to Washington, from Irian Jaya to New Orleans, they’ve made it clear to the company that they will no longer pay for its profits with their lives.”

The Freeport incentives to better the life of the locals through the 1% Fund appeared to many commentators as a low ball, take it or leave it package of initiatives that fell far short of expectations. It seemed inflexible, unnegotiable, and disingenuous. In partial defence of Freeport, it was subject to limits imposed by Jakarta that placed a cap on what could be offered, concerned Freeport not to set a high benchmark that would raise the expectations for other resource projects elsewhere in Indonesia. And without genuine dialogue, Jim Bob’s “Option 1” of appeasement never had any real chance of instilling confidence in the traditional owners. As such, there was no real likelihood of peace. There was only so much Freeport and the Indonesian government were prepared to surrender for peace before reverting to “Option 2”.

The stakes were high and the traditional owners faced bleak choices. In rejecting Freeport’s offer, the traditional owners assert the land is rightfully theirs, a claim likely supported by international law. The land tenure regime in place prior to Indonesia’s annexation of West Papua is unaffected by a change in sovereign status. Academic Abigail Abrash says it is “completely conceivable” that in removing the people from their ancestral lands their “traditional land rights have been infringed upon by both the Indonesian government and Freeport, the underlying legal regime has not been extinguished and can serve as a legitimate basis for action by the indigenous peoples” .

Freeport states it was constrained in doing more by Indonesian law, but informally it recognises land rights of the traditional owners:

“Yes, we have done that [recognised land rights] through the voluntary recognisi. We have done it through a series of land usage releases with the various tribes. Do we have one encompassing agreement with all parties involved to use the land? No we don’t because it is just impossible to get. And from a Western perspective have they been compensated in the way you would expect a Western person to be compensated for land use? The answer is no, not yet. We are trying to get there but we cannot change the laws of Indonesia overnight.”

Irrespective of LEMASA’s rejection of the offer, Freeport proceeded with the 1% Fund. However, further vexing the traditional owners, local leaders indicated they were not initially consulted on how development funds were spent. Projects frequently did not reflect indigenous values and consequently resulted in an escalation of local tensions.

The 1% Fund was initially managed by a government official in Timika. While notionally intended for building schools and medical clinics and initiatives to support economic development there was little accountability or transparency in the way the funds were used. Furthermore, the development priorities were determined in a paternalistic fashion in line with western ideas and did not necessarily reflect the values and needs of the communities the projects were meant to serve in a way that was consistent with “the right of men to live in terms of their own traditions” .

Revenue to royalties: Freeport’s “Option 1” – a low ball offer

A quick review of international standards of royalty levels paid by mining companies to land holders, traditional or otherwise, reveals the level of compensation land holders expect to receive in order to win their support and assuage their opposition. What was offered in West Papua by Freeport fell far short of this benchmark. And the company knew it at the time it was negotiating.

Freeport had offered a 1% royalty for a duration of 10 years to the traditional owners – the 1% Fund, in a low ball offer and what was perceived as a financial boondoggle for Freeport shareholders. Even though the company had never made a royalty payment to the indigenous people before, and by law did not have to, given what was at stake the new deal was a bargain. It got the scrutiny of the world media off Freeport’s back, and off Suharto’s, which from Freeport’s point of view was arguably more important.

However, a mining royalty of 1% generally pales by international standards in comparison to royalties paid to individual landholders on private land in other parts of the world, including in the US, where landholders own the mineral rights. Landowner royalties in the US can range up to 25% of revenue, and are frequently 2% to 5%. As another benchmark for comparing Freeport’s offer to the traditional owners, in the Brazilian Amazon, garimpeiros – that is artisanal gold miners in the informal gold mining sector, pay 10% of the gold they recover to the landowner, or leaseholder if on state land. This is equivalent to a 10% revenue royalty, ten times the rate offered by Freeport to the West Papuan landowners.

A gross revenue royalty of 1% translates to US$10 million for every one billion dollars of revenue. In 1994 and 1995 the company’s revenues were around US$1.2 billion and US$1.8 billion respectively. A revenue royalty of 1% translates to US$12 million and US$18 million respectively to be paid into the fund making it one of the largest socioeconomic development initiatives in Indonesia, and the largest development program in West Papua, larger than anything the government in Jakarta was providing. Nonetheless, these large sums paled in comparison to the level at which other land owners were being compensated in other parts of the world, and to the remuneration Freeport was paying its senior management.

Jim Bob’s salary, bonus and stock options for 1995 amounted to over US$42 million , a sum that the board and major shareholders no doubt defended in recognition of his pivotal role in advancing US and Freeport shareholder interests in this “new Cold War”. The gobsmacking amount was several times more than the proposed annual royalty payment anticipated and offered by the company to the entire indigenous community of West Papua affected by the mine.

Compared to international norms, the value and scale of the project, and the remuneration of Freeport executives, it was low ball offer with little chance of acceptance, and which if refused by the locals would be certain to result in widespread bloodshed.

A decade later, in the mid 2000s prior to the GFC were peak years for Grasberg revenues which reached around US$5 billion per annum. This translates to around US$50 million per year for a 1% royalty payment. Given the immense annual profit, the high operating margin at times around 97%, the high value and longevity of the Grasberg district, the project could no doubt support a considerably higher financial commitment to the traditional owners, one in line with international and developed world standards. Royalties are often structured in accordance with project economic potential, as in the US where landholder royalties span a wide range, e.g., 1% to 25%, negotiated between company and landholder in a free market, free of military threat, on a sliding scale dependant on project viability, the higher royalties borne by the better projects.

Freeport has plenty of financial negotiating freeboard for additional compensation to the locals if needed to put it on par with global peer payments to landholders. If the royalty rate offered to the traditional owners had been increased from 1% to say 3%, or even 5%, more in line with what US landowners frequently receive, the equivalent royalty payment based on Grasberg revenues of around US$5 billion dollars per year, would have increased to US$150 million to US$250 million per year. With project gross profits reaching US$2.9 billion per year, the increased royalty payments represent only around 5% percent of gross profits.

Such massive cash inflows to local communities could potentially be very positive – though this is not guaranteed, as many indigenous communities around the world can attest to. Money cannot compensate for a traditional way of life lost and the social pressures that result from personal and community upheaval and loss of identity.

Jim Bob’s military “Option 2”: A secret meeting; precursor to a large death toll

Jim Bob organised a secret meeting with the commander of Indonesia’s special forces. At the time Jim Bob was involved in a three way discussion with the traditional owners and military offering the locals a package of initiatives under “Option 1” he was also, according the New York Times, simultaneously taking part in a secret two way conversation with senior members of the Indonesian military that included Prabowo Subianto, son-in-law of President Suharto, commander of the Indonesian Special Forces. The talks were ostensibly in preparation for a vast military assault – the fallback “Option 2” – though in reality the most anticipated and likely outcome of Freeport’s “negotiation” – and triggered by the traditional owners formal rejection of “Option 1”.

The New York Times reported that Jim Bob implored General Subianto, in a sign of desperation: “Just tell me what I need to do”.

Within months of that meeting the fallout for the indigenous people from the military onslaught was clear. What ensued was shocking in its breadth and toll to life and property. “Option 2” was a brutal, bloody assault by a US backed and armed military under the command of General Subianto against the traditional owners, evidently in an attempt to reduce opposition and have the survivors of the onslaught see “sense”. The consequences were tragic.

The NYT reported the role of Freeport in financing and support the military through this period:

“In short order, Freeport-McMoRan spent $35 million on military infrastructure: barracks, headquarters, mess halls and roads. It also gave the commanders 70 Land Rovers and Land Cruisers, which were replaced every few years. Everybody got something, even the navy and air force.

Freeport-McMoRan set up a special department, the Emergency Planning Operation, to handle the new relationship with the Indonesian military. It began making direct monthly payments to Indonesian military commanders, while a Security Risk Management Office handled the payments to the police, according to company documents and current and former employees.

Freeport-McMoRan gave the military and the police in Papua at least $20 million from 1998 to May 2004, according to company documents. In interviews, current and former employees said that at least an additional $10 million was also paid during those years.”

The marked increase in military activity precipitated a new wave of abuses and it wasn’t long before new human rights reports documented a spate of military attacks and a new toll of dead. Nine months after Jim Bob’s open cheque book offer to General Subianto, as reported in the NYT, the consequences were evident: there was a horrendous force of devastation inflicted on the indigenous people around the mine.

The toll to life and property was documented by the local churches – the Churches’ Report – a report of the military’s human rights abuses that covered the period December 1996 to October 1997. The Churches’ Report revealed the sickening human toll that ensued from “Option 2”, describing a wave of oppressive violence unleashed in a military crackdown against the traditional owners by a cashed up and well supported military under General Subianto.

The report documented the death of at least 137 people caused by the military and described the significant elevation in the level of military violence against the indigenous people during this period contrary to what the government had promised. Academic Denise Leith summarises the toll of military destruction this way:

“…the military’s terrorizing of groups of villagers, the extrajudicial killing or disappearance of some thirteen people, the subsequent deaths on many others from disease and malnutrition caused by their fleeing into the jungle to escape persecution, and the destruction of whole villages, churches, homes, livestock, and gardens.”

What is clear is that the special forces and officers commanded by Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto were part funded by Freeport and operationally well supported by the company.

Other human rights reports

In addition to the ACFOA report, Bishop Munnighoff’s report, and the Churches’ Report, there have been multiple other investigations into human rights abuses committed in and around Freeport’s Grasberg mine.

By the end of 1998, there had been at least seven investigations into human rights abuses that occurred between 1994 and 1997, in and around Freeport’s Grasberg mine. In addition to the three reports mentioned above, there was one by the International Red Cross, and another by Komnas HAM – the Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights. There were also reviews undertaken by the Australian and US embassies. Not one of these investigations and reports absolved the company of involvement in human rights abuses, though none of them proved it either, with one of the investigations (Komnas HAM) specifically excluding, within its terms of reference, investigation of Freeport involvement in the abuses.

The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights published a human rights report on the company in July 2002. However, the report authored by academic Abigail Abrash notes the team’s work was severely impeded by the Indonesian Government who, she said, according to reliable sources was acting at the behest of Freeport, and denied most of its investigators entry into West Papua. The two who were given access were subsequently detained and deported by the government.

Research by Dr Hernawan, who spent over a decade with the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in West Papua, published a report in 2010 found most West Papuan torture victims were innocent civilians, mostly farmers and students, targeted under an Indonesian “policy of terror”.

It speaks volumes that even the US State Department felt pressure to do something, and make public statements to that effect. For a sensitive topic, the 1994 Christmas Day massacre received unusually wide publicity and the US State Department had taken the unusual step of launching a formal investigation into the killings and Freeport’s role – presumably thinking its credibility was at stake in not doing so. A preliminary investigation was completed by March 1996 in which the Department indicated further investigations were ongoing. However, the findings of the investigation were never made public, despite multiple requests under FOIA for all records from myself and others, including Friends of the Earth.

I never heard any news of the findings of the follow on investigation of Freeport by the State Department. It seems to have fallen into a black hole.

In 2013 I filed an FOIA request with the US State Department for a copy of their interim and final reports of their investigation into allegations of Freeport’s human rights abuses in West Papua. The State Department did not release them to me nor even acknowledge their existence. I appealed their decision, and waited over three years for a deliberation of the “panel”. When a decision was received, there was no acknowledgement or denial of the existence of the investigation or any subsequent reports. It was merely the so called Glomar response – the standard refusal to confirm or deny.

In consultation with my attorney, I sent the a follow up email below (on 19 December 2016) reiterating the evidence of the existence of the investigation and reports. But I received no reports or further details. Suppression remains alive and well.

“Despite the WEP 0002A summary letter from the State Department saying no records were located relating to an investigation of Freeport for human rights abuses in West Papua, I recall reading about the investigation in 1996 in an early edition of the NYT when I lived in NY and worked as a securities analyst. The article mentioned that a US mining company operating a large mine in Indonesian West Papua was being investigated by the US State Department. It stated an interim report had been completed and investigations by the State Department were ongoing. I also asked Jim Bob Moffett, Freeport’s Chairman at the time, a question about the State Department investigation at an analyst briefing in New Orleans shortly after in May 1996. He confirmed the State Department’s investigation of the company was continuing and Freeport was assisting in that effort.

Furthermore, at the time [in 1996], a well placed confidential source indicated the cancellation of OPIC’s political risk insurance to Freeport was intended as a slap on the wrist to the company by the US federal government, for human rights abuses.

There seems no doubt there was a formal investigation of sorts into reported human rights abuses by Freeport in West Papua by the State Department around 1996. You indicate no records of this were found in your system. So what am I to conclude?”

An email reply from the State Department 21 December 2016

It will take me a little time to answer your questions about the appeal. The letter, WEP-0002A, states no other records in our electronic data base. There may be more records in the retired paper files, or at Post (Jakarta), which were not searched, but should have been. [The State Department’s underlines.]

I have not found a final report yet, and wonder if the report everyone is referring to is the yearly human rights report put out by the Department, which should be on our website. You may want to look at what is there. A broader search (all records on Freeport Mine for the years 2009 – ??) would certainly cover more material, but again the same problem, they did not search the retired paper files. That is what I have started to do, but was moved to another office. But I hope to continue looking for additional material.

What had been clear for years and now seemed the unavoidable conclusion – were getting the run around. There were a few more follow up email exchanges with the State Department and later that day our liaison case officer there, Lori, sent further clarification to my attorney and myself of the search process completed under my FOIA to date – now a period of several years:

Normally, I would send it back to the office that did the initial search for further processing. But since I feel they didn’t do an adequate search originally, I may do the search myself. Of course, if you want everything on Freeport you could file a new request, and/or through litigation you can challenge the original search.

It was frustrating. Backsliding, equivocal answers, apparently lacking in confidence and clarity which left open the possibility the key information may yet be found by State but for poor process or human error. This was their proffered alternative to the more believable reality of deliberate deception, dishonesty and conspiracy on their part. After several years we had not made any progress it seemed. It felt like the run around I had received all those years ago when I had been in Jakarta seeking a permit to enter West Papua to go hiking – no official denial or block, just an endless run around till, we wearied, went away. Options to take the matter to court were impeded, advised against by my attorney, and efforts to find another attorney to pursue the matter on my behalf met with a similar odd lack of interest and support that smacked of avoidance, or worse, complicity.

My attorney put me in touch with an FOIA legal academic and practicing attorney at Georgetown University in Washington DC. In a telephone conversation with him around 2016 he tells me the obvious, in his opinion there will be no resolution to Kissinger’s alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity, or any other crime, no resolutions for the families of his victims, no confession, no state disclosure of his involvement in such matters till he is beyond reach – after he is dead. The academic asserts forcefully, if ruefully, that despite the passing of statutory time frames for the public release of documents from US archives relating to these events there will be no access under Freedom of Information (FOI) to the records till after those responsible can no longer be held to account. The US will not countenance precedents that would deter and impinge the future actions of its officials.

Eye witness reports of Freeport’s human rights abuses

Under Indonesian law, Freeport was able to call on the military to resettle the Traditional Owners, which the company did, and also gave material support to the military in removing the indigenous people from their ancestral homes. Freeport, by its own account, has co-operated with, financed and supported the Indonesian military in West Papua.

However, there have also been multiple eye witness reports alleging Freeport security went beyond this, and took direct part in human rights abuses in West Papua. Multiple sources have commented on different incidences, in different places at different times. Freeport, for its part, denies that the company, or any of its employees, have ever taken part in any human rights abuses.

Denise Leith in her book The Politics of Power notes multiple first person accounts of allegations of Freeport abuse, by its internal security forces, including witnesses to killings. She laments, however, there are many difficulties and challenges in proving allegations of Freeport employee’s direct involvement in human rights abuses, including, she indicates, the understandable reluctance of eyewitnesses to publicly testify.

In detail, Leith describes allegations in eight eyewitness accounts of abuses by Freeport security summarised below:

i) The ACFOA report contains eyewitness accounts of Freeport security involvement in the shooting of villagers.
ii) Survival International circulated an Amungme video of Jacobus Niwilingame testifying to detention and abuse at the hands of Freeport security.
iii) LEMASA documented in 1997 specific cases of ‘assaults, disappearances and rapes’ it attributed to Freeport security.
iv) Masmus Tipagau, a Freeport employee, reported to a journalist he had witnessed Freeport security beating a man for playing cards.
v) An unnamed source from the Freeport concession claims Freeport security involvement in the death of Amungme villager Naranebalan Anggaibak who was tied and dragged behind a car on 24 December 1994.
vi) An article in The Nation said a Western traveller claimed he had been detained by Freeport security (and TNI – Indonesian armed forces) for several hours.
vii) In the documentary Blood on the Cross, Yudas Kogoya states a Freeport employee piloted the Freeport helicopter ‘in which the military travelled to Geselama, where it massacred innocent villagers on 9 May 1996’.

Well regarded Australian scientist and Australian of the Year in 2007, Professor Tim Flannery who undertook work in the Freeport concession came to the conclusion that “…the company had little control over its security forces, which, he believed, received their orders from TNI.”

Flannery also reported an eye witness account alleging abuse by Freeport security:

viii) In his book Throwim Way Leg Tim Flannery describes a young Papuan boy Arianus Maripu who died after a severe beating, and who had told Flannery before he died that he had been beaten by Freeport security .

Irrespective of the fact that court cases brought against Freeport in the US have been dismissed and failed to implicate the company in any of the human rights abuses inflicted against indigenous people in West Papua, many people hold the view that Freeport is nevertheless implicated in the killings and other abuses. This is because it directly finances the Indonesian military in West Papua, has allowed the military to use Freeport property, as well as providing it with other material support such as transportation and accommodation. Such activities on Freeport’s part potentially render it susceptible to allegations of war crimes once levelled at mining major Rio Tinto for the same reason in regard to practices at its Bougainville mine in PNG. Freeport’s shaky position is summed up below:

“While Freeport cannot be blamed directly for the human rights abuses the military commits, neither is it completely free of culpability. Despite what Freeport says, there is an undeniable connection. The military was charged with protecting the company; the company accepted, and indeed required this. The military culture is violent and lacking in accountability, and the company has always known this….and its continuing relationship with the Indonesian military leave the company vulnerable to accusations of human rights violations in the past, and the future.”

A speech to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999 directly informed the Congress of concerns about alleged Freeport human rights abuse:

‘‘Specific allegations have been made to Freeport’s direct association with human rights abuses undertaken by the Indonesian government on Freeport land. Freeport facilities are policed both by Freeport security and the Indonesian military; Freeport feeds, houses, and provides transportation for the Indonesian military; and after any incidence of indigenous resistance against Freeport, the military responds while Freeport looks on.

In 1977, when West Papuans attacked Freeport facilities, the Indonesian military bombed the natives using U.S.-made Broncos and a Freeport employee sent an anonymous letter to Tapol on August 6, 1977, writing ‘any native who is seen is shot dead on the spot.’ …. Although Freeport likes to shift blame onto the Indonesian government, Press reports that ‘One recent Western traveler was told by a Freeport security employee that he and his coworkers amuse themselves by shooting randomly at passing tribesmen and watching them scurry in terror into the woods and Amnesty International reported that the military used steel containers from Freeport to incarcerate indigenous people.’

Mr. Speaker, ultimately I believe in the goodness of people and in the goodness of the Members of this body. I believe that, as we are made aware of human suffering and gross injustice, we will rise to say enough is enough.”

Unfortunately, the U.S. Government has done little to address the injustices faced by the people of West Papua, and that longed for day when it says “enough is enough” indeed seems a long way off.

Part 6: Hedge funds, environment, court and revolution

Hedge funds and pension funds blacklist Freeport

Large global pension funds have been slow to mobilise their power and take up the cause, nonetheless, in recent years there has been some significant movement.

In June 2006, the Government Pension Fund of Norway, a sovereign wealth fund, announced it had dumped and blacklisted the Freeport’s shares in a widely reported statement due to concerns over Grasberg’s environmental track record. Freeport’s shares were dumped on ethical concerns that investment in the company posed an unacceptable risk of complicity in severe environmental damages. Specifically, the fund cited the devastating impact from the company’s riverine tailings disposal – the discharge of tailings into the local river system at Grasberg. In blacklisting Freeport McMoran’s shares the government fund said that it “believes that Freeport through this conduct is taking advantage of the low environmental standards and the lenient law enforcement in the country where it operates.” The Grasberg mine has always used this means of tailing disposal and benefited from its very low cost.

The Fund’s investment committee detailed assessment of the risks concluded:

“Freeport’s mining activities involve an unacceptable risk of complicity in severe and irreversible damage to the natural environment. In the Council’s view, the company’s practice of riverine disposal is in breach of international standards, and one may also question whether the company violates national environmental regulations. The company’s assertions that its operations do not cause long-term irreversible environmental damage are hardly considered credible by the Council. The lack of openness and transparency in the company’s environmental reporting reinforces this impression.”

The fund is one of the largest pension funds in the world with US$240 billion dollar under management at the time, and its detailed decision to blacklist the company remains a major public relations blow for Freeport. The fund has a very high profile internationally and its investment findings are both credible and influential. In releasing publically its reasons for blacklisting Freeport in a detailed and damning 30 page report, Freeport joined the dubious rarefied ranks of other companies blacklisted by the fund for reasons that included: production of cluster munitions, production of nuclear arms, sale of weapons and military material to Burma, production of tobacco, serious or systematic human rights violations, severe environmental damages, and serious violations of the rights of individuals in situations of war or conflict. In 2008, the fund went on to likewise blacklisted Rio Tinto on account of its joint venture interest with Freeport in Grasberg.

Freeport denied any wrong doing in its response to the fund and said it felt misunderstood. However, it appears to many that Freeport places little weight on the damage its project may cause to the environment and the health and safety of the indigenous communities around Grasberg in West Papua:

“The [Norwegian Government Pension Fund] is of the opinion that Freeport knew riverine disposal could cause severe damage to the natural environment, but that the company and the Government attached little importance to environmental concerns.”

In October 2013, Swedish pension fund authorities announced the blacklisting of Freeport, also on account of the environmental damage it reported was caused by riverine tailings disposal at the Grasberg mine which has had “serious adverse environmental impacts that contravene the UN Convention on Biological Diversity”.

Furthermore, and arguably most damning, New Zealand’s Superannuation Fund in September 2012 also blacklisted Freeport McMoran from its investment funds on human rights grounds. It was the first major fund to blacklist Freeport on grounds that specifically include human rights breaches in West Papua, saying:

“Freeport McMoRan has been excluded [from the fund] based on breaches of human rights standards by security forces around the Grasberg mine, and concerns over requirements for direct payments to government security forces by the company in at least two countries in which it operates,”


Freeport’s Grasberg mine has been reported as one of “the biggest polluters worldwide by volume of waste and by area of land contaminated.” The extent of environmental degradation is immediately apparent to anyone who has been to site and flown into Timika adjacent to the large tailings deposition area in the lowlands. The footprint of the mine and tailings can be seen on Google Maps, with the equatorial glaciers at Puncak Jaya visible near the Grasberg pit .

When Freeport commenced operations in West Papua under President Suharto, it is reported to have done so free of Indonesian environmental regulation and essentially operated free of environmental constraints imposed by Jakarta. Regulation, when it eventually came, was not accompanied by effective enforcement and Freeport was for many years, in essence, self policing.

The Fund’s report explained in detail the extent of environmental degradation that has been caused by the deposition of mill tailings directly into the local river system at Grasberg – a practice which most destructively leads to very high levels of sedimentation. The rivers carry the tailings down into the wetlands near the coast where most of the sediment is deposited and a smaller, residual portion of it flows into the Arafura Sea. The quantities of sediment involved greatly exceed Indonesian standards as well as the river system’s normal carrying capacity. The report states this has resulted in extensive killing of aquatic life in the 130km of river system involved, reduced biodiversity, affected the drinking water, and resulted in extensive siltation of rivers, forests, estuary and delta. In 2004, the dead vegetation zone in the sedimentation deposition area amounted to 230 sq km with depositions up to 10m high. A further 220 sq km is expected to be affected over time. In addition, the coastal environment in the Arafura Sea has been impacted. That portion of sediment that enters the Arafura Sea is subject to ocean currents that carry it up and down the coastline.

Scoffing at the claims of any adverse environmental damage caused by dumping tailings from the mine into the river system, Freeport’s CEO Jim Bob Moffett once said the practice was not destructive and “the equivalent of me pissing in the Arafura Sea.”

A New York Times article in 2005 described details of a damning report not previously made public by Parametrix, an environmental consulting firm, that had been paid for by Freeport. Hitherto suppressed, and reportedly leaked by the Ministry, it revealed that the volume of tailings disposed into the river system, (up to 230,000 tons per day), resulted in sediment levels in the river exceeding Indonesian water quality standards by nearly a factor of 100. The report explained:

“Too many suspended solids in water can smother aquatic life. Indonesian law says they should not exceed 400 milligrams per liter.

Freeport’s waste contained 37,500 milligrams as the river entered the lowlands, according to an environment ministry’s field report in 2004, and 7,500 milligrams as the river entered the Arafura Sea.”

Hazardous substances, particularly acid mine drainage from overburden dumped in highland valleys has caused other concerns with reports of seepage into the groundwater and into springs of the adjacent Lorentz National Park World Heritage Site. Furthermore, the tailings discharge also contains heavy metals such as copper, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, as well as processing chemicals.

Of particular concern are discharges of copper into the river system, which is highly toxic to aquatic organisms, especially at high concentrations reported in the tailings. A study by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) reported copper discharge in the tailings of about 0.15% (1,500mg/l) which they concluded would most probably lead to irreversible damage. Freeport denies the copper content of the tailings poses environmental or health risks, though its claims remain unsubstantiated.

Freeport insists its environmental record is good. However, few people agree.

“…[there has been a] litany of signposts indicating that multinational and Indonesian involvement in West Papua was not meeting various standards, laws, and norms: Institutions such as the World Bank, the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, the International Finance Corporation, the Overseas Private Investment Commission, the United Nations Committee against Torture, the US State Department, and the Indonesian Environment Ministry, as well as many US and European politicians, independent environmental assessments, international media, Papuan leaders, civil society groups, and shareholders had brought the problems to Rio Tinto’s [and Freeport’s] attention.”

OPIC, a US government agency that supports US investment offshore, in 1995 cancelled its US$100 million political risk insurance to Freeport citing the harmful effects of environmental degradation caused by the large Grasberg mine. It was the first time OPIC had ever revoked a policy to a US company for environmental concerns. However, some people, including an FBI source, interpreted the OPIC decision as a soft, public rebuke of Freeport, intended as punishment for the more egregious human rights abuses which had been alleged, and which the US government was reluctant to admit to or hold the company accountable for publically.

In a letter from OPIC to Freeport dated 10 October 1995, OPIC declared the termination of the company’s insurance policy on account material breaches in their duties in relation to the environment causing serious environmental, health or safety issues to the ecosystem and local communities:

“…OPIC has determined through its monitoring activities that Freeport’s implementation of the Project, and especially its tailings management and disposal practices, have severely degraded the rain forests surrounding the Ajkwa and Minajeri Rivers.”

“…the Project has created and continues to pose unreasonable or major environmental, health or safety hazards with respect to the rivers that are being impacted by the tailings, the surrounding terrestrial ecosystem, and the local inhabitants.”

Freeport chose to cancel a second insurance policy covering $50 million in political risk which was viewed by some as an attempt to avoid further scrutiny of its operations. The policy had been held with Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), part of the World Bank.

In 1998, coinciding with the demise of the Suharto regime, the Indonesian ministry for the environment became more assertive and demanding of Freeport, if only for a short while. In 2000, the new minister for the environment, Mr. Sonny Keraf recommended that the company cease disposing its mill tailings into the river system and that it pay compensation for the environmental damage it had caused to the rivers, forest and wetlands. The New York Times published details of a leaked internal Indonesian Environment Ministry memorandum from 2000 that said “the mine waste had killed all life in the rivers, and said that this violated the criminal section of the 1997 environmental law.” However, Keraf’s principled tenure as minister for the environment was short lived and he was replaced a short time after his appointment in 2001.

Nonetheless, since the departure of Suharto, the Indonesian Environment Ministry has repeatedly recommended that the company cease its riverine disposal of tailings and advised Freeport that it was operating outside the law as “the necessary discharge permit has not been issued” – though to no effect. Post Suharto Indonesia remains dominated by powerful elites with links to a military history whose interests continue to prevail.

The practice is also inconsistent with internationally accepted standards reflecting the fact that the World Bank will not fund mining projects that use riverine tailings deposition. Furthermore, BHP was prosecuted for riverine tailings deposition at its nearby Ok Tedi mine in PNG where extensive environmental damage has been assessed and found detrimental to the health and livelihoods of the indigenous people. This impact from environmental abuses on the lives of the local indigenous people has been thus linked to violations of human rights.

What is clear, Freeport is not operating in West Papua in accordance with its home country environmental standards of the USA. Mining companies operating in the US are not allowed to release tailings directly into river systems. Multiple layers of government with overlapping interests prohibit this – US projects are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations that prohibit such activities; they strictly govern release of contaminants and disposal or discharge of toxic materials into the air, water and onto land.

Environmental consultants Dames and Moore were subsequently engaged by Freeport to conduct a high profile assessment of Grasberg’s environmental impact based in the context of Indonesian environmental laws. While Freeport touted the report as vindication of its operations the Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law found that the report failed to “fully analyze Freeport’s compliance with existing environmental legislation” and that the “report’s recommendations suggest possible severe breaches of that law.” Furthermore, despite the low standard set by the benchmark of Indonesian environmental laws, critics charged that the report was not independent as it was paid for by Freeport, and furthermore, potentially more prejudicial, was that the consultants did not collect their own environmental measurements or samples but relied on Freeport’s data, which itself was not released to the public.

The Seattle Mennonite Church, an activist shareholder in Freeport, undertook a comprehensive review of the various environmental reports, including the Dames and Moore report and the most recent, an environmental report by Montgomery Watson. The church sent its findings to Freeport, noting 150 points of concern in the various reports including that some findings were factually incorrect, contradictory or vague. It also arrived at the disparaging conclusion that the Montgomery Watson report resembled a promotional brochure, a criticism directed also to the Dames and Moore report. Many did not accept Freeport’s environmental audits as a “truly independent and comprehensive audit of the company’s operations.”

Salient comparisons: PNG mines – Bougainville and Ok Tedi

Mining projects in New Guinea have had appalling social and environmental records, noted for their lack of accountability and essentially self regulating approvals process. By the standards of global “best practice” environmental and social standards in West Papua and PNG historically have been weak and totally inadequate.

In West Papua, Freeport’s Grasberg mine in effect was given a blank cheque by Suharto, keen to court the support of the US government in order to secure West Papua and to help the still young country achieve international legitimacy. As a result, the project was developed and operated under the Indonesian dictator with heavy reliance on the military to maintain control of the company’s operations deploying practices that would never be tolerated in a US domiciled mining project.

Many countries hold their mining companies accountable for at least some of the damage they do. Like Grasberg, Bougainville and Ok Tedi are large, high profile mining projects at one time operated by major global mining companies. Accountability for these projects has resulted in not only economic penalties but also reputational impact to the Anglo and Australian owners at both Bougainville (Rio Tinto/CRA, the Panguna copper mine shut in 1989) and Ok Tedi (BHP, which was divested in 2002). The independent Melanesian state of PNG held Ok Tedi (as well as other mining companies) accountable for environmental damages, and the US held the massive resources company BP accountable for environmental damage at the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the US to the tune of $20.8 billion dollars. These projects share environmental and social concerns not dissimilar to Grasberg’s in West Papua in important respects, outlined briefly below and serve as a meaningful indicator of what risks and future fate could await Freeport shareholders under different, more democratic political and security circumstances.

Briefly, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army successfully used military action to shutdown Bougainville Copper Ltd’s Panguna copper mine (owned by CRA, now part of Rio Tinto) in 1989 at considerable economic cost to PNG’s national economy. The local people were aggrieved at the little economic benefit they received from the mine (0.5 to 1.25% of profit) especially given the extent to which their communities were adversely impacted by devastating environmental degradation of the Jaba River which they depended upon for their livelihood. A ten year civil war ensued in which over 10% of the population died – 20,000 people out of a population of 175,000. Rio is accused of helping the government forces during the war by lending the military trucks, accommodation, secretarial services, communications equipment and other material support, and was named in a US class action law suit for complicity in atrocities and war crimes. The allegations were denied by Rio and the court action ultimately failed with lack of jurisdiction. The mine has not reopened since then, and a study by Rio in 2008 indicated capital required to re-open the project at between US$2 billion and US$4 billion dollars.

At the Ok Tedi gold and copper mine, environmental reports indicated toxic chemicals associated with the tailings poisoned the river system killing fish and entered the food chain with negative consequences for the indigenous communities that depended on the river for their livelihood. Flooding caused by the deposition of tailings in the river destroyed their agricultural plots of saro, bananas and sago palm which were a key food source for their communities.

Ok Tedi received international infamy after the traditional communities were successful in prosecuting the company for environmental damage in relation to the discharge of tailings into the local river systems – the Ok Tedi and Fly Rivers – which affected 50,000 people. In 1996, BHP lost its well funded court battle after a tenacious legal fight and was required to pay US$150 million compensation and spend another US$350 million to US$450 million on remediation of the Fly River. The settlement also indemnified the company from further damages.

In 2013, however, PNG reneged on BHP’s previous immunity for environmental damage at Ok Tedi, which opened up the prospect of renewed prosecution. In doing so Prime Minister O’Neill referenced the British firm BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the US’s Gulf of Mexico saying, “BP accepted [full] responsibility for [that] disaster…Why not BHP?”

Europe’s new standards to stamp out conflict minerals

Where U.S. law does not extend, or lacks enforcement, and fails to constrain egregious corporate environmental, social or human rights abuses, there is hope new regulation in Europe might exert market influence to force corporate accountability and supply chain transparency. The European Commission in May 2017 passed legislation to break the link between natural resources and conflict by requiring European companies to undertake supply chain due diligence to ensure they do not purchase materials or goods that contain material sourced from conflict projects/regions – including where the project provides “off-budget funding to State security forces” – exactly the sort of thing the NYT reports that Freeport has done and likely is still doing.

The European legislation is global in scope and applicable to all natural resources, including minerals and metals. It states that the intent of the law is: “…to enable trade to continue, but not at the cost of gross human rights abuses.” It continues:

“Revenues from the trade in natural resources can give abusive armed groups the means to operate and can provide off-budget funding to State security forces and corrupt officials….

These materials enter global supply chains from where they are traded, processed and manufactured into a wide variety of consumer and industrial products. While some companies argue that there may be costs associated with cleaning up supply chains, the alternative – whereby European companies source natural resources and raw materials in a way that exposes local populations in foreign countries to the worst forms of human rights abuse [and environmental degradation] – is morally indefensible.

The European Commission website describes the new regulations to stem the trade in conflict minerals:

In politically unstable areas, armed groups often use forced labour to mine minerals. They then sell those minerals to fund their activities, for example to buy weapons. These so-called ‘conflict minerals’, such as tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, can find their way into our mobile phones, cars and jewellery.

So the EU passed a new regulation in May 2017 to stop:
– conflict minerals and metals from being exported to the EU
– global and EU smelters and refiners from using conflict minerals
– mine workers from being abused

The law also supports the development of local communities.

It requires EU companies to ensure they import these minerals and metals from responsible sources only.

It will start on 1 January 2021 so companies have time to adapt to it.

The European regulation is more expansive and ambitious than their U.S. counterpart’s (Dodd Frank Act, 2010) which limits scrutiny and compliance to only a small hand full of isolated countries, viz., the Democratic Republic of Congo and nearby African countries but does not apply to most of the global conflict areas, West Papua included, and do not apply to Freeport’s operations at Grasberg.
Part 7: Concerns of Corruption

US government sees no breaches

Widespread allegations of Freeport corruption relate to possible breaches of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In 2003 Freeport acknowledged it directly paid Indonesian military and police units and officials for protection. In 2005 and 2006, the New York Times disclosed in a series of articles that Freeport had paid US$20 million dollars between 1998 and 2004 for these services including paying one individual US$150,000 dollars, as well as payments using disguised accounting entries to a host of other commanders:

“The records received by The Times listed payments to individual military officers under headings such as “food cost,” “administrative services” and “monthly supplement.”

Current and former employees said that the accounting categories did not reflect what the money was actually used for and that it was likely that much of the money went into the officers’ pockets. The commanders who received the money did not have to sign receipts, said current and former employees.

The records list the commander of the troops in the Freeport-McMoRan area, Lieutenant Colonel Togap Gultom, as being the largest recipient of funds. He declined to be interviewed.

During six months in 2001, the records list him as being given just under $100,000 for “food costs,” and more than $150,000 the next year.

The records also list payments to at least 10 other commanders of a total of more than $350,000 for “food costs” in 2002.

By 2003, following the Enron scandal and passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the United States, which imposed more rigid accounting practices on companies, Freeport-McMoRan began making payments to military and police units instead of individual officers, according to records and current and former employees.” ,

There seems little doubt such payments would be considered illegal in Indonesia according to a former Indonesian attorney general Marsillam Simanjuntak, who said payments directly to individual military or police officials would be illegal under Indonesian law.

Such payments look like bribes paid directly to foreign officials, and would seem to be problematic for Freeport under U.S. law also. Behaving like a quasi state entity, Freeport has revealed itself as complicit in, and enabling of, a brutal and unholy alliance, which for an “ordinary” corporation would seem to qualify as an egregious breach of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. But Freeport not only survives, it continues to thrive in this environment and has never been charged with possible violations of the Act, despite a number of high profile complaints. Indeed, its adroit maneuvering through this precarious terrain is a testimony to its management skills and political connections. The company says the payments are within the law.

In 2005, the New York City comptroller who looks after the city’s five pension funds alleged Freeport McMoRan had made “false or misleading” statements about payments to the Indonesian military and requested the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate the company. U.S. Senator Joseph Biden Jr., the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee also called for an investigation into the company’s payments. He said, “Large payments by Freeport officials directly to individual Indonesian Army officers are highly irregular. It is time for the Justice Department and the Congress thoroughly to investigate Freeport’s business practices in Indonesia.”

Previously, Freeport told the SEC that payments to the Indonesian government were reimbursement for security services provided. However, the comptroller said “the statements amount to a knowingly misleading representation by Freeport,” as there was reportedly no mention of the large payments that Freeport made directly into the bank accounts of multiple Indonesian officials.

The New York City pension funds also raised the issue of direct payments to Indonesian military officials with Freeport since at least 2002 when they requested the company disclose full details of all its payments to the military and police. The requests were rebuffed by Freeport.

Further, in 2011 the United Steelworkers (USW) sent a letter to the DOJ requesting that the department launch an investigation into the company following new disclosures by the Indonesian police that officials had received direct payments from Freeport:

The Indonesian police have recently been quoted in the Indonesian media admitting that they accepted millions of dollars from PT Freeport Indonesia to provide security for the miner’s operations in Papua, Indonesia, and the National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo referred to the payments as “lunch money” paid in addition to state allocated security funding, stating “It was operational funding given directly to the police personnel to help them make ends meet.”

It has also recently been reported in the Australian media that Indonesian human rights group Kontras obtained and released a letter from Papua police saying Freeport paid 1,250,000 rupiah a month [approximately $130] for about 635 police and military personnel, and that the payment would raise the salaries of the security forces by between a quarter and a half.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bans companies from paying foreign officials to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty. We believe that it is reasonable to construe direct payments by PT Freeport Indonesia to police and military personnel providing security for its operations, amounting to a significant fraction of the personnel’s salaries, as a bribe intended to persuade the personnel to act in defense of Freeport-McMoRan’s interests even when those interests conflict with the police and military personnel’s lawful duty to protect Indonesian people, thereby violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

I emailed the USW to ask if they had received a response to their letter from the DOJ. The USW replied to me:

“We received an initial response from the DOJ on April 27, 2012 saying that they reviewed the allegations, but “cannot comment publicly on whether we are pursuing a particular matter.” The letters [from the DOJ] also encouraged us to bring the events of October 10, 2011 [disclosure of the Freeport payments], to the attention of appropriate authorities in Indonesia. That was the last we heard.”

Based on my experience with the DOJ that is the last anyone will hear on the matter. The DOJ will hide behind the Glomar response indefinitely – neither offering confirmation nor denial – then they will bury it. Unfortunately, there have been no official responses from the DOJ or others concerning any of the above complaints, and no prosecutions.

Disturbingly, I heard a Harvard educated lawyer based in Washington DC speak at a mining conference in Cape Town in February 2013 speak to a small group of people in a side room on the topic of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. A central aspect of his talk described how the DOJ aggressively investigates and prosecutes both domestic and foreign companies for breach of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He said the DOJ will aggressively establish U.S. jurisdiction even where companies have no U.S. presence or personnel – and he gave the example of a Swiss company that had transacted in U.S. dollars. The company had no U.S. presence and no U.S. personnel but transacting in U.S. dollars was deemed as sufficient grounds for the DOJ to claim U.S. jurisdiction of the matter.

If U.S. jurisdiction is as readily established as this highly placed and well qualified lawyer described, wouldn’t the wilful killing and torture of indigenous people by the Indonesian military and police, where the responsible government officials are directly funded by Freeport, pose a serious problem for Freeport under US law? When I asked the lawyer about Freeport at the end of his presentation he fell quiet and like a guilty schoolboy, gave only a cryptic, wry smile. Subsequently, he never responded to any of my follow up emails on the question. It is clear that the U.S. government turns a blind eye to breaches deemed to its advantage – an attitude of “exceptionalism” applied to what seems to be irrefutably corrupt circumstances – a moral lassitude that contributes to its eroding credibility and influence around the world.

Freeport defends the payments saying:

“There is no alternative to our reliance on the Indonesian military and police in this regard. The need for this security, the support provided for such security, and the procedures governing such support, as well as decisions regarding our relationships with the Indonesian government and its security institutions, are ordinary business activities.”

Octo Mote, an indigenous leader from West Papuan and a visiting scholar in the genocide studies program at Yale University says this in response:

“All West Papuans want accountability from Freeport about these payments [to the military]. … We don’t want Freeport to give money to our enemy so they can kill our leaders. That’s why we are so concerned about these relationships.”

Court orders: efforts to sue Freeport

The violence surrounding access to Grasberg’s wealth has been extraordinary. How many West Papuans have died as a result of the military backed Indonesian administration of West Papua from 1963 and its subsequent annexation in 1969? UN reports indicate around 100,000 indigenous lives lost, though experts agree the precise number is difficult to estimate. Estimates by church groups and NGO’s claim more than a hundred thousand indigenous lives lost – a cumulative toll from direct military kills and deaths from displacement and deprivation.

Indonesia today is a multiparty democracy but it is still has considerable work to do to strengthen its democratic institutions after decades of totalitarian military dictatorship. According to the US State Department’s human rights report on Indonesia for 2012 the judiciary remains far from independent:

“The law provides for an independent judiciary; however, in practice the judiciary remained susceptible to influence from outside parties, including business interests, politicians, and the security forces. Low salaries and poor oversight continued to encourage acceptance of bribes, and judges were subject to pressure from government authorities and other groups, which appeared to influence the outcome of cases.”

Aside from the decades long Indonesian ban on foreign journalists in West Papua, and even tourists are not generally permitted entry to the province , there have been efforts to block the traditional owners’ access to legal representation and prevent travel to appear at international human rights forums. The highest profile interference involved US human rights attorney Martin J. Regan:

“In September 1996, Indonesian police in Papua deported and blacklisted US-based attorney Martin J. Regan, prohibiting him from meeting in Timika with his clients, Amungme community leaders Tom Beanal and Yosepha Alomang. In addition, according to an August 1996 report from LEMASA, the Indonesian Armed Forces “forcefully took away the claim forms (against Freeport) signed by the indigenous people of Timika for their attorney, Martin Regan, in New Orleans.”

In another incident, in May 1998, Indonesian security forces barred Ms. Alomang from traveling to London, where she was scheduled to speak about human rights abuses and other problems at Freeport to Rio Tinto shareholders and management at the company’s Annual General Meeting.”

It seems partly as a result of this extreme intervention, court cases in Indonesia and the U.S. have achieved little for the indigenous people of West Papua. Furthermore, it would seem by these extreme actions to curtail witness statements that the powers that be have a great deal to hide and fear. At times, under international pressure, low level perpetrators of the Indonesian military abuses have been put on trial. Several low level soldiers were put on trial following the atrocities of 1994-95, four of whom were found guilty, not of murder, but of violating military procedures, and were given relatively light jail terms. Amnesty condemned that trial as a sham and the local tribes’ people said the real eyewitnesses to the atrocities had not been called to testify, but rather, had been excluded by the military from attending the trial.

Two civil lawsuits filed against Freeport in the US covered human rights abuses, personal injury, cultural genocide and environmental degradation. One, a $6 billion dollar law suit launched in federal court in New Orleans in April 1996 by Amungme leader Tom Beanal with over 1,700 plaintiffs with many signed personal testimonies claimed Freeport committed “ecoterrorism” in West Papua and “cultural genocide” among other claims represented by attorney Martin J. Regan. After Beanal discovered he did not have a confidential secure line of communication with his lawyers in the US the case was briefly pulled, before being reinstated.

Beanal’s claims were well articulated and widely publicized. They added to the public relations nightmare that has characterised Freeport’s operations in West Papua since eyewitness allegations surfaced of the company’s involvement in the massacre on Christmas Day in 1994:

Mr Beanal claimed, “[Freeport] maintained a military presence within its mining operation wherein troops of the Republic of Indonesia are fed, transported, paid and provided equipment from the defendants in order to assist its operations … The Indonesian Government is a major shareholder of the PT Freeport Indonesia, an affiliate of the defendants, Freeport, and the defendants’ principle source of corporate income … Defendants’ security guards in conjunction with third parties acting by and through the corporate policy of the defendants have engaged in summary execution, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, disappearances, surveillance and the destruction of property. Said violations have occurred on Freeport buses, within Freeport workshops, at Freeport security command centres, Freeport security stations, Freeport private roadways and containers owned by said corporate defendants”.

The action, however was not successful, on the grounds that the alleged abuses at the Grasberg mine were not violations of the “law of nations”. The decision was appealed and lost in 1999.

The other case, filed in Louisiana where the company was headquartered at the time, by another indigenous leader, Yosefa Alomang, was dismissed in 2000 with the judge ruling the court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the matter (lack of subject matter jurisdiction).

As such, on account of legal technicalities, neither of these cases succeeded to be heard on the merits of its central claims of environmental damage, human rights abuses and genocide.

In 1999, as a sign of how Freeport felt about the gravity of mounting legal threats, and in the context in which mining major, and Grasberg JV partner Rio Tinto, was forced to defend itself against similar allegations of war crimes at nearby Bougainville, Freeport appointed high profile Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald to the Board of Directors and as special counsel on human rights. McDonald was a former judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague, the United Nations law court that dealt with war crimes committed in the Balkans in the 1990s. Reflecting the urgency with which Freeport viewed her appointment, she reported directly to the company chairman Jim Bob Moffett and received high financial incentives for her role, reportedly cashing in on company shares worth US$6.3 million in 2005 alone.

Human rights activists have expressed disappointment with McDonald for joining Freeport, her presence seemingly legitimising the company’s activities. One prominent human rights activist lamented, however, that McDonald’s attitude seems to be that “[if] Freeport weren’t operating in West Papua some other company would be and the situation would be even worse than it is today” Nonetheless, human rights advocates feel this does not justify her attitude that she might as well be the one to take their money and use her influence and experience to loyally shield the Freeport management and board.

Freeport made other efforts in 1999 to present a good face on its human rights record West Papua when it instigated a human rights program based on the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It appointed Dr Daniel Ajamiseba, a Papuan national, to monitor human rights abuses but his small staff was purportedly unable to manage the large volume of violations reported and referrals to the Indonesian Minister responsible for human rights went unanswered.

Notwithstanding the above, the door appears to remain open for foreign plaintiffs to litigate against U.S. corporations in the U.S. accused of human rights and environmental abuses in foreign countries in violation of international law. However, legal opinion is not by any means unanimous in this view, and any attempt to prosecute the company will always need to contend with powerful U.S. political interests. Irrespective, there are alternative jurisdictions for potentially bringing U.S. corporations to trial, including under state law in federal or state courts, for example, or foreign courts.

The reach of US laws

How far afield do US laws reach? The answer is “it depends”. It depends on who, whether they are political allies, and whether US economic and political interests are served. The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, as the Harvard educated, Washington based lawyer who spoke at Indaba explained, the US has prosecuted companies with no evident link to the US other than it transacted in U.S. dollars, which the DOJ claimed gave it jurisdiction – a very tenuous link and for many people a seemingly contrived claim. On the other hand, well documented claims against Freeport have not been pursued by the DOJ, apparently because Freeport serves U.S. economic and political goals and is therefore not able to be prosecuted by the DOJ. Indeed, prosecution of Freeport would require clearance from the State Department to proceed. As barrister Peter Little explains of US courts before proceeding with a case are required to seek state department permission:

the courts obtain opinions from the US Department of State as to the effect a case may have on the United States’ foreign relations and/or policy.

The legal minefield US companies face under these laws thus seem to vanish like a mirage under State Department directives.

The reach and interpretation of one of the highest profile U.S. laws, the Alien Tort Claim Act (ATCA), remains uncertain and its jurisdiction outside the U.S. appears restricted. Nonetheless, ACTA became a perceived threat to US corporations after 1995 when corporations started to be identified as defendants en masse. Under ATCA, foreigners such as indigenous people in Indonesia, were deemed able to sue U.S. corporations for breach of duty in U.S. courts for damages committed outside the U.S.

For example, the intently watched U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2013 that went against the Ogoni people of Nigeria in their lawsuit against Shell on allegations of corporate liability for human rights violations was a disappointment to many people who hoped for greater corporate accountability in the US. However, a Professor of International Law at Yale said after the ruling that all was not necessarily lost. He cited cases like “that filed against U.S. corporation Exxon Mobile by fifteen Indonesian villagers that alleged the company colluded in brutal oppression in violation of the law of nations arguably survive this decision entirely intact” .

However, according to Professor Peter Little, mining companies would be smart to abide by ACTA. He deems any company potentially vulnerable to an ATCA claim if they can answer yes to any one of these three questions:

“1. Do you have any operations in Third World states, whose governments could act in a brutal manner towards its citizens, and if so, are you legally connected with that state?

2. Has the government of a Third World state, where you have a mining or drilling operation, conducted any activities in connection with or in proximity to or in relation to your operation, which would breach international human rights law?

3. Has there been, or likely to be, egregious environmental damage at the mining…site or directly as a result of your mining…operations in a Third World state?”
The vulnerability of U.S. corporations remains in word, if not at present in action, subject to the changing winds of time.

Kissinger hovering in the shadows

Freeport is as much the creation of the US political establishment as Grasberg is of geology and location.

Reflecting the tremendous value of Freeport’s mining interests in West Papua, strong relationships were key to dealing with the corrupt Suharto regime, and the company lined its board and advisory team with US political heavyweights with connections to the highest levels of both the US government in Washington DC and the Indonesian government in Jakarta.

To understand Freeport, it is instructive to look at the high profile people brought in over the years to help it: Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, the former judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague – served Freeport as special counsel on human rights to the Board of Directors; James Woolsey, former director of the CIA – appointed as special advisor; Stapleton Roy – one of several former US ambassadors to Indonesia – appointed to the Freeport board of directors – at one time or another. Multiple former CIA and FBI agents recruited into the company, and US military attaches to Jakarta.

Of all the high ranking U.S. luminaries associated with Freeport over the years, including political, diplomatic, security and military officials, its association with Dr Henry Kissinger, the infamous former US Secretary of State and Nixon confidante, known for his enduring high level connections inside the State Department, the CIA and links to Indonesia stands out. He has had a very long, close association with Freeport, retained as an advisor for decades and director on the company’s board for over ten years.

Kissinger was a key advisor to disgraced former US President Richard Nixon, whose administration presided over an era of American history associated with the use of dark arts at home and abroad, covert American forces active in many corners of the world from Cambodia to Chile; key architect of US foreign policy, a military frequently deployed in secret, dirty wars, and its activities just as frequently misrepresented to the public. It was an administration staffed by a handful of officials of dubious integrity, a cadre of which Kissinger was one of the highest profile, a group with a reputation for surrendering the exercise of responsibility, truthfulness and sound moral judgement to political expediency and personal advantage. In short, Kissinger has presided over tremendous violence during his many years acting in various official capacities for the U.S. government that saw, all too often, gross injustices committed in the name of American foreign policy.

Kissinger’s name crops up in numerous places the US government didn’t want to be seen, typically in the context of atrocities associated with US covert action – the Nixon-Kissinger “shock treatment”: Cambodia and Vietnam; assassination of Allende in Chile, Cyprus, Bangladesh, and East Timor. Now Kissinger’s name is inextricably associated with Freeport in West Papua, a mine in a province repeatedly associated with a heavy cloak of secret state atrocities directed against traditional owners, often attributed to the Indonesian military, with Freeport funding and a spattering of eye witness reports that implicate Freeport directly. He has the unique distinction of being both a Nobel Peace Prize holder and being a wanted war criminal in multiple countries. He is intelligent, an arch manipulator, and by many accounts very good at using these qualities to ruthlessly promote his ego-driven self interest and career.

A Kissinger specialty, it seems, given the unusual prevalence with which his name crops up in matters where US clandestine violence is involved and consistent with his distinguished reputation inside certain preeminent Washington circles as self interested to the point of destruction, motivated by misbegotten vain ambition. Renowned as a brilliant policy architect, and as Secretary of State with control of the CIA, a ruthless policy mastermind of secret killings and wars, passive in the acceptance of destruction and suffering he has inflicted on many innocent lives.

Kissinger was a Director on Freeport McMoran’s board till 12 March 2001 when the company, in an apparent belated attempt to distance itself from him, announced his retirement. His resignation reportedly came 2 days after it became widely known that influential journalist and author Christopher Hitchens was about to publish a book called “The Trial of Henry Kissinger” which documented in remarkable detail the evidence of Kissinger’s extensive malfeasance and called for him to be tried “for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture.”

It is not sufficient for our intelligence agencies to tell us by way of justification, that one of its operatives, or department heads, or Secretaries, has made a choice, an immoral choice, in the name of the country, that they will personally carry the moral burden of their choices so we as governed individuals do not have to. They speak to us in pseudo religious terms, not unlike the way Freeport addresses the indigenous people of West Papua opposed to their mine, and quoting from the bible. The agencies tell us that they have sacrificed for us, made deep personal sacrifices as individuals, knowingly and deliberately, pre-emptively and in secrecy, inflicting unspeakable crimes against others in our name. They act in perverted, self deified delusion, claiming it as a gift to humanity, and the burden of their sins they carry for us, and in return they claim they deserve our gratitude. But all their actions are hidden behind claims of state secrecy, they will not tell us who they have killed or maimed and tortured, or the reasons for doing so, but instead tell us we will be forgiven for our sins of naivete, for presuming they are not to be trusted.

They tell us that we could never understand, that we could never know the extent of their love us, the purity of their motivation to save us from suffering. However, they will only operate in this way only if we permit them privacy to operate in the darkness of night, never explaining themselves or the benefits they bring – only providing proclamations that every good thing we have is because of them. It is only because we are so burdened by our human weaknesses that we cannot see how their crimes serve us! But let the sins they have saved us from and committed in our name, in the pre-text of national interest have its judgement day now, on earth, with each of us able to bear witness, to convey our personal moral duty – through the public courts, in a free media and open civil society gatherings. How their rhetoric has taken on the tone of a medieval church: trust only in us, and we will see to it you are saved, and in return all we want is your obedience and eternal gratitude.

Has Kissinger and America led us to some utopian ideal in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Guatemala, El Salvador, East Timor and West Papua? We, for the most part, hanker for status and recognition, fame and wealth. Leaders vie for status, among peers and the electorate, a downward spiral pursuing ever more hard headed force and violence, each generation in waiting, keen in endeavour to incrementally notch up the next atrocity to prove their intellectual and moral mettle, that they can overcome any moral objection to their actions with a persuasive, if ultimately hollow use of reason: reason justified brutality. In their heads reason and brutality become synonymous. Each entity now bestowing upon the other awards and acknowledgements – including war criminal to war criminal. A Nobel peace price to an alleged war criminal, a member of the victorious team, he has his personal qualities, as he likes to think of them, recognised and amplified by the image makers. Like former Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin winning fixed swimming races against his lieutenants, our leaders, bask in their own constructed images. It is human nature and it feeds on lack of scrutiny, and on peer and public adulation.

As Hitchens argued, if the same principles established during the Nuremberg trials where Nazi war criminals were prosecuted after WWII were applied to American leaders of recent times, many would likely find themselves indicted.

Indeed, in 2011, a leading member of the largest party in the Swiss parliament, Dominique Baettig requested the Justice Minister Barbara Janom-Steiner arrest for war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Henry Kissinger (and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney) if they visited Switzerland for the annual Bilderberg conference in St. Moritz, which they were scheduled to do.

In 2003, in a NYC dinner conversation with Susan, performing her undisclosed role as an undercover FBI agent, she asked me about Henry Kissinger: what I knew of him; what I thought of him; was I aware he was on Freeport’s board. No I didn’t particularly like him, and yes I knew he was on the board.
“Do you think he knows who you are?” she asked.
“No. Why would he know who I was?” I offered marvelling at her question. “I suppose it is possible he may have seen my analyst work on Freeport, along with other analysts reports on the company which may have been distributed to the various directors.”
She asked me whether I had heard about the allegations Kissinger had provided the Soviets with the US negotiating position on the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) disarmament talks after President Ford lost office, ending Kissinger’s term as Secretary of State – a position he held from 1973 to 1977 – as a means to disadvantage his replacement, Cyrus Vance. The diplomatic cables that would provide proof of his betrayal had mysteriously disappeared, so his betrayal has not been proven to date Susan proclaimed. Susan mentioned that most people in the “agency” believed Kissinger had done it, betrayed the US SALT negotiating position and one of his lackey’s stolen the relevant diplomatic cables that would prove it.

One can’t help wonder if his all too evident lack of empathy and care is a sociopathic personality disorder associated with extreme trauma of childhood, a witness to the worst horrors of WWII in Nazi Germany where his family lived and from which he fled, an acute subconscious reaction against an extreme trauma for which the world has paid a second price.

As a Jewish adolescent in Nazi Germany, he fled to the US with his family in 1938 when he was 15. From there he lived through the horrors of the holocaust, his maternal grandparents were killed by the Nazi’s as were other members of his extended family. No one should ever have to experience that, let alone children. And those who did, who lived to witness it up close as Kissinger did, carry the memories and scars for the rest of their lives, the evil and mistrust of human nature cut deep into their psyche. They become prisoners to their thoughts and memories, something they never ever want to relive, or have others re-live. Some who live with personal life tragedies manage to convert their demons to angels and in doing so are redeemed and transformed into truly remarkable people. But for the others, the memory of violence haunts them, and the perpetrators projected into the context of other wars, other situations – no force too great to root them out, no justification to avoid collateral damage of anything that stands in the way. The messianic urge to save humanity from evil is projected onto multiple situations and societies around the world, each confrontation bombarded with violence. Unfortunately, it is here that Kissinger seems at large to unleash his personal battle.

Kissinger may be revered by the American right as a great statesman, but history will not be so forgiving of the military and clandestine campaigns he secretly championed. Kissinger, try as he might, despite his messianic urgings, can never achieve the heights of great social reformers, men of peace like Ghandi, Mandela and Martin Luther King, to America’s detriment. It would have been a better country and a better world if he had been a leader moved by his life history to renounce violence. Somehow, America’s current obsession with realpolitik and playing fast and easy with military led violence seems to be influenced by Kissinger’s legacy in public office and public life – a state craft all but bereft of moral substance, a personal criticism frequently levelled at Kissinger himself.

Part 8: FBI targets Freeport critics

Meeting in Freeport’s boardroom: May 1996

A few months later, during the analyst question time in the company’s boardroom in May 1996, I asked Jim Bob Moffett, Freeport’s Chairman and CEO, a question about the next phase of the US State Department’s investigation into allegations of Freeport’s role in the killings at the Grasberg mine – what were the next steps he expected as per the State Department’s recent announcement that further investigations were underway? The NYT had announced a large US mining company in the US was under investigation for human rights abuses in Indonesia and preliminary report had been completed though not publicly released. Further investigations were underway according to the report. “What can investors expect?” I asked.

Jim Bob paused for a moment, surveyed the room, then commenced a long winded response in a dreary monotone. Looking increasingly annoyed as he went further into the answer he meandered around, aimlessly it seemed, as if he did not know what to say, as though he had not anticipated such a question, nor rehearsed possible answers. He held a steady gaze looking out from his lectern over the boardroom table. He confirmed that the State Department was conducting a human rights investigation of the company and its activities in West Papua and that its investigation was ongoing. Eventually he brought the answer to my question to a close with a terse, strained, and angry “Does anybody else have any questions on this issue?!” as his face twisted to match his emotion.

The 30 or so analysts in the room sat in stunned silence for what seemed like an eternity. We were not used to such awkward, unvarnished and emotional outbursts from a corporate CEO in contrast to the typical congenial, professional exchange with analysts. Eventually, another analyst did put up their hand as if to ask a follow on question and proceeded to ask a question on a completely different topic.

There have been few, albeit high profile outbursts over the years between senior management and analysts from various companies. They are rare, but the most memorable was with Enron after an analyst asked the company why it didn’t publish full financial statements, with the implication the company was trying to hide something. The question prompted a string of expletives, evidently from the CFO, who could be heard in the background to the call cursing the question. The company not long after went into bankruptcy in one of the largest financial fraud cases in US history.

Back in Freeport’s boardroom, Jim Bob continued to preside over the analyst meeting. He was a large, heavy set man, middle aged, with slicked back dark hair and cut an imposing figure as he commanded the meeting as he stood behind his lectern at the head of the table. In his role as chairman he carried an impenetrable confidence, a gravitas born of success, a persona bellied by the sullen responses that seemed to open cracks to reveal a man within compromised and tarnished with shame, bearing the penitence of an unrelenting conscience. His father had been a department store clerk and Jim Bob, university educated as a geologist, was a college football star. Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, he had all the pleasantries and social graces for which southerners are known. He was central to the establishment of Grasberg and analysts on Wall Street attributed his sky high remuneration, in part, to the crucial role he personally played in relations with Indonesia and in maintaining security at the mine. He had learnt Indonesian to facilitate his dealings and standing with the Indonesian elite of the Suharto era dictatorship and now worked with individuals at the highest levels of both Washington and Indonesia.

When the analyst briefing ended, I moved out into the alcove that was attached to the boardroom. It was a light and sun filled area, but a dark shadow was about to fall.

The FBI’s threat came promptly – delivered by their man that had been sitting among the analysts. He came up to me and without disclosing his affiliation to the FBI, threatened me in an icy tone that left no uncertainty as to its ill intent. He was around my age (early 30s) and dressed in a business suit. He blended in with the analyst community perfectly but I did not recall ever having seen him before. He had stood beside me as I spoke briefly with Jim Bob after the meeting exchanging minor comments with the Freeport Chairman and CEO, who seemed shy and demur as we greeted one another in person

As I moved away from Jim Bob, the FBI’s man moved with me. Emerging from my shadow behind me, he stepped squarely into my space and without introducing himself said directly, using my first name, “John, I respect you for asking that question,” referring to my question during the briefing. “But you might wish you hadn’t,” he said poker faced.

Ignoring my own surprise that he knew my name, I replied dryly, “So what, what do I care? What can they do to me?”

His response came forth firmly, though cryptically, “You might not want to find out,” he said. I held his gaze for a moment, searching his face for some sign that might reveal what he meant or that he had something further to add. However, he was inscrutable and remained silent, his tone and look not friendly. It was clear he would add nothing else, and I moved away.

It was a threat in no uncertain terms. More accurately, it was a disclosure. The FBI, the supposed protector of democratic freedoms, law and order, in the US, had just emerged from its hiding place and, like a tarantula moving under the cover of darkness, the FBI was now on the prowl. It was operating undercover and without official declaration. Never conciliatory, and now without compromise or discussion, the FBI was on its front foot, silencing domestic critics in the way only it can, deploying the massive resources and secret reach of the US state.

The report I had written 12 March 1996 and the question to Jim Bob in May that year had been relevant to investors, and could not reasonably be characterised as aggressive. It did raise a sensitive issue, but that is not the same as aggression, and nor was it for the first time, as concerns over Freeport’s activities had, over the years, been published in major world newspapers. Perhaps it was my proximity and access to Freeport’s CEO and investors in the global financial markets via the leverage of Wall Street that gave the authorities the equivalent of anaphylactic shock, a hypersensitive reaction of a susceptible, affected immune system to an otherwise harmless substance.

From here on the FBI would crawl all over me. They had evidently started already, but it seems my question to Jim Bob cemented their resolve, if I am to believe the messenger in Freeport’s alcove. For the first few years the FBI conducted its business targeting me in silence. I was unaware of its activity, unaware of the little tarantula footprints criss-crossing over my face in the dead of night. When I did become aware of it, several years’ later, there seemed nothing I could do to stop it, and their secretive tactics became bolder, more confronting, the attacks more provocative!

It was ironic, that the glowing warmth from the sunshine that streamed through the window in Freeport’s light filled boardroom alcove was so easily pierced by an icy tentacle of tyranny. The boardroom warmth was deceiving, and at least to my mind, it was well acquainted with the cool and dark forces of human nature. It was well associated with the doyen of the right, Henry Kissinger, a key Freeport advisor and board member.

The strange intrusions start

It wasn’t long after receiving the threats in the Freeport boardroom that distinctly odd things started to happen to me, even by New York standards at work and in my personal life.

I had never classified myself as a dissident. An activist on some issues – yes, maybe. A professional – yes. But a dissident? I didn’t even really know what it meant in a US context. Including a volunteer role with the Sierra Club in NYC, signatures on a few petitions and letters to US representatives mostly concerning local and urban environmental matters, my participation in civil society seemed relatively tame.

I grew up in a middle class family and as a young adult I had considered a career in environmental science before deciding to study engineering and later moved into finance. My family background in recent generations has been big business, and before that methodist ministers and farmers, and my distant ancestry dates back to the viking period in Denmark. My grandfather on my father’s side had been knighted for services to Australia, he had been central in building a significant wool services business in Australia, and among other roles was chairman of Tooheys Limited, a major Australian brewery. My father has an MBA from Harvard and ran an industrial company in Australia for many years, and which was an early mover into China in the 1970s. My grandfather on my mother’s side, likewise a Harvard graduate, ran a rocket parts manufacturer in the Midwest of the US.

I had not thought of myself as particularly visible on Wall Street, nor my point of view more generally on various matters holding any great threat to anyone. I was a young analyst, still trying to stake out a position in the industry; not highly visible, not well connected and influential like some of the more experienced analysts on the Street. The lack of a high profile is possibly one of the reasons the FBI chose to target me, as opposed to someone else that might have served their purposes equally well. In their calculus, there was less potential for me to bite back, muster the support of a network; but attacking me still sent a powerful message that intimidated all that were witness to it, including analysts. With every life the FBI targets and ritually deconstructs, it creates a culture subservient to it and in obeisance to the interests of corporate America.

Does it strengthen national security? That would indeed be a dubious assertion on their part but is exactly what they would have you believe. It certainly strengthens the FBI and ASIO’s power, improves Freeport’s short term economic outlook, but what does that do for democracy? Weakens it and undermines the separation of powers it depends on. The market system and capitalism is sufficient reward and punishment for incentivizing desired economic behaviour, and criminal behaviour, like for everyone else, should be left for the legal system to reckon with. One country, one system. This secret, third mechanism of the intelligence agencies, is totalitarian in nature, and corrupting of justice and democracy. It creates a new avenue for getting ahead, for side stepping the system, even rewards criminal conduct in cases. It builds the power base of those trusted with the awesome power of the agencies; but it undermines faith in the power of democratic institutions to be the meaningful bottom line on justice, to separate right from wrong. It corrupts the media, makes a mockery of disclosure, of conflict of interest, tarnishes the courts and justice system, marginalises the politicians and legislature, destroys the boundaries in the separation of powers. The moneyed and connected can appeal to the FBI, and other intelligence agencies for sanctuary, even for assistance in their crimes. This is the point in democracy where liberty departs and fascism takes root.

Multiple critics of Freeport systematically targeted

I am not the only one targeted for speaking out about Freeport. I don’t regret having asked questions about the company’s activities and State Department investigation. But I do lament the aggression and violence of the FBI’s response. What is little known is the role the FBI played during these years to help lower the profile of Freeport’s controversial Grasberg operation and silence discussion in the US, targeting journalists and academics, but also Wall Street analysts and potentially others who spoke out on the matter.

The use of FBI power in this way is all the more disturbing given the agency’s dual role in helping to identify and interview eyewitnesses to the alleged Freeport human rights abuses on location in West Papua supposedly to lay the ground work to assist in potential future prosecutions, but in the context of their efforts to protect Freeport, potentially to quash damaging evidence.

According to a report in the Austin Chronicle by journalist Andrew Duff, seven people, whom he named, had been targeted by Freeport. These people, he said, were issued with letters threatening legal action unless they desisted from making “false and damaging accusations”. Duff’s list comprised journalists Robert Bryce and Daryle Slusher; university professors Steven Feld – a music ethnologist who had spent much time studying the people and tribes of West Papua, Alan Cline, and Robert Boyer; and environmentalists Lori Udall and Bill Bunch.

Journalist Robert Bryce himself, in an article for Mother Jones in 1996, mentioned an additional person threatened by Freeport: Bill Elder, a news anchorman with New Orleans based WWL-TV. Bryce reported that Freeport officials had visited WWL and made veiled threats to sue the station Elder worked for. Elder had earlier accused Freeport CEO Jim Bob Moffett of lying to him on air during an interview about OPIC, and also subsequently accused Freeport of blocking his travel to West Papua by not approving the Indonesian consulate’s request for him to enter – a veto power of right to access West Papua apparently possessed by Freeport.

Freeport’s threats, however, reportedly were not limited only to legal matters. The company also demanded the return of funding, after a series of student protests, from Loyola University in New Orleans where it had funded a chair in environmental communication.

As for myself, I had been struck off the analyst invitation list after my 12 March 1996 report on the company. I had been targeted by Freeport, not with legal action, but with an initial attempt to exclude me as a Wall Street mining analyst from their annual analyst conference which was standard for all mining analysts from mainstream banks to be invited to, and as I had been in the past. Only with persistent requests to their investor relations person was I added back to the list and invited to New Orleans to participate in their annual Wall Street analyst briefing that May. It was there that I was subsequently threatened by the FBI’s man in the alcove to Freeport’s boardroom after my question to the CEO.

What was not known previously was the role the FBI played in protecting Freeport from scrutiny, as a US federal government agency, part of the Department of Justice. Unlike OPIC – the US federal government agency that provides political risk insurance for US corporations – whose activities are in the public domain, the FBI works without disclosure and is protected from public visibility. The FBI was secretly out batting for Freeport, and mustered its awesome resources and vast reach to defend the company. It was a betrayal of public trust, a steely cold betrayal of justice and community values – a betrayal of trust that makes it harder for civil society to hold the company to account. The FBI has threatened and attacked me from every angle since then: social, family, work, privacy, electronic, tracking and recruitment of friends and gross interference in all my social and professional networks – as described elsewhere in this book. Its impact goes beyond my own personal circumstances to chill a wider professional commentary and civil society.

The US intelligence agencies seem to have led reprisals against other Freeport critics in the West; one being professor and author Tim Flannery whom I met after his talk on climate change at the Australian Museum in 2016. As a zoologist, he has spent a lot of time with the indigenous people in West Papua and has many friends there, which he engagingly and fondly recounted in his book Thorwim Way Leg. After the lecture I asked him about the role and impact of Freeport in West Papua, and he ruefully responded that “a lot of dark things are happening up there in West Papua.” He looked pensive, and a tinge of fear crossed his face as he examined me more closely. It was the way I imagine I sometimes react when asked a sharp, incisive personal question from someone who has given me pause to think they are with one of the intelligence agencies. He swallowed awkwardly, paused, anxious and fearful, his eyes suddenly glistened under a veneer of moisture as his brow furrowed and he repeated quietly, solemnly, almost to himself, “it is very dark”. He was humble, and clearly had deep empathy, sincerely affected and opposed to what was happening on a human rights front to the people of West Papua, and to his friends there specifically.

I wondered to what extent Flannery had experienced undisclosed incursions into his life from the agencies – he certainly didn’t seem to be someone playing their game. I endeavoured to share with him my support for his obvious heartfelt empathy with the people of West Papua, and briefly explained my background as a mining analyst and problems I was having with the FBI and ASIO on account of Freeport and West Papua. His heartfelt response to my question stands in stark contrast to the many FBI and ASIO agents I have met who attempt to cover up the abuses there, using tactics I have described elsewhere. They are the mercenaries, the paid hunters who have entered into an unholy bargain with the US government, apologists for Freeport and US policy. He was impressive and he certainly has my support for the work he does, including in West Papua and climate change.

More broadly, critics outside the homeland were targeted too. Obviously indigenous leadership and their communities bore the brunt of the onslaught. They were targeted not only by the company PR machine but also by the military. Whereas Tom Beanal was recruited by the company and appointed as a special advisor, those leaders that remained elusive or defiant received a different treatment. In 2001, Theys Eluay, a prominent advocate of West Papuan independence, was assassinated. Senior Indonesian military officials were implicated in the killing, though only low level soldiers were prosecuted and given light sentences. Indigenous leaders opposed to Indonesian rule frequently meet a violent end at the hands of the Indonesian military and Kopassus – special forces, trained by Western advisers including from the US and Australia – which included throwing them out of helicopters as recounted earlier.

Part 9: Wall Street and Intelligence Agencies

A toxic culture: foreign financial institutions

Back in New York, while the violence escalated in remote West Papua and quietly at home, concerns about Freeport discussed behind closed doors and in hushed tones on Wall Street centred on the company’s potential social and environmental liabilities. Fears that the company’s past may catch up with it one day saw Freeport shunned as a target in the merger and acquisition wave that swept the world copper sector in the mid 1990s. The perceived risks to another company of acquiring Freeport were too great – in financial terms, it was considered a toxic target with an unsustainable business model and massive potential liabilities. Any acquirer of Freeport risked its reputation being dragged through the mud and potential bankruptcy. There was not a single serious suitor, no public announcements, no due diligence, just a wall of avoidance.

Freeport’s critics rightfully claim that US, UK and other foreign lending agencies, and institutions such as Australian commercial banks Westpac and ANZ which were part of the syndicate of banks that debt financed Freeport’s mining activities in West Papua in the 1990s, should demand environmental and social accountability from their clients and in turn provide accountability and transparency to their own shareholders about the companies they are backing and investing in. Without such demands, these banks and others that lend money to finance Freeport’s Grasberg mine appear to have accepted the corrupt business practices that prevailed under Suharto and subsequent governments. Also, the banks that raised equity for Freeport, representing a wide tranche of New York’s investment banks, and the large funds that hold the shares do likewise.

It has been my experience that certain institutions involved with the financing of Freeport, at least senior people employed by those institutions, viz Westpac and ANZ, and also Warburg for example, in the wake of my new found notoriety as a target of the FBI and ASIO, had aligned in collusion with the intelligence agencies. Exploiting pressure points or devising incentives by which to penetrate financial institutions, indeed any organisation, is an easy ask for the intelligence agencies which have the power to covertly recruit any employee at any level within any organisation without disclosure. Indeed, many professionals eagerly jump at the chance to co-operate with the intelligence agencies, in expectation of personal reward.

My experience with ANZ, Westpac, Warburg, DKB as well as other banks, serves as a reminder, and another example, of the close link between bank employees and intelligence agencies and the manner in which they work collusively with each other. The connection between the finance industry and the security agencies is very close indeed, so close that financiers often present an air of mystery, imbued with the secrets and insights they carry from the agencies communication intercepts and human intelligence collection methods, as they freely exchange information about people and projects with the intelligence agencies in a two way flow.

Years’ later, in late 2006, Freeport’s expansion in West Papua and booming metal prices drove its share price sky high, giving it the financial clout needed to make a large acquisition in its own right. Having been shunned for its perceived huge potential human rights and environmental liabilities in mergers of the previous decade, in early 2007 it closed a friendly takeover of the larger US copper behemoth Phelps Dodge for US$25.9 billion – what Forbes described as the flea swallowing the elephant. On completion of the merger, Freeport moved its head office from New Orleans to Phoenix, where Phelps Dodge had been headquartered.

FBI: Crafting the narrative

The FBI’s and Freeport’s intimidation of outspoken domestic critics of the company’s activities in West Papua is only one front on which the battle to control the narrative was fought. There were other fronts on which this battle was waged as well. One such front, documented by human rights activists and academics is the FBI’s manipulation of its investigative findings following the 2002 slayings of two Americans in West Papua near Grasberg which have been well documented and widely reported. Where the facts didn’t suit their political narrative, clear evidence subsequently surfaced that proved the FBI simply rewrote them – they rewrite history – their official documents frequently all that remains to inform current and future generations. Reports and findings doctored, contrary evidence buried, so as to permit the manipulation of the public in the name of US political objectives – in this case to win congressional support for a “new era” of US military sales and military support to Indonesia.

In August 2002, a convoy was ambushed near Timika, West Papua in a ‘terrorist’ attack wounding 8 American’s and killing three school teachers, two American and one Indonesian, from the Freeport school. Following an extended FBI “investigation”, a native West Papuan freedom fighter, Antonius Wamang was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in November 2006. It later emerged in US intelligence documents obtained from the State Department under FOI (details published July 2008 in a report by academic Eben Kirksey and Andreas Harsono) that the Indonesian military was behind the “terrorist” attack, evidence corroborated in key witness statements previously reported by the New York Times in January 2006.

It is now generally held that the Indonesian military staged the attack in an effort to convince Freeport to pay increased military “allowances” and funding for enhanced security around the Grasberg mine; and that the US government turned a blind eye to the military’s involvement so as not to jeopardise renewed military links to Indonesia. The FBI, concluded a report by academics Kirksey and Harsono, was all too willing to oblige this agenda and complicit in the ruse:

“The seemingly simple narrative about terrorism, which was co-produced by the FBI and Indonesian prosecutors, laid the groundwork for bolstering a new military regime in Indonesia. The trial of Wamang set the stage for new military collaboration between the USA and Indonesia.

The ‘objectivity’ of the FBI investigation was in fact compromised. Questions about Indonesian military involvement in the attack were certainly at odds with high-level Bush Administration priorities. Edmund McWilliams, formerly a political secretary for the US Embassy in Jakarta, told us: ‘The FBI investigation, once it was finally launched, proceeded in the constraining political context of an administration policy which was pressing for rapid expansion of US–Indonesian military ties. I personally observed FBI reluctance to accept or pursue information offered to it that pointed to Indonesian military involvement in the killings.’

[O]ur conclusion is that [the FBI] worked closely with the Indonesian authorities to construct a parsimonious and politically viable narrative that fitted parts of the existing evidence. However, both the FBI and Indonesian military investigators seem to have ignored inconvenient truths.”

The history of extreme human rights abuse of the indigenous people of West Papua shows no sign of abatement, though the ferocity of the attacks seems to flare up periodically and die down again like the ebb and flow of the ocean tide.

Unfortunately, the US and other Western governments over the decades, and centuries, show little indication they have advanced beyond a crude calculus in thinking about the trade off between violence against others and wealth accumulated for itself. It is difficult to see Indonesia easing its grip on West Papua ever, let alone as long as US interests, and Freeport’s huge mine, continue to send so much money to Jakarta and Washington. Most confronting may be what it says about ourselves, the voters, with the tacit acceptance of an ideology that permits the crude calculus behind the mistreatment and killing of indigenous people in remote West Papua, while Western interests and money provides enabling support to, and benefits from, the abuse.

Western intelligence agencies: distorting perceptions about West Papua

In recent years I have occasionally had opportunity to discuss West Papua and Freeport with academics and activists – some of whom were undercover agents. Not surprising these led to new insights, namely I realised there is a pervasive and subtle effort of subterfuge by the agencies to undermine debate and impede the message domestically by misrepresenting facts, withholding key information or feigning ignorance.

The agents I spoke to intentionally and systematically deflected questions or distorted contentious issues of Freeport’s activities in West Papua. It is an orchestrated, cynical endeavour to distract and confuse the public. By muddying the waters to the extent that even basic facts appear contested as enumerated below, the public is disempowered from engaging with the issues and consequently unable to form moral or political opposition.

Instead of public opposition, public discussion and debate, the agencies undisclosed agents lobby politicians, as do interested companies’ paid lobbyists, and the public unwittingly is none the wiser, placing its trust in media reports which for the most part relays what comes from Washington, or in the integrity of regulators and oversight agencies.

These are some of the specific tactics exhibited by US agents I have encountered in personal conversation and through the media. For the most part, it is a successful strategy to focus public attention on anything other than the issues in West Papua, and the alleged Freeport human rights and environmental abuses around the Grasberg mine:

1. Fuzzy geography: In talking about Freeport the agents attempt to obfuscate by deliberately confusing West Papua with PNG. “Oh, do you mean PNG?” they exclaim when asked about West Papua. Invariably they revert to talking about PNG – Papua New Guinea, the next door neighbor country with a vaguely similar sounding name to West Papua. But PNG is an independent country, whereas West Papua is part of Indonesia, and is where Freeport operates the Grasberg mine, and where all the American military activity and assistance has been focused.

2. Agents draw attention only to isolated abuse committed against Freeport employees as sole examples of human rights abuses in West Papua. An isolated incident involving the murder of an American teacher and Freeport employee, for example, is invariably mentioned, not the extensive human rights and military led atrocities directed against traditional owners. In emphasising limited incidents against the company, the agents deflect attention from the brutal, systematised and ongoing mass murder of thousands of Melanesian West Papuans.

3. Blame for conflict in West Papua is directed at a turf war between the Indonesian military and police fighting over internal control of the region. The conflict and brutality is portrayed as an internal affair, a rivalry to secure personal lucrative business contracts by members of the different Indonesian agencies, rather than the military backed sovereign land grab that motivated the annexation of West Papua backed by Washington. The US funding and military support for the Indonesian invasion against the interests of the indigenous traditional owners are overlooked.

4. Well documented allegations of Freeport corruption in West Papua are deflected as the agents turn the discussion to historic corrupt practices of a different precursor company to Freeport in West Papua, viz., Freeport Sulphur in the USA. The agents are surprisingly well versed in the transgressions of Freeport Sulphur which they like to talk about but claim no awareness of concerns about Freeport corruption in West Papua or payments to the Indonesian military.

5. Deny any knowledge of powerful US officials associated with Freeport, including Kissinger’s long term role as a company adviser and previous board position (now an alternate Director). Deny knowledge of involvement of a plethora of former US ambassadors, senior military and intelligence agency officers, including appointments to the company directly from the FBI and CIA – and no less than a former director of the CIA, James Woolsey.

6. Feign no knowledge of blacklisting of Freeport shares by large sovereign wealth funds as part of an activist backlash against the company. They deflect the attention from Freeport’s globally scorned environmental record of dumping huge volumes of mill waste directly into the local river system by changing the conversation to other companies in neighboring PNG that have done the same thing, and for which they demonstrate a high degree of awareness and enthusiasm to discuss.

7. Shift the conversation to focus on capital inflow and a seemingly inevitable shift to modernity: citing large infrastructure spend in West Papua with new projects that have materially benefitted some indigenous West Papuans to deflect attention from the brutal methods and impact of human rights abuses against so many other traditional owners.

8. The communist threat to Indonesia in the 1960s is raised as justification for placing West Papua under Indonesian rule in the 1960s. The agents neglect to mention that Indonesia was then a ruthless military dictatorship. They neglect to mention that the West Papuans had been a loyal ally to the US during WWII and that US support of annexation was a ruthless betrayal of that ally. In an effort to deflect attention from the role of the powerful American foreign policy establishment hawks like Henry Kissinger, who supported and helped implement annexation, and who has close personal involvement with Freeport, they blame a corrupt UN rigged plebiscite under which West Papua was annexed; and they blame the presidency of the liberal icon JFK for negotiating such an abhorrent outcome for the West Papuans, not the establishment intelligence agencies and foreign affairs advisors in the state department.

9. Misrepresent abuse as historic phenomena, not an ongoing problem. Agents may discuss historic books written about West Papua, placing focus on decades old anthropological works; feign no knowledge of current political or social works that provide vivid accounts of the ongoing military and environmental impacts to traditional communities in West Papua.

10. Focus on looking forward to the future as a ploy to avoid accountability by those who committed crimes in the past.

11. Lay sole blame on the Indonesian military for the human rights abuses in West Papua. They point out that a third of parliamentary seats in Indonesia are reserved for military appointments and until this changes nothing will really change. Ignores the role played by financial backing from the US, US geopolitical interests, US military equipment and advisers; as well as funding received from Freeport paid directly to the Indonesian armed forces, police and personnel.

12. Aside from pointing blame solely at the Indonesian military, they point to the Indonesian policy of Transmigrasi – the mass relocation of Indonesians of Asian ethnicity from Java and Sumatra to West Papua. Its impact is to displace and marginalise the traditional Melanesian landholders. Again, this is intended to divert the conversation away from the role Western mineral and political interests have played in the oppression of West Papua’s traditional owners and focus attention on a different injustice.

Part 10: Conclusion

Peace for West Papua?

Whatever the future of West Papua, its native citizens have a right to live lives free of military violence and intimidation; free from the brutal, repressive forces that have prevailed over the people there for the past 50 years.

Even if Freeport is well intentioned, as it claims, the existence of the project is not negotiable. The traditional owners and communities have sought redress for the injustices through protest and riots, court action and democratic institutions, all to no avail: Over the years,

“the Amungme and Kamoro chronicled and communicated their concerns and demands in a variety of formal letters, resolutions, public statements, and media interviews. Over the course of their struggle, local landowners have appealed to the Indonesian government, military and civil society institutions, the UN, US courts and policymakers, and directly to Freeport management and shareholders in an effort to be heard and to have their concerns effectively addressed. The fact that their struggle continues, now in its fourth decade, underscores the urgent need for more successful mechanisms for safeguarding the rights of indigenous communities endangered by large-scale mining operations.”

Can there be peace while there is such injustice?

West Papua Project, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, The University of Sydney, political scientist Dr. Jim Elmslie doubts West Papuans will stop aspiring to independence, no matter how low the likelihood of success. Faced with genocide and dispossession, independence seems the only hope for security by many West Papuans, he says.

However, autonomy within Indonesia may be the most the people can hope for. As Dan Murphy writes in the Christian Science Monitor:

“In the end, it’s the military’s business interests, and the financial stakes in Papua, that will ensure it does not follow East Timor [to independence] any time soon, analysts say. While Indonesia could afford to lose an arid province of 700,000 people, the central government is not willing to let one of its major assets go.”

It is time indigenous communities had their rights recognised by the developed world. It is time for a Truth and Reconciliation process for West Papua.

Unfortunately, it seems there is no political will from any powerful country anywhere to intervene on behalf of the people of West Papua. Prime Minister Kalosil of Vanuatu, for example, requested in 2013 during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly that the UN appoint a Special Representative to investigate human rights abuses in West Papua. He stated:

“It is clear from many historical records that the Melanesian people of West Papua were the scapegoat of Cold War politics and were sacrificed to gratify the appetite for the natural resources which this country possess.”

But his request for an investigation has fallen on deaf ears. Even the UN still lacks the political will to intervene to protect the indigenous people of West Papua.

The plight of indigenous people caught in military conflict zones, and specifically those caught up in conflict around modernity’s access to minerals, with domestic and foreign backers funding armed violence to secure resources, deserves much greater public attention: West Papua, Nigeria, DRC and elsewhere.

To date, there has been no real righting of wrongs for the traditional owners of West Papua nor those subjected to FBI abuses to silence word of the atrocities, and justice seems a long way off.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UNHRC documents ASIO abuse of whistleblowers (UNHRC report link below). Despite this, parliamentary inquiry into whistleblowers refuses to accept and release submissions critical of ASIO.

From: John Wilson [mailto:xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx]
Sent: Wednesday, 24 May 2017 11:47 AM
To: ‘xxxxxxxxxxxxx, xxxxxxxx (Senator)’
Subject: FW: Australian parliamentary inquiry into whistleblowers withholds key information from public:

Dear Senator XXXXXXXXXX,

Thank you for your earlier emailed comments. Unfortunately the Committee has again rejected my submission (attached), and has also refused to provide any reasons for doing so.

For your interest, I have provided details of the UNHRC report by Michael Forst (18 Oct 2016) that documents ASIO abuse of whistleblowers (UNHRC report link below, and SMH article attached). In particular I draw your attention to the section on the impact on “Freedom of expression” (below) posed by security laws and note the “chilling effect” ASIO has on whistleblowers across the community.

The intelligence agencies can and do have a detrimental impact on whistleblower freedom of speech and immunity. The Committee overseeing the Australian parliamentary inquiry into whistleblowers (currently underway) appears to be a captive or fake inquiry, with the Committee electing not to accept submissions that reveal the impact of ASIO retribution on whistleblowers (as my submission highlights). Without addressing this critical issue Australian whistleblowers will remain vulnerable to vindictive reprisals by the intelligence agencies no matter how much legislation is enacted to protect them from corporate payback. The Committee’s decision to withhold this information from the public unfortunately misleads the Australian public as to the extent of the risks faced by whistleblowers and also misleads the public as to the quality of the solutions or safeguards being offered by the Committee.

UNHRC report:

Freedom of expression
Freedom of expression and press freedom are not only key elements of a vibrant democracy but also vital components of a healthy civil society. Through exercising free speech, journalists and human rights defenders can ensure free flow of information, inform the public about social matters, and strengthen transparency and accountability in government.
However, during my visit I have observed that new laws and policies have often increased secrecy provisions, particularly in the areas of immigration and national security. Under international law, free speech may only be constrained where it is reasonable, proportionate and necessary, either to protect the rights or reputation of others, or to protect national security, public order or public health.
Human rights defenders and journalists have a right to seek information about governmental activities, and such information should be accessible unless there is specified protection need. Australia however has hundreds of secrecy laws that unnecessarily restrict access to government information. Section 70 of the Crimes Act has a broad prohibition for public servants and contractors to disclose government information in breach of confidentiality obligations, which is punishable with 2 years of imprisonment. Section 79 of the Act criminalizes the receipt of “unauthorized” information, which is of potential concern to journalists.
The Australian Law Reform Commission recommended in 2010 to reduce the scope of secrecy laws so that disclosures are considered to be unlawful if they harm essential public interests. However, the recommendation has not been implemented by the Government. Instead secrecy provisions have been reinforced, including through the controversial Australian Border Force Act. The Act makes it a criminal offence, punishable by two years’ imprisonment, for a broadly-defined “entrusted person” to make record or disclose “protected information”, which was obtained by a person in his/her capacity of “entrusted person”.
Related provisions further threaten human rights defenders, journalists and others who abet, counsel or procure unlawful disclosure.
The cumulative factor of such laws has created significant barriers to legitimate whistleblowing on human rights abuses or misconduct in government activities. It has also led to a worrying trend of pressures exerted by the Government on civil society through intimidation and persecution. I have received credible reports of doctors, child protection officers and even academicians who have suffered.
I am aware of exemptions provided for disclosures required by law or to prevent or lessen a serious threat to individual life or health. There is also limited protection to whistleblowers under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which requires substantive improvements in terms of awareness, training and implementation. It is clear however that many potential whistleblowers will not take the risk of disclosing because of the complexity of the laws, severity and scope of the penalty, and extremely hostile approach by the Government and media to whistleblowers.
Secrecy laws in the area of national security have also been expanded through the adoption of section 35P of the Australian Special Intelligence Operation Act, which bans disclosure of information related to an ASIO “special intelligence operation” with the penalty ranging from five to ten years’ imprisonment. Given the overall secrecy of intelligence operations and without confirmation from ASIO, it is challenging for journalists to determine if an activity of interest would be a special intelligence operation. Due to the high risks, the provision may lead to self-censorship by the media that will take a more cautious approach to reporting on ASIO’s activities.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights advised that the section 35P was not a reasonable, necessary and proportionate limitation on the right to freedom of expression. The Independent National Security Monitor urged the section 35P to be redrafted as it creates a “chilling effect” and uncertainty as to what may be published about the activities of ASIO without fear of prosecution, and that journalists are prohibited from publishing anywhere at any time any information relating to a special intelligence operation, regardless of whether it has any operational or continuing significance and even if it discloses reprehensible conduct by ASIO insiders.
Furthermore, the new national security laws, dealing with a data-retention scheme to retain metadata for two years, have had serious implications for journalists and whistleblowers. They have mandated the stockpiling of huge rafts of metadata of individuals, reportedly giv¬ing law enforcement agencies the means to identify jour¬nalists’ confidential sources. I have heard numerous testimonies from journalists that it has had a cumulatively constraining impact on the Australian media’s freedom to in¬form the public and hold government accountable, as well as has dampened confidence of whistleblowers to engage with the press to that effect.
Access to information is a critical element of freedom of expression. However, there is reported antipathy among some public servants towards the Freedom of Information provisions, due in part to a lack of resources dedicated to meeting FoI applications but also a general fear of what exposure of information may mean. This antagonism is becoming more widespread and increasingly public to the extent that FoI laws are being described as “pernicious”.
Furthermore, human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers filing FoI applications have reported significant challenges in obtaining the requested information. Increasingly, those applications are immediately denied, triggering an appeal process, or delayed up to 3 to 6 months, granted with substantially redacted material or demanded to pay huge costs for the requested information, resulting in non-pursuit of the initial request.
In 2014, the Government introduced the Freedom of Information Amendment (New Arrangements) Bill, proposing the closure of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Due to the inability to get the bill passed in the Senate, the Information Commissioner is still functioning. However since 2015 the organization’s functions of advice, reporting and FOI merits reviews and complaints were redistributed among three other government agencies, the Attorney-General’s Department, Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Ombudsman. Costs of administering the privacy and FOI functions have been shared across those agencies. While, reportedly Australian Human Rights Commission has had to part with around 5,5 million AUD from its annual budget. Despite this, Government senior officials continued to publicly state their intention to abolish the Office of Australian Information Commissioner.
The Government’s approach to freedom of information ranging from lukewarm acceptance to active antipathy is surprising, given its vocal commitment to finalize its membership of the Open Government Partnership by developing a two-year plan of reform commitments consistent with the goals of the Partnership. I reiterate that those goals are aimed at promoting transparency, empowering citizens, fighting corruption and harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance. I urge the Government to adopt a more supportive position to ensuring freedom of information in the country.
– See more at:

Best regards.

Posted in ASIO, corporations and financial services, corruption, human rights, intelligence agency, joint parliamentary committee, national security, Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, Uncategorized, West Papua, whistleblower | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Australian parliamentary inquiry into whistleblower protections refuses to accept submission critical of ASIO. No reason provided.

From: John Wilson [mailto:xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx]
Sent: Monday, 3 April 2017 2:51 PM
To: ‘Committee, Corporations (SEN)’
Subject: RE: Inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors- acknowledgement letter

Hi Dee,

Thank you for your emailed letter to me dated 3 April 2017.

I provided the information you refer to as “correspondence” as a formal submission to the Committee. It was provided not as correspondence, but in compliance with the Terms of Reference of the inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors listed on the parliamentary website at

My submission addresses the following matters that are to be referred to the Commission

c. the most effective ways of integrating whistleblower protection requirements for the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors into Commonwealth law;
e. measures needed to ensure effective access to justice, including legal services, for persons who make or may make disclosures and require access to protection as a whistleblower;
g. the obligations on corporate, not-for-profit and public sector organisations to prepare, publish and apply procedures to support and protect persons who make or may make disclosures, and their liability if they fail to do so or fail to ensure the procedures are followed;
h. the obligations on independent regulatory and law enforcement agencies to ensure the proper protection of whistleblowers and investigation of whistleblower disclosures;
j. any other matters relating to the enhancement of protections and the type and availability of remedies for whistleblowers in the corporate, not-for-profit and public sectors; and
k. any related matters.

I believe other submissions similar in certain aspects have been accepted by the Committee and published. Could you provide further explanation as to why my submission was rejected please.

It is also not clear which aspects of my submission, if any, may be defamatory, however your letter implies aspects of it may be. Please clarify this aspect of your letter to me.

I note the committee redacted names provided in certain submissions, and presumably this approach has been considered for my submission.

I believe my submission raises important issues, satisfies the Terms and Conditions of the Inquiry and I would like it to be published in full. Nonetheless, I am happy to discuss what redactions it may be published with if this is an issue.

Thank you.

Best regards.


John Wilson


From: Oxley, Dee (SEN) [] On Behalf Of Committee, Corporations (SEN)
Sent: Monday, 3 April 2017 1:52 PM
To: ‘John Wilson’
Cc: Committee, Corporations (SEN)
Subject: Inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors- acknowledgement letter


Mr John Wilson


Dear Mr Wilson,
Whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors

At a meeting held on 23 March 2017 by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, the Committee accepted the information you provided to the inquiry on 9 February 2017 as correspondence.

The Committee does not propose to publish your correspondence. Please be aware that this means that publication of the documents you provided is not protected by parliamentary privilege and you should be mindful that any publication of your documents is therefore subject to the usual laws (for example the law regarding defamation).

Should you have any further queries regarding this correspondence, please contact the Committee secretariat on (02) 6277 3583 or by email:

Yours sincerely,

Patrick Hodder
Committee Secretary

Tel: (02) 6277 3583 Fax: (02) 6277 5719 Email:


From: John Wilson [mailto:xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx]
Sent: Wednesday, 24 May 2017 11:42 AM
To: ‘xxxxxxx, xxxxxxxxxx (SEN)’
Cc: ‘Committee, Corporations (SEN)’
Subject: FW: Inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors- acknowledgement letter

Dear Patrick,

Please find attached further correspondence for the Inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors. I would like the Committee to further reconsider formal acceptance of my earlier submission to the Committee dated 9 February 2017 in light of the below details published in the UNHRC report by Michael Forst (18 Oct 2016) that documents ASIO abuse of whistleblowers (UNHRC report link below, and SMH article attached). In particular I draw your attention to the section on the impact on “Freedom of expression” (below) posed by security laws and note the “chilling effect” ASIO has on whistleblowers across the community.

The intelligence agencies can and do have a detrimental impact on whistleblower freedom of speech and immunity. The Committee overseeing the Australian parliamentary inquiry into whistleblowers appears to be electing not to accept submissions that reveal the impact of ASIO retribution on whistleblowers (as my submission highlights). Without addressing this critical issue Australian whistleblowers will remain vulnerable to vindictive reprisals by the intelligence agencies no matter how much legislation is enacted to protect them from corporate payback. The Committee’s decision to withhold this information from the public unfortunately misleads the Australian public as to the extent of the risks faced by whistleblowers and also misleads the public as to the quality of the solutions and safeguards being offered by the Committee.

UNHRC report:
Freedom of expression
Freedom of expression and press freedom are not only key elements of a vibrant democracy but also vital components of a healthy civil society. Through exercising free speech, journalists and human rights defenders can ensure free flow of information, inform the public about social matters, and strengthen transparency and accountability in government.
However, during my visit I have observed that new laws and policies have often increased secrecy provisions, particularly in the areas of immigration and national security. Under international law, free speech may only be constrained where it is reasonable, proportionate and necessary, either to protect the rights or reputation of others, or to protect national security, public order or public health.
Human rights defenders and journalists have a right to seek information about governmental activities, and such information should be accessible unless there is specified protection need. Australia however has hundreds of secrecy laws that unnecessarily restrict access to government information. Section 70 of the Crimes Act has a broad prohibition for public servants and contractors to disclose government information in breach of confidentiality obligations, which is punishable with 2 years of imprisonment. Section 79 of the Act criminalizes the receipt of “unauthorized” information, which is of potential concern to journalists.
The Australian Law Reform Commission recommended in 2010 to reduce the scope of secrecy laws so that disclosures are considered to be unlawful if they harm essential public interests. However, the recommendation has not been implemented by the Government. Instead secrecy provisions have been reinforced, including through the controversial Australian Border Force Act. The Act makes it a criminal offence, punishable by two years’ imprisonment, for a broadly-defined “entrusted person” to make record or disclose “protected information”, which was obtained by a person in his/her capacity of “entrusted person”.
Related provisions further threaten human rights defenders, journalists and others who abet, counsel or procure unlawful disclosure.
The cumulative factor of such laws has created significant barriers to legitimate whistleblowing on human rights abuses or misconduct in government activities. It has also led to a worrying trend of pressures exerted by the Government on civil society through intimidation and persecution. I have received credible reports of doctors, child protection officers and even academicians who have suffered.
I am aware of exemptions provided for disclosures required by law or to prevent or lessen a serious threat to individual life or health. There is also limited protection to whistleblowers under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which requires substantive improvements in terms of awareness, training and implementation. It is clear however that many potential whistleblowers will not take the risk of disclosing because of the complexity of the laws, severity and scope of the penalty, and extremely hostile approach by the Government and media to whistleblowers.
Secrecy laws in the area of national security have also been expanded through the adoption of section 35P of the Australian Special Intelligence Operation Act, which bans disclosure of information related to an ASIO “special intelligence operation” with the penalty ranging from five to ten years’ imprisonment. Given the overall secrecy of intelligence operations and without confirmation from ASIO, it is challenging for journalists to determine if an activity of interest would be a special intelligence operation. Due to the high risks, the provision may lead to self-censorship by the media that will take a more cautious approach to reporting on ASIO’s activities.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights advised that the section 35P was not a reasonable, necessary and proportionate limitation on the right to freedom of expression. The Independent National Security Monitor urged the section 35P to be redrafted as it creates a “chilling effect” and uncertainty as to what may be published about the activities of ASIO without fear of prosecution, and that journalists are prohibited from publishing anywhere at any time any information relating to a special intelligence operation, regardless of whether it has any operational or continuing significance and even if it discloses reprehensible conduct by ASIO insiders.
Furthermore, the new national security laws, dealing with a data-retention scheme to retain metadata for two years, have had serious implications for journalists and whistleblowers. They have mandated the stockpiling of huge rafts of metadata of individuals, reportedly giv¬ing law enforcement agencies the means to identify jour¬nalists’ confidential sources. I have heard numerous testimonies from journalists that it has had a cumulatively constraining impact on the Australian media’s freedom to in¬form the public and hold government accountable, as well as has dampened confidence of whistleblowers to engage with the press to that effect.
Access to information is a critical element of freedom of expression. However, there is reported antipathy among some public servants towards the Freedom of Information provisions, due in part to a lack of resources dedicated to meeting FoI applications but also a general fear of what exposure of information may mean. This antagonism is becoming more widespread and increasingly public to the extent that FoI laws are being described as “pernicious”.
Furthermore, human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers filing FoI applications have reported significant challenges in obtaining the requested information. Increasingly, those applications are immediately denied, triggering an appeal process, or delayed up to 3 to 6 months, granted with substantially redacted material or demanded to pay huge costs for the requested information, resulting in non-pursuit of the initial request.
In 2014, the Government introduced the Freedom of Information Amendment (New Arrangements) Bill, proposing the closure of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Due to the inability to get the bill passed in the Senate, the Information Commissioner is still functioning. However since 2015 the organization’s functions of advice, reporting and FOI merits reviews and complaints were redistributed among three other government agencies, the Attorney-General’s Department, Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Ombudsman. Costs of administering the privacy and FOI functions have been shared across those agencies. While, reportedly Australian Human Rights Commission has had to part with around 5,5 million AUD from its annual budget. Despite this, Government senior officials continued to publicly state their intention to abolish the Office of Australian Information Commissioner.
The Government’s approach to freedom of information ranging from lukewarm acceptance to active antipathy is surprising, given its vocal commitment to finalize its membership of the Open Government Partnership by developing a two-year plan of reform commitments consistent with the goals of the Partnership. I reiterate that those goals are aimed at promoting transparency, empowering citizens, fighting corruption and harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance. I urge the Government to adopt a more supportive position to ensuring freedom of information in the country.
– See more at:

Best regards.

Posted in ASIO, corporations and financial services, Inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors, intelligence agency, joint parliamentary committee, Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, Uncategorized, West Papua, whistleblower | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Captive Parliamentary Committee? Inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors refuses to accept submission critical of ASIO.

John Wilson
PO Box 5030
Greenwich NSW 2065

9 February 2017

Committee Secretary
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

By email:

RE: Inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors

Dear Sir/Madam,

This is a formal submission to your inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors as per terms and references on the Parliament of Australia website at

I contend that establishing effective whistleblower protections in Australia involves understanding the close role the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) plays in leading and co-ordinating retribution against whistleblowers. My submission seeks to provide a brief account of my experience of being treated as a whistleblower by ASIO, and to offer suggestions for protections of whistleblowers in this context.

I believe any whistleblower protections, to be effective, will require legislation that specifically excises whistleblowers from ASIO’s brief; and secondly, oversight of the agency and other Australian intelligence agencies, should be strengthened to ensure protections are observed by the agencies. Specifically, a standing royal commission into the Australian intelligence agencies with broad terms of reference that encompasses the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), ought to be implemented as recommended by Justice Hope – something the agencies resist.

My experience

Briefly outlined below is my experience of being treated as a whistleblower for commentary on a sensitive US corporate matter concerning alleged human rights abuses by US mining company Freeport McMoran in West Papua, Indonesia.

I worked as a mining analyst for SG Warburg (now part of UBS) in New York on Wall Street in the mid 1990s and followed Freeport McMoran as part of my portfolio of company coverage. The company owns the large Grasberg copper and gold mine in West Papua and at the time was under investigation by the US State Department following allegations it was involved in the killing of indigenous protestors there. A research note I wrote and was published by Warburg (attached) touched on the killings and the next thing I knew I had the FBI (and ASIO in Australia) interfering with my life and career. I have had problems with the agencies ever since and have not been able to make any meaningful progress seeking accountability through the established democratic oversight channels – media, legal, and oversight agencies – all deeply infiltrated and blocked by ASIO.

The agencies’ surveillance of, and interference with me and my family since then has been completely intrusive and unreasonable. I have been blacklisted and intensely bullied – the result, I believe, of being labelled as a whistleblower.

I have approached the main oversight agency for ASIO, IGIS on multiple occasions but found its treatment of my case inconsistent, weak and misleading, and its treatment towards me, evasive. Not once has IGIS offered to interview me, nor has it approached any of the witnesses I put forward. Its behaviour and response to my complaint about ASIO is consistent with that of a captive regulator – one that acts foremost to protect the reputation of the agency it oversights, and not as it is mandated to do, which is serve in the primary interest of justice to protect individual citizens unfairly targeted or abused. I have had no satisfaction corresponding with IGIS, nor in taking other steps through various official channels to resolve the matter. I have had three one hour meetings with former AG Philip Ruddock in the past few years to discuss this issue, but without results.

I have also attached a speech by my then MP Tanya Plibersek who raised my concerns in parliament and a single article by Richard Ackland in the Sydney Morning Herald (26 February 2010) “Secrecy is a denial of our rights”. Of note, Ackland’s article contained a significant error that was to ASIO’s benefit – it said the information I had published in my note on Freeport McMoran had been provided to me in secret documents that somehow I had managed to obtain. This was an assumption, and it was wrong. I never received any documents and I had never indicated otherwise. It is not clear if the error was intentional or not, though it seems unlikely to have been accidental, or whether it was subsequently introduced by an editor or someone else, but it had the impact of falsely reassuring readers that the intelligence agencies only go after someone in unusual circumstances – if you receive a trove of classified documents for example. But this is absolutely not the case. I received no documents.

I have no rights to know on what assumptions ASIO or IGIS are operating as everything is done in secret.

Finding even my appointed lawyers interfered with, the media tainted or controlled, and IGIS unreliable and unresponsive, what means do people in my situation have to protect themselves from egregious intelligence community conduct? With a sense of futility at other options, I turned to social media and started an issues focused blog:

Justice Hope recommended 30 years’ ago that there be a standing royal commission into the Australian intelligence agencies that encompasses IGIS, to keep IGIS fully accountable and keep policy makers well informed as to what the intelligence agencies are actually doing – but his recommendation was never implemented. As such, there is a large gap in the justice system. People with credible and reasonable complaints about ASIO, including whistleblowers, have no way of having those claims independently investigated. Never before has so little been known about the activities, capability and mission of our intelligence community. Never before have the penalties been so great for whistleblowers and media that reveal any information about agency activities, including historic activities. Secrecy on reporting of their activities has been tightened, a media blackout legislated on all activities current and past, and penalties increased for media violations and whistleblowers with 10 year prison terms. At the same time as the crackdown on transparency, agency budgets have greatly expanded and technological capability and power to intervene in the lives of citizens increased dramatically with ever more powerful computers, improvements in telecommunications and new secretive alliances with offshore partners, both commercial and state. The scope for abuse is huge, and it is easy for the agencies to act outside their mandate with impunity.

Ian Barker, QC a prominent Australian lawyer proclaimed his frustration with the abuses of ASIO and by corollary the lack of credible oversight, commenting:

“Any defence lawyer having anything to do with a case involving ASIO will know that its agents habitually act outside their powers and routinely abuse them, always in secret. It is rare indeed for their conduct to be exposed.”

ASIO as a threat: protection of the “status quo” is in direct conflict with whistleblower protections

Below, I outline reasons the committee members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors, and the Australian public, should be concerned that ASIO is illegitimately and secretly targeting whistleblowers.

This risk posed by ASIO to whistleblowers threatens every Australian. The more power ASIO has the greater that risk becomes and the more need there is for new, effective oversight methods. Any and every whistleblower in Australia faces fear and uncertainty concerning censorship and retaliation at the hands of our intelligence agencies. I draw your attention to an article from the Sydney Morning Herald (18 October 2016) “‘Fear, censorship and retaliation’: United Nations rapporteur slams Australia’s human rights record” and excerpt below concerning Australia’s intelligence agency abuses of whistleblowers, among others, as identified by a recent scathing United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report:

“Australia lacks adequate protections for human rights defenders and has created “an atmosphere of fear, censorship and retaliation” among activists, according to a United Nations special rapporteur. Michel Forst, who released an end-of-mission statement on Tuesday after a fortnight in Australia, said he was “astonished” by numerous measures heaping “enormous pressure” on public servants, whistleblowers and ordinary citizens.

Many Australians are forced to live with ASIO interference and harassment that adversely impacts our lives, family, social interactions and livelihoods through tactics that include the targeted placement of agents, or recruitment of colleagues and friends as informants and collaborators, in our place of work, and social and extended family circles. It is a tactic, among others that include intimidating surveillance and loss of privacy, used effectively to destabilise and disrupt the course of targets’ lives.

There are many cases of the intelligence agencies treating whistleblowers as threats, evidently harmful to “relations”, “national security” or the “status quo”, and adding them to their programs to crush or control domestic dissent in Australia. There are no means to address, or even find out what issues or actions ASIO qualifies as dissent. Therefore, whistleblowers are at risk of state retribution at the hands of ASIO because of the arbitrary and changing distinctions made by ASIO in secret about which “relationships” it protects and its reasons for doing so, and what it considers to be “national security” and the “status quo”.

Phillip Boulten SC who I spoke with and Julian Burnside QC, lawyers experienced in dealing with Australian intelligence agencies, have stated that a large range of matters in Australia, in practice, involve ASIO due to the broad interpretation the agencies apply to the term “national security”.

Julian Burnside, QC states in relation to ASIO legislation:

“National security is defined in a way which takes it way beyond what most people would understand by the term. ‘National security’ is defined to mean: ‘Australia’s defence, security, international relations or law enforcement interest’… International relations is defined to mean political, military, and economic relations with foreign governments and international organisations.”

As such, my matter, in their opinion, is one ASIO could be involved in – since it touches on US corporate interests. No further justification is needed. Julian Burnside’s definition makes clear, and which accords with my personal experience, the intelligence agencies of the Five-Eye’s alliance closely protect American business interests, like Freeport McMoran’s in West Papua, even where those interests involve highly contentious operating practices which would never be tolerated in a “first world” country or by a free people.

In 2014, the then Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who has direct responsibility for IGIS, and therefore the conduct of the Australian intelligence community, said that through the intelligence agencies “Australia should do what we can to protect our citizens, to help our friends and to advance our values.” Helping friends and advancing values goes way beyond what most people would understand and accept “national security” to mean – yet here is probably the clearest explanation of what our agencies in practice actually do. There is no elaboration regards whose friends and which individuals are being helped and whether these are domestic or foreign, corporate or political; no mention of whose values – nor how they prioritise trade-offs between social, environmental, political, religious, economic and other values.

ASIO states its primary objective is protecting “national security”, but it brings under that definition whomever it wants to pursue. Whistleblowers, in particular, should be alarmed.

It seems the agencies working definition of whistleblower is very broad, defined to include opinion leaders that speak “off-message”, or people that expose corruption or release details of human rights, environmental, financial or social abuses of corporations and other entities: these people are being silenced and punished unjustly by the intelligence agencies.

Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO files : a book edited by Meredith Burgmann contains details of individuals recalling the contents of their ASIO files, released to the National Archives of Australia (NAA) after the then mandatory 30 year holding period. Burgmann is an academic and former parliamentarian; her book helps the public understand the culture of ASIO, and its methods of twisting, extending or ignoring its stated targeting priorities to pursue anyone who influences civil society or government policy. The files reveal a number of common elements, all denied by ASIO, the Attorney General and IGIS: ASIO systematically targets people who are not a threat to “national security” as ordinarily understood, or a threat to other objectives publicly prioritised by ASIO. Many of ASIO’s targets are simply good communicators, or “engineers of social progress” including women’s liberation activists, anti Vietnam War, anti-apartheid, civil rights, pro-abortion, aboriginal land rights, prison reform and gay rights; some of the many causes in civil society which enjoyed broad public support but which were not backed by government policy of the day.

The risk ASIO poses to whistleblowers is further seen by reference to the National Archives of Australia (NAA) website. This contains the content of ASIO targets’ files that are publicly available, the nature of which, building on Burgmann’s book, gives a clear picture of what in practice “national security” means with the NAA providing specific civil society examples of the type of reasons that ASIO uses to justify surveillance and maintain files on Australians. The reasons are chillingly trivial in cases and include: “…membership or involvement in political association, participation in demonstrations, association with other persons under surveillance.” Members of literary groups and writers are also mentioned. “The National Archives in Canberra holds ASIO files on several Australian literary groups and a large number of Australian writers.”

The picture that emerges from the accounts in Burgmann’s book, the NAA, and my own experience, is the intelligence agencies are in the service of protecting and maintaining the “status quo” – which whistleblowers often threaten. As a result, a broad cross-section of Australians are vulnerable to ASIO interference.

In summary, my submissions contends that the Australian intelligence community, in particular ASIO, targets whistleblowers. To offer effective protection, legislation needs to be amended relating to all Australian intelligence agencies, and in particular ASIO, to specifically provide protection for whistleblowers. Further, a standing royal commission into the Australian intelligence agencies with broad terms of reference and that encompasses IGIS, ought to be implemented as recommended by Justice Hope in the interest of protecting the Australian public, and in particular, Australian whistleblowers.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. John Wilson

Posted in ASIO, corporations and financial services, Inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors, intelligence agency, national security, Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, Uncategorized, West Papua, whistleblower | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Australian parliamentary inquiry into whistleblowers withholds key submissions from public:

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Posted in ASIO, corporations and financial services, corruption, dissident, human rights, Inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors, intelligence agency, joint parliamentary committee, national security, Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, Uncategorized, whistleblower | Leave a comment

The FBX Blog: The FBI (and ASIO) stole my girlfirend [updated Feb 2015]

The following memoirs are based on the author’s records and recollection of the events depicted. The author has taken all reasonable steps to verify his recollection against contemporaneous records. It is, however, possible that he has misremembered or misinterpreted some events. Dialogue may be paraphrasing of actual conversation. The author would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers matters differently with a view to correcting any errors or omissions. The author has asserted his moral right to be identified as the author of this work. Copyright 2015 by Mininganalyst. All rights reserved.

This material is being released as work in progress in draft form that is evolving, will be updated and extended over the coming year or so and once completed will be published as a book. The material has not yet been edited.

This story starts with what the US (and Australian) intelligence agencies did to me, a Wall Street mining analyst at the time, and my long term girlfriend while we were living and working in New York. It is set against the background of the killings of indigenous protestors at the massive Freeport McMoran Grasberg mine in West Papua, Indonesia and subsequent human rights investigations. The intelligence agencies have been actively interfering in my life ever since, now nearly 18 years’ later, using their vast powers of surveillance and the dark arts to send a chilling message to others that might speak out.

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Table of Contents

Section 1: A mining analyst in New York. 6

Overview.. 6

Dissidents on Wall Street 6

Meeting with the FBI and Freeport 9

Section 2: Getting to know some American intelligence agents. 10

Vetted by girlfriend’s superior at the FBI. 10

Life with the FBI: A twisted knot of disclosure and denial 11

Threats and interference from the FBI. 19

The FBI: Steve Garber. 21

The FBI turns cannibalistic – targets Susan to get to me. 24

New insights into the FBI: interference extended. 27

The FBI attempts to recruit me. 30

Section 3: An extended summer in the American West 33

Camping in the American wilderness. 33

Rewriting history – a rafting trip down the Colorado: 39

Return to New York and a new job: September 1997. 44

Section 4: The FBI (and ASIO) stole my girlfriend. 46

The FBI gives my girlfriend my FBI files. 46

Taking refuge in Australia. 47

FBI interference extended: ASIO co-opted. 48

The FBI in Central Park: a special walk with agent Steve Garber. 50

Section 5: Mining in the Jungles of West Papua. 52

The confluence of Titans: the USA and Freeport. Riots and human rights. 52

Further reported eye witness accounts. 56

Militarised mining and foreign financial institutions. 58

Section 6: Western intelligence agencies out of control 61

The slow death of democracy. 61

Hijacked: “America has no functioning democracy at this moment”. 63

FBI oversight hollowed out: my experience seeking accountability. 68

Down the rabbit hole with dissidents and asylum seekers. 72

Separation of Powers. 74

Dodgy Dossiers. 75

The Banyan Tree: A model of intelligence agency domestic subversion. 78

The European scourge. 80

Section 7: Australia’s tryst with tyranny. 82

Australia: A US test market for authoritarian conversion?. 82

Australian experience: ASIO interference with lawyers. 84

Section 8: My experience with the media. 88

Overview.. 88

A personal account: meetings with the Fourth Estate. 88

The media and Elected Representatives. 90

Reprisals against my Sydney MP Tanya Plibersek. 91

Threats to the Commonwealth attorney general’s office. 92

Former Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, MP.. 94

First meeting with Ruddock – December 2011: 95

Second meeting with Ruddock – April 2012: 96

Third meeting with Ruddock – May 2013: 97

Conclusion. 99

Section 9: Conclusion. 101

Where to now? Life in Australia, Freeport and the FBI. 101

Postscript: FBI and ASIO agents named. 104


Section 1: A mining analyst in New York


There is no hard and firm definition of what makes someone a dissident in the US, no red line one crosses on the journey as a regular citizen to becoming a political target of the state. But once that line is crossed, one is sanctioned, “kneecapped”, the silent, democratic way, in secret, isolated and cast aside socially and economically as effectively as if renditioned to a remote halfway house enroute to a gulag archipelago somewhere in Siberia.

In my case, I found where the line is drawn after publication of a standard work report to global fund managers and analysts that touched on the US mining company Freeport McMoran Grasberg mine killings in West Papua in the mid 1990s – killings written about by the New York Times. I thought the report could possibly meet with professional rebuke from within the corporate hierarchy and a chance I would lose my job if the world were truly corrupt, but that proved to be a gross understatement. The actual response it drew was considerably more vicious. I had not envisaged the full-on onslaught the US and their allied foreign intelligence agencies were inclined to launch against a regular citizen, led by the FBI.

It was hard to believe this was happening to me, though it is not about me per se; it is about American power and the disturbing way it is deployed. What happened to me could happen to any young professional doing their job if they come up against people in power who have something to hide.

Dr Steve Garber’s disclosure to me was in the days before mass social media networking and the FBI assumed this story would never be heard.


Dissidents on Wall Street

At the time, I was a young mining analyst, with a recent Wharton MBA working in the New York equity research division of SG Warburg (now part of UBS). One of my research reports (published 12 March 1996: FCX analyst report) had raised the issue of US mining company Freeport McMoran which was under investigation by the US Department of State following widely reported eyewitness allegations it was involved in the killing of indigenous protestors at its massive Grasberg gold and copper mine in remote West Papua, Indonesia.

The research report I wrote on Wall Street dated 12 March 1996 followed international media reports of further killings and strike activity at the Grasberg mine. The 1994 Christmas Day massacre in which 7 people were killed, and which was widely reported in the world media, represented just a small portion of the 37 indigenous protesters reported killed in the vicinity of the mine in 1994 and 1995.

Below is a paragraph from the 12 March 1996 report:

“Our view is that increased military presence poses potential for escalation of the violence in the mid term, heightening the political risk of Freeport’s investment in Irian Jaya. Ultimately, Freeport needs to deal with the civil aspects of this situation to allay investors concerns, and possibly also those of the US Department of State. The timing is unfortunate for Freeport as it coincides with the arbitration over whether $100 million in OPIC political risk insurance should be rescinded. The company has increasingly come under scrutiny following reported human rights abuses in the area of the mine and also concerns over its environmental record. The latter was cited by OPIC last November as the basis for withdrawing the $100 million in insurance.”

The report touched on the Grasberg killings and environmental concerns and indicated a civil rather than military solution was preferable in resolving labour disputes at Grasberg. In the scheme of things it was a relatively mild rebuke, but the extremity of the response of the authorities shows how sensitive they were, and remain, to the issues. With people like Henry Kissinger a former US secretary of state on the board, former American Ambassadors to Indonesia, military advisers and company security department staffed with former US military personnel, CIA and FBI agents – the company seemed to appreciate its tenuous position on the political and security fronts.

The mere mention of Freeport in the context of human rights and environmental abuses raised the company’s profile with investors in a way that had potential to create a negative financial backlash against it. Indeed, over the years, substantial investment funds have dumped their holding in Freeport on ethical concerns about the company’s activities, including the large Government Pension Fund of Norway which dumped and blacklisted Freeport’s shares in 2006 amid global publicity. Other government funds to blacklist Freeport shares include New Zealand (2012) and Sweden (2013).

The project has had a long history of killings continuing up to the present (2013) with many hundreds of deaths documented by human rights agencies. In 1994, the brutality seemed to be spiralling out of control with seven indigenous protestors shot and killed in a short period around Christmas Day. Some of the protestors were reportedly killed at point blank range, inside steel shipping containers on Freeport property. For a sensitive topic it received unusually wide publicity and the US State Department had taken the unusual step of launching a formal investigation.

However, Freeport’s problems weren’t limited to eyewitness allegations of company personnel being directly involved in human rights abuses (click), a notion “reinforced by overwhelming evidence” provided in two independent human rights reports in 1995 (ACFOA, and the Catholic Church). The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a US government agency that supports US investment offshore, in a letter dated 10 October 1995 cancelled its US$100 million political risk insurance to Freeport citing environmental degradation. In setting out its reasons for doing so, OPIC implied the company had misled both it and the market on its environmental record.

Indeed, it appeared Freeport was increasingly apprehensive about the prospects of a backlash and potential for shareholders (some with very deep pockets) to launch a lawsuit against the company for misrepresentation of its activities in West Papua. The last thing, it seemed, the FBI and Freeport wanted was Wall Street analysts to factor these issues into their valuations and publish details that are sent directly to fund managers around the world, despite commentary by the wider media within the US.

Little is known of the Indonesian province of West Papua located on the western half of the island of New Guinea, just north of Australia. Indeed many people confuse it with the adjacent independent country of Papua New Guinea (PNG) which is located on the eastern half of the same island. West Papua has been the subject of an official media blackout by the Indonesian government since its military invaded in 1962. It was not till the advent of the internet in the early 1990s that word of the plight of the indigenous people and the atrocities inflicted on them reached the rest of the world, including the shocking reports of the 1994-95 massacre.

The FBI and Freeport were nervous about the impact of this shift in media influence and the obvious potential for serious political and financial market backlash against the company – including in NY, where the financial community played a key role in the financing of Freeport’s activities.

The human rights abuses committed against the indigenous people of West Papua are extensive and include arbitrary detention, torture, rape and extra-judicial killings. Transmigration is also an insidious part of West Papuan history under Indonesian rule – an Indonesian government policy whereby large numbers of people, mostly ethnic Asians, from other parts of Indonesia are relocated to West Papua on a scale that makes the original Melanesian inhabitants minorities in the province and which has prompted claims of genocide (including a report by Yale Law School)[1]. Further, the new arrivals historically have received benefits and opportunities not available to the indigenous people.

In 2003 Freeport publicly acknowledged it had been directly paying Indonesian military and police units and officials who were involved in maintaining security around the mine. As disturbing as the payments themselves was the startling scale of the amounts of money involved. In 2005, the New York Times reported that the company had paid US$20 million between 1998 and 2004 for these services including paying one individual US$150,000. The size of the payments to the military and police appear to have increased significantly over time: Freeport’s SEC filings, for example, indicate spending on internal civilian security in 2011 was US$37 million plus an additional US$14 million paid directly to the Indonesian government and military – a total of US$51 million spent in relation to Grasberg – just in 2011 alone. It seems surprising that these payments pass muster with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and are not in breach of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which the US government aggressively enforces against foreign corporations. Indeed the US United Steelworkers union in 2011 asked the DOJ to investigate Freeport’s payments but never heard back on the matter.

Indeed, Freeport CEO Jim-Bob Moffett reported security matters relating to the mine as the “new cold war”, and said there was “no alternative to our reliance on the Indonesian military and police…”. Anthropologist and academic Hugh Brody poignantly referred to the large sums of money and Freeport’s close links to the Indonesian military as the “militarization of mining” in an article published in 2011 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Indonesian occupation of West Papua.

With the killings of 1994-96 attracting worldwide attention, Freeport’s public relations machine went into overdrive. It paid for a full page ad in the New York Times, made an infomercial, threatened to sue journalists and academics covering the matter and withdraw a financial donation made by the company to endow a chair in environmental communications at the local Loyola University in New Orleans.

 But what is little known, and never reported is the role the FBI played during this time to lower the profile of Freeport’s controversial Grasberg operation and silence discussion in the US that included targeting Wall Street analysts.

The use of FBI power in this way is all the more disturbing given the agency’s dual role in helping to identify and interview eyewitnesses to the alleged Freeport human rights abuses on location in West Papua. (Alleged human rights abuses were never proven in relation to Freeport in U.S. courts.)

The killings in West Papua of indigenous people have continued to the present day with recent activity attributed to the Indonesian military.

 Meeting with the FBI and Freeport

In response to the analyst report and question I asked during a Wall Street analysts’ briefing a couple months later in Freeport’s boardroom, the FBI’s threat came promptly – delivered by their man who had been sitting among the analysts in Freeport’s New Orleans’ boardroom where CEO James (Jim Bob) Moffett had just conducted the annual Wall Street analyst briefing and Q&A. It was May 1996, and my brief report had gone out to fund managers two months before.

The FBI’s man came up to me and threatened me in an icy tone that left no uncertainty as to its ill intent. He was around my age (early 30s) and dressed in a business suit. He had stood beside me as I spoke briefly with the CEO after the meeting and in which I had asked a question about the State Department’s ongoing investigation into the killings, key details of which had been reported, from recollection, in the NYT just prior to my report coming out.

As I started to move away from the CEO and out of the boardroom alcove, the FBI’s man moved with me. Emerging from my shadow, he stepped squarely into my space and without introducing himself said directly, using my first name, “…I respect you for asking that question but you might wish you hadn’t,” referring to my question to the CEO during the briefing.

I replied, “So what, what do I care? What can they do to me?”

He said, “You might not want to find out”. I held his gaze for a moment and then moved away. It was a threat in no uncertain terms. More accurately, it was an absolute decree, a disclosure from which there was no turning back. It was as if a nest of tarantulas had awoken; the FBI and its agents, the supposed protector of democratic freedoms in the US, had emerged from their dark cover and were on the prowl.

At the time the FBI and ASIO campaign commenced I was young, 33 years old – on the cusp of establishing a career and on the verge of committing to a life partner with the intention of having a family. I was still new to Wall Street, a relatively unknown analyst with limited influence which made me an easy target. Certainly I had no connections into the political world at a level that could be called upon to pull strings and potentially haul the FBI into line on this issue. With former secretary of state Henry Kissinger (of Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor, Chile and Nixon era fame) on the board, former US Ambassadors to Indonesia advising the company, and the US heavily involved in supplying and supporting Indonesia’s military, the company’s interests seemed well protected in Washington.

Section 2: Getting to know some American intelligence agents

Vetted by girlfriend’s superior at the FBI

Autumn 1994: Within the seed of all things lies their destruction. And the relationship with my girlfriend Susan was no different. In 1994, shortly after we started going out, she introduced me to Steve Garber, someone she said was a friend of hers, a naturalist with an interest in reptiles, a subject in which I had an interest. Only years later did I find out that this was actually not the case. In fact, he was her ranking officer at the FBI and he wanted to meet me. It was 18 months before a research report I was to publish at work on US mining company Freeport McMoran was to draw me formally into the FBI’s orbit and after which I would get to know Steve Garber much better, as the agent case managing my payback.

Susan said to me that Steve had suggested the three of us go for a hike one weekend to look for reptiles, something I had had a childhood interest in, which we did. Steve was a herpetologist (an expert in reptiles and amphibians) and had done a doctorate studying a local species of turtle.

It was autumn 1994, and we drove out to Harriman State Park, a large expanse of forested reserve about an hour from Manhattan. It was mid morning by the time we arrived, and embarked on a 3 or 4 hour walk. Early on, Steve’s questions turned to his unannounced agenda for our being together that day. He asked me a few sharp questions with an abruptness and firmness of authority that was not in keeping with the purported social setting. Out of the blue he asked me to list the type of snake toxins with which I was familiar. He then asked me a rather more disturbing question – to whom had I told that I was going out on this walk that day and had I told anyone where I was going? It was an early introduction to the FBI personality archetype: arrogant, threatening and intimidating.

It was a pleasant, sunny day. I had enjoyed walking through the forest, along the edge of streams and through a small swamp. We saw a chipmunk frozen on a log – a close inspection revealed a highly camouflaged large snake on the same log nearly within striking range, before our distracting presence gave it a chance to run off. We saw a lot of other reptiles, many types of lizards and snakes – a good representation of the area’s herpetofauna, as well as birds – success in the minds of both an amateur and professional herpetologist! Nonetheless, when I was dropped off to my apartment in the city late that afternoon, I had the feeling I had just met a terrible, evil adversary. A dark cloud filled my psyche. It was visceral and overwhelming, a strange, unusual sensation where the emotion was tangible but its cause was not. Indeed it was a bleak omen that was to prove correct, revealing its full meaning only later, unfolding over many years. It was as if I had just come into contact with some mysterious ancient totem hidden deep in my mind that could see into the future and was sending me a warning. Unfortunately, I had no idea at the time what it meant or what its significance might be.

The unstated purpose of our walk had been to give Steve an informal opportunity to test and vet me – counterintelligence at the FBI – something to do with Susan’s previous work assignments for the FBI it seems in hindsight. It isn’t entirely clear why, the reason was never divulged. Perhaps because I am an Australian (dual citizen – Australian/American), and Susan had spent time overseas for a while (though in Ireland not Australia). Perhaps I was being vetted on account of some other assignment she had worked on, or maybe the FBI just vets all their agents ongoing love interests as a precaution! The FBI is not the most efficient organisation – it has a massive budget for its legitimate activities but it also channels funding into its very active and not so legitimate involvement in civil society, and therefore I was not surprised to see that it would allocate its resources in this way!

Life with the FBI: A twisted knot of disclosure and denial

Evidently I had passed the FBI’s vetting. Not long after the walk with Steve Garber, maybe a few days, Susan showed me her FBI ID card. I didn’t have a good understanding of what the FBI did, its culture, recruits, and dual mandates. Set-up as a federal policing body, Hoover had also positioned the FBI to take control of a wide range of political targets or other opponents of the powerful and those with vested interests through blackmail, and a variety of well tested dirty tricks. It is notoriously difficult for political masters to keep the FBI on straight and narrow, partly for the reason that the politicians themselves are frequently targeted by the FBI’s control tactics using dirty tricks. It is not an organisation I care much for, I certainly didn’t want to get close to it, either as one of its agents or as a target.


What is certain is that the FBI had no interest in me at that time beyond vetting me as Susan’s partner. She was not a honey trap and I was not a target; our discussions about her work at the FBI, disclosures and confessions make this clear. This all changed though a year and a half later after publication of the Freeport note which triggered the FBI’s interference with me.


When Susan first told me she worked for the FBI my immediate reaction was one of dismay, you must be kidding! I thought hopefully.


I had the instantaneous thought rush through my mind, I want nothing to do with it or with you. Please may it not be true. I saw her, in an instant, as a gateway into the dark void of a totalitarian dystopia. Unfortunately, it was an intuition that came chillingly true. She seemed to have everything else going for her, I wondered perplexed, why would she want to work for the FBI? Suddenly, in terms of our relationship, a chasm loomed before us.


What sort of people want to work for the FBI – hasn’t everyone read Orwell? Why would someone choose to work there? Why do people select the careers they do; what does it say about their personal talents and aspirations given the alternative possibilities? Why would Susan choose to work for an oppressive secret police – surely there was no one that didn’t know the FBI had a reputation and documented history of abuse, especially political abuse of ordinary Americans – and any contemplating working there must have known they would have to be involved with this – perpetuating illegal state activities against their fellow citizens. Is it a James Bond syndrome? Of course crime fighting is noble but what control does a recruit have over the balance of fighting crime and “fixing” political opponents. No control I assumed. They were to be obedient, loyal servants, and do what they were told like in any other job, or leave.


Had she been deceived? Susan had said she had been taught and believed the FBI’s political targets were wayward dissidents – she had been inculcated to believe they were obnoxious, loud, unrelenting, ungrateful malcontents intent on undermining the welfare and wellbeing of America. She genuinely believed they deserved harsh treatment and got what they deserved. Little did she realise at the time that she would soon experience the other side of this dissident suppression treatment. The authority and power of the FBI combined with her privileged upbringing may have resulted in blindsiding her critical reasoning about the agency’s activities. Steve Garber had once said that the FBI selection process continued through the training process which often resulted in people self selecting out of the agency – that is people who didn’t believe in the mission once they knew more about it. Presumably, this process of the FBI gradually revealing the full details of its motivations and extent of its control programs is a career long process.


Who hasn’t been readied for the head to head with the totalitarian hydra. As high school kids we read George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Our reading list was preparing us for a world we wanted to avoid. Each described dystopias where personal relationships took second seat to priorities enforced by abstract state ideals. These were states where the worth of our universal and deep human values are displaced and supplanted by state decree – pursuit of abstract ideologies being experimented with at the time and enforced by those in power: in our lifetime, personal relationships subverted to the goals of economic growth.


I had visions of Susan flash through my mind as a poster child of the Nazi youth movement in another time and place, recruited at a young age to spy on her parents and friends, wearing knee length khaki socks and cravat over an open neck shirt! All of a sudden, this environmentalist had taken on a new hue, from noble advocate to henchmen of the state, undermining human rights and social justice, as well as the environmental movement, the very ideals she professed to be working for. Against this sombre fact as a backdrop to our relationship, the relevance of polemic around our personal overt career differences with me in mining finance and her an environmentalist paled into insignificance.


We sat at Citrus, a neighbourhood restaurant, awaiting dinner, and our conversation turned for the first time to her role with the FBI. Perhaps she’s crapping on, I thought hopefully attempting to retain my enamoured vision of her. I decided to test her. When the waiter came by to take our dinner order, I casually said to him half joking and pointing to Susan, “She’s an undercover FBI agent, why don’t you start with her?” I wanted to see her reaction. It was instantaneous; she nearly fell off her chair and in the process gave me the dirtiest look. That confirmed it – she really was FBI.


After the waiter had moved on, Susan looked at me aghast and said, “Why did you do that! I can’t trust you. I am not really an FBI agent!”


Good. I have no interest in the possibility you work for the FBI, I thought. It was better to believe that than the alternate reality. I was ready to change topic. The deceptive, sly, manipulative, megalomaniac FBI image did not sit comfortably in my vision of an ideal partner for a relationship. I was happy to get back to thinking of her as a straight forward, down to earth, good and honest environmental activist. While this was a more pleasant version of reality, easier to live with, as Alduos Huxley said it doesn’t shield you from the facts: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” And indeed, the reality came back to bite me!


Over the coming days and weeks, the conversation in which she initially revealed her involvement with the FBI faded into the background of our relationship and lives. There were things about her that I did not need to go into at the moment. Just like her old relationships and boyfriends did not need to be pried into, there was no need to know and discuss everything about each other. Not that there were secrets but there are areas in a relationship that can be siloed and tacitly, agreeably avoided. I put her FBI role into this category. Whatever she did in this capacity was her business, and at that point I did not want to know anything about it. I bent her revelations, watered them down, and assumed she partly misconstrued or misunderstood the facts. In the worst case scenario, I imagined she was perhaps an occasional informant. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. With time, I had hoped the whole issue would go away, disappear into the past. There was something deep inside that explained the shock of my disbelief and denial that I could not put my finger on, when she told me on one of our early dates that she worked for the FBI; and I didn’t want to believe it could be her.


The topic of the FBI didn’t come up again for some months. The relationship moved on in blissful avoidance, blissful ignorance, as if shear will power could erase memories and change facts of the world!


The next time I saw her FBI card was one evening about 2 years when we went to a show at Hammerstein Hall. After joining the FBI, Susan was posted to Ireland for 6 months where she had acquired a taste for the Irish culture, loved the Irish people, and as an avid harp player and singer had taken enthusiastically to the Irish music scene.


While in Ireland, she had been introduced to some influential and well known people in Irish folk music, including Mary Black, and met a host of accomplished but less established performers. Introductions were arranged through her work to help her establish the right cultural credentials and standing in her temporary role. A bit of name-dropping might go a long way in trying to infiltrate or establish a small network of informants.


Six or seven years later, she would occasionally receive a call from a musician as they passed through NY. In mid 1996, one such associate, Mary someone, I forget her name now, was playing a gig at Hammerstein Hall in Midtown. The venue is best known for hosting visiting religious leaders and speakers of all religious faiths and convictions. It was rather Spartan inside but provided a suitable ambience for high-spirited Celtic folk music.


Susan and Mary were ostensibly friends and Susan enjoyed going to her concerts. I went with her to attend one of Mary’s New York shows, and after it finished Susan said she wanted to go back stage to say hello. But it was not the social visit I was expecting.  It turned out Susan had a different purpose in mind – she had been collecting evidence of Mary’s use of soft drugs, something she was prosecuted for some months later.


The security guard would not let us backstage at first and blocked the access ramp. Susan told me to wait behind her, out of the way, pulled out a card from her wallet and handed it to him. He took a very close look at it, indeed he scrutinised it very intently in the dim light for a good 30 seconds. Satisfied, he waved us through, upon which Susan sped off, calling back to me, “Come on, hurry up!”


I followed her down a slightly inclined ramp at the edge of the stage to a locked door that led to a room underneath. Susan had moved quickly down the ramp, half skipping and walking fast. After trying the handle and realising the door was locked she knocked loudly, several times. I had continued at my more leisurely pace and when I caught up to her, I stood and waited as she knocked.


No answer. She knocked loudly again. We waited. On the third attempt, the door opened and we walked in. The room was silent, there was virtually nobody there. Mary stood in the middle of what was otherwise a very large empty room, maybe three or four other people around her. No big party, not even all the crew was there, let alone other fans.


Susan walked casually over to Mary and said hello and introduced me as her boyfriend. Mary called Susan by name saying dryly “Hi Susan, your cover is blown.” She looked at me and back to Susan to see what her response might be. Susan didn’t say anything clear, but mumbled something like “Oh” under her breath. Susan had been expecting a big crowd and wasn’t sure what to say or do next.


Mary broke the awkward silence explaining, “security called down, said there was an FBI agent coming down with a tall blonde guy”. I was the only tall blonde guy in the room and Susan and I were the only two people to have come through the door anytime recently! It was conclusive. Susan’s cover was indeed blown. A few awkward, stilted pleasantries were exchanged. Clearly Susan wasn’t welcome and we said goodnight after a minute or two and left.


There was no sign of drug use anywhere. As we walked back up the ramp and outside Susan said to me, “that could have been dangerous. I was expecting a lot more people to be there’. I asked her what that whole exchange had been about, as she hadn’t forewarned me at all. She simply said, “I really am an FBI agent. Mary has been using drugs after her shows and I have been collecting evidence.”


Not sure where to start, I asked “Why bother? Is it really worth the effort of pursuing a visiting Irish folk singer for using marihuana back stage. Does anybody really care?”  It was late, though a nice, warm summer evening and we decided to walk the 20 or 30 minutes back to my place. Susan said sternly, “Well, if they did it in private maybe so. But they do it in the middle of big parties, right out in the open. They can’t do that.”


“Haven’t you tried marijuana?” I asked.


“Yes, but not flaunting it out in the open. That’s asking for trouble. It has to be policed.”  I couldn’t disagree, but nor did I really sympathise.

“Isn’t she your friend?” I asked naively.

“Yes, she is a friend, but it is really work. I don’t like doing it …..” With that, the conversation trailed off into the summer evening, leaving only the sounds of our footsteps and the late night city traffic.


On our walk from Hammerstein Hall on that balmy New York evening in 1996, Susan told me a lot about her work at the FBI. We spoke for 10 or 15 minutes as we walked up Amsterdam Avenue, hand in hand. She had joined the FBI at 27 after attempts to establish herself in a number of other careers. One evening when home visiting, she had spoken with a friend of her parents who had been an undercover FBI agent and suggested she might like to consider applying. She had applied, was subsequently accepted and spent several months doing the required training at Quantico.


Susan’s current focus for the FBI was targeting environmental extremists. The Unabomber case was high profile at the time. I asked about it, but she said it was outside her jurisdiction. Her turf was the eastern half of the US. The Unabomber investigation was being handled out of the west. It prompted me to ask whether her main career was FBI or environmentalist. She said she was FBI working as an environmentalist but really she was an environmentalist by sympathies.


Susan had also been invited to a party on Adnan Khashoggi’s boat when in NY on one occasion. He was a Saudi Arabian businessman and international arms trader implicated in money laundering and the US Iran-contra scandal.  Susan was not the only FBI agent in attendance, a handful of other agents had been “invited” to the party as well, mostly young women. They had just shown up as regular guests, mingled, but none of them handed out their “day job” cards; if asked for a card they replied they hadn’t one with them. They did not plant bugs but they did take note of who was there.


On another occasion, she was one of about 30 young female FBI agents that gathered in a bar where through prior surveillance the FBI knew the son of a target had arranged to meet some of his friends. The intention was that one of the women might bait and strike up an ongoing relationship with the son, which indeed occurred as a way of then getting an introduction to the father and the family home.


I learnt some interesting things about the FBI, not only from her, but also from the many other agents I subsequently met over the years, including Steve Garber. On a personal level, the FBI is evidently a job description with a broad remit! Training ludicrously and bizarrely includes “kissing practice” classes and other sexual activities that are used to arouse and seduce in order to deceive and compromise their targets – useful in collecting dirt for the state files. Female agents practice undressing in erotic ways to increase their targets’ desire, slowly pulling their tops up over the top of their head to exhibit a full profile of their chest; and yes – FBI agents sleep with their targets and the sex is covertly recorded or videoed. This type of activity is de rigour as one agent told me later, saying this kind of activity “is much more common than you think.”


The FBI employs far more people than it reports on its website – instead of being under 100,000 people, the actual number, including the army of what can best be described as undercover, part time agents like Susan and Steve, and informants and collaborators, is closer to 10 times that. The lowball count on the website is intended to deceive the public as to the extent of its operation, twisting at every opportunity public perceptions about its reach and extensive interference in civil society – the police state activities it wants to hide. Many very normal, very average and, many less than average, people are agents, informants and collaborators. They represent the complete spectrum of society and walk among us inconspicuously, blending in with the varied social circles that comprise our complex communities, waiting quietly in position to target anyone when the call comes.


While notionally employed “full time” by the FBI, they hold their normal day jobs, if they have one, be it priest, nun, housewife, office worker, corporate exec, congressional staffer – whatever, and they are in effect utilised “part time” by the FBI, a form of “sleeper” agent and generally not much is asked of them. They are recruited from a wide variety of backgrounds and locations across the country, are paid a low wage, but combined with their regular day job income, the combined earnings enable a marginally elevated lifestyle. Despite their day jobs, they are nonetheless available to attend the needs of the FBI when called upon – mostly for surveilling and reporting on colleagues.


They are, in essence, the fake or “useful idiot” patriots, motivated to “serve” for money and self interest, the safest ideal to serve. Not motivated by passion for some abstract ideal that promises to create a better world like capitalism, communism or fascism; not Catholicism nor Protestantism, or any other religion, political or economic system. It is unadulterated self interest that is appealed to, recognising that our communities are bristling with moral confusion, nihilists who eschew all labels, who accept the moral equivalence of all actions, with the exception that secretly they believe in their own superiority.


In an existential contortion, the deepest underlying motive these people have for signing up with the agencies is to achieve stronger human relationships – a sense of acceptance and inclusion, new companionship and support – but these are the very things they have to sell out in the personal sphere to achieve in the state sphere. Deep in the human psyche is a desire to be compassionate, to serve others and diminish suffering. But the work of an “agent” frequently requires they sacrifice these natural human drives in the short term, notionally for longer term rewards which never arrive.


In another time or place, these “great patriots” of ours would have served any state interest with the same zeal and for the same reason, the pull from within, the indomitable will of that elusive but ever present force – the self: the Stasi, Stalin or Suharto, or Pinochet; any military dictator or autocrat who clings to power at any cost, where every aspect of civil society is overtly or covertly riddled with military or police and intelligence agents. It makes no difference. The only common character trait that unites patriots through these organisations is their unashamed self-interest. These decorated patriots recruited and trained by our intelligence agencies would have worked for payment to support any of these other ideologies when these were in their zenith of power, each claiming in earnest the core values of justice and freedom.


In exchange for their meagre wage, agents are expected to put the state before self, ironically in their own perverted sense of self-interest, swapping their strongest human loyalties for family and friends, with new ones for the state. Perversely, caught up in their dependency and the power the agency has over them as employees, they sell out the most valuable things in their lives, their family and friends if it is demanded of them. Sometimes, they do this without even realising it has occurred. It is a powerful, regressive, psychological transformation, bit by bit – almost imperceptible, a sleight of hand by the intelligence agencies, it is the effect of their training and it affects more than their employees and targets.


It ends up shaping the society we live in: saddling it with moral collaboration, but moreover imbuing it with a weary acceptance of such twisted loyalties and values.


There are numerous pithy statements that describe the pre-eminent power of money in ruling people’s hearts: “cash is king”, “money talks”, “power of the dollar”. Yes – it happens, more commonly than you think: they sell out others and unintentionally themselves, in the one stroke.


Those narcissistic and naive Hollywood versions of the quintessential spy as James Bond, debonair, educated, more than capable and a little dangerous, gives lie to a different reality: to millions of struggling ordinary citizens leading their droll urbane lives trying to make a living. Like the bus drivers who were given stripes in Hitler’s 3rd Reich, the overlooked, the downtrodden and those with low self esteem are empowered by their new official “status” in the special security forces. Those corporate and government officers that wear these stripes become unbearable demigods, unassailable, rightwing, and arrogant.


The patriots America once had, those who fought for truth, equality and righteousness, have been supplanted in a modern world by those beholden to narrow, self defeating, short-sighted self interests.


Susan and I, and subsequently the multitude of FBI agents I have come to know, including Steve Garber, discussed some of the strategies to unsettle and destabilise dissidents. The FBI plants bugs, surveillance, in their homes, holiday houses, offices and cars or wherever else, and hope to video their targets in any kind of compromising act. A common tactic was to covertly video in peoples bedrooms, film them masturbating or having sex, preferably illicit sex, and then distribute the material to friends and colleagues of the target specially recruited for that purpose and given security clearance. It is deeply intrusive and intended to be so. It is then exploited – x-rated video clips shown to bosses, or former employees or friends or colleagues and associates – silenced under pang of jail terms for unauthorised disclosures, by gag clauses in contracts purporting to protect national security.


It is government harassment designed to humiliate, discredit and marginalise targets by depriving them of privacy and confidentiality, and isolating them socially and professionally. Once the material had been viewed, whatever its contents, it was very hard to hold the target with the same level of respect or maintain the same level of rapport that had existed.


I asked her whether such sordid and tawdry tactics didn’t backfire on the FBI, causing the targets’ friends and colleagues to question the FBI’s methods and integrity. Wasn’t there some kind of backlash against the FBI? She simply said “No, most people like to see that stuff!” Besides, she continued, the FBI often recorded the target in advance saying something derogatory, even minor things, any negative remark about a friend or colleague, and then they would play the recording to those people, having recruited them or in some other manner secured their services and given them security clearance. The FBI presents the comments out of context or any way it likes, with the intention, and frequently the result, that it annoys and turns the targets’ friends or colleagues partially or fully against them. This makes them receptive to receiving further dirt on the target.


I was curious, interested in the methods and assignments of the FBI as we walked home that balmy night in 1996. But mostly, I was tired. My Freeport research note that mentioned the Grasberg killings (discussed below) had come out several months before, and as a result of the raw nerves it seems to have touched I was on the griller at work, being jerked around with mind games in preparation for being shown the door. Now my girlfriend was telling me more mind twirling stuff. I asked if we could stop talking about it – suggesting we pick it up in the morning when I would be fresher. The FBI was already messing with me at work, and also messing with Susan, quietly in the background, but neither of us knew it at the time. She was proud about her work at the FBI, including her role in helping sideline what the FBI deemed dissidents.


The next morning, over an early breakfast near my place at the Utopia diner, as I thought about the coming day at work, I still didn’t feel like discussing her role at the FBI. She had asked, “…is this a good time to continue talking about it?” I replied, “no, not really, can we hold it till the weekend?” I wasn’t ready for more mind twisters, I had had enough of that with what was going on at work. She looked disappointed and I could tell she wanted to talk about it. I wasn’t sure what she thought of my reticence; maybe that I was not interested in her, or that I was opposed to her FBI work – I couldn’t tell what was going through her mind as I again deferred the conversation.


I was just tired of mind puzzles. I knew my phone at work was being tapped by the company; that certain people in the office were privy to the private content of my calls. My employer, Warburg, as with other corporations, used what seemed like psychological warfare tactics, or psy-ops, to unsettle and confuse people they wanted to get rid of. Whispered conversations by management or coopted peers just within ear shot alluding to imminent departure of some unnamed person, credentials of the new person sought or already hired – enough to make you think they were talking about you – but not mentioning you by name. Lots of mind puzzles, innuendo, tapped phones and read email fuelled opportunities for management’s mind games and interference – work appointments to clash with personal appointments, sensitive or matters of a personal nature repeated back to you by others but in a different context – they have a friend experiencing XYZ, anything was fair if it encouraged the person to leave. Any open admission of the agenda on their part could be fodder for a law suit, so stealth, and slippery tactics, were their weapons of choice giving them relative advantage and control. From the company’s point of view the problem would, hopefully, just go away without any need for confrontation, or payouts, not to mention court action.


To start the day with more perturbing disclosure from my girlfriend, before the office day had even began, was too much to contemplate. Having to get my head once again around the “new” Susan and loss of the “old” was too taxing emotionally. Each time Susan opened up about her role with the FBI, she gave me a few more details, but she never completed her disclosures to me before I cut her off or she self censored sensing my distance on the topic; as such, she never fully brought me in on her life and work as an agent.


When the weekend came, early on the Saturday morning, we again went to the Utopia diner for breakfast where we were regulars and the waiters gave us a personal welcome by name. It was one of the defining characteristics of life in Manhattan that, despite being a massive city, there were myriad local neighbourhoods, bite sized, self contained spheres in which one lives and gets to know the local shopkeepers and other service providers, imbuing daily routines with a very human face and feel. The barber shop and a Chinese laundry at street level in my building, the doormen and mailman, a newsagent in the next block and a multitude of restaurants, bars and cafes – a nod and friendly hello to the members of our community as we went about our daily routines.


Susan and I each said a friendly good morning to the various waiters, casually addressing each by name, and showed ourselves to a booth. Out of long habit, Angelo an amiable and charismatic Mexican waiter brought us coffee as we sat down. He poured it from a metal pot, a weak percolated coffee, but its warm aroma always caught my attention sufficiently to displace the sounds of clattering plates and orders being delivered across the bar.  Angelo took our breakfast orders – I normally had a toasted bagel with cream cheese and jam, or the French toast with maple syrup and a side order of ham and Susan an omelette. As he walked off, we took a sip of coffee, and quietly observed the morning buzz around us. Given everything that was happening at the time, I think back on the name “Utopia” with Orwellian irony.


I turned to Susan and asked if she now wanted to further discuss her role at the FBI. But my question was met only with silence. She ruefully declined to say anything and appearing mildly annoyed she looked away. She was offended I hadn’t shown more enthusiasm for her undercover work earlier in the week. It was odd, there was always something that blocked one or the other of us from advancing the conversation to its conclusion – either I didn’t want to know at the times she was keen to talk or she didn’t want to tell me at the times I was ready to listen. That day did eventually come, but not for a number of years and under very different circumstances.


The details of the drug stake-out and our conversation as we walked home that summer evening gradually faded into the background of my mind. Life events that seemed more significant or pleasant to think about took over. In the end, I was left with a vague notion that Susan did some kind of work for the FBI – but I didn’t really understand the capacity or the nature of what an undercover agent was. I remained an outsider! For me, her work life, and our relationship, remained about her role as an environmentalist.


However, her link to the FBI hovered over us like a storm cloud rolling in over a distant horizon somewhere out in the future. She brought it up 5 or 6 times over the years – in all sorts of places and for different reasons – up front disclosure to a new love interest in a restaurant over dinner, after an active drug stakeout, over breakfast early one morning, in the car on the Strzelecki Track during a camping trip and long drive through the Australian outback.


Threats and interference from the FBI


In 1996, the Grasberg killings two years earlier had seemed like a distant memory and of no apparent connection to my life in NY. Nor did it seem of particular relevance for my girlfriend. But we were innocent and naïve! It was payback. The FBI honed in and targeted my various personal relationships – work, social and family – looking for dirt on me, but also in an attempt to undermine my career, undermine my support network and isolate me. Through compromising my relationships and mentoring betrayals, they chipped away at the basis of my trust – a fundamental component of living an economically and socially connected, satisfying life. As Joseph Stiglitz says:


“Trust is what makes contracts, plans and everyday transactions possible; it facilitates the democratic process, from voting to law creation, and is necessary for social stability. It is essential for our lives. It is trust, more than money, that makes the world go round.” [2]


The FBI (and ASIO) have worked hard to estrange me from the people close to me by strategies that include selective leaks of secret recordings, offering employment opportunities to some, blackmail and deceit – as described in more detail further on. Not everything has a dollar value; relationships are things you can’t value with money, but they mean a great deal to us – for most people there is nothing more important – family and friends. From the outset, the FBI focused their attack on my relationship with Susan, my long term girlfriend; a central prong in their attack to try to separate me from everything I held close.


What we had not realised at the time was that the political – intelligence agency – corporate establishment was targeting individuals with expertise in any topic with potential to influence public opinion on controversial matters. Individuals with any potential public influence, which includes those with influence within the investment community such as analysts, were a primary target of the government and were being selectively viciously targeted in a general attempt to control and constrain controversial discussion, to shape culture through intimidation and self censorship. What applied in Australia was also true in the US and UK:


Personal attacks have always been part of the rough and tumble of Australian politics, but in recent years there seems to have been a shift in the use of this tactic. Instead of the target being fellow politicians (for whom it comes with the territory), individuals citizens have been targeted with the apparent aim of driving them out of the public domain. The targets are most likely to be individual experts who are critical of controversial government policy.[3]


Relationships are prime targets in intelligence agency attacks on dissidents; the FBI is capable of inflicting significant psychological, career and social harm on their targets while not being visible to most people. They isolate, destabilise and marginalise their target and in the process demonstrate their power to others to intimidate – by which they shape culture and silence dissent. Sometimes their motive is nothing more than payback, doing favours for people in high places – neutralising a political target. They do so without leaving traditional evidence of a crime; without an independent investigation there is no smoking gun found – they evade detection and accountability. They also have the means which is access to everyone’s telecommunications, computers and they have a budget that enables them to buy the loyalty of pretty much anyone they want. Most people have a price – they can be bought, blackmailed, threatened or deceived into complying. The high minded, hardcore whistleblowers like Assange, Elsberg, Snowden, etc, who do things out of pure intellectual and compassionate principle are, unfortunately, a rare breed.


The agencies also have the element of surprise on their side – no one expects to have their key relationships intentionally and maliciously tampered with, their friends recruited to spy on them, their phones tapped and their social and professional network intricately mapped, analysed and targeted. People take care to secure the things that they think are valuable and vulnerable – like their property, house, car, computer, securities and bank account; but we don’t think that a criminal element might want to systematically separate us from our relationships – not even one or two, let alone as many of them as they can define and reach. But this is exactly what the government does to dissidents through its intelligence agencies and collaborative oversight bodies. My girlfriend and I were now about to experience firsthand how the FBI, ASIO and other domestic intelligence agencies operate.


Susan graduated from Dartmouth in the mid 80s with a liberal arts degree and was now a professional environmental advocate living in NYC. She was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club. Complicating matters, she was an undercover FBI agent and had been for around 6 years, since she was 27. She told me about her work and at the time she was involved with pursuing environmental outlaws on the east side of the US. I did not fully appreciate what her role as an FBI agent entailed in the context of her environmental work and I was keen to have as little to do with that aspect of her life as possible. With the benefit of hindsight, I realise her undercover work gave her access to the “eco-warriors” the FBI was keen to target. But it also gave the FBI the means to dilute key environmental organisation agendas. With Susan serving on the board of directors of the Sierra Club, she was in a position to influence key policy decisions at the national, regional or local way and to potentially limit projects to those that would not seriously challenge the status quo.


However, her life with the FBI was another world which I all but blocked out from my consciousness, and our relationship blossomed around her more innocent and ennobling life’s work as an environmentalist. From early on, it seemed we were a good match and we had both assumed we would get engaged and married in due course.


My report on Grasberg had been well received by investors, but evidently, not so well received by the CIA, the DOJ (Department of Justice) and the FBI where it apparently was a matter of grave concern or embarrassment to certain people. Since its publication and Freeport’s analyst briefing, I have faced strange and unpredictable headwinds.


Over time, I learned this was the FBI playing the heavy hand of what can most accurately be called “police state” payback, with vast numbers of undercover operatives – in the hundreds of thousands – many earning only a small wage. They are engaged in numbers that greatly exceed the agent head count disclosed on the FBI website, a misleading number, intentionally understated so as not to alert and alarm the public as to the scale of their police state activities. Their reach is without parallel using new technology and tactics more commonly associated with the former Stasi of East Germany or the KGB of Russia, or indeed, the Grand Inquisitors of the Middle Ages identifying and ridding the world of heretics.


The FBI’s dark arts were turned against me for reasons that have nothing to do with protecting democracy, freedom or justice, and everything to do with bending American law to the will of power and money.


I suddenly was face to face with new headwinds that affected my career, my relationships and ultimately forced me to leave the US. Throughout their reprisal attack on me, the FBI has worked closely with its counterparts in the Australian intelligence agency ASIO (I am a dual American/Australian citizen). Contrary to expected protections when living in a democracy against government abuses, there is no recourse, no protection against the egregious and illegal incursions of their intelligence agencies. Their activities are officially hidden, protected by state secrecy laws and an oversight culture in the US (and Australia) that looks the other way.


Going out with an FBI agent had offered me no protection from their illegal onslaught; indeed it may have had the opposite effect, raising my profile within the agency, bringing me to their attention. They take an interest in their agents’ partners, scrutinising them – and if Susan accidentally let something insignificant slip she technically shouldn’t have while confiding in me, she may have inadvertently triggered the agency’s interest. Irrespective, the FBI ought to have better things to do than expend their scarce resources on their agents partners and love interests.



The FBI: Steve Garber 


March 1996: Steve Garber had resurfaced after the publication of my Freeport equity research report in March 1996 and was now actively on the scene. I had not seen much of him in the preceding 18 months, since he vetted me on a walk looking for reptiles in Harriman State Park shortly after Susan and I had started going out in the fall of 1994. Suddenly he had started showing-up on a regular basis – at Sierra Club meetings, occasionally at functions Susan and I were attending, and sometimes he simply showed up where I was as if by coincidence.


They were in the process of turning every detail of my life inside out. Going back as far as I could remember or anyone could remember me: to preschool and before, neighbourhood friends, school, university, work, flat mates, old friends and new, right up to my present life.  They simply walked straight into my present life, undercover agents approaching me, male and female, with one offer or enticement after the next, or ridicule and abuse. People would befriend me in backpacker hotels – you just meet people when you are travelling, work situations, civic groups – like the Sierra Club, or a large group with whom I had undertaken some Buddhist studies in New York. We are social beings, we meet people and we get to know, like, dislike or are indifferent to them.


We meet people all the time; that doesn’t make them FBI! If agents that blend into the crowd were sprinkled in among the people you encountered would you be able to pick them apart? I can assure you the answer is no. If that new acquaintance is targeting you, making a special effort to befriend you, has been briefed on who you are, instructed on your interests, likes and dislikes, you wouldn’t know. But their job of breaking the ice and establishing rapport is made considerably easier.


An attractive girl approached me at a desert bush camp during a meditation retreat – a honey trap – one I didn’t fall for; an anthropologist, or herpetologist, or someone else with specialist knowledge of a topic that I am interested in, or have been interested in – I have been more open to getting to know and trust, friendlier. But these are not chance encounters; these have been targeted, intentional, well planned spoilers. After a varying periods in which these people cultivate and gain my trust, they double cross or reveal their inside knowledge and association with an intelligence agency. They say something personal to me that is significant to me, something about my background, or something that I’ve been recently involved with, something that they couldn’t have known about unless someone had informed them; something trivial perhaps – that so and so just filled their water bottle at Mexican Hat, or that their “friend” had had a run-in with the CIA or FBI on account of some mining company. They mention a few aspects, a few different things so coincidence can eventually be ruled out with certainty. They will do something similar on subsequent meetings till there is no doubt about their intent, leaving their invisible their signature, and then I will never hear from them again.


Sometimes when first meeting someone, or sometimes months later, their associations are revealed; likewise, out of the many people I have known, some long term friends and acquaintances are successfully recruited by the FBI and this unfortunate but bleak truth is gradually revealed.


The intelligence agencies, like a dating service, know the rudimentary elements of how to win friends, how and who to match make, which topics to go deeper on; which to avoid.


The intention was not just to find out anything and everything in the hope of uncovering something in my past or present for which they could prosecute me – an intrusive, belligerent fishing expedition by a psychotic government agency with excess power and resources, and too little judicial oversight. Their intention was also to destroy, reverse engineering relationships and memories, to damage by dredging up people from my past and recruiting them to reappear and harass me in my present; to embarrass and humiliate. Done frequently enough, it starts to poison the social well, bitterness, hurt and disappointment that could make it difficult to trust people, and over time I found I needed to take great care not to rashly label people. In fact it evolved into a form of mindfulness training, a mental vigilance, being non judgemental, and perversely, a deeper, more compassionate understanding of others arises.


In 1996, this new aspect of my social and professional life was only just beginning. Steve Garber was now trying to befriend me, to win my trust, so he would have a box seat to make it easier for him to conduct, orchestrate and measure the impacts on me of his deconstruction efforts.


I had had an interest in reptiles since childhood, and the FBI’s appointment of Steve Garber was well chosen – he stood a good chance to strike up a friendship with me based on common interest. He had a PhD in herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians) from Rutgers University where his dissertation, he said, had been on a local species of turtle – something that I found of interest. However, as one might suspect with such a dissertation topic, his career choices had been somewhat limited. When I first met him his “day job” was at the NY Port Authority where he was involved with a program to reduce bird strikes on airplanes at JFK airport. Some years later, in 1997, he was featured in a full 2 page spread in the weekend New York Times that described this project and his role in it.


Steve was around 10 years my senior, in his early 40s at the time, rounded, with still dark though balding hair. He lived with his wife, Andrea, who I met on occasions, on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, which was also my neighbourhood. Over the coming years he had two sons, Micah and another whose name I now forget, possibly Jeremiah.


He suggested it might be interesting to take late afternoon walks, after work some days, to look for birds in Central Park. Central Park is on a major migratory route for birds migrating along the Atlantic Coast and is known among ornithologists for the diversity of birds it attracts. Steve would often carry his young son on his back and bring a pair of binoculars. We did a couple of day trips, one up to his mother’s place where he was very familiar with the forests, and on another occasion we did the Audubon Christmas Bird Count out in one of the counties.


He invited me up to his apartment one day to meet his wife and showed me his library and some of the things he was working on. He had published a number of books, including The Urban Naturalist (1987, John Wiley and Sons). When they moved to Prescott, AZ for a couple of years, from recollection it was late 1998, they invited me stay if I was out west, which frequently I was. Steve looked terribly stressed prior to leaving NY. His job at the NY Port Authority for some reason had come to an end. He had put on a lot of weight and looked unwell. The FBI required agents maintain their body mass index (BMI) below certain limits – something checked every few years, so Steve evidently had time to get fit again, which he did after the move.


Steve was tasked by the FBI, in a mission reminiscent of a totalitarian state’s secret police, in a payback that targeted me and which was intended to deter others from speaking out. Neither Susan nor I knew at the time that he was the lead protagonist for the FBI in a covert attack to disrupt the harmony of our lives. For now he was simply her FBI superior, and for me he was a naturalist and one of Susan’s environmentalist colleagues. He set about consciously to dismantle what he could of my life, and he was prepared to inflict whatever collateral damage was necessary, including that which would hurt Susan. In working to break us up, it was not only me he was interfering with, but also her, something he was prepared to do, despite the fact that she was an agent in his team!


The undermining and harassment of dissidents is one of the key purposes for which undercover FBI agents are employed. In large numbers and widely dispersed, part of the FBI’s negative impact on dissidents comes from seemingly random engagement with agents or collaborators that have the potential to crop up in unexpected places – with any kind of day job, cultural background and education level: a guy who runs a seasonal canoe business on the side of a NY state lake; an aging nun in a Buddhist monastic group; the owner of a large second hand furniture store somewhere between NYC and Shelter Island; an office colleague, and as in Steve’s case, a biologist for the NY Port Authority.


The FBI’s invisible network overlays and intertwines with the visible spectrum of corporate and government activity, and gives the agency direct access, to institutions and people across the country. To this randomness is added the deliberate recruitment of as many of the targets family members, peers and associates as possible; like expanding concentric circles, the agency throws rings around their targets relationships at every level, effectively coming at them from all angles. The FBI has great capability to interfere with people through their personal contacts and also through monitoring and interfering with electronic communications – despite the illegality of doing so.


Steve Garber and the team had been busy. Aside from interference with corporate management, I found clients interfered with or recruited, head hunters or others offering career advice and services were contacted and co-opted or recruited.


Work, let alone a well paying career, for most people provides a necessary income, self-esteem and social ties. Professionals have frequently trained many years for their career and, like the rest of the population, also have financial commitments, like mortgages. Hence the FBI focus on black listing – their coup de grace in the currency of “payback” that results in inflicting significant mental and financial burden. Subject to a vigilante-like FBI vendetta, modern day political dissidents lose the right of access to the system they have been deemed to fall outside of.


In addition to my career and income, the FBI was to directly interfere and attempt to destroy my relationship with Susan. Indeed, the FBI set out to interfere with and destroy as many of my relationships as it could. It has deliberately set out to stifle as many of my dreams and dismantle as much of my life as possible without leaving a physical trace of its involvement.


Their efforts aimed at advancing these goals are described below.



The FBI turns cannibalistic – targets Susan to get to me


Late 1996: Susan took a pre-election visit to California in late 1996 apparently as a “femme fatale” for the FBI to rendezvous with, and generate the dirt on, a Californian congressional hopeful. It was the run-up to the November 1996 federal election that saw Bill Clinton returned to office for his second term as US President.


After returning from California, Susan provocatively mentioned to me, without disclosing the FBI link, that she had met a congressional candidate, she told me his name, and spoke in terms that implied a high degree of intimacy without being specific. It was intentional provocation, designed to raise doubt in my mind about her fidelity without self disclosing intimate details. It was odd and out of character for her to try to make me jealous or provoke me intentionally. This was not characteristic of her. The most consistent explanation for her strange behaviour was that she was blindly following FBI work orders on what to tell me about her trip.


Some months later, a picture of her Californian “friend” appeared in a widely distributed environmental magazine. The FBI knew we both subscribed to this magazine and that there was a good chance we would see the article. Indeed, one afternoon in early 1997 I showed the article to Susan while she was in my apartment. When I pointed out the photo and name to her, reminding her he was the “friend” she had told me about meeting in California, her face turned as white as a sheet and she stood transfixed, stone silent. She was clearly embarrassed and surprised by the publication. But why – was it on account of an illicit affair or was it something else?


January 1997: we had just returned from our second trip to Australia over the Christmas holiday period – having spent 2 out of the past 3 Christmases in the southern hemisphere summer. The time together had been great: we got on well visiting family, and it had been romantic travelling and camping for a week through the South Australian Outback and into the remote semi arid western parts of New South Wales with seasonal thunderstorms, hot days and pleasant evenings. The area was abundant in Australian wildlife – myriad kangaroos and birds, and we camped out along Cooper Creek with friends following the famed historic Burke and Wills expedition. But the FBI had staged and timed a small bombshell to go off on our return to NY relating to one of Susan’s work assignments in late 1996.


With the benefit of hindsight, it seemed that Susan was the one set up by the FBI on this occasion. On a routine work assignment, the FBI not only collected whatever dirt it could on her target but also put Susan in a vulnerable position that the agency then exploited by betraying her. Susan was the obedient messenger, evidently instructed to talk to me about this intimate assignment, with the FBI knowing it could be readily misinterpreted by me – her boyfriend. Her surprise and embarrassed response to the photo and article to confirmed to me that she seemed to be hiding something. Susan was clearly not expecting to see it, and the FBI seemed to be counting on the possibility that, coupled with Susan’s disclosure to me, it would prompt an uncomfortable, confusing situation for us, something that I might interpret as infidelity but that she did not intend that way. The FBI was messing with us – they were targeting my relationship with Susan and using her work to do it!


Susan too was now beginning to understand, a second career with this organisation led to more than she bargained for. Far more than a second, albeit small pay check, this career also came with a few strings attached for Susan’s personal life! The FBI was puppeteer and Susan the puppet.


Susan’s reaction to the article went to the heart of our relationship. It was unsettling, I had been surprised and my trust in her diminished. I found the strength of her reaction odd, and I began to wonder if she had lied. At best, the situation left a lot of room for ambiguity and armed with that doubt, the FBI had set the booby trap; that I might be the one to wreck the relationship, turning my dismay at Susan’s behaviour to revenge. In this way Susan and I were being played against each other, in a way that increased the risk we would undermine our own relationship – the very thing we had both wanted to protect.


But back in New York things were a little strained. That evening, after viewing the photo and article, we went for dinner to one of our frequent haunts, Café Fiorello, an Italian pub, bistro and brasserie across the road from the Lincoln Center. The décor is warm, with a classic tiled floor, dark timbers, mirrors and brass fittings, with seating options at tables, booths or the less formal antipasti bar. We normally sat at a table for two, but this night we sat at the round bar with an overview of the different antipasti dishes on offer. The food on display offered a comfortable distraction from facing each other directly. There was a mixed aroma of chilled and cooked foods set out on open platters in front of us, the varied textures and array of colours of peppers, mushrooms and various vegetables, olives, meats, and squid and fish dishes, around fifty offerings in total. The bar staff behind were a distraction too – busy taking orders, preparing plates, serving beer and wine.


She placated my doubts with reassurance but offered no detail around the issue of what had happened in California. I was not entirely convinced. Her earlier response had been too strong, too odd, freezing in space like she had. For now, we let it go and waited for time to reveal all. It was the first major incident that contributed to a gradual slide in our relationship. The situation was well engineered, ambiguous and confusing but the clear signature of FBI manipulation emerged over time.


Steve Garber, a couple of years later, after Susan and I had broken up, pointedly asked me about the “California” incident, wanting to know the details of Susan’s embarrassed reaction to the article and what I had thought it meant. I had never raised the issue with him and he had initiated the conversation from a cold start. I assumed Susan might have mentioned something it to him in passing. At the time, I was a guest spending two days with Steve and his family at their home in Prescott, AZ where he had recently taken a teaching job at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. I hadn’t realised Steve was with the FBI, and was working with a team whose purpose was to manipulate my life and attempt to drive wedges into my key relationships with friends, family and at work.


In relation to his question, I said it was possible it had signalled a fling of sorts. It was an interpretation consistent with the way Susan had reacted, though contrary to her personality and strength of our relationship. Again, it was odd that Susan had baited me over it and it all seemed out of character. Steve however was quite persistent. He asked prodding, pointedly, wanting to know the details of how I had responded and what I had thought. It is a hallmark of the FBI, drilling into the thought process, dissecting the emotions and reasoning behind an action. It was also part of a process intended to dehumanise me, when I realised in the future what they had done: treating me like a medical science experiment, a psychology study, I was being abused and then mined as a source of data to help them plan and interpret their future attacks, on me or others.


The “California incident” was really only just the beginning of the FBI’s manipulations. Susan, being an agent, was obedient and trusting of the FBI’s directives to her. If they asked her to do something, even if it seemed a bit strange, or out of place, dubious or confusing, she dutifully complied. And with this trust, they set about ravaging her life to get to me. She unwittingly became the FBI’s foil, ruthlessly used to attack her own personal relationship, a relationship she held central to her own future, and ultimately to her plans for a family.


New insights into the FBI: interference extended


Putting in the boot: March 1997: With the FBI on the case, my work situation quickly turned from ascendency to unemployed at break neck speed. It was four months between the FBI’s threat to me in Freeport’s boardroom alcove and being laid off, enough time for Warburg to find and hire my replacement. I was informed of my layoff around September 1996 and given 6 months to find a new job.


The reason Warburg gave me for my retrenchment was ‘administrative reorganisation’, but it applied only to me. [As an acknowledgement of the ease of manufacturing reasons to fire someone] NY has spared employers the burden for pantomime, and cut to the chase saying an employer need offer no reason for terminating any employee. About the only grounds for employee defence are discrimination – that is they can’t fire someone on account of their race, gender, religion etc. Employment in NY is at will, and the company did not need to give me any reason at all – they were free to fire me anytime, without cause, and without providing a reason. To the extent there was any plausible reason provided, its primary motivation was to preserve morale among my surviving work colleagues than for my benefit!


FBI meddling in my work place had clear signs – someone from the FBI had evidently been speaking with management. Indicators included strange occurrences such as the inexplicable timing of withdrawal of company support for me following publication of the Freeport note, the FBI’s threat to me in Freeport’s boardroom, the tactical undermining of subsequent work product, including support staff who were secretly instructed to stay home on critical publication days, aspects of my personal life were inexplicably known at work – particularly about my relationship with Susan, and work colleagues were asking questions about it – well informed personal questions about her personal movements with the background details presumably supplied by the FBI.


Below I detail some of the more conspicuous entangled interferences by the FBI and bank management:


Oyster Bar, Grand Central Station – in a small room about the size of a large double garage, three research assistants worked across the narrow hallway from the office bathrooms in what was a very well resourced research library at Warburg. The room was internal, low cost space, with no windows, lit by glazing intense fluorescent tubes. There were book shelves with hard copy material in addition to the fathomless electronic databases, two work tables and dedicated computer terminals for “customers”. It was the librarians job to know the vast collection of powerful commercial databases the company subscribed to, and the peculiarities of efficiently searching each of them to extract the most information in the shortest time and lowest cost. The databases went way beyond what are available in public libraries and top business school libraries and spanned specialist topics in marketing, business, finance, current affairs, some industry specific – it was an amazing resource to be able to call on, and the people operating it were friendly and approachable. Whatever the topic, they could find and deliver a treasure trove of documents with up to date information, facts, data and expert commentary – pretty much about any commercial issue globally.


It was a resource I frequently used and was on good working terms with the librarians who worked there. It was here I briefly showed off an ancient yoga pose one lunchtime – the only one I knew, but I had learnt it because it looked quite amazing – elevating oneself horizontally, balanced on ones forearms positioned mid body, raising oneself 12-18 inches parallel to the floor or desk or whatever object I was balanced on.


In any event, late one afternoon, one of the librarians asked me if I would like to go down to the Oyster Bar for a drink after work. It was a friendly invitation, not in any way suggestive, she knew I was in a steady relationship. I assumed it was just a chance to unwind after work and debrief – an assumption that turned out to be wrong, but for a very abnormal rendezvous.


She suggested the Oyster Bar which is well known by commuters in Manhattan, just off one of the subterranean concourses in Grand Central Station only a short walk from our offices in Park Avenue. We walked in and sat down in a pair of comfortable lounge chairs across a small round table from each other. The waiter arrived in formal attire with a glass of water for each of us, and took our drink orders. He watched while I picked up my glass, take a sip and then put it back down again on the table, still nearly full. Bizarrely, almost showman style, he flicked open a fresh white linen napkin, and carefully picked up the glass, careful not to touch it directly with his hand and walked off with my water. He did not take my companions glass, and eventually I had to ask for another glass of water.


His taking my glass in that strange way seemed very odd at the time but I put it out of my mind till many years later when the FBI asked me about it and reminded me of it.


Secretary at Warburg diverted: one of the affable personal assistants who supported my work and a number of other analysts in the department and with whom I was on good terms. Like many support staff in New York who are personable and intelligent, they are well qualified university graduates, working in the arts and support their incomes with a day job, or are moving on to more advanced degrees and saving a bit of money – from recollection Marie was such a person.


Not long after the Freeport note – about a month – I was finalising a major, extensive report on the US aluminium sector which I had been working on for a number of months – and I depended greatly on her help to update and insert all the financial market tables and charts to be synchronised with the reports publication date. We had diarised the release date and she had set aside much of that day to assist me and circulate the completed report. However, normally extremely very reliable, she inexplicably missed work that day and didn’t call in. When she showed up next day, she sheepishly apologised to me, seeing the report had gone out without her assistance. Shortly after her apology she came back and said to me, that she had been strangely directed not to come to work that day – she had been told to have the day off, on full pay, and she had been told not to tell me the reason for her absence. Why would the bank tell a support person to stay at home for a day, on full pay, to miss a key publication day release? There was no answer. She was baffled, as was I.


The report met with accolades from the companies covered with one CEO from a large US corporation exclaiming in a letter that “This is the best report I have seen in my 20 years in the industry.” The trading desk put through a very large block trade in aluminium company Alcoa on the back of my report – managing both sides of the trade, resulting in an eruption of cheers and applause on completion of the transaction which earned the sales people and traders a healthy sales commission.


Steve the Warburg IT guy: At the time of my termination from Warburg, the IT support person for the equities research department approached me asking which of my computer files I wanted downloaded to take with me. The system was locked to external downloads, making it impossible to download any files without permission from and IT support. In offering me this assistance, Steve provocatively used rather deliberate and strange wording, warning me that I should be sure to take only the files I was entitled to, otherwise “the police would come”, and he said with emphasis, “to investigate”. Steve was a close ally of the head of equities Nick Duthie, who the FBI later asked me about, and it was as if he were mocking me about what he already knew to be going on in the background about my targeting by, and the company’s co-operation with, the illegal Federal Bureau of Investigation’s attack on me.  Steve subsequently downloaded the work files I was entitled to, and I emailed a handful of managers and also copied it to my personal email address at home confirming what files had been downloaded that I was taking. There was no objection, and verbal permission and confirmation had been given and sometime later confirmed in writing.


While there was never any specific accusation, innuendos were made that possibly I had stolen something that wasn’t mine, and the FBI subsequently sometime later surreptitiously borrowed my home (laptop) computer through Susan who had asked to borrow it for what she said was personal use on a short trip she was taking with FBI connection not disclosed. When the computer was returned a few days later it was broken under bizarre circumstances (recounted elsewhere) and the email messages no longer visible. Whether the FBI wanted to destroy the evidence I held about permission to remove the files, or whether they were on a broader ranging fishing trip to see what else they might uncover isn’t clear. the fact that they returned the laptop so that it no longer functioned suggests they were intending to remove evidence.


Job interview – FBI input: I had put out some job feelers and interviewed mining sector specialist investment banking job at a large American investment bank in NY. I was called back for a third round interview. One morning before heading in I was having my usual breakfast down at the Utopia diner and two people came and sat at a booth across the aisle from me. They spoke loudly, a middle aged woman and a guy around my age. They were speaking about investment banking jobs in New York, the culture of the big banks, what it was actually like. The woman was asking questions and the fellow answering and discussing his experience working in such a firm. They spoke at length about the culture, described it as a rather militarised, inflexible and strict – something I later learnt is a description vehemently denied by the banks, even if it might be true. Revealingly, some years’ later Susan revealed the FBI was familiar with the content of that conversation – she asked me about whether I had noticed those two people and overheard them. I said I had and she repeated some of the topics of conversation and asked if I remembered. I did. I was under surveillance at the time it seems, and it is possible the FBI may have staged the conversation as a form of negative background briefing on banking careers to discourage my enthusiasm. This seems a widely used tactic – concocting a staged conversation within clear ear shot of the target on a topic you want them to be influenced by. In any event, this incident remains a source of conjecture as to how the FBI knew so much about it and why.


My replacement at Warburg, a former commodities trader was hired prior to my termination and placed initially in Toronto. He was less qualified, less experienced and new to equity research. On joining the firm, he was immediately dispatched to West Papua to visit Freeport’s Grasberg mine, joining an analyst tour from Australia. This was ‘bankspeak’ – Warburg telecasting to other analysts in the know and reassuring Freeport that it now had a new mining analyst covering the company. It was sending the message to Freeport that the former analyst’s embarrassing questions around the Grasberg killings had been effectively ‘managed’, with the implication that Warburg expected a slice of the company’s lucrative business when the next capital injection was required.


The FBI attempts to recruit me


Adding to the absurdity of the situation, she had even tried to recruit me for the FBI not long after I had been sacrificially pushed out at Warburg. Whether she was taking her own initiative to do so or was acting at the suggestion of someone at work I do not know for certain. Nevertheless, she was adamant I should apply and strongly encouraged me to do so outlining the benefits (but not the disadvantages) of undercover work with the agency.


The recruitment pitch went like this:


We were in my apartment hanging out one day when she said something to the effect, “I have a friend who works for the FBI and they can talk to you about getting a job there if you like. It is something I want you to consider very seriously. The FBI would take you. You have a Wharton MBA and work on Wall Street and they are trying to expand their presence there”. She said the work was not well paid but then nor did it ask much of you. Most of the FBI work involving sleeper, undercover agents was counterintelligence related, much of it directed against domestic political interests and “dissidents” in the US.


Susan went on to say the techniques used by the FBI to unsettle targets and manipulate people share much in common with corporate management techniques: that the FBI training is relevant to people pursuing corporate careers as it overlaps with, and extends, corporate management principles of people at work! It seems that corporate underlings and state targets are united as minions of sophisticated psychological manipulations.


Another benefit she mentioned of working for the FBI was access to a second professional network, a secret parallel network to help support one’s “day job”. In her case she could draw on this for her work as an environmentalist which gave her otherwise unlikely access to a range of people and skills.


She reminded me that being between jobs, I had time to slip away to Quantico for the initial training program. She said it was fairly common for the FBI to target, recruit and train people between jobs. People are more vulnerable and susceptible to the recruitment pitch when they are unemployed and they also have time to go to Quantico and be trained inconspicuously for a number of months. Once they find a new job, they can then re-enter the work place as an undercover agent with no one aware that they had been absent.


What she didn’t mention was that agents automatically get an FBI file; data is collected on them and this can be turned against them at any point as with any “dissident” or any other person targeted by counterintelligence. Agents’ personal lives, as was Susan’s, can be interfered with if the agency decides something beneficial to “national security”, or just as likely, beneficial to their personal careers, could be derived from it. Agents do not only scrutinize others but they too are closely scrutinized, with the consequent prospect of unannounced interference! Recruits spy on, interfere with and disseminate propaganda about the target. The security forces agenda, beyond blacklisting/financial hardship, isolating and humiliating their targets is simply to interfere with their self image – to make them feel worse about themselves, to bring them down a notch, or more, compared to their peers.


The main personal signs I saw of her work, aside from the personal betrayals it required, was the unexplained stress that led to her frequent migraine headaches. She frequently seemed unable to fully relax, to switch off and wind down from it. It was as if she were on duty, or on call, and some days she was obviously under stress from her FBI work. In particular, I noticed it when she had to testify against friends and acquaintances in court, like her Irish friend, Mary, mentioned above.


Despite her pitch, I had no interest in working for the FBI. A key disadvantage I saw was in having a second boss to answer to. One boss for my “day job” was already enough! But there was that central issue of trust in the FBI’s agenda – I did not trust the FBI or the ability of politicians to hold the agency to account. I didn’t want to be peripherally involved with the organisation, let alone work for it! Too many people milk the system, despite the touted safeguards, and take advantage of whatever power and authority they have. The lack of transparency and nefarious methods used by the FBI seemed a perfect breeding ground for the worst of these bad habits.


I came to realise that it was not a job opportunity people generally opted into from a position of strength. In Susan’s case, I think she did it to top up her regular paycheck, to supplement the meagre earnings as an environmental advocate. In exchange for financial self gain, agents target political “dissidents”, and their personal proximity to the target can be the undisclosed purpose for their recruitment. The spies that are closest to us can be the ones hardest to spot.


In any event, her involvement with the FBI was ultimately to destroy our relationship. If I had fully believed her earliest disclosures, right after the relationship started, I would have detested it and left before I got to know her. As it was, the lack of full disclosure and the FBI’s own interference slowly ate away at our bond causing the relationship to eventually succumb.


For now, however, Susan and I were in the blissful throes of a passionate relationship. We had spoken about marriage on occasions over the past 2.5 years. We shared much in common, enjoyed long conversations, went on holidays together; early on we camped in Clayquot Sound, Vancouver Island – hiked part of the magnificent Witness Track for several days enjoying each others’ company in a massive natural cathedral surrounded by cascading, towering cliffs; we hiked and camped elsewhere over the years. She came to Australia, on two occasions to join my family for Christmas, and she in turn invited me to her mother’s home in Detroit in 1997 for the family Christmas in the year we broke up.


Should undercover agents’ disclose the nature of their work to love interests? In some respects they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Partners quickly sense when there is a lack of honesty and frankness in the relationship: conversations are avoided, explanations half baked, certain things don’t gel. Ultimately, a level of synchronised thinking about planning and life goals is not shared, and with the lack of trust, doubt creeps into the relationship and opportunities for soul mate bonding lost.


Where agents disclose aspects of their work and the relationship breaks up, the risk is the former partner discloses any revealed injustices or abuse, as I am doing here. But public disclosure is often the last avenue for seeking accountability. As in my case, I have approached the various FBI (and ASIO) oversight bodies directly, including my elected representatives – but these have all turned out to be toothless tigers when it comes to investigating and holding the FBI to account. It is only after people realise the oversight process is thoroughly corrupted, that regulators are frequently captive to the underlying agency or industry they are meant to oversight – or don’t work for some other reason, that they go public. If the integrity of the oversight process were restored, much of the need for unauthorised public disclosure and other disclosures would vanish.


Nonetheless, for the most part, the nearest a young or new FBI agent ever gets to national security issues is through low level security access – which about 3 million people in the US have – giving them access to low level facts and insights –  probably akin to what in the old days would have been considered the domain of a good national newspaper. More contentious is the FBI’s harassment of what it considers to be domestic dissidents – the methods the agency uses and the people they target. (These are not criminal cases, terrorist or military – these are soft political targets, who in a democracy where a strong civil society is desired should be free of government harassment). History reveals the FBI’s involvement in domestic political operations is dirty and frequently abused – directed against politicians and activists in civil society, like environmentalists, or those leaders, for example, of groups that anti discrimination laws have been passed to protect. Many of these targets and the tactics the FBI deploys should not be used the way they are and a bit of unauthorised disclosure, aka whistleblowing, is long overdue.





Section 3: An extended summer in the American West

Camping in the American wilderness


I have included details in this section on my travels that summer of 1997 as a positive, unintended consequence of the FBI’s efforts to interfere and derail my life; a counterweight to their meddling – an outcome that reinforces the notion the intelligence agencies can’t control every outcome no matter how much surveillance and interference.


Warburg retrenched me in March 1997. Helping to remove me from my job was the first significant, concrete result the FBI achieved after the Freeport note, and one of the easiest and most effective ways to potentially unsettle someone. Unfortunately, there is a litany of other professionals all too eager to avail themselves to the FBI’s requests and help them in the hope of endearing themselves to power and progressing their own careers. Losing my job deprived me of an income and career trajectory and lowered my status among some friends and peers. It damaged my CV and professional reputation.


In response to the work uncertainty, while Susan and I maintained our relationship, we tacitly put any thought of formalising our future plans on hold, at least for the time being.


If there was any doubt my report and questions had embarrassed, scared or unsettled some powerful people, the savagery of the FBI response put rest to that. Now out of all sense of proportion, the payback was to use the vast network and resources at its disposal to harass me, undermine or damage my livelihood and relationships. The fact is it is not really “payback”, more an opportunity for the FBI to flex its muscle and send a chilling message to others who might speak out – this is their way of creating the sort of model capitalist employee the system desires.


But, from my point of view, on a personal level it was a case of as one door closes another opens. I had suddenly the opportunity to do something I had for a long time dreamed of – to spend time meandering through amazing country – in this case the American West.


In relation to the loss of my job, I briefly reflected on the rather peculiar and extreme bad treatment I experienced as I left – the management lies and deceptions, the provocations and intrusions, phone calls intercepted; I was not remorseful, indeed I was optimistic, I let it go, and the excitement of the new opportunity in front of me was all absorbing. It was a case of applying the insight of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. I quickly found new meaning and deeper purpose doing what I had sought to do.


I left Warburg at the end of March and spent a few weeks in the UK. I had some established job leads in London where I had previously been offered a position. I caught up with friends, and spent a couple of weeks out in the beautiful, craggy, windswept areas of coastal Scotland and Ireland staying at backpackers and B&B’s and spent my time doing day hikes and reading.


On returning to New York, I met with head hunters, got my CV out to some companies and advanced my job search establishing a base which I could expand on later. I had a few irons in the fire, and one or two head hunters I was able to stay in touch with. Then with the weather warming as it moved into the second half of spring I headed out to the American West.


I took a one way flight to Albuquerque, New Mexico and was open to the possibility of staying out West indefinitely.


I disembarked from my flight from New York with a visceral sense of excitement that comes with fulfilling a long desired goal: to spend a summertime, and maybe longer, meandering between towns and wilderness without constraint of time or fixed agenda. I had a sense of unlimited freedom. It just so happened that the setting in which this opportunity arose was the great American wilderness with its extraordinary landscapes, partially portrayed in the often hauntingly beautiful images of Ansel Adams, and shaped by a mindset stamped with Muir, Emerson and Thoreaux, and the rich history and culture of indigenous people. And indeed, the arrival in Albuquerque was like the dissolution of old boundaries and stepping out into the timeless desert cultures and landscapes of the “land of enchantment”


It was as if in stepping outside the borders of the city the constructed borders around my life were rolled up seamlessly and discarded in the one movement. The seemingly important career commitments I had held till then were replaced and surprisingly easily dispensed with in the presence of something liberating that had now arrived. With the excitement of breaching new frontiers, the mountains, national parks, forests and towns of the West – I had the intention of experiencing it all – and in particular hiking and camping out in its deep wildernesses.


I dropped the fixed routine of daily life in New York and in its place arose spontaneity, freedom laced with new opportunities. Most of all, I was mindful of the preciousness of the time in front of me and had gratitude for having found my way to this magnificent place. It was spring, the snow was melting, and the air was clear and teeming with the sounds of new life. There it was, an awakening to the dawn of summer, it felt like the edge of eternity, and in an elated state of mind I had it all before me. Like in my late teens and twenties, I travelled alone; hiking, camping and backpacking, wandering freely and meandering between forests and towns.


The American West made a huge impact on me. It possesses some of the world’s great natural treasures, largely overlooked right in the heart of America. As things turned out, it was one of the best summers of my life: I had sufficient funds to travel low budget for as long as I wanted, outdoors in interesting towns and magnificent wilderness, no constraints and what seemed like an infinite time horizon. My camping gear had been well tested and broken in over a number of trips in the North American backcountry in previous years and I felt confident that with the right preparation I could now get out into some of the most amazing places on earth.


The thought of being out here sent an excited tingle down my spine. I had experienced such tingles before, listening to rock music in my adolescence; and reading certain pivotal passages in Shakespeare for the first time, struck by the power of a brief verse to reveal such depth of psychological insight. If I had felt alive and buzzing in NY, this trip had taken my enthusiasm and exuberance, and ratcheted it up a notch. It was a unique opportunity to indulge my passion for wunderlust, and it turned out to be a brilliant summer. It was one of the greatest times of my life.


I hiked, camped out for days on end, and explored. The landscapes, parks and wilderness areas of the western US are superb, among the most stunning places on earth, they are extraordinarily beautiful and varied from top to bottom, spanning the hot sandstone deserts and canyonlands of New Mexico and Arizona all the way up to the glacial peaks and mountain ranges of Montana and Alaska. The parks and wilderness areas are without a doubt one of America’s most outstanding features and at the same time, one of its best kept secrets!


As much as I had wanted and identified with a corporate career and loved New York, I was surprised at how easily I let the whole idea fall away. My career had been important to me, but it was now in hiatus and possibly at a significant turning point. It wasn’t clear whether I would ever get another job on Wall Street, or where I might work, and it seemed strange that it didn’t really bother me. I felt confident that sooner or later I would find something I wanted to do, whatever and wherever it might be. I had a good skill set, and for now my concerns lay with hiking into and experiencing the sublime, pristine deserts of the Southwest.


I hadn’t planned much beyond just getting the trip started in Albuquerque. It was late spring, and beautiful weather at altitude in the high desert. I checked into an older motel, Route 66 style, for a few days on the edge of the CBD near the main street that had a modest amount of activity, sprinkled with half deserted cafes, restaurants and bars. Once again in my life I was aware I had time on my side. As far as I was concerned, there was no end date for this trip. I didn’t have to be anywhere, anytime.


I bought an old 1973 model Subaru hatch back from a local dealer in Albuquerque for a few thousand dollars. From recollection, it was the cheapest car in their range, it had all the inspection certificates, seemed fine in a test drive and the model had the endorsement of a ranger friend of mine who knew about aging cars. The car had character. Its original orange colour had faded in its 20 something years. It had been well baked and weathered in the desert sun, the duco was covered with hairline cracks and it now almost looked like a dry desert salt pan. But the car proved extremely reliable – even as it approached some massive number of miles on the odometer. The boot section was large enough to hold my backpack with a little spare space to use for extra gear. It was the perfect car for what I had in mind: in addition to being reliable, a necessity in remote country, I could leave it at isolated trail heads for a week or so at a time without much concern of it being stolen or vandalised.


I left Albuquerque and set out for the Gila wilderness, a 6 hour drive. On the way, I overnighted in the small desert town of Truth or Consequences, and stayed in a backpackers that had thermal springs on the banks of the Rio Grande; then headed to Silver City the next morning, an old 1870s mining town in high-desert, Ponderosa clad country on the edge of the Aldo Leopold and Gila Wilderness areas. This was the beginning of weeks that turned into months of travelling, hiking and camping out.


The desert conjures the image of scorpions, rattle snakes, cacti, mesas, salt bush and searing heat – hot and dry without water or respite. Indeed temperatures frequently reach 40 to 45 degrees celcius or over (115 degrees fahrenheit). Water and shade are critical to enjoyment of the desert in the summer: and as if by alchemy, they completely transform a hostile desert environment into a sublime inviting oasis.


The mid Fork of the Gila River in the Gila Wilderness is one such oasis – it is one of my favourite camping places. I walked along the track on the river’s edge for a few hours, making numerous stream crossings, and set up camp on the edge of a small tributary near hot springs. I camped there off the track and out of site for about a week. It was peaceful and serene. The quiet trickle of stream was occasionally broken by a hummingbird buzzing by my tent or hammock. These colourful small birds’ wings beat so fast they sound like oversized insects, bees or mosquitoes, as they hover in front of flowers to drink the nectar. I have seen a mountain lion in the area, been warned off by rattle snakes, and there is potential to encounter the Central American Jaguar – this being its most northerly range. The stream edge where I camped is a lush riparian zone, shaded by large trees, on a wide canyon floor, bounded by miles and miles of stunning sunset coloured sandstone escarpment. I camped by the cool water, welcome relief from the heat of the day, swam and was shaded by the trees from the hot sun. It is paradise. Since first going there in 1997, I have returned a number of times over the years.


I moved on to other towns, forests and desert streams. I slept in the desert on the outskirts of towns, in fields and backcountry in national parks and state forests, rolled my sleeping gear out in convenient locations wherever I was. I had a tent with me but often didn’t need it, instead I slept out using a ground sheet, light inflatable hiking mattress and a sleeping sheet directly under the stars. A week or two at a time would go by without seeing the inside of a room, or tent, to sleep in.


The night skies were brilliant, bright with a million stars illuminating the desert landscape; mesas and plains in the moonlight stood still and silent. Occasionally the silence was pierced by a coyote yelp somewhere in the distance.


Initial concerns about desert life crawling over me in my sleep went away after the first night out, and only the beauty of sleeping under the fabulous night sky was left. The air smelt faintly sweet, and it was dry and warm against my skin, and even a sleeping sheet was unnecessary to stay warm. There was no dew and the silhouette of desert plants frequently formed my night bower. I loved being out in the deserts and New York was a million miles from my thoughts.


I found new uses for my office attire that were more flexible, less constrained than previously. Shirts, once worn to the office were ideal for desert hiking. Light weight, long sleeve cotton shirts with collars protected against sun burn, and let air circulate freely in the summer desert heat. They worked particularly well with hiking shorts and a broad rimmed hat. Thin business socks worked well as inners, liners underneath thicker hiking socks to stop blisters forming.


There are large drainage basins in the western deserts created by several mountain ranges, the largest being the Rocky Mountains, the source of large rivers that cut deep swathes though otherwise parched country. In the high altitude American deserts of the southwest, at an altitude of a mile or so, there is a surprising amount of accessible water and shade – streams that have carved their way through the soft desert floor over geologic time, forming broad sunken chasms, gorges and canyons that now provide protection and shelter from the harsh desert elements.


Water is a transformative and powerful force in the desert, and in addition to establishing sublime oases, it is capable of creating the most massive and spectacular canyons, including Copper Canyon in Mexico and the Grand Canyon in the US. Multiple rivers have carved and continue to carve passage ways through the deserts of the American west with spectacular results. They provide transport routes and vital water for desert communities, wildlife and plants, and reveal deep rock sequences containing fossil records of evolving life on earth dating back millions of years. The Colorado River, Rio Grande and a host of smaller rivers in the catchment criss-cross the desert creating a myriad network of narrow canyons and pathways with sustaining water and trees for shade and shelter for animals. It is the most perfect environment for camping and hiking; warm, blue skies, water, spectacular canyons and riparian forest strips with shade. One could spend a life time in such country.


There are myriad dry creek washes with sandy beds which only have water running in them for brief moments after storms and are otherwise dry for most of the year. These make great natural pathways for hiking through the desert. In the cool fresh air of the early morning or late in the day they provide a near clear corridor to move into a cacti forest teeming with bird and plant life with vibrant sounds and colours. The desert has remarkable and surprising qualities. There is an emerald luminescent light caste by the Mesquite tree as the sun filters through its needle like leaves creates a light filled bower. The vegetation is quite lush and the succulents in places difficult to walk through if not in a dry sandy creek, on account of the thick wall of branches and thorns.


The crepuscular hours stand in stark contrast to the heat of the day when the desert is still to the horizon and it seems that there is nothing in its entire expanse that has the will to move. There is not any breeze and everything waits still as the bedrock of the earth for the heat of the day to pass. It is as if the desert itself, taking its cue from the sun, is conserving all its energy to survive the heat of midday as if a single organism controlled by a single will. Every movement is deliberate, carefully gauged, no wasted effort. The bird calls plentiful at day break quickly come to a stop as the morning heat rises.


It is not surprising mystics and monastic activity from a multitude of spiritual traditions have such a rich history associated with desert dwelling. In the dry heat one feels alive, alert, reluctant to make unnecessary movement. Even the air is free of movement, no breeze, not even the vibration of sound ripples over ones ears. It is completely silent.


Contemplatives, meditators, mystics and shamans have lived in desert environments for millennia. In the surrounding stillness only the mind moves, consciousness straining to hear. Finding nothing it moves to assess what can be sensed through touch, taste and smell, but these are neutral, nothing stands out. Finally, in the eyes there is movement of the eye itself, and here the consciousness rests looking at the desert.


One becomes mindful of every move. When the heat of the day comes one has natural single pointed concentration it seems without effort. The heat itself sears and focuses the mind. There is silence, no bird sounds, no crickets or other animal sounds. The vegetation is still, even if there is ever a breeze, it is slight and has no effect, no ability to move the woody, waxy, fibrous plants. The desert is both silent and still, while full of richness and life.


In this place, one takes an easy step inwards. Almost by default the boundary between self and world is broken, dissolved. Land forms look like they have evaporated and reformed in dust and blue haze. Big mountain ranges sitting low on the horizon and magnificent broad sweeping valleys that were once sea floors seem to be made of the same mind that is observing them.


The heat, stillness and quiet focus the mind and the world stands still. It is clear; as the self and world simultaneously arise forged from the same press. The two become indistinguishable and disappear in the utter stillness. Hours and hours of the day pass in this way. It is as if the mind and the desert move together, each evolving with and shaping the other in mutual dependence.


It is as if the desert itself holds the magic to enchant, to form the minds of inhabitants with the same strokes that shapes the landscape: earth against earth, mind against mind; movement, hot and cold, rain and wind, over time, becomes a cradle. From the deserts many great figures have emerged, moving beyond renewal to reform and transform society and politics across the world: religious figures, Moses, Abraham, Christ, Zarathustra, Gurdjieff and many sought refuge, building strength and resilience with their 40 days in the wilderness. Indigenous cultures have a close spiritual tie to nature and the Southwest has been a fertile crucible for development of their rich worldviews.


Much of the Southwest feels enchanted, spacious with vast sweeping basins and craggy mountain ranges – it has a sacred feeling to it. It is a landscape that looks holy and enchanted under moonlight or in a dark thunderstorm with multiple highly charged lighting strikes across the landscape electrifying the air prior to a wild monsoonal downpour of rain. Ansel Adams captures the feeling perfectly in his classic photo of a moonrise over Hernandez. It evokes Coleridge’s famous poem Kubla Khan – images of a fertile mythical land in a barren realm replete with sunny pleasure domes and caves of ice. It also evokes the region in Tibet where Padmasambhava lived, a Tibetan saint and author of the Tibetan book of the Dead.


The summer rains bring life to the desert and the ancient people who have lived here for thousands of years, the Hopi, Apache, Navajo and Tohono O’odham among others – Desert People, the cliff dwellings of the Anasazi, and major centres like Chaco Canyon of the Ancient Pueblo Peoples, whose inhabitants had an advanced calendar that tracked the sun and moon and who traded goods with other civilizations as far afield as Central America.


I stayed in the Southwest for most of the summer, spending time camping in Chaco Canyon, Zion and Canyonlands National Parks, days camped out in deserts of the Maze and Owl and Fish Creek Canyons before heading up to Santa Fe and Taos.


There are myriad deserts in the Southwest including the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, Great Basin, and Mojave, spanning from Southern California through Arizona, New Mexico, into Texas and up into Utah and Colorado. Scattered throughout these, there are secretive, remote monasteries, churches and religious retreats inhabited by men hoping to undergo transformation and emerge as new and different beings in Christ’s image. Some of these Spanish structures in New Mexico are several hundred years’ old and still stand, dating back to the days when Santa Fe was the capital of Spanish territory in North America, the capital from where what remains of their territory in today’s modern Mexico was governed.


The Spanish left behind beautiful adobe churches where early practitioners practiced abstinence and self flagellation, as a form of penance. Faded blood stains from their practice are still detectable on the adobe white washed walls. Nor was it the only blood spilt in that time of territorial acquisition. Blood, it seems, is spilt freely by conquistadors in pursuit of new wealth, something we are now witnessing in West Papua.


Santa Fe and the surrounding mountains are sprinkled with early mission churches built by the Spanish starting in the early 1600s to the 1800s. This area is also full of indigenous history, culture, and cultural conflict creating a dynamic synthesis of indigenous, Spanish and Anglo cultures. Some of the ancient towns of the indigenous people such as those who lived at Chaco Canyon and the Cliff Dwellers date back nearly a thousand years or more. The indigenous cultures, in particular, have proved very resilient despite several centuries of being in the minority. Some indigenous cultures appear to have survived remarkably intact, remnants of a once thriving civilisation, found in isolated little towns, ancestral worldview and shamanic traditions imbued with animism, nature and spirits, spared from the western onslaught.


This area of northern New Mexico is where artist Georgia O’Keeffe had lived at Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu. She was a major figure in American art, with a distinctive style depicting subject matter inspired by the local environment in northern New Mexico.


Later in the summer I rafted the Colorado River (with Susan, discussed below), and went up to Grand Teton National park in Wyoming; and Glacier National Park in Montana, hiking 15 to 20 miles some days, swimming and camping in the backcountry during the peak of summer. In Glacier, the mountain meadows were green and full of light, with small valleys filled with meadow grasses, flowers and insects; and the possibility of encountering a foraging grizzly bear – to be avoided given the danger of fatal attack! I didn’t come across any grizzlies though I did come across a curious brown bear in the wild and had a very personal face off with on a track while hiking in Colorado.


It is difficult to explain how much strength and renewal being out West gave me – Gila, Zion, Grand Teton, Glacier – the locations, the people. I met fascinating characters, read intriguing Buddhist philosophical texts, and had freedom to wander; and what I took with me – the love of my key relationships with family and friends, including Susan, but little else did I hold onto – the next job or new career, and the rest of my life could wait.


It was a superb and extraordinary summer. It felt superb to be alive and the summer went from strength to strength.


Rewriting history – a rafting trip down the Colorado:


The narratives of history can be retold, reinvented over and over again; and the FBI is adept at creating the narratives that help it fulfil its goals and aspirations. Histories and biographies are full of content fictionalised by the agency intentionally using lies, misinformation, selective disclosure, and at times accounts of actions that were in fact not “historical” events, but rather the staged acts of its paid agents.


In this vein, drawing on my association with Susan and her role policing aspects of the environmental community, the FBI early on saw an opportunity. Before I had left Warburg in March 1997, Susan invited me on an all expenses sponsor paid, 3 night rafting trip down the Colorado River set for late July, which as it turned out, coincided with my travels out west.  The rafting trip was billed as totally funded by a Salt Lake City surgeon – apparently an FBI twist, modelled on Edward Abbey’s well known eco-warrior novel The Monkey Wrench Gang where the main financial backer is also a surgeon and the decommissioning of which was now the purpose of the high profile rafting trip down the Colorado that summer intending to draw publicity to the cause.


Abbey’s novel portrayed the sabotage and removal of Glen Canyon Dam, the very same dam Sierra Club legend David Brower, whom I had met that summer in a background meeting with Susan, had lamented as his greatest defeat. It had been the subject of a fierce environmental campaign in the 1950-60s.


Brower had said the destruction of Glen Canyon would come to be seen as “America’s most regretted environmental mistake.” It was a trade off he never forgave himself for. However, he had not given in lightly and his opposition was so fierce it prompted President Nixon to despair and remark “Thank God there is only one David Brower!”


Various campaigns and stunts, calling for the dismantling of Glen Canyon Dam have ensued ever since, including Dave Foreman’s Earth First! which unrolled a large black plastic sheet to look like a crack down the front of the dam wall to great visual affect and media coverage in 1981.


Susan and my meeting with Brower provided a timely and appropriate backdrop to the rafting trip that summer down the Colorado River that advocated for the dismantling of Glen Canyon Dam.


One of the biggest threats Brower saw to the environmental movement was from corporate interests and corporate backed foundations co-opting the boards and management of mainstream influential environmental groups. The larger mainstream environmental groups, in particular, were at risk of being corrupted he believed.


It is not clear whether Brower saw a similar threat coming from federal government agencies, such as the FBI, infiltrating the board of the Sierra Club and co-opting its agenda. Brower had several stints as a Director of the Sierra Club but he fell out over strategic direction and resigned on more than one occasion in frustrated disagreement, including in 2000 for the last time. The NYT reported him as saying in his 2000 resignation: “The world is burning, and all I hear from them is the music of violins. May the Sierra Club become what John Muir wanted it to be and what I have alleged it was.” Whether the FBI had agents planted on the board at that time, as they had Susan in the mid 1990s, and if so what effect it might have had in dampening the Sierra Club’s mission, I do not know.


He reportedly fought his battles with ‘evangelical zeal’ that brought him wide renown. The Bureau of Reclamation was responsible for building and managing dams and otherwise securing water, and associated hydroelectric power in the American West, and it in particular bore the brunt of Brower’s opposition. The Bureau presided over the Flaming George Dam, Hungry Horse Dam, Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, Friant Dam, Shasta Dam, Vallecito Damand Grand Coulee Dam among others. It had also made vigorous attempts to dam the Colorado River including at two places in the Grand Canyon and another at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers – tributaries to the Colorado.


John McPhee writes in Encounters with the Archdruid (p87):


“There are conservationists (a few anyway) who are even more vociferous than Brower, but none with his immense reputation, none with his record of battles fought and won – defeater of dams, defender of wilderness. He must be the most unrelenting fighter for conservation in the world. Russell Train, chairman of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, once said, “Thank God for Dave Brower. He makes it so easy for the rest of us to be reasonable. Somebody has to be a little extreme. Dave is a little hairy at times, but you do need somebody riding out there in front.”


McPhee explains (p159):


“The conservation movement is a mystical and religious force, and possibly the reaction to dams is so violent because rivers are the ultimate metaphors of existence, and dams destroy rivers.”


The rafting trip in 1997 received quite a lot of publicity, with involvement of Dave Foreman, Martin Litton, representatives of various environmental groups including the young Chairman of the Sierra Club Board of Directors, and high profile journalists, including from Time magazine – around 20 or so people in all.


It was the presence of Dave Foreman, the counter cultural icon, on the trip, in particular, that caused some excitement in local communities and among other rafters along the Colorado and a key to anchoring media coverage of the event. People had heard and spread the word that Dave Foreman was on the river rafting with an environmental protest group for a few days. We had started the trip near the confluence of the Green River, and the desert township of Moab and over several days recreational rafters, outdoor enthusiasts, and those with a cultural or political affinity made special trips down the river to say hello. Dave handled the attention with a congenial, natural nonchalance, and more than ever, on the rapids of the Colorado River, rowing his dory, he seemed in his element as the counter cultural hero – the Ned Kelly (Australian bushranger and folk hero) of the modern day American West environmental movement.


The river trip itself was superb. Summer, was well advanced, and the river torrents had calmed somewhat from the peak volumes which come with the heavy snow melt from the peaks of Colorado early in the summer. The water volume that flowed when we area there, while still maintaining enough white water to tip a boat, was not enough to test the mettle of the experienced river runners in the group.


The days on the river were mostly spent riding the flowing current in various ways; riding the boats in different positions, at times jumping in the Colorado and floating along side the flotilla of boats and rafts in the cool water during the heat of the day, buoyed by life jackets and some mid day beers as we floated along.


The canyon walls towered above us and the sky was deep blue. We stopped at Spanish Flat, only accessible from the river, and hiked up to the Doll House, a remarkable grouping of large rock protrusions, irregular vertical shapes rising out of the ground, perched high up on a canyon ledge – for me a highlight of the trip. Everything from the bottom of the main canyon a mile deep to the uppermost rim has been carved by the Colorado over vast aeons of time which for now appears deceptively solid and unchanging. This feeling of permanence and solidity imbued the smaller hidden canyons set high above the Colorado as well – including the Dolls House – reinforcing the impact of the overwhelming scale of the Grand Canyon itself. The silence and stillness of these high up and forgotten canyons seemed almost as permanent and unshakeable as the massive and timeless stone blocks and canyon walls.


As mentioned, the rafting trip was part of a campaign intended to generate publicity for the dismantling of Glen Canyon Dam, the massive dam which blocks the Colorado River, forming Lake Powell, in Arizona; and which Sierra Club luminary David Brower had fought so tenaciously to defeat. There were a number of boats in our group and I had been allocated to Dave Foreman’s crew with a few others. In hindsight I don’t think this was simply a pleasant coincidence.


In extending the invitation to me, Susan had said that the various participants partners’ were all invited, of which I was to be one among many. As it turned out, however, I was the only outside partner in attendance. From recollection, there was another partner, possibly two on the trip, but they also had work reasons for being there. It appears my invitation had been extended out of special consideration by the FBI. I was invited innocently by Susan, but it was after the FBI’s Freeport payback had commenced.


My attendance was evidently part of the FBI campaign to reinvent history.  It was a Trojan horse, a razor blade coated in honey, the licking of which was nice at the time but the real purpose of the invitation was to create a smokescreen, to portray me as a legitimate person of interest, an environmental extremist. They were seeking to create a “plausible” alternative to the Freeport issue to substantiate their interference with me and attempting to portray me as having close personal ties and association with other people the FBI has, or once had, a “genuine” interest in.


Steve Garber’s bizarre behaviour in late 1997 was a further extension of this constructed illusion. A few months after the rafting trip when I was back in New York with a new job, Steve Garber invited me on a local walk and after an hour or so of general chat proceeded to ask me numerous ridiculous, oddball questions about dams and how they could be sabotaged. We were walking along 72nd Street, it was late afternoon, and he wanted to know how I would blow up a dam wall if I “had” too. “Blow it up” seemed clear enough – I had seen a few war films over the years; but what was meant by if I “had too”? Was conscription something the government was again considering?


He asked something like, “What if you were a demolition engineer for example?” He knew I had started my career as a mining engineer and had some work experience with explosives in the mining industry.

I said I still had no idea – and I asked him why was he asking all these inane questions about blowing up dams?

As time passed his questions became increasingly ludicrous and personal – wanting to know if I had ever thought about blowing up a dam, dreamt about it, what mining industry technology could be applied, hypothetically he said. Though he pushed for firm answers. Surely there was something he insisted.

I said to Steve, “I assume you’re trying to stop this sort of thing,” to which he said “Yes”. Eventually, after a tedious conversation, we came up with a completely implausible, impractical Walt Disney “Roadrunner” cartoon style scenario and he seemed satisfied.


Some years later at a dinner in NY secretly recorded by the FBI, Susan working on duty undercover for the agency, asked me to clarify points on the same topic and asked me if I remembered that conversation with Steve. It seemed as if the FBI had done some research and determined the scenario Steve had come up with, with my input, was implausible and impractical – which was the same point on which the conversation with Steve had ended at the time.


If it weren’t for the effort the FBI has gone to and the problems they have caused me, one would almost be inclined to laugh at their idiocy. I must be a dam saboteur, otherwise why would the FBI be asking me all these questions, why would I have been on a river trip that promoted the dismantling of Glen Canyon Dam, and why would I have had personal meetings, albeit as a companion to Susan, with well known environmental advocates who wanted to remove dams, in particular, Glen Canyon Dam. It is a strategy approved by senior ranks of the FBI because they know they can get away with it; they understand the pervasiveness of the corruption in the system and the ineffectiveness of weak, captive regulators to stop it.


The FBI’s repeated tactic in attacking me has been to camouflage its tracks, brazenly deceive, lie and deny the real reason for its harassment of me, the publication of the research note that touched on the Freeport killings and question to Jim Bob Moffett, the Freeport CEO. Given Susan’s job with the FBI, pursuing environmental extremists in the US, the agency did not have to work hard to misrepresent circumstances to potentially paint me as a legitimate target.


I now suspect the only information likely to remain in the FBI files documenting the rafting trip are photos of the people in attendance, and whatever spin the agency wants to attribute to events in a written report, a subject Susan raised cryptically, in relation to me, some years later (at the same dinner in NY mentioned above) – indicating she had photos of me rowing Dave Foreman’s dory down the Colorado with Dave and a few others as passengers. Indeed, Dave very generously had given everyone assigned to his boat a chance to row it. Susan implied the photos were some centre piece in an FBI collection.


Like many of the FBI’s attacks, the circumstances in which it occurred felt good at the time; indeed, I enthusiastically participated in the rafting trip. Who wouldn’t enjoy such a trip? My girlfriend had invited me, it was an interesting group of people, the trip was all expenses paid, and the Colorado is one of the world’s sublime and classic rivers to raft, it was beautiful summer weather, magnificent scenery, and exciting.


Presuming there is some method to the FBI’s madness, I can only assume that it is to give the agency the “circumstantial” evidence it needs to justify and defend the attack on me to any oversight body that might ever take a passing interest in my case. The FBI could try to argue, by reference to the “evidence”, excluding the context and all contrary evidence, that their continued “interest” in me is warranted, based on well documented, legitimate concerns. Anything more than cursory scrutiny by an oversight agency would have little difficulty unravelling the FBI’s ruse and abuses. But it doesn’t happen. This is not the way the US (and Australian) political system operates now.


After the rafting trip down the Colorado we flew to Detroit and stayed with her mother. We were in town for a wedding, friends from the New York environmental community. One of the last times the topic of Susan’s role with the FBI came up while we were going out was in her mother’s home in Detroit – a large, old sprawling but well maintained two story house. After dinner one evening, talking with Susan’s mother in the kitchen, with Susan present, perhaps sensing the destructive potential of Susan not having me fully onboard about her FBI career, said to me, “you ought to ask Susan about her second career. She has her environmental career, but also her second career with the FBI. I am sure she would like to tell you all about it.” It was a heartfelt remark over a beer while she and her new husband stuffed envelopes for DEK, an influential fraternity of which he was then president and which included among its members George W. Bush.


Susan’s face screwed up in annoyance, and lightly stamping her foot for emphasis, she exclaimed, “Mom! I’m not.” There was a brief silence, no follow up and she turned and walked out.


Her mother turned to me and said in a hushed voice, “Ask her about it. She works with the FBI”.


As I walked after Susan, she was standing in the stairwell. Our eyes connected and locked, we exchanged intense searching glares, she refused to yield a word, and after a few seconds I kept going. The situation, in addition to being perverse, was also uncomfortable, and now finally required resolution. We could no longer avoid the issue.


Her reticence in discussing her work with me while we were in Detroit was inexplicable, at odds with her earlier enthusiasm. I could only assume the FBI had got to her about the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of it from me. It was not for another year that she was to learn I was on an FBI hit list, and it was not till some years after that that she learnt the real reason for my listing. In any event, she didn’t elaborate and I didn’t push. Though I had resolved that on my return to NY I would revisit it with her – and it became a central issue for me and of our relationship.


By the time this occurred, in the summer of 1997, Susan, herself, had been being played by the FBI for over a year. They were exploiting Susan’s silence and partially disclosed career secret to progress the agency’s own agenda. By now, I assume Susan’s bosses at the FBI had sounded her out about what I knew of her career there; and true to FBI style they were leaving little to chance – a young male environmentalist Susan had supposedly given a hard time to at a weekend camp we attended used that as a pretext for asking me about what I knew of Susan’s work at the FBI.


Return to New York and a new job: September 1997


My summer in the west had come full circle. I sold my car to the same dealer in Albuquerque from whom I had purchased it several months earlier and returned to New York. It was the same weekend Princes Di was killed in a car crash in August 1997. I flew in on the Sunday, the morning after the crash, in preparation for a new job starting the next day. I spent the first few nights at Susan’s as the tenant subleasing my NY apartment was still within their notice period.


My return to New York seemed seamless and life simply picked up where it had left off. My new job was better paying and I had had an amazing spring and summer.


During the summer, I had stayed in frequent contact with Susan and caught up with her a number of times either out west or back in NY on return trips – the rafting trip in Utah, Detroit at her mother’s place, and a couple times in New York – including for the interview for the job I had now been offered back on Wall Street as a Vice President in the equity research division of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson (DKB), a German investment bank, working as a mining analyst. I had been off work for 5 months and out west for much of that time.


I returned to NY and started the new job in September 1997. I was fit, relaxed and fresh. The summer out west had been brilliant, everything I had done was like a dream fulfilled, and although I had thought about staying out west, I returned to my life which remained centred in NY. My new job paid better than the one I had departed earlier in the year, and financially I was better off than if I hadn’t had the summer off. However, the FBI assault was about to intensify, they were evidently not pleased I had secured another job, and shortly after I returned, Susan and her mother, in a joint call to me at work, invited me to the family home in Detroit for Christmas.


In the second half of 1997, the FBI knew Susan had invited me to her parents’ home for Christmas, a potentially significant event. Irrespective, the agency callously continued its political attack directed squarely at her, me and the relationship as part of their police state punishment. The fact that Susan was an agent only made it easier for the FBI to manipulate us.


[Further details to come]




Section 4: The FBI (and ASIO) stole my girlfriend

The FBI gives my girlfriend my FBI files


The FBI did not initially tell Susan they were targeting me. They kept the details quiet from her and obviously from me. In fairytales true love prevails, but in real life love has cracks and relationships have periods of respite – cracks which the FBI helped to engineer in my relationship with Susan, then ruthlessly exploited.


Once the FBI had helped facilitate the split between Susan and me in late 1997, through tactics we later learned included the deletion of phone messages to each other, and had me distracted and her miffed, they gave her access to the FBI file they had been building on me since March 1996, the date of the offending Freeport report. Mischievously, they told her I was the subject of a criminal investigation in relation to my work; but this was a false justification for the file, it was an outright lie, and the “investigation” in fact political payback.


The FBI got the result it intended, by late 1997 the three-year relationship between Susan and me was damaged and never recovered. But their payback did not end there, it was just beginning.


The FBI and DOJ Inspector’s General, supposed protectors of the public against agency abuses, were nowhere to be seen; ditto, congressional judicial oversight committees with responsibility for the FBI. AWOL. MIA.


Many years later Susan told me I could not imagine how surprised she was at the moment she saw my name on the FBI files. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing…but she did believe it! That she was one of “their own”, an undercover FBI agent, only made it easier for them to betray her. She was young, inexperienced and foolishly did not doubt the integrity of the FBI! She accepted their word and their files as legitimate, took them at face value because she was in the habit of trusting and being obedient to them. And now, they had turned on her too.


Her response at the time she was given the files, however, paled in comparison to how she reacted when she found out later that they were part of an FBI setup – a hatchet job. She said she had been physically sick and vomited.


The FBI’s attacks on domestic political targets are intended to intimidate and shape key US institutional cultures. In a leaf taken from the mafia, the agency establishes its authority by maliciously attacking those who stray “outside” its political boundaries and ensures the people it seeks to influence “witness” or know of the attack in order to sow fear, subservience and self-censorship into key institutions and industries. It culls and pursues its targets where it calculates there is little risk of political ricochet, blowback that might result in unintended repercussions, and the corollary to that, potential political ramifications or criminal prosecution of the agency.


However, there are other potential ramifications to its actions. Targeting analysts’ opinions on Wall Street potentially distorts economic signals to the wider market, which includes investors, regulators and politicians. One wonders if the S&P and Moody credit rating agency analysts whose companies published reports prior to the GFC on the financial stability of the mortgage brokers had operated in a culture free of state interference and were at liberty to write what they thought without fear of reprisal, whether the devastation subsequently wreaked by the GFC on so many innocent people might have been averted or mitigated through earlier preventative action.



[Further details to come]


Taking refuge in Australia


Governments everywhere, no matter what country one lives in, use force against freedom and innocence, with the means to interfere varying according to the tools the government has at its disposal and the strength of their motivation. Each government defines and deals with their dissidents differently. Some countries kill their political opponents openly, and others “disappear” them. More sophisticated countries, like the US, Australia and the UK, have developed effective techniques that are not so blunt but are equally devious and achieve the same chilling effect.


June 1999: I left the USA after an intrusive vendetta led by the FBI that blacklisted me from work in my chosen field, interfered with my social and professional networks, compromised all my communications and deprived me of my right to privacy. I sought to flee US government political persecution.


With so much interference evident in NY, no prospect of a new job to advance my career, and no encouragement from Susan who had been blindsided by the FBI to stay, I moved back to Australia in search of firmer ground. In particular, my inability to resolve things with Susan was a source of frustration and, given the earlier strength of our relationship, some confusion. Susan now seemed to be driven by a force beyond my reach. And indeed she was! She had become a puppet zombie in the grip of the FBI.


I grew up in Australia but I also feel very connected to the US, harbour a lot of warmth for the country, and consider myself very much a citizen of both. I have strong family roots in the US with my mother and three of my four grandparents being from there and I vote in both countries. My US ancestors on one side of the family were from Massachusetts. The other side of the family were pioneers in Ohio in the early nineteenth century. They picked up land there and the farm they established near Plattsburg remained in the family for nearly two hundred years until 2009. I had frequently visited the farm growing up and visited my grandmother who lived in a regional centre near there. We visited my cousins in Cleveland and later in Washington DC. I like to think that the Pacific Ocean represents a seamless boundary between the US and Australia which I can cross at ease as readily as if I were crossing a state line.


In some respects, I am a political refugee having uprooted my home and life in the US, after eight years living there, due to pervasive and unconscionable government harassment. I had thoroughly enjoyed life in NY, they were some of the best years of my life. I love America, I love Americans and I believe in the American dream set forth by the founding fathers. I would have stayed in the US without a doubt, but the FBI made it untenable, interfering with my ability to make a living, plans for a family and social and professional networks.


The waves that radiated from the FBI’s blows rippled out in a across my life in clear, predictable patterns. The immediate impact of their blacklisting was that if I wanted to work and progress a career, which I did, I could not do it in the US, and the high cost of living in New York meant, at the very least, I needed to move from there sooner rather than later. So I took a job back in Sydney where I was able to get work in my profession.


Does this make me a political refugee? I would say yes. It satisfies the conditions of state interference making it impossible for me to make a living in my chosen field which forced me to go to another country to seek work, where I might be free of persecution. In this case, I sought asylum, albeit informal, from a real oppressor. I was an exile, in search of refuge, relief and freedom from the FBI. My life was probably not threatened by staying in America though my livelihood and social networks certainly were.


Susan and I caught up a number of times after my move back to Australia; including several times in NY when I travelled back for short visits, and once in Hawaii. The FBI’s manipulation and interference had taken its toll on both of us. It had affected Susan, as well as me, resulting in disappointment, insecurity and uncertainty for each of us, with the futures we might have had ending with the relationship. She showed signs of personal stress, she had put on weight, but we were never back in a serious relationship.



FBI interference extended: ASIO co-opted


My mistake, if I can call it that, was in thinking Australia was free of this sort of thing. But it isn’t. Indeed, it is very close to the US and the elite’s share intelligence data almost freely with each other, along with Canada, the UK and NZ – creating a virtually seamless nexus – which has earned them the totalitarian moniker – “The Five-Eyes”.


The FBI (and ASIO – the Australian secret intelligence organisation) has thrown nets over all my communications, identifying and targeting friends, associates and colleagues. The public now knows from Ed Snowden’s NSA leaks in 2013 that the government has undertaken illegal mass surveillance, without specific warrants or meaningful oversight, of domestic and foreign telephone calls, email, online chats and browser histories. According to the NSA leaks, the government spies on contacts with up to 3 degrees of separation: that would mean targeting my contacts, my contacts, and in cases their contacts.


That being the case their surveillance of me could sweep up in the order of one million people, extending to a large chunk of my Wharton MBA class and a huge number of my finance industry peers, including analysts, sales people and fund managers. Such a wide sweep allows the FBI to identify where it may already have agents in place in relation to their new target. It is potentially a starting point from which the agency can plan a recruitment pathway, instigate extensive and wide ranging follow up surveillance of the target’s network and develop specific recruitment strategies “specially” tailored person by person, so the FBI can eventually reach the core people that are close to, and encircle their main target. It is a process that takes time, extensive intrusive and illegal surveillance, and money.


The FBI has put me under extensive surveillance, and also my contacts, and from the outset went way beyond just watching passively. They have turned and recruited whoever they could, bugging my apartment, telephone, intercepting emails, and recording conversations. They have taken considerable pains to delve deeply into all aspects of my present and past, identifying and approaching old friends and current, and in cases they succeeded in recruiting them.


Over the course of my life, I have had many hundreds of friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Several dozen of these I am now aware have been approached, and in cases interfered with and recruited. In addition to people I already knew, others have made themselves known to me, in cases befriending me, only later to reveal their involvement with an intelligence agency.


One of the more intrusive things the FBI did was to plant an agent in my New York apartment where the person had access to all my stuff. Unbeknownst to me at the time, after I advertised for a sublet tenant, one of their agents applied – he was the only one of two applicants to come by for an inspection. The agent, Michael Mills, occupied the apartment at 170 West 74th Street (Upper West Side) for a number of years after I departed New York and returned to Australia.


Years after I broke-up with Susan, they sent her to Australia to interview a host of people I had known over the years (from places like school, university and work) including adversaries and detractors, and prepared her with extensive notes for a secretly recorded covert interview in 2003 during a catch-up dinner between us in New York. Susan was fronting for the FBI, a turn which would have taken me completely off guard if not for a tip-off from someone, and over the course of the dinner she touched on and probed aspects of my entire life. It was evident the preparation by the agency for this covert interview had been extensive and very well resourced. It was also clear the FBI had done this sort of thing before; I was not the first person they had ever gone after!


Susan deliberately and persistently steered the conversation to discuss people I knew, friends, family whoever, and to record me saying negative things about any of them – in earnest, mock, or joke – it made no difference – the words were all that mattered for what the FBI had planned. She probed for details of people I had known over the years, people who may harbour slow burning or hidden resentment against me, issues that might enable the FBI to open old wounds that can be easily stirred up to manipulate the person. They sought my opinions on matters that could be used to stir the pot also – political, social, religious views, etc to later present selectively my opinion to people who hold opposing views. There is no shortage of hotbed issues in the world, eg Palestine/Israel; Ireland/England; Greens/Republicans; taxation; abortion, etc, etc. However, at the time I was being asked these questions it did not seem particularly threatening.


At the time, I could not conceive of the agency’s ability to reach into personal aspects of my life and broadcast aspects of it selectively or fabrications of it in a highly targeted way to my family, friends and others as they did, as a way to harm me. I have been surprised by their power to reach people in my life and past, to sway people who are close to me of things that are not true about me, and at the very least that cause me problems, personal complications and the like. To credit them with such access and power did not seem plausible at the time.


Indeed, some of the revelations by Snowden about the NSA has in part explained this reach. Illegal phone tapping and extensive tracking of metadata – who we are phoning, who is phoning us, numbers, times, dates, locations – they pick all of this up with complicity from phone companies, internet servers and the like. This is just one of the ways they can track our social contacts.


Over the coming years, the people I discussed with Susan at that secretly recorded dinner have been tracked down by the FBI (ASIO in Australia), given security clearance (and sometimes recruited) and played back any of the material where the FBI could convey an offensive meaning to disaffect people I knew – a tactic intended to damage some of my relationships. In cases the FBI completely misrepresented what was said, or stated it out of context, but in all cases they violated my confidence and privacy, with the intention of souring or complicating my personal relationships – offending select family members, friends, and professional contacts. In general, they have achieved what they set out to do – some of the people they have accessed or recruited I no longer speak with, in other cases it has caused discomfort and waves in our relationship which we overcame. An excellent opinion piece in the NYT (15 June 2013) “I know what you think of me” discusses the damage of personal betrayal in its various forms: NYT opinion piece


The FBI in Central Park: a special walk with agent Steve Garber


I learned the truth about the FBI’s involvement in this revenge attack from Steven Garber, one of Susan’s colleagues and a ranking officer at the FBI who had managed the operation for the FBI. In 2004, on one of my return trips to NY, he told me all during a long walk in Central Park. He had been closely involved in managing the payback for the FBI and his intention in telling me was malicious, like twisting the knife in a stabbing victim: to rattle and perturb my psyche.


The FBI’s timing in its disclosure was deliberately chosen, once Susan was married and pregnant with her first child, for maximum impact and to ensure there was no way back for our relationship, just in case any ember remained that could re-ignite the fire that once burned.


My head spun with the revelations. I wondered how much of my life they had interfered with, when had it started and what they wanted with me. I wondered if I had inadvertently done something illegal. It didn’t take long to connect it to West Papua and Freeport. I could barely believe it – the audacity and corruption! For me it confirmed the ruthless conspiracy of US involvement and support for Freeport in West Papua. If it weren’t all true, why would they care so much, why go to so much trouble?


Of course I was greatly disturbed and upset to learn of the FBI’s interference in my personal life, their role in undermining my long term relationship with Susan and the sabotage of my career which directly led to my exile from the US; as well as ongoing interference in all aspects of my life.


I had always thought my life and ambitions typical of my generation; find a life partner, establish a career, make a contribution and try to find happiness from within the culture and system I was born into. It had never occurred to me that any of my political opinions were particularly controversial nor any serious threat to entrenched interests. But just as the FBI’s interference in my life changed its outcomes in significant ways, my attitude to the US government was also altered irrevocably by their actions, as if a blindfold had been removed.


Some readers might say:”What did you do? You must have done something to deserve this. It must be your fault. The world doesn’t work this way.”


But that is naive. I had a front row seat to global fund managers and relayed to them information about sensitive but public domain problems facing a large US mining company. People in power did not like that. Indeed, major fund managers the world over have voted with their feet and blacklisted the shares of Freeport McMoran – they will not hold the company’s shares in their funds on ethical grounds generally related to human rights and environment.


Section 5: Mining in the Jungles of West Papua

West Papua is situated on the island of New Guinea at the eastern end of Indonesia. Source DW


The confluence of Titans: the USA and Freeport. Riots and human rights




West Papua is recognised for its enormous economic potential with oil, minerals and timber in abundance. However, its great wealth has been both a blessing and a curse, as the region has been plagued with security challenges since the Dutch withdrew in 1962 and was formally annexed by Indonesia in 1969.


In 1972, Freeport commenced large scale open pit mining initially at the Ertsberg mine. In 1988, a massive discovery at Grasberg, about 1.9 miles from Ertsberg, catapulted Freeport into the league of global mining majors. Today, Grasberg is one of the world’s largest, most profitable copper and gold mines; and one of the world’s most valuable mining assets with one of the world’s largest reserves of copper and gold. In 2011 these amounted to 31.6 billion pounds of copper and 32.2 million ounces of gold with an in-ground value approaching US$200 hundred billion. It is expected to remain in operation for at least another 30 years – beyond 2040.


Production in 2011 was 882 million pounds of copper and 1.4 million ounces of gold, contributing US$5.4 billion dollars to Freeport’s revenues and US$2.9 billion dollars to gross profit. It is a significant component of Indonesian GDP and the company has deep political connections at the highest levels in Jakarta, with the military and the government, and Washington.


The project is owned and operated by Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold Inc through its 90.64% interest in PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI). Freeport’s head office is in Phoenix (previously in New Orleans) and the company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Parts of the project are held in joint venture with Anglo-Australian mining major Rio Tinto.


History of violence


There have been extensive and ongoing military and intelligence agency abuses in West Papua in and around the Freeport concession since inception in 1967. These abuses have been well documented intermittently by human rights agencies and over the years there has been intermittent media coverage. The Atlantic published an interesting update in 2011 with the chilling headline: “Is a U.S. Mining Company Funding a Violent Crackdown in Indonesia?” detailing Freeport-McMoRan’s payments to the “local police who have used violence against mine workers asking for better wages.”[4] The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said “these latest incidents [in 2013] are unfortunate examples of the ongoing suppression of freedom of expression and excessive use of force in Papua. I urge the Government of Indonesia to allow peaceful protest and hold accountable those involved in abuses.”[5]


The Freeport project is associated with an astonishing level of violence. Confrontations and military conflict have flared repeatedly since the Dutch departed, with the Indonesian government well supported by the US government with military training, advisers and weapons sales. The Australian government also provided military hardware, including helicopters, and training. There have been multiple instances of military deployment of modern warfare techniques against local indigenous traditional cultures with peaks occurring in 1977, 1980 and 1996.

The US Embassy in Jakarta provided Freeport officials with talking points for their frequent media briefings.

The original occupiers of Freeport’s concession had no legal recourse to financial compensation for spiritual loss of their lands, though housing and rudimentary infrastructure was compensated. The Indonesian government merely handed their ancestral lands over to Freeport to explore and mine in a contract of work that was signed by Freeport and the Indonesian government in 1967. The contract, signed under Suharto, gave Freeport “the exclusive right to enter upon and to take possession of and to occupy the Project Area.” and the “right to arrange for their resettlement of any indigenous inhabitants who may be found permanently residing on any part of the Project Areas”.[6]


US backed military aggression – Vietnam War tactics: Reflecting the dissatisfaction of the local Traditional Owners to the presence of Freeport’s mine, a key slurry pipeline was sabotaged in 1977 by the indigenous independence movement OPM, which caused the mine to temporarily close.  In response to the sabotage, the military unleashed a brutal operation against the locals, ruthless tactics including use of cluster munitions and napalm reminiscent of a US style Vietnam War offensive – a war which the US had recently lost.


A Yale Law School report for the Indonesia Human Rights Network (April 2004) reported:


“Strafing and bombing missions killed numerous West Papuan villagers and caused thousands to flee their homes into the jungles. In May 1977, OV-10 Broncos dropped antipersonnel “Daisy Cluster” bombs near the village of Ilaga, located on the other side of the Puncak Jaya mountain chain from Freeport’s mine. At the end of August, two OV-10 Bronco Bombers shelled the region of Akimuga. Soldiers also destroyed most of the food gardens belonging to Papuans in the region. As a result, many Papuan children suffered severe malnutrition.”[7]


A footnote stated: “Daisy Cluster” or “Cluster bombing” is a high-altitude delivery of a 15,000-pound conventional bomb designed to kill everyone present within a huge area. Originally it was designed to create an instant clearing in the jungle.


Australian academic Denise Leith reports the operation against the indigenous OPM independence movement, in and around the Freeport concession:


“American Broncos and helicopter gunships carpet bombing, strafing, and reputedly napalming the surrounding villages. This operation was aimed at punishing the perpetrators and deterring further attacks on the mine.”[8]


The Yale Law School report also cited a report by Amnesty International:


“The military arrested and detained local Papuans, many for months. According to Amnesty International, the army used steel containers to incarcerate thirty men in total darkness for three months in the Freeport mining site, where night temperatures approached the freezing point.”[9]


1994-97 escalation of violence: Not surprisingly, as a response to the expansion of the Freeport concession area in 1994, the indigenous people protested the loss of their lands and local opposition to the company led to an escalation in conflict in the area in and around the concession.  Following the discovery in 1988 and subsequent commencement of operations at Grasberg, Freeport’s concession was expanded in 1994 to over 9 million acres, up from 6.5 million acres in 1991, which compares with the relatively smaller 24,700 acres in the original Ertsberg (Black A) concession granted in 1967. Freeport’s massive land holding was granted without requirement to compensate the traditional owners, and forced relocations were undertaken by the military reportedly with Freeport’s material assistance. Further, the concessions were granted without stringent environmental controls. The ensuing conflict, starting in 1994, and including the 1994 Christmas Day massacre, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of indigenous protestors.


In March 1996, riots broke out around the Grasberg mine in which 3 people were killed. The riots lasted 3 days, closing the mine for the duration. In response, by April the military had expanded its operation around the mine adding 3,000 to 4,000 additional troops and positioned a warship off the coast at the port of Amamapere. The riots and mine closure were reported globally in the mainstream media, and also featured in the analyst report I authored dated 12 March 1996 which triggered the FBI’s response.


With the March riots and killings in 1996 being reported worldwide, Suharto was feeling personal pressure from the international community in relation to the Indonesian military backed atrocities around the Freeport mine, and he in turn put pressure on Freeport to improve the situation.


Freeport’s CEO Jim Bob Moffett flew to Indonesia arriving 13 March 1996[10] to attend a three way meeting hastily convened between the military, indigenous representatives and Freeport. Freeport was feeling political pressure and in need of finding a solution to placate the locals. One aspect of the solution agreed, was that Freeport would establish the Integrated Timika Development Plan (superseded by the Freeport Partnership Fund for Community Development) whereby the company committed to contribute 1% of its annual gross revenues from Grasberg into a fund (“1% Fund”) primarily intended to assist the tribes that had been forcibly displaced by the mine.


However, Jim Bob was also secretly negotiating separately with the head of Kopassus – Indonesia’s Special Forces – a group with a well documented record of brutality and human rights atrocities throughout the country, to agree a significantly enhanced funding package that he knew would underwrite an oppressive military crackdown against the same indigenous people in the vicinity of the Grasberg mine he was simultaneously trying to placate with social inclusion and new development programs.


Human rights reports: Aside from the US State Department investigation, other groups were investigating the killings marked by a period that began around the 1994 Christmas massacre and extended into 1997.


The highest profile, independent human rights reports were prepared by the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) – an NGO umbrella group that monitors Australian foreign policy; and a report by the Catholic Church of Jayapura, led by the bishop of Jayapura Monsignor H.F.M. Munninghoff, both published in 1995. These reports found their way out of West Papua and international scrutiny of Freeport increased substantially.


In addition to the ACFOA and bishop Munninghof reports, there have been multiple other investigations into human rights abuses committed in and around Freeport’s Grasberg mine.


In May 1998, the local churches released a report (p203) attributing the elevated military presence to an escalation in tensions with the locals and reported that between December 1996 and October 1997 over 137 people were killed. The churches’ report details extrajudicial killing, and terrorising of local villages by the military.


By the end of 1998, there had been at least seven investigations into human rights abuses that occurred between 1994 and 1997, in and around the Grasberg mine. In addition to the three reports mentioned above, there was one by the International Red Cross, and another by Komnas HAM – the Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights. There were also reviews undertaken by the Australian and US embassies. Not one of these investigations and reports absolved the company of involvement in human rights abuses, though none of them proved it either, with one of the investigations (Komnas HAM) specifically excluding within its terms of reference investigation of Freeport involvement in the abuses.


Further reported eye witness accounts


While there are eye witness accounts of Freeport employee involvement in the killings, these have never been substantiated in court. The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights published a human rights report on the company in July 2002 – even though its investigators were denied entry into West Papua by the government, reportedly at the behest of Freeport.


The report states two civil lawsuits were filed against Freeport in the US. One, a federal suit launched by Amungme leader Tom Beanal, was not successful. The other, filed in Louisiana where the company was headquartered at the time, was dismissed in 2000. The New Orleans district court judge, Michael Bagneris said the case had failed to prove PTFI was the “legal alter ego” of Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold. The suits covered human rights abuses, personal injury, cultural genocide and environmental degradation, and had the support of thousands of Amungme along with many signed personal testimonies.


Irrespective of the cases being dismissed, many people hold the view that Freeport is nevertheless implicated in the killings and other abuses because it finances the Indonesian military in West Papua, has allowed the military to use Freeport property, as well as providing it with other material support such as transportation and accommodation.


Under Indonesian law, Freeport was able to call on the military to resettle the Traditional Owners, which the company did, and also gave material support to the military in removing the indigenous people from their ancestral homes.


Aside from Freeport co-operating with, financing and supporting the Indonesian military in West Papua, there have also been multiple reports alleging Freeport security took direct part in human rights abuses in the past, with multiple sources commenting on different occurrences in different places at different times.


Denise Leith[11] notes multiple first person accounts including witnesses to killings, though these apparently all remain uncorroborated. There are many difficulties and challenges in proving allegations of Freeport employee’s direct involvement in human rights abuses, including, she indicates, the understandable reluctance of eyewitnesses to publicly testify.


In an illuminating section on human rights abuses, she provides accounts of multiple, independent eyewitness testimonies to numerous abuses by Freeport security which are summarised below:


The ACFOA report: contains various eyewitness accounts of Freeport security involvement in the shooting of multiple villagers.

Survival International: circulated an Amungme video of Jacobus Niwilingame testifying to detention and abuse at the hands of Freeport security.


LEMASA: documented in 1997 specific cases of “assaults, disappearances and rapes” it attributed to Freeport security.


A Freeport employee: Masmus Tipagau, reported to a journalist he had witnessed Freeport security beating a man for playing cards.


An unnamed source: from the Freeport concession claims Freeport security involvement in the death of Amungme villager Naranebalan Anggaibak who was tied and dragged behind a car on 24 December 1994.


An article in The Nation: said a Western traveller claimed he had been detained by Freeport security (and TNI – the Indonesian military) for several hours.


Documentary Blood on the Cross: testimony from Yudas Kogoya states a Freeport employee piloted the Freeport helicopter “in which the military travelled to Geselama, where it massacred innocent villagers on 9 May 1996”.


Leith also tells of an account by well regarded Australian scientist and Australian of the Year in 2007, Professor Tim Flannery of Freeport security abuses:


Tim Flannery account: in his book Throwim Way Leg (p284-291) describes a young Papuan boy Arianus Maripu who suffered a severe beating, and who had told Flannery before dying of his injuries that he had been beaten by Freeport security.


There are many difficulties and challenges in proving allegations of Freeport employee’s direct involvement in human rights abuses, including the understandable reluctance of eyewitnesses to publicly testify.


Irrespective of the fact that court cases brought against Freeport in the US have been dismissed and failed to implicate the company in any of the human rights abuses inflicted against indigenous protestors in West Papua, many people hold the view that Freeport is nevertheless implicated in the killings and other abuses because it finances the Indonesian military in West Papua, has allowed the military to use Freeport property, as well as providing it with other material support such as transportation and accommodation potentially leaving the company vulnerable to allegations of Bougainville style war crimes currently being defended by mining major Rio Tinto.


“While Freeport cannot be blamed directly for the human rights abuses the military commits, neither is it completely free of culpability. Despite what Freeport says, there is an undeniable connection. The military was charged with protecting the company; the company accepted, and indeed required this. The military culture is violent and lacking in accountability, and the company has always known this….and its continuing relationship with the Indonesian military leave the company vulnerable to accusations of human rights violations in the past, and the future.”[12]


A speech to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1999 by U.S. congressman Faleomavaega directly informed congress of concerns about alleged Freeport human rights abuse:


‘‘Specific allegations have been made to Freeport’s direct association with human rights abuses undertaken by the Indonesian government on Freeport land. Freeport facilities are policed both by Freeport security and the Indonesian military; Freeport feeds, houses, and provides transportation for the Indonesian military; and after any incidence of indigenous resistance against Freeport, the military responds while Freeport looks on.


In 1977, when West Papuans attacked Freeport facilities, the Indonesian military bombed the natives using U.S.-made Broncos and a Freeport employee sent an anonymous letter to Tapol on August 6, 1977, writing ‘any native who is seen is shot dead on the spot.’ …. Although Freeport likes to shift blame onto the Indonesian government, Press reports that ‘One recent Western traveler was told by a Freeport security employee that he and his coworkers amuse themselves by shooting randomly at passing tribesmen and watching them scurry in terror into the woods and Amnesty International reported that the military used steel containers from Freeport to incarcerate indigenous people.’


Mr. Speaker, ultimately I believe in the goodness of people and in the goodness of the Members of this body. I believe that, as we are made aware of human suffering and gross injustice, we will rise to say enough is enough.”[13]


Unfortunately, the U.S. Government has done very little to help the people of West Papua and justice seems a long way off.


Militarised mining and foreign financial institutions


Critics rightfully claim that US, UK and other foreign lending agencies, and institutions such as Australian commercial banks Westpac and ANZ which were part of the syndicate of banks that financed Freeport’s mining activities in West Papua in the 1990s, should demand environmental and social accountability from their clients and in turn provide accountability and transparency to their own shareholders about such investments. Without such demands, these banks and others that lent money to finance Freeport’s Grasberg mine appeared to have accepted the corrupt business practices that prevailed under Suharto and subsequent governments.


It has been my experience that certain institutions involved with the financing of Freeport, at least senior people employed by those institutions, viz Westpac and ANZ, and also Warburg for example, in the wake of my new found notoriety as a target of the FBI and ASIO, had aligned with the intelligence agencies and interfered with my career in obvious collusion. Penetrating financial institutions, indeed any organisation, is an easy ask of the intelligence agencies which have the power to covertly recruit any employee at any level within any organisation without disclosure.


My experience with ANZ and Westpac, as well as other banks, serves as a reminder, and another example, of the close link between bank employees and intelligence agencies and the manner in which they work collusively with each other.


Other mining companies (notably BHP and Rio Tinto), that have operated in reasonably similar, remote conditions in PNG with Melanesian tribal people, across the border from the Grasberg mine in West Papua, seem on the surface to be dealing with very similar issues of alleged human rights abuses and environmental degradation.


Indeed, international mining major Rio Tinto is accused of helping the government forces (as is Freeport McMoran in West Papua, Indonesia) during the Bougainville war by lending the military trucks, accommodation, secretarial services, communications equipment and other material support, and has been named in a US class action law suit for complicity in atrocities and war crimes. The allegations are denied by Rio. At the time of writing in 2013, the court action was ongoing.


At Ok Tedi gold and copper mine (also across the border in PNG, formerly owned by BHP up till 2002) the traditional communities were successful in prosecuting the company for environmental damage resulting from discharge of tailings into the local river system damaging the Ok Tedi and Fly Rivers and affecting 50,000 people who live downstream. After years of BHP denying the environmental impact, in 1999 Paul Anderson, CEO of BHP, stated that the project was “not compatible with our environmental values”. Environmental reports indicated toxic chemicals associated with the tailings poisoned the river system, killing fish, and entered the food chain, with negative consequences for the indigenous communities that depended on the river for their livelihood. Flooding caused by the deposition of tailings in the river destroyed the indigenous people’s agricultural plots where they grew saro, bananas and sago palm, key food sources for their communities. In 1996 after a tenacious court case, BHP was required to pay US$150 million dollars compensation and spend another US$350 million to US$450 million dollars on remediation of the Fly River.


In 2013, PNG reneged on BHP’s previous immunity for environmental damage at Ok Tedi opening up the prospect of renewed prosecution. Prime Minister O’Neill said “BP accepted responsibility for [the] disaster…Why not BHP?” referring to the British firm BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the US’s Gulf of Mexico where environmental damages have resulted in massive financial penalties. If Melanesian, independent state PNG holds Ok Tedi and other mining companies accountable for environmental damages, and the US holds BP and other companies accountable for environmental damages, one can only assume the annexed territory of West Papua, if independent, would hold mining companies responsible for environmental damages with the possibility of a large liability for Freeport. [14]


Unlike PNG, the large military presence in West Papua leaves no doubts about who holds the power. Under Suharto, Freeport and its mining interests in West Papua were recognised as national assets, and emblematic of the notion of militarised mining, the area around the mine became the most heavily militarised and arguably one of the most abused regions in Indonesia. The military was everywhere and permeated all facets of society including the bureaucracy, media and judiciary in West Papua, as with Indonesia more broadly.


Grasberg could potentially be subject to the same kind of social and environmental accountability as Bougainville and Ok Tedi if not for the heightened Indonesian military presence and politically captive judiciary.


The Indonesian government, Freeport and the US government are taking no chances in West Papua with the heavy militarization of the mine site in significant part paid for by Freeport, plus Freeport provides logistical support to the Indonesian military; and in the US, Freeport’s extensive, high level political connections protect it in the US, including a flanking strategy provided by the FBI to silence US commentators that might otherwise raise the unwelcome public profile of the matter in the US.


Section 6: Western intelligence agencies out of control


The slow death of democracy


The 21st century started with the event now simply known as “9/11”, the first act of external terrorism on American soil since Pearl Harbour. It has made the West a more intolerant and, arguably, less free place than it was a quarter century ago when it stared down the nuclear threat of the Cold War. However, 9/11 has merely acted as a catalyst to a seismic change in America already underway since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 ushered in the end of the Soviet empire and the Cold War in 1991.


The politically astute, though flawed and morally tainted accused war criminal Henry Kissinger said at this time the greatest threat to world peace is now American unilateralism. Indeed, the US and its NATO allies have relentlessly advanced on the borders of energy rich Russia, tensions now escalating to crisis point in Ukraine, as Western interests encroach on former soviet territory placing missile bases and other military provocations, contrary to agreement. The Middle East has also borne the brunt US and allied aggression, the centrepiece of which was an illegal war to secure strategic, low cost oil interests in Iraq and help ward off the growth of Chinese influence in the region. Since the end of the Cold War, the US seems to have abandoned even the pretence of caring about the hearts and minds of the people of the world, including the mass of its own citizens.


If the Soviet Union and its call for a global revolution of the proletariat prior to 1991 represented the greatest threat to US status – as the preeminent economic, military and political influence in the world in the second half of the 20th century,  the rise of China in the first half of the 21st century based on the success of its high economic growth and elite state model of authoritarian capitalism poses the greatest threat to American global prestige and influence now. The central self imposed challenge of American leadership in the 21st century is how to expand economic growth, even at the cost of jettisoning long cherished freedoms of civil society that defined American culture and history for centuries, weakening or removing social and environmental protections that have inconveniently, for them, also served to impede economic growth for powerful entrenched interests.


The paradigm shift in America over the past 25 years with the erosion of human rights and civil liberties has been dramatic, key freedoms lost in the service of extreme economic rationalism. Political scapegoats, Al Qaeda and ISIS stand falsely accused as the reason for these losses though in reality they represent relatively modest threats to US and Western interests and national security. Threats posed by foreign terrorists to establishment interests has been an issue numerous times in the past century and Western powers prevailed without sacrificing formerly cherished freedoms. There are numerous examples of vanquished threats, including the Red Brigades in Italy, ETA – the Basque separatists in Spain, the IRA in England, the Red Army faction; Baader Meinhof in Germany, and the Nazis and Soviets. In each case, key rights were staunchly defended and protected. The deeper reason for the official withdrawal of our rights and liberties today therefore lies elsewhere and not with claims of an inevitable national security response to a foreign terrorist threat – a dishonest propaganda ploy from the pages of Orwellian leaders. At the very least, ramped up personal intrusions should be accompanied by the strongest possible oversight. But they aren’t. In fact oversight is being increasingly sidelined, which reinforces the notion that the real purpose of undermining the freedom of the masses is the accretion of power.


Today’s real enemies to “homeland security” appear to be those who resist giving up their freedoms and rights to further the nation’s economic growth. Those who would have once been considered true blue American patriots are now the enemies who stand in the way of economic outcomes – higher GDP; who stand in the way of the US aspiration of closing the gap with economic juggernauts, in particular China.  The social and environmental protections legislated or regulated in federal, state and local government and variously bureaucratised in taxes, transfer payments and red- and green-tape are to varying extents being dispensed with. These social and environmental protections are now considered impediments to higher economic growth in America, Australia and other Anglo Bloc countries. They are perceived as standing in the way of economic victory over China, necessarily to be dispensed with in pursuit of a futile hope that these sacrifices will prevent the relative outperformance and ascendancy of China over the West.


The State well understands that by clawing back freedoms a significant human and environmental toll will be extracted that strikes at the heart of our communities – and which will be met with resistance. To mitigate the coming pushback  a two throng strategy is place: deflection and fortification.


The deflection response is classic Orwellian – to incite fear in the public about the threat posed by a distant foreign enemy – in this case Middle Eastern military groups to focus people’s anger, frustration and disappointments away from events at home. The fortification aspect involves the expenditure of vast sums of money on the militarization of the country’s police with weapons and training provided by the Pentagon to confront head on any resulting unrest. If the Occupy Wall Street Movement was the initial peaceful wave of protestor pushback against this transition to less freedom,  the government appears to be expecting the main social and political upheaval is yet to come.


The militarization of the police is an alarming indication of the force the government has built at home. The US has reportedly provided over US$5bn in military grade weapons and training, much of it coming via the Pentagon, to domestic police units across the country. We have seen alarming scenes of militarized police action from one skirmish to the next across the US. The most recent dramatic images have come from Ferguson, Missouri where protestors took to the streets following the police killing of a black youth. Police and SWAT teams flooded the streets; eerie night time photos showed lasers beams and search lights piercing a fog of tear gas to depict a chaotic scene of police and protestors clashing. Widely aired footage shows heavily armed officers wearing body armour and helmets, camouflage fatigues, powerful assault rifles, armoured personal carriers, and the liberal use of tear gas clashing with protestors to give a sense of overwhelming force. Individuals’ houses are raided in similar style in the middle of the night – often innocent people are affected – on the pretext of looking for drugs or concern about some terrorist threat. Some local police units have even been armed with grenade launchers.


At the time of writing the media and TV news are dedicating their formats to updates about the Islamic State (IS) gaining purchase in Iraq, Syria and even Iran and political commentators make ominous warnings while all but ignoring the legislative assault and police crackdown at home.


While the publics’ attention is directed to the Middle East, to ISIS and Al Qaeda, it is the Far East, China, that has Washington’s spies fixated. In the meantime, shocking and disturbing new security legislation is passing in the legislatures of major Anglo Bloc democracies removing citizens’ rights to privacy, legal due process and weakening media powers and freedom of speech. Harsh jail terms have been imposed for what were formerly minor infractions. Whistleblowing, for example, previously viewed as a necessary activity to government accountability in support  of a vibrant civil society and democracy now in Australia carries a prison term of up to 10 years and the public interest defence removed. The question is quickly becoming what price is America and its Western allies now prepared to extract on society to bring about a transformation in values at home?

Hijacked: “America has no functioning democracy at this moment”


“Give the people the facts and the Republic will be saved.” (Abraham Lincoln).


How could all the issues raised in this expose occur right under our very noses, in the America we like to think of as having the wholesome values defined by the Founding Fathers – truth, freedom, and justice? The US government and FBI can get away with the sort of abuses described here because the US is no longer a representative democracy in the sense it once was.


In recent decades, there has been a creeping, quiet revolution in America that has undermined civil liberties and the independence of democratic institutions. The public is only just beginning to get a taste of what the US has become – something I have been experiencing now for 17 years – since 1996.


In 2013, after Ed Snowden leaked details of the NSA‘s extensive domestic and foreign surveillance programs and exposed the lying of self serving NSA Director James Clapper to congress, former US President Jimmy Carter commented:


“America has no functioning democracy at this moment.”[15]


Around the same time that Carter commented on the NSA leaks another former US President, Bill Clinton stated:


“I think we should be on guard for abuses…by our government. You can destroy freedom with false claims that you have to do it to make everybody secure, but usually when somebody’s doing it, they don’t give a rip about security, they’re just trying to get more power.”


“And so the key here is accountability, transparency and protection….”[16]


Former conservative Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser expressed similar, though more specific concerns that Australia was on the cusp of becoming a police state after parliament passed a raft of new ultra-pro ASIO legislation and the Australian Human Rights Commission undertook an inquiry into children in detention with findings understood to be highly critical of the Australian government.


The SMH (and The Age) published an article by Malcolm Fraser in 2015 in which he said this about the Australian government:


The government has also further extended the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s [ASIO] powers curtailing basic rights and freedoms Australians have too easily taken for granted. It is consistent with the government’s clear wish to place its actions outside the rule of law.


These actions make the Australian Human Rights Commission even more important to safeguard remaining freedoms and to prevent a full introduction of a police state. Even so, the powers available to the government and to security authorities in Australia would rest more comfortably with old fashioned tyrannies from Europe than with any democracy in the 21st century.[17]


Fraser was writing against a background of new legislation passed in 2014 by parliament that makes it illegal to disclose the identity of any ASIO agent and details of their special operations (for unauthorised disclosures by insiders); illegal for the media to write and publish the details of any such disclosures, even when it is in the public interest to do so. Violations are punishable by up to 10 years’ in jail. On the flip side, the new legislation permits ASIO agents to break the law with impunity without threat of prosecution, no matter how corrupt their purpose or egregious the offence, with a few notable exclusions, viz, murder, torture and sexual assault. Physical and mental assault, theft, illegal detention, tampering with candidates and the electoral process – all blocked from public scrutiny and agents granted legal amnesty in advance from personal responsibility. Already, in Australia, there is a public sense of injustice and impotence to act against the government and its agencies in the face of child detentions, indefinite detention of asylum seekers, high indigenous death tolls in prisons, and the treatment of high profile dissidents.


The intelligence agencies have been eating away at our democracy and constitution for many decades. Their corrosive impact has reached the point that they are now the country’s unchallenged power base – the American culture carriers – at home and abroad. But their aggression and reckless mistreatment of others has delivered America an economic, social and foreign policy mess that it now finds difficult to extricate itself from.


The intelligence agencies in the West, like their kin in parts of the world with more notorious reputations, use their powers “strategically” – for institutional advancement or to embellish individual career paths, but not necessarily to protect and advance American (and Western) values – values we still like to think of as truth, justice, and human rights. These values have now been surrendered to political expediency, replaced with the realpolitik sophistry of the wealthy and political elite. As MIT professor Noam Chomsky said:


“The governments seek to extend power and domination and to benefit their primary domestic constituencies – in the U.S., primarily the corporate sector…We see that all the time.” (Chomsky, 2013) [18]


The increased power of intelligence agencies has diminished the political relevance of public opinion. In this new system, human rights of the governed are far more readily ignored and abused.


Who is ultimately calling the shots in our democracy now? The security forces have way overstepped the mark targeting the judiciary, media, legislators, and anyone in a position to influence public opinion from folk singers and actors, to poets, scientists and bankers; and now with new technology, they have gone after the masses. The methods of the FBI and ASIO, as well as other Western security forces, are driven by ideological factors and are extrajudicial.


Where the Constitution or national legislation precludes invasive wiretaps and data harvesting, by whichever country whether it be Australia, America or any other allied country, it is simply outsourced out of the jurisdiction out of the oversight agencies and courts:


“…if the capability continues to exist to watch the rest of the world, how can Americans be sure that the NSA et al won’t stealthily go back to watching them once the scandal has died down – or just ask their best buddies in GCHQ to do their dirty work for them?


I’m sure that the UK’s GCHQ will be happy to step into the breach. It is already partially funded by the NSA, to the tune of $100 million over the last few years; it has a long history of circumventing US constitutional rights to spy on US citizens (as foreigners), and then simply passing on this information to the grateful NSA….In fact, this is positively seen to be a selling point to the Americans from what we have seen in the Snowden disclosures.”[19]


An excellent blog from journalist and author Naomi Wolf on the new shadowy security state we now inhabit in America (June 2013, typos corrected) (click):


“There is not ‘reality’ and ‘spy novels’ any more, with no interpenetration. On the contrary — the surveillance/security world and ‘the real world’ are being more closely knit all the time….”


“The security state and its apparatus is a now a massive part of our economy; billions and billions of dollars…the hiring of vast numbers of people whose job is to do what they do while not appearing to do what they do, in terms of surveillance and other forms of domestic scrutiny of dissent…”


“….ordinary life in America is now at times subjected to the same kinds of targeting, surveillance and harassment by operatives that used to be confined to our ‘enemies’ overseas.”


It is as if a silent, bloodless coup d’etat over the past decades has taken the America of our Founding Fathers and handed it to a small, secretive group of intelligence agency leaders that have transformed the country from a democracy into a highly controlled security state. They have manipulated the legislature, ushering in new restrictive laws, one by one, stripping Americans of their freedoms and Constitutional rights. New powers have been demanded and received with increased secrecy around everything they do, including even the laws they act under. They have escalated infiltration of civil society; used new intrusive surveillance technologies; recruited and placed operatives in key institutional positions – corporate, NGO and government, including oversight. With great care and secrecy they have established a new version of the American dream – a vision now imbued with extensive inequality, unexplained “truths”, and military and social injustices.


US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) in 2012 stated that “[w]e are seeing our country move toward an oligarchic government.” And another senator referred to the US as practicing a new form of fascism. Indeed, Hillary Clinton, while a Senator from NY, observed a “vast right wing conspiracy” in the US, commenting on the inexorable force pushing the country to the political right. There is a massive disconnect between public opinion and government policy, irrespective of which party is governing. Indeed, President Obama’s grand rhetoric and promises frequently fail to translate into action, and as Chomsky says “elections are close to meaningless”[20].


This new America is discussed by John Tirman, Executive Director, MIT Center for International Studies:


“So we have had now for at least a dozen years the growth of a parallel state that operates by its own rules, in secret, and in ways that would be considered unconstitutional. (I know we needn’t remind our readers of what the Fourth Amendment guarantees, but just to refresh your memories: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”) Again, what’s important here is not the mere incidence of the government violating the Constitution, but the creation, nurturing, shielding, and rapid growth of structures that institutionalize an alternative authority, set of rules, and permissible action.


Now we know: the United States of America is partially governed by a deep state, undemocratic, secret, aligned with intelligence agencies, spying on friend and foe, lawless in almost every respect.


If this doesn’t constitute a coup d’etat, it’s hard to imagine what would. People we barely know of — the director of NSA, the eleven judges on FISC, who knows who else — are running the deep state. The actual president seems just fine with everything it’s doing, or is so weak-kneed he can’t see fit to put an end to it. I’m not sure which is worse.


The seduction of policymakers by corporate money is sad. The psychotic, parallel state is terrifying.[21] [click]


Oversight is completely inadequate in the US to the point that the separation of powers has all but collapsed. US intelligence agencies have gone rogue by the standards of the Constitution and of the UN universal declaration of human rights and have taken the Anglo and NATO allies with them.


In Australia, the case of former Australian MP is revealing of western intelligence agency methods: ASIO in a thinly veiled age old ploy, appeared to utilise the services of a honey trap in the setup and downfall of Ross Cameron, an elected representative, and an outspoken critic of the Howard government’s push to war in Iraq in 2003. The public exposure of this during his re-election campaign, while not officially acknowledged, bear the indelible fingerprints of ASIO and resulted in the removal of Cameron from political life as payback for his opposition: click.


My experience is that illegal and highly abusive FBI tactics are still at the heart of their political activities today. This has not changed since Hoover. If anything, FBI abuses have expanded and become more sophisticated with new technologies enabling the intelligence agencies’ unprecedented infiltration of our country, accreting power with a momentum that seems unstoppable.


The powerful vested interests that suppress the truth do so to protect themselves from the masses, who they want to keep in the dark as uninformed spectators. As Samuel Huntington, professor of political science at Harvard said: “power remains strong when it remains in the dark. Exposed to sunlight, it begins to evaporate”[22].


The emergence of whistleblowers and leakers in the US is a natural response from a nation of independent minded and resourceful people to an oppressive government which disrespects and ignores their rights as enshrined in their constitution.


If citizens don’t stand up for the principles of truth, justice and human rights, then we will get the society we deserve: a society that reflects the sort of people it governs – ignorant of and indifferent to the abuse of human rights, one in which the government has no respect for the governed and their lives, where military and social injustice becomes the norm. Indeed the people of this society will have no rights to speak of.


President Obama’s Secretary of Defence, Chuck Hagel, appointed at the beginning of his second term in 2013, was weary of the prior Bush administration’s hawkish reliance on the pentagon to solve America’s problems. On coming into office, Hagel described the pentagon’s budget as “bloated”. He was a Vietnam vet, and knew the evil and carnage of war. Mindful of American fatigue with war following the belligerence of the Bush administration’s pre-emptive and illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and decade plus long war in Afghanistan in 2001 he was determined to reintroduce democratic values back into American politics and foreign policy.


Hagel hoped to redefine what it meant to be a culture leader in America: not a warrior with a weapon and stated that, “…challenging, probing and questioning is what is patriotic.” American national security does not rest with violence and war, where a few intelligence officers claim they can, privately, personally, as individuals take the hard moral decisions for their country; decisions to torture, kidnap, kill, detain people in hellish secret prisons. They declare with their narcissistic superiority that they will magnanimously, personally bear the moral burden for all of us for their deplorable decisions so that we do not have to. They say they make immoral decisions knowing the ghastly ramifications it may have for innocent civilians living in other parts of the world; they kill other people’s children and families, for us they claim, and they expect a medal and various honors in return for their self defined patriotism. These individuals with their strong convictions of righteousness in their own self interest act mostly unopposed by a cowed or indifferent public where those who ask questions are deemed subversive.


Hagel’s tone is reflected by Bishop Desmond Tutu archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in helping overcome the apartheid era regime in South Africa. He is commenting on the US announcement that the targeted drone killings of US citizens believed to be terrorists would be overseen by a special review US court, but that the killing of foreign nationals would go unchecked. Two standards – one for Americans, one for everyone else:


“I am deeply, deeply disturbed at the suggestion in “A Court to Vet Kill Lists” (news analysis, front page, Feb. 9) that possible judicial review of President Obama’s decisions to approve the targeted killing of suspected terrorists might be limited to the killings of American citizens.


Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.


I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.” (New York Times, 12 February 2013, Letters to the Editor)


Let us see if the CIA, FBI and other hawkish American intelligence institutions agree with Hagel’s preferred definition of what it is to be a patriot, and that, with this new way of thinking, they relax the grip they hold on the American media, justice system and civil society. Let’s see if he can uphold this position.  It will indeed be interesting to see what kind a defence secretary Hagel turns out to be! [Afterword: Hagel’s tenure was short lived. He left office less than two years’ later in November 2014 over “differences of opinion” with the entrenched powers.]


As one of America’s Founding Fathers’ Benjamin Franklin said:


“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”


FBI oversight hollowed out: my experience seeking accountability


My various efforts to have the agencies held to account have failed. Attempts to do so in the US include:


  1. Letters to the FBI’s and DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General – the offices responsible for FBI oversight. My allegations and complaints have been rebuffed with deceitful and disingenuous responses.
  2. I have approached my New York federal elected representatives Senator Schumer and Congressman Nadler – but on both fronts I have been stonewalled. Any effort made by my representatives to engage the agencies on my behalf was rebuffed, again with deceitful and disingenuous responses from the agencies, and subsequently my matter was then dropped by my elected representative. Nadler’s correspondence email log.
  3. My representations to the two Judiciary Committees have been rebuffed. In the case of the House Judiciary Committee, preliminary interview records and case files in relation to my allegations and complaint have disappeared. It appears that the FBI has insiders positioned within the oversight agencies to circumvent the complaints process and undermine accountability (click).


Oversight of the FBI’s activities in the US is a rigged game, fixed, like a crooked sports match by an inside cabal. Likewise with ASIO in Australia: IGIS refuses to investigate claims.


Tellingly, oversight bodies refuse to effect recommendations of various independent commissions and enquiries that called for the establishment of a mandatory Royal Commission into the intelligence agencies every 5 to 8 years with broad terms of reference to look thoroughly and properly into their operations. Unfortunately, the various oversight bodies protect what they consider to be their exclusive area of influence; they hold steadfast against the standing involvement of an independent judiciary, even where such involvement would clearly be in the public interest. They know what the masses suspect the secret truth is, that the intelligence agencies’ methods and processes cannot be justified and do not stack up under scrutiny.


The world has clearly seen with Iraq and elsewhere the impact of the “dodgy dossiers” prepared by intelligence agencies that salt their causes with independent experts’ opinions. Reports are conflicted, inappropriately influenced by the intelligence agencies in an undisclosed relationship involving payment or some other undisclosed benefit to their “independent” experts. Their agents and captive “independent” experts construct their reports from fabricated derivative material, hearsay, and use sleight of hand insinuation, inference and innuendo to intentionally induce readers to draw incorrect conclusions favourable to the agency’s agenda. They present unsubstantiated, distorted material that excludes retractions, corrections or contrary evidence to achieve some intended result to isolate, humiliate, attack and weaken their target. Like a fragile house of cards, their dossiers are constructed on the mutual understanding with oversight bodies that they will never be subject to independent scrutiny that would expose just how dodgy some of their dossiers can be.


The oversight agencies (in the US and Australia) are a public deception. They blatantly deceive and shamelessly lie, protected from higher standards expected by the public by a cloak of secrecy that shrouds their self defined “national security” activities. Statutory authorities and their “team” bound bureaucrats are neither sufficiently independent nor culturally free to act impartially. Furthermore, the intelligence agencies are able to recruit, or place their operatives, within the various oversight institutions undermining their independence and efficacy.


As reported in The Guardian, the British newspaper that in June 2013 broke the NSA surveillance scandal:


“The [US] congressional committees charged with oversight of the intelligence community have long been captive to, and protective of, the intelligence agencies,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight.


“Many of the congressional staff, in fact, come from those agencies. This latest revelation demonstrates the harm caused by that conflict of interest. When the congressional oversight committee is more loyal to the agency it oversees than to the legislative chamber its members were elected to serve in, the public’s interest is seriously compromised.” (The Guardian, Intelligence committee urged to explain if they withheld crucial NSA document, Spencer Ackerman, 15 August 2013).


The only partial political win I have had is when my Sydney MP (Tanya Plibersek) raised the matter in 2007 in the Australian Parliament HANSARD transcript. However, there was no official response from the ASIO to parliament. It seems the only response was from the mainstream media which ran a series of personal attacks shortly after this, seen in the headlines below, about her husband’s career in state public administration. In a signature style ASIO attack, the articles had her name clearly associated with them and large, prominent photographs of the two of them together (The Daily Telegraph 14 April 2007 (Saturday Interview, Roger Coombs, p78); 15 April 2007 (Politics; “I didn’t think I would survive being in jail”, Linda Silmalis, p3); and The Sun Herald 15 April 2007 (New education boss doesn’t have the expertise, Brian Chudleigh, p31). It is not clear at what level collaboration with the agency occurred: journalist, editor, publisher, or elsewhere.


However, it was a rebuke with ASIO’s claw mark’s all over it; plausibly deniable by ASIO, but clearly a dig at her, bringing an unrelated, and potentially sensitive element of her private life into the public domain. The timing and substance of the articles just over two weeks after she had raised my case in parliament cannot be irrefutably proven as payback for breaking silence on ASIO abuses. But viewed with other such instances, it fits a chilling pattern of ASIO’s unfettered access to the media to plant stories and control, contain and reward people.


My Australian Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon also raised the matter in 2012, this time in Senate Questions on Notice (SQON) directed to the Australian Prime Minister and the Attorney General but which produced the typical blow-off answers (here and here). At least one of Senator Rhiannon’s staffers I dealt with is an ASIO operative. I sent a letter to the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) in protest (shown below, names of alleged ASIO agents redacted). An earlier letter I sent to the PJCIS apparently, according to feedback, raised heads but resulted in no action: Letter to PJCIS.


Many of the breaking stories disclosing government misconduct have come from whistleblowers. Viable, alternative channels of disclosure do not exist for whistleblowers; it is a false notion; repeated government assurances to the contrary are not credible. Indeed, official channels for complaint have trapped would be whistleblowers naive enough to believe the government’s safe harbour protections.


The backlash against whistleblowers who find a public outlet reflects the threat they pose to the defective oversight bodies that can now be seen for what they are, those who have stood in the way of justice to advance their relationships and their careers within government, preventing truthful disclosures in the public interest. Ed Snowden’s father said after visiting his son in Moscow that there had been a vicious effort to demonise him by the people he most put at risk, not just the cowboys in the intelligence agencies but the politicians in the oversight committees: “He is someone who shared the truth; he has enraged many politicians. Not only has he enraged them, he has put their political careers at risk, as they should be. People who were in positions of responsibility, of oversight.”[23]


I can personally attest to the weakness and duplicity of the oversight regimes, including the various departments’ Inspectors General (IG). I have experienced push back and retaliation from the very agencies oversighted where they ratcheted up their harassment following disclosures and complaints I have made through official channels.


The oversight bodies are paper tigers:


“After the infamous New York Times article that revealed NSA’s warrantless wiretapping of Americans, the Justice Department launched an investigation—not of the U.S.’s vast lawbreaking, but for those who exposed the secret surveillance. That multi-million dollar investigation spanned five years, required five full-time prosecutors and 25 FBI agents.”


The IG that had promised them protection and confidentiality sold them out to the Justice Department, and Congress failed to protect its witness…. This was just one element of ruinous retaliation that went on for years and in some respects has not yet ended. Reprisals included getting fired, having security clearances pulled, armed raids on their homes, shattered relationships with friends and family, and depletion of retirement accounts and second mortgages to pay attorneys’ fees.”[24] [click]


The Guardian describes the shocking implication of the oversight committees’ lack of efficacy as revealed by the NSA disclosures. Most disturbing, committee members, echoing their counterparts in the U.S., admitted that there are important issues they didn’t have a clue about what the intelligence agencies were actually up to:


“In our system, parliament is meant to be sovereign. Yet here, in GCHQ [depending on your country substitute NSA, FBI, ASIO], is a state agency operating apparently beyond the reach of parliament, extending its remit without the permission or even the knowledge of MPs. Of all the revelations of the last few months, among the most shocking was Chris Huhne’s admission that he had had no idea what GCHQ was up to – even though he was a cabinet minister with a seat on the national security council. MPs need to put aside the issue of the Guardian, which merely switched on a light in a darkened room, and realise that all this is an affront to parliament.”[25]


Down the rabbit hole with dissidents and asylum seekers


Not only do these agencies act illegally and without accountability, they do so wilfully, in a highly organised way and with utter contempt for the law and disregard of individual freedoms. In response to revelations of the egregious, illegal spying programs developed by the NSA in the USA and its allies (including the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty and Anthony Romero Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union in a joint statement said:


“The Guardian’s publication of information from Edward Snowden has uncovered a breach of trust by the US and UK Governments on the grandest scale. The newspaper’s principled and selective revelations demonstrate our rulers’ contempt for personal rights, freedoms and the rule of law.”[26]


Why aren’t national governments acting to protect their citizens from the menacing antics of a police state; why aren’t they establishing the judicial enquiries they are empowered to and prosecuting wayward officials? Aside from the hold the domestic agencies already have over the homefront’s key institutions of accountability – the media, to some extent the legislators and a swathe of mid tier lawyers, the international agencies as a network, and in particular the powerful capabilities of the US and UK, are an effective bargaining chip that keeps any desire by our government to hold the spy agencies accountable in check.


The Australian government has developed a dependency on global intelligence, especially that originating from US and UK technical capabilities, but also from the network as a whole, and it is not prepared to act unilaterally to ensure domestic agencies act within the law. Australia receives illegal data from that network and provides illegal data in return. Domestic intelligence agencies have become a proxy representing global interests and our government is no more prepared to hold them to account than it is to directly hold the US and UK governments to account. Our representatives have sold out the public interest in individual justice and human rights in exchange for entry to the American led intelligence “Club”. This leaves individuals caught in the sites of intelligence agencies in countries that are part of thet “Club” stranded without recourse to legal or political solutions.


Individuals that have somehow gone down the rabbit hole, for whatever reason, find themselves trapped, their only hope of an exit – that is justice and protection – is at the discretion of the “Responsible Minister”. Discretion means the “Responsible Minister” decides the outcome of individual matters in a process that is internal to their mind only, and outside the bounds of external due process and review. Their decisions are not beholden to any form of due process and visibility. They are free of accountability. The outcome is the “Responsible Minister’s” choice; the decision is absolute; beyond challenge. The “Responsible Minister’s” decisions can be imparted bearing the marks of partialness, favour, with extreme prejudice and bias, to the benefit of the politically connected and the powerful; and exclude those who are not. Ross Cameron is freed; Pauline Hanson is not; Julian Assange is not. But who sees how this justice done, or if it is not? Not the public. The majority, those innocents caught up in the vast web, entangled web of intelligence agency goals suffer the consequences of this degraded system. Political dissidents. Asylum seekers. Anyone in the agencies sights – caught and held at the pleasure of the “Responsible Minister”. No matter the reason.


As an example of international pushback on sovereign efforts to hold domestic intelligence agencies accountable, the US and UK governments were so alarmed in February 2015 they threatened to stop sharing information with their German counterparts after the German government launched a parliamentary enquiry into Germany’s federal spy agency the BND.


The US in response has threatened Germany that it would be cut off from the Anglo bloc intelligence network if it gets in the way of its goals. That is, if Germany attempts to hold to account its own intelligence agencies, as it is attempting to do, which indirectly involves the uncovering and review of international networks and capabilities, its place in the global intelligence alliance would be cut-off. Germany has been clearly warned that if it proceeds to hold the US and UK intelligence agencies to account, even indirectly, it will “put a grave and permanent strain” on relations between their countries.[27]


German’s have learnt from their dark past that the threat posed by powerful, invasive secret police agencies is real and present. But the many nations that lack this recent history have responded far more passively to the obvious threats posed by the NSA spying scandal. The unsettling details of the extensive surveillance of public and officials revealed by American NSA officials have largely been ignored by complacent and naive governments and publics around the world. Those nations that have seen how dangerous out of control spy agencies can be for their own people, countries like Germany and Brazil with a dark history, have pushed back hardest.


However, it is clear that Germany, even with its tragic history of police state abuses and its powerful modern day influence that stems from its economic might, struggles against US and UK pressure in choosing how and when to hold its internal spy agencies to account. What hope is there that the individual citizens or electorates in Australia, NZ and Canada, or for that matter the US and UK, can rely on their national governments to offer any meaningful resistance to and protections against this threat. Indeed, what is becoming clear is that national sovereignty and domestic laws are meaningless in the face of this emerging powerful nexus of global intelligence agencies.

The leaders of our intelligence agencies first deny they act with barbarity and treachery at home and abroad, then when public denials no longer work because irrefutable evidence of their activities has been disclosed by whistleblowers, they implore us to trust them, assuring us that their crimes are necessary and derive from their paternalistic love for each of us. They lead us to believe their motivation is always altruistic, informed by the common interest of the nation, the Utilitarian principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. But even accepting this rhetoric reveals their true motivation, which is doubtful, given their conflicted, personal yearning and competition for job security and advancement within the system. They tell us with a heavy heart that they have no choice but to sacrifice the rights of every individual citizen (except those they themselves personally depend on for their career advancement and personal income security).

In prioritising the state, or common good, ahead of protecting individual rights, the agencies cement the means of their control over us while unleashing a tyrannical menace: once a system debases individual rights and justifies abuse and sacrifice of individuals in the name of the whole, individuals are rendered superfluous, each readily replaceable by the next, because any human will do that fulfils a particular function in the system. Each person is seen as part of a standing resource – a human resource – redundant and disposable as individuals – nothing sacred, nothing to be cherished. The state runs amok, its leaders insulated from, and its technocrats oblivious to, the plight of the mass of the populous.

 The public’s vulnerability to wayward intelligence agencies is not some abstract threat, but imminent and real. The former chief justice of the Family Court in Australia, Alastair Nicholson affirmed the vulnerability and concern this way in an article about the shame of the “Australia way”. He was speaking directly about the travesty of “border protection” through indefinite detention and abuse of refugees who came to Australia as “boat people” seeking asylum. He warned that a system that permits the egregious abuse of detaining men, women and children indefinitely in isolated prison camps is a totalitarian danger beyond the reach of law “lying in the path of us all”:


“How did we get ourselves into this state? Australia is rapidly becoming an international pariah, riding roughshod over solemn treaty obligations into which it has entered like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Refugee Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.


…we are all extremely vulnerable to the abuse of power by our governments which have and are engaging in such abuse but directing it to a small and unpopular minority of non-citizens that they are able to demonise.


Let there be no mistake however that legally, there is little to stop our government treating us in this way as well. The current behaviour by successive governments to asylum seekers should be a salutary lesson of the dangers lying in the path of us all.”[28]


In a system that permits these egregious abuses, and which ASIO oversees, there is not a single person that is safe from its reach, no one has protection if ASIO turns its sights to a new target. We naively think each of us is safe from secret police abuses in Australia for example, or the UK or the US because we don’t have a history of such abuse against common citizens. People think that living in a first world democracy they are somehow guaranteed due process, freedom and justice. Just look to the well known example of Germany: it too was a country that once had no history of gross secret police abuses. Prior to the great stress that country went through in the 1920s and 1930s the public was naive, blissfully ignorant of the threat they lived under. When they were swept up in the violence and injustice that followed there was no easy way out.


It seems that in good times democracy can endure constraints on freedom. However, in times of great stress, history has shown people and societies do terrible things to each other if democratic protections do not exist. The triggers to such breaking points can be many – including, for example, major biological events, a severe financial crash or a major war.


Anglo bloc citizens, Australians included, could all find themselves marooned from rights to due process, treated like refugees in their own country. Our supposed safeguards against secret police incursions are already weak and broken; most people don’t see it because we are currently living in good times, but when and if stressful times arrive, it will be too late to do anything about it: the morning after Kristallnacht is not an opportunity for populist reform.[29] The time to fix the threat from our agencies is now.


I can confirm form direct personal experience that seeking accountability through official channels has been a frustrating and so far a waste of time. The sole potential domain for justice, if there is any at all in such matters in holding US (and Australian) intelligence agencies to account, appears to be the courts. As yet, this is not an avenue I’ve tested, though some of my lawyers in Australia have been interfered with by ASIO leading me to have early doubts about the judicial system’s integrity. If the judiciary is corruptible, if judges sign warrants without carefully reviewing their content for example, then the separation of powers has been breached and public safeguards all but fully dissolved.

Separation of Powers


Domestic spying is also making a mockery of the separation of powers – enabling unchecked power to be concentrated in the hands of the few – the antithesis of democracy.

Insiders try to justify spying by claiming there is adequate oversight and regulation by other branches of government, but as Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Elsberg notes in the Why Care About NSA Spying  video current oversight is grossly inadequate:


“How can that oversight be meaningful if the NSA’s huge storehouse of information contains the private…habits of every senator, representative, and judge? When the only protection against abuse is internal policies, there is no serious oversight. Congress needs to take action now to rein in the spying.”


In 2014, the CIA was caught spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee which oversights it, breaking into its internal computer system and removing files. The Committee at the time was preparing a secret report on the CIA’s controversial and illegal use of torture. No one in the CIA was punished, no one went to jail – indeed the scandal was dead and buried without ever receiving the media attention it deserved. The Committee and even the President of the US refused to investigate these brazen alleged abuses of the CIA.


The intelligence agency apparatus is closed, circular and self-referencing. The complex marks its own homework and anyone, such as myself, that has tested the effectiveness of the oversight safety net, knows that the official oversight mechanisms do not work. As a result, unauthorised disclosure is the only safety valve outlet that seems to partially function in this democracy, and accordingly, there has been a spate of damaging revelations about the government and agencies leaked in recent years. Disturbingly, even these seem to have had little or no impact, no enforcement action against those whose crimes were revealed, and no new policy commitments from legislators to stem the abuse. The deafening silence and apathy to oppose this disturbing trend is profound.


There is a value to having intelligence agencies – there are legitimate needs for certain of their capabilities, 9/11 makes that clear; but their long term value only accrues to the public good if there is effective, independent oversight. This oversight must be able to separate legitimate uses of state secrecy from abuses and be prepared and able to hold the officials that transgress, such as Clapper, accountable.


Secrecy claims, however, are being widely used for political ends, to hide the techniques and methods the agencies use and whom they target. The general population has little clue about the agencies’ techniques, methods and extent in the war of propaganda and control at home; no clue about how heroes and villains are created and rewarded or punished. With these techniques the agencies strive to influence work place culture, public policy and society at large to reflect their interests – those of the oligarchs – the wealthy and politically connected. Often, this may be to the detriment of weaker, though far more numerous, members of broader society.


Dodgy Dossiers


The path to the Iraq War in 2003 showed in disturbing, slow motion detail how the US and allied governments and their agencies used dodgy dossiers to devastating effect; in this case to conjure non-existent weapons of mass destruction as a justification for going to war. The world saw the manipulation and impact of the “dodgy dossier” scam where the intelligence agencies had misrepresented or pressured independent experts to include allusion to weapons of mass destruction which were later shown to be a nonexistent threat.


Disturbingly, western intelligence agencies manufacture dodgy dossiers to create propaganda that justifies their own legitimacy, which often does otherwise not exist, to justify nefarious activities – from smearing their targets to justification for illegal war.


This is how former intelligence officers, Lance Collins and Warren Reed, described the use of dodgy dossiers – “bulletins”:


“These bulletins can simply tell the story as ‘things’ rather than ‘facts’ become known. But this sort of narrative is highly susceptible to individual preconceived notions, organisational bias and hostile-force deception measures – when ‘misleading evidence’, or bait, is deliberately trickle-fed to…[readers], who are then lured along an intellectual false trail”


Intelligence agencies also use this tactic against regular citizens. Just as the motive above was to win public support for a war that would destroy the leadership of Iraq, the FBI and ASIO play to destroy domestic political targets at home. Instead of a military war, they wage their battle against their political targets through available civilian channels such as prison, or psychiatric and physical injury, suicide, or by marginalising them using the most expedient means available, including the doctoring and distribution of dodgy dossiers.


Directed at individuals on a personal level, conniving schemes incorporate misinformation into reports prepared by experts – a weapons inspector, a forensic physician, a psychiatrist, chemist, or any relevant authority – a secondary theme, misplaced emphasis, innuendo or commentary about unrelated matters. It’s an alternative story within a story, incorporating other people, themes and topics. The author engages in a deceptive ploy, a feint that makes it look like a minor, unintentional and incidental fact and therefore that it is not concocted with an eye to manipulating the reader – like a boxer feinting with a forward jab while the knockout punch comes from a blind spot, takes the target by surprise to get the result intended. Subtle secondary themes woven into the fabric of a report through abstract, generalised statements from experts, industry wisdoms espoused with great authority entangled with speculation about the target. A secondary, subtle theme emerges, planted to make it look unintentional, and subtly diverts attention.


An intricately constructed hatchet job built on deliberately crafted fiction and misconstrued facts with the sole intention being to mislead readers and to cause personal embarrassment and discomfort to the target. The document is placed as part of a permanent record, on file indefinitely, a part of history, in a court or other repository, a situation not lost on the agencies that deliberately put it there for that reason. It is a common ploy, one of the tactics used to undermine the target; to damage the messenger in an effort to undermine the message.


Denigrating and smearing a target with allegations of sexual abuse was a key tactic of the FBI (and other western intelligence agencies), something Susan had said was not hard to do. It merely involves finding someone from which allegations could be concocted or extended. If adult and college life threw up no opportunities for smearing, the FBI would then look very closely, investigate in detail the people a target knew around the puberty years, both prepubescent and adolescent, class mates, neighbourhood kids, any kind of association – sports, church, extracurricular, in the hope of finding something that could be magnified or exploited.


The agencies draw from derivative material they know to be tainted, because they themselves tainted it with hearsay, they quote a canned sound bite from a collaborator or present fabricated evidence and brazenly lie, on the assumption they will never be held to account, never face independent judicial scrutiny, be subject to discovery and sanction. They understand their power and the practical limits on others of constraining it. Merely their act of raising certain allegations or making insinuations can leave a lasting smear, even when retractions, corrections, clarifications or exaggerations are made. Even once a ruse is uncovered or facts corrected, toxic residue remains in some peoples’ minds. As Susan described it, in the worst case, if the target is convicted of sexual offences and goes to jail, they will be  are at the bottom of the prison hierarchy and treated abysmally; in the best case, a niggling doubt will remain in some peoples’ mind. The target is damaged no matter the outcome, it is just a question of degree.


It is a widely held belief that this strategy is being used in the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who has received political asylum and is currently confined  in Ecuador’s London embassy, hounded by authorities in the US, Sweden, UK and Australia over unsubstantiated, contradictory, and retracted or concocted, statements regarding encounters he had with apparently consenting women. John Pilger reports:


“One of the women’s messages makes clear that she did not want any charges brought against Assange, ‘but the police were keen on getting a hold on him’. She was ‘shocked’ when they arrested him because she only ‘wanted him to take [an HIV] test’. She ‘did not want to accuse JA of anything’ and ‘it was the police who made up the charges’. (In a witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been ‘railroaded by police and others around her’.)


…a war on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the ‘Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch’. It described a detailed plan to destroy the feeling of ‘trust’ which is WikiLeaks’ ‘centre of gravity’. This would be achieved with threats of ‘exposure [and] criminal prosecution’. Silencing and criminalising this rare source of independent journalism was the aim, smear the method. Hell hath no fury like great power scorned.”


Perhaps the most shameful and notorious example of the personal impacts of the “dodgy dossier” scam in recent times involved British weapons inspector and authority on biological warfare, Dr David Kelly, who disputed the “facts” in the British Joint Intelligence Committee report making the case for an invasion of Iraq in 2003. He alleged the government had transformed reports on the existence and capabilities of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, making it “sexier” for the purposes of securing a mandate to go to war. What happened next, murder or suicide, is still hotly disputed, but either way Kelly was found dead in a wood on July 17 2003. Some used the official verdict of suicide to discredit his good reputation and original claims. Even after the truth that a report had been “sexed up” by Blair’s “spin-doctor,” Alistair Campbell, the former Prime Minister still described Kelly as a “…crazy person…[who]… had probably gone over the edge” in his memoirs. The coroner’s report, which allowed the 2004 Hutton Inquiry to absolve the British government of complicity and to controversially declare that Kelly committed suicide, was put under a secrecy order for 70 years. The full truth behind the most infamous personal “dodgy dossier” of recent times will only finally be known after all the antagonists are long dead.


Ironically, former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, recently said he was “embarrassed” that the intelligence used to send Australia to war in Iraq was inaccurate, implying he was not involved in applying political pressure to doctor reports as widely alleged.  Irrespective, if Howard’s confession signals that there needs to be more transparency, and not just in moments of national crisis, his successor, Tony Abbott, ensured that no Australian Prime Minister will ever be embarrassed again because such matters will now be covered under new secrecy laws that will see future Andrew Wilkie and David Kellys jailed.


Even public domain documents are brazenly altered by government agents. Inconvenient data, records and facts simply disappear from the internet and blatant fabrications inserted. It is a double edged sword; censorship and propaganda. There have been routine covert and abusive alterations made to Wikipedia profiles to alter public perceptions about individuals and events – multiple cases have been formally documented and reported in the media. Examples include this one from the Washington Post in the US:


“On August 5, a watchdog computer program that monitors the activity of the Internet addresses on Capitol Hill caught someone with an anonymous address in the US House of Representatives editing Wikipedia to smear Snowden. A Wikipedia article was edited to refer to Snowden as ‘the American traitor who defected to Russia.'”


And in the UK:


“With respect to Jean Charles de Menezes [the innocent Brazilian chased and gunned down by police in a London tube station in 2005], an official government computer was reportedly used to delete a crucial section of a Wikipedia article that criticized the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) handling of the deceased man’s case….[O]fficial government computers were also used to incorporate slanderous information into one section of his Wikipedia article. On this occasion the editor alleged the deceased had “a high level” of Class A drugs in his system. Wikipedia editors were also approached to alter the rationale followed for employing the decision to shoot the young man.”


[A spokesman for the de Menezes family said:] “Like all ordinary members of the public, I’m shocked. This is yet one more smear and attack on the family. We’ve seen over many years lies, misinformation and smears during the family’s attempt to find the truth and justice and answers about how an innocent young man on his way to work was gunned down by police officers,” he said.”


In Australia, the Wikipedia entry for former liberal MP, Ross Cameron, excludes reference to his courageous, outspoken opposition to the Iraq War, while directing primary focus to his subsequent downfall. This case relating to Ross Cameron, while not documented in the mainstream media, is further considered elsewhere in this book.


The Banyan Tree: A model of intelligence agency domestic subversion


If a target can’t be nailed through misinformation they can do it through the deep penetration of undercover intelligence agents and their comprehensive networks of informants and collaborators.


The intelligence agencies in the West, like their kin in parts of the world with more notorious reputations, use their powers ‘strategically’ – for institutional advancement or to embellish individual career paths, but not necessarily to protect and advance American (and Western) values – values we still like to think of as truth, justice, and human rights. These values have been surrendered to the political expediency of realpolitik by wealthy and political oligarchs. As MIT professor Noam Chomsky said:


“The governments seek to extend power and domination and to benefit their primary domestic constituencies – in the U.S., primarily the corporate sector…We see that all the time.”


Through the deep penetration of undercover intelligence agents and their comprehensive networks of informants and collaborators, anthropologist and sociologist Eben Kirksey accounts for how the “architecture of power” is constructed using the metaphor of the Banyan tree – a strangler fig from Indonesia that chokes and kills its host.  This alternative architecture of power as Kirksey describes it, sheds light on the construction and institutional growth of alternative power structures right over the top of existing structures. It is a model of political “subversion, replication, and domination” which describes the Indonesian subjugation of West Papua, as an example.


In this model, the domestic US intelligence agencies secretly links together disparate, notionally independent and unconnected institutions by recruiting high ranking and strategically positioned individuals from different institutions.


As Kirksey points out, examples of these individuals include “…journalists, professors, pastors, corporate executives, and development workers” or any individual, organisation, or institution of influence right down to folk singers and actors and poets. In the US, this network is vast, with over three million people reportedly having security clearance representing a complete cross – section of society. These secret “latticed network of connections” constructed “inside key structures of power” are invisible to outsiders and are a powerful tool of subversion. They work together in subtle ways to influence the national dialogue. In this new system, much more is achieved through hidden channels rather than the public forums of earlier times. Public opinion and political debate is blunted, human rights increasingly ignored and abuses difficult to defend against. The intelligence agencies are calling the shots in our new system of government in the name of “national security”.


The methods of the FBI and ASIO, as well as other Western security forces, are driven by ideological factors. If the public is apathetic and passive in its acceptance of the intelligence agency decision to move away from democratic values to a state controlled system of government, they only have to look at history to see how centralised governments respond in times of great social stress. Populations that want the benefits of centralised control in the good times, give up the benefits of being part of a democracy, with the protection of due process for individuals, in difficult times.


Spies have brought their tradecraft home, particularly since the end of the Cold War. Careers uprooted and caught flatfooted by the dissolution of the Soviet Union, what was once an overseas focused preoccupation is now being directed against new found “enemies” of the government and intelligence services here at home under the cover of terror legislation and they are forging strong alliances with their international partners. Jurisdiction of oversight and responsibility is blurred through internationalisation and outsourcing of their operations: We are now living in what Wikileaks refers to as the “transnational security state.”


The European scourge


The European scourge of the 20th century is making its way to the US in the 21st century: uncontained power of national intelligence agencies unchecked by weakened or dismantled democratic safeguards. Further to the inability to hold the agencies to account, counter threats have been made to me to desist. Threats include those of personal harm; harming my marriage or family; negative media delivered by agency aligned/paid journalists; damaging my business; and jailing for treason (in Australia) for naming government agents that have been involved in this abuse. They will use their various channels, including their imbedded journalists, to call my character into question in ways I might not even be aware of yet!


The most bizarre and sick warning of all, something conveyed through FBI sources, when Susan and I were still going out, and before I had become an FBI target myself, was the threat posed by US (and Australian) government agencies that have the power to mobilise and break up or destabilise families, fabricating reasons to remove children from their parents. This was not some absurd joke; the FBI was deadly serious. It is not a description of Soviet Russia, this is the USA today in 2013. Indeed, government agencies using Machiavellian tactics can at their discretion maliciously disrupt and split families, terrorising small children by forcibly removing them from their families as a weapon to punish their parents – traumatising all involved: read here (Children taken from medical marijuana-prescribed parents in California, RT) and here (4-year-old Texas girl taken from parents and heavily drugged by Child Protective Services, RT).


The removal of children, of all ages, down to newborns, from their families, is considered a fair tactic by the FBI, specially reserved for “dissidents” who the agency believes are deserving of such treatment. Intelligence agencies like the FBI are able to recruit anywhere, unnoticed, including within the rank and file and at senior levels in other government agencies, including child protection services. This gives them unfettered access to the community and great power to corrupt, with their activities and meddling impenetrable to the outside world. With some semi plausible cause, or hiding behind feigned bureaucratic incompetence, a family’s fate, maliciously targeted, is sealed on the grounds of an FBI construct (or ASIO in Australia). Even if the family’s separation lasts “only” for 12 months while the mess is sorted out in the courts, the parents and children are traumatised and great pain is inflicted on the children placed in foster care and new schools.


I occasionally encounter former citizens of Soviet era Eastern Europe, mostly from Poland and Hungary. When I tell them my personal story of Western intelligence agency abuse they are genuinely shocked. They fall silent and their faces freeze over momentarily as they recollect a distant time and place from their own lives when this kind of abuse was a common occurrence. Their reaction was like a patient who after a long remission had learned that their cancer had returned. After a moment their attention returned to the present and the realisation that we are in the West – and in this, the “real world”, a new, safe frontier with blue skies and shining sun. We are far removed in time and place from their memories, and we are “free” – but the chilling flashback has left its mark, the realisation that it is only a thin veil between what was and what might be.


They understand the need to be vigilant of their government. Indeed, their leading questions to me confirm their familiarity with the tactics and methods of the secret police under communist Russia: the blacklisting, the recruitment of family and friends, intrusive surveillance and interference – they know it all, nothing surprises them, they’ve lived it all before, in darker times. While it is not clear that Western intelligence agencies are targeting their citizens in the same mass volume the Soviets did, former citizens of the Soviet bloc know how hard it is to contain abusive intelligence agencies once they are out of control – and it frightens them to glimpse where things could so easily head. It seems the only thing that protects us from that fate today is some bizarre but favourable cost benefit analysis by bureaucratic economic rationalists who care nothing about human rights and individual liberty.


Wikileaks founder Julian Assange seems to agree with the nature of the threat posed as revealed by the NSA leaks, saying the West is:


“getting pretty close in the practical elements” to being a totalitarian regime. “It’s a threat to U.S. democracy and to democracy more broadly in the West to have a surveillance apparatus on every single person that would have been the dream of East Germany. What type of place is Western democracy going to be? Is it going to be a place with a collapsing rule of law, with mass surveillance of entire populations?”[30]


[ Further details:


  1. ]



Section 7: Australia’s tryst with tyranny


Australia: A US test market for authoritarian conversion?


Although this is bad news for Joe Citizen, it is good news for people in government who have always used fear to convey strength of leadership, jack up nationalism and deflect attention from awkward domestic issues. It is also good for the intelligence services keen to use any outside threat (internal/ external or otherwise) to exert ever more control over our lives, movements, opinions and thoughts.


Technology, particularly electronic communication devices, have also radically changed the human landscape during the past two decades, allowing us to access information from any source and to express our views as never before. However, our liberator may also increasingly become our oppressor as governments and the security services try to pass ever more draconian legislation to access and store our personal metadata and its content. Our zest for sharing our every thought via electronic communications makes surveillance, once a slow, hit or miss, labour-intensive business, much easier and vastly increases their ability to monitor the thoughts and content of all citizens, not just those under surveillance. In Australia, where I am now based, these factors are fuelling that creeping sense of Orwellian totalitarianism.


A rallying cry to join “Team Australia,” a singular national identity with uncomfortable overtones of Hitler’s “One Reich, one folk, one leader,” a proposal for telcos to retain personal metadata for two years and the reversal of the onus of proof that would require young men of Middle Eastern origin returning from overseas to prove that they had not engaged in terrorist activity were all fielded during the course of August 2014 alone. That all three were shouted down and rightly labelled “undemocratic” should bring cheer to us all, but the fact they were canvassed by an elected Federal government, not some shadowy, fundamentalist right-wing group, should not.


However, the creep continued during September in the wake of the “Islamic State crisis.” Following a series of  “secret” police terror raids, at which the media were oddly present, the government pushed through new national security laws giving what the Sydney Morning Herald described as “…unprecedented powers to Australia’s spy agencies.”


They enable ASIO to access an unlimited number of computers with a single warrant, effectively allowing them to monitor the whole internet, and journalists or bloggers disclosing details of anything ASIO declares a “special intelligence operation” can expect five to ten years jail. It also grants intelligence officers immunity from prosecution or media exposure, even if an innocent member of the public was killed in a botched ASIO raid, similar to the 2005 shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian citizen mistaken for a terrorist, by the Metropolitan Police in London. There are also harsher penalties for former agents who leak confidential information. Public sector whistleblowers should report abuses to their superiors. Lawyers, human rights advocates and media organisations have all warned it will be even harder to report on national security stories in future.


Former Australian intelligence officer and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction whistleblower turned federal politician, Andrew Willkie, who would now likely face jail for his revelations, accused the government of exploiting the current security environment and described the new laws as a “blank cheque” for the security agencies.


“I can only assume the government is wanting to capitalise on and exploit the current security environment. I can only assume that the security agencies are delighted they have been invited to fill in a blank cheque.


….At some point in the future we’ll have spies kicking in doors and using force with no police alongside them and that is another step towards a police state.”


The Green Party’s Adam Brandt also feared for the fate of the common man.


“As the bill stands, the government can access your computer or mobile and even add files to it, despite the fact you’re not a suspect. If your computer is on the same network as a suspect’s, whether that’s at work, university or even the entire internet, the government will be able to access it.”


Edward Snowdon and Julian Assange, both currently living in exile, blew the lid on our comfortable complacency and the notion that we are safe from the sort of authoritarian state excesses we see on TV happening in other countries and have read about in history books. They crossed the Rubicon and allowed us a glimpse behind the black curtain of espionage, where they are not just spying on suspected criminals and terrorists, but on all of us. A state crackdown on freedoms and privacy. We are all suspects in as yet uncommitted crimes or potential political dissidents that can be re-defined by a government at any time in response to any crisis that may arise in the name of national, or Homeland security, as it is called in America.


This story is a cautionary tale about allowing the security services too much power and the difficulty of containing it once they have it, trapped within the pages of Kafkaesque Prague, psychologically “roughed up”, placed on a blacklist, career disrupted, privacy invaded, relationships meddled with, industrial strength intimidations and threats; and no access to resolution via oversight agencies, a marginalised media or courts. But it is not all negative: there have been some unintended positives, benefits that have come from all this, as outlined in the first section of the book, including amazing travel experiences, interesting entrepreneurial opportunities, a positive realigning of life priorities, new flexibility and a different type of personal freedom. (click)


However, what’s most surprising of all, given the brazen invasiveness, surveillance, analysis and interference in my life is that it has been done not while living in today’s China, or Prague in another time, but by American intelligence agencies today, with the collusion of the Australians, in direct contravention of all the principles that underpin our cherished democratic values – inculcated in us as sacrosanct and non-violable since we were infants. I was as surprised by the depth of my own naïveté as I was by the extent of the breathtaking betrayal of my government. I was never able to face my accusers, told what I was accused of, read what was written about me, or find out what my current status is. The evidence and reasons remain classified state secrets. This is the element of our agencies’ domestic activities that echo Stasi East Germany and Kafka’s Prague.


The few who have not been co-opted by the agencies among friends, family and journalists I’ve personally told my story to, have little trouble believing it, however routinely respond by asking incredulously about the lack of effective checks and balances; surely there are oversight committees they ask, well informed men and women, statesmen whose job it is to make sure that these type of totalitarian excesses don’t happen to regular and innocent people? That’s what we were brought up to believe. Then suddenly it dawns on them: they realise how the system works in practice – when jobs, reputations, favours, money, promotions and politics are in play; the purpose of oversight has itself metamorphosed and evolved, a grotesque disfigurement of its original form – no longer is their function to stop “them” getting at you, but to stop you getting at “them”. This is now how it works! Senior officials in the Senate Intelligence Committee couldn’t even stop the CIA’s illegal spying on them in 2014 during their investigation into the CIA’s use of torture; the President refused to launch a criminal enquiry, his hands tied when it comes to investigating the dark side of the CIA and NSA. This is the jarring realisation the average citizen doesn’t expect. The banality of evil is in evidence in modern day America where nearly no one is immune to the personal advances of the agencies and their persuasive means of co-option; and those in positions of authority – the powerless and pathetic modern day Adolf Eichmanns.


Maybe you think you have nothing to hide. Every time an issue of privacy arises the naysayers tell you, “if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to fear.” But this naive response is to miss the threat, to misunderstand your own vulnerabilities, the extent to which you are linked into and dependent on the system, on others. Embarrassment in the face of privacy violated; exposure and loss of status with peers, or undermining at work and lost job or promotion. Or worse still, they may not tell you what they seek; at some point they may choose to outlaw a religion, to come after Christians, Muslims or Jews; or some hitherto mainstream political affiliation. Or someone might decide they want your job, your land, your house, your wife or your children. Many lives have been lost establishing and protecting our freedoms and rights. Much is at stake. Without them, everything is at risk – without these rights enshrined into law, embedded in culture and actively enforced, as K. remarked in Franz Kafka’s The Castle:


“….all [the authorities] did was to guard the distant and invisible interests of distant and invisible masters.”


It was me today, but it could be you tomorrow. This is a chilling truth – especially given that intelligence agencies focus is now inwards as well as outwards and new authoritarian powers have been granted to them in America, UK, Australia and everywhere else in the West seems to be heading in this direction also. We are giving up personal freedoms, not in exchange for protection from a foreign terrorist threat, but in the hope of achieving higher national economic GDP growth.


Australian experience: ASIO interference with lawyers


In Australia, Ian Barker QC, at the time a leading lawyer, wrote of the lack of ASIO accountability:


“Any defence lawyer having anything to do with a case involving ASIO will know that its agents habitually act outside their powers and routinely abuse them, always in secret. It is rare indeed for their conduct to be exposed.”[31]


I was most surprised by ASIO’s brazen interference with my solicitors and barristers in Australia. Lawyers I retained to advise me on ASIO related matters at various times revealed they were in possession of private details about me, and they tried to influence my instructions or discourage me in ways that benefited ASIO.


Between 2005 and 2012, three lawyers in Australia I had retained at various times collaborated with, and were conflicted by ASIO while they were assisting me on ASIO related matters. Two of the three used the tactic stated below.


Frequently, their tactic was to delay, waiting till the last minute to show me a draft for review of their submission to the courts. Invariably, the draft was full of errors, riddled with them – factual, grammatical, spelling, multiple repeats of paragraphs – it was a mess, and many pages of it. It was a long way from suitable for submission. At the same time the lawyer would express doubt about continuing to represent the matter and indicated they were inclined to pull out.


I raised each case in a complaint letter to IGIS – the Australian Inspector General of Intelligence and Security who has considerable statutory investigative powers and is meant to oversight, investigate and restrain ASIO. But IGIS has never investigated any of my complaints. Both Ian Carnell and his successor, Vivian Thom have stonewalled and provided no information – have directly looked into none of the illegal activities I reported despite having vast powers to do so. My lawyer told me that IGIS need do nothing more than ask the Director General of ASIO whether there is credence to my claims. If he answers no, then case closed. That is the end of the preliminary investigation. If he is correct, it is obviously woefully inadequate where citizens are expected a modicum of justice.


It is now my view that IGIS is culturally incapable of serving public justice. Its statutory existence seems only to serve as a public decoy, giving the public false confidence that justice occurs, but in reality it is a barrier which helps protect the intelligence agencies from justice and accountability.


Around 2008/09, I retained the services of a Sydney based barrister with a specialisation in human rights. After briefing him, he told me that he found all aspects of the background details provided to him credible. He said he believed it plausible that Freeport was directly involved in the killings in Indonesia, as per the eyewitness testimony, though not proven, and hence the sensitivity of the issue, and the possibly that the FBI or CIA were directly involved in, or had prior knowledge of the killings; that the FBI was involved in harassing me as a deterrent to others and as an effort to lower the profile of the matter; and that the FBI’s files about me collected over years in the US found their way to intelligence agencies in Australia. He accepted all this as possible and plausible. But perversely, and disingenuously, he said he wouldn’t accept that ASIO was in some way involved.


Once things started to heat up, he rejected all the evidence in relation to ASIO, without providing any reason, even though he accepted similar evidence pointing to the FBI’s involvement in the US. Despite him now giving voice to his views concerning the evidence in Australia, he had advised me over a 12 month period and knew the key details well from the outset. His excuse for not representing me further was that he did not accept ASIO would get involved in a matter that was ostensibly American. He made no case for denying their involvement, but he declined to do further work for me. It seemed blatantly clear he had been influenced by direct contact with ASIO and had decided not to assist me for nefarious reasons.


Again, ASIO operatives (which I define as anyone knowingly co-operating with ASIO operational directives is an agent of the government, whether it be an employee, contractor, collaborator or informant) convey a brash style of being untouchable, they goad and taunt, revealing personal knowledge of my taxes, my business ups and downs, or the sort of spelling and grammatical mistakes I might make in drafts of work unseen by him. Basically, they self reveal their association with ASIO, they out themselves intending to belittle the target. They do so to convey a sense of power, that they are unreachable. It is a bit like laughing in someone’s face when it appears there is nothing they can do about it.


I sent a complaint letter about my lawyers and ASIO interference to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS – the Australian watchdog that oversights ASIO). He wrote me back, not denying the relationship, but said only that there had been no “inappropriate” contact identified between them. IGIS evidently in its independent assessment did not consider it inappropriate that ASIO would target a lawyer retained by me to advise on ASIO related abuses and then enter into secret discussions with them on “national security” grounds. It is hard not to conclude that, at best, IGIS’s sense of justice contains a high degree of cultural bias.


In Australia, the definition of “national security” is determined by ministerial discretion, a flexible, moving definition, giving rise to a situation that undermines the rule of law and leads to injustices: It encourages the intelligence agencies to act illegally, unethically and outside their mandate in the comfort that the Minister will defend their misconduct.


Aside from legal and political barriers to justice, there are also cultural issues. One Australian lawyer said outright in refusing to represent me having seen my briefing documents – “We won’t represent you. This is a business first of all and defending your matter will harm our business due to the nature of the adversary”. He said his senior partners would not fight against another lawyer or law firm as this would be bad for business – in their view threatening referral work and may be damaging to their reputation in a culture that protects its own. Let alone would they consider an action that involved ASIO!


There seemed to be injustice at every level of government I dealt with.


Intelligence agency efforts to undermine the rule of law now seems to be getting attention, at least in the U.K. following the disclosures by Ed Snowden of the NSA’s capabilities and mass intrusions globally. Aware that information secretly gathered by the NSA is flowing back to allied governments, the U.K. Law Society is looking to take measures to protect the rights of individuals who are suing state security agencies:


“Lawyers representing people who make serious complaints against the police, army or security services fear the industrial-scale collection of email and phone messages revealed by the Guardian over the past four months is threatening the confidential relationship between them and their clients, jeopardising a crucial plank of the criminal justice system.


“These are absolutely fundamental issues,” said Shamik Dutta, from Bhatt Murphy lawyers in London. “The NSA revelations are having a chilling effect on the way a crucial part of the justice system operates….He said mass state surveillance had combined with the introduction of closed material proceedings in claims against the state and cuts to legal aid to drastically weaken citizens’ abilities to hold the authorities to account.”[32]



Section 8: My experience with the media




“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.” (George Orwell)


The hunter hides undetected behind a camouflaged screen, a blind, or in a little covered bivouac, maybe up in a tree, to reduce their chance of detection, blending in with the surroundings, riffle fixed on the targeted killing zone awaiting its quarry. Likewise, the western “free press” offers camouflage for the propaganda of the intelligence agencies which produces and suppresses certain types of information to achieve secret, undisclosed objectives. Agents masquerading as part of the free press, undercover journalists and editors, others with security clearances giving seamless access to the depths of the intelligence agencies move freely within the ranks of the media and have their work published and broadcast undeclared to an all too often unsuspecting public. The co-option of the media as a critical tool of democratic accountability is arguably the biggest threat to national security faced by western nations.


We all know about the limited spectrum of debate and repetitive, narrow views expressed by our corporate media – we all feel that something is wrong, or at least not quite right: that this culture of blandness and self censorship did not arise by chance. This is not the vibrant, free market place of ideas it is billed as. The ubiquitous and virtually unanimous pro-war reporting in the lead up to the Iraq War in 2003 put paid to any doubt about this. Furthermore, this section reveals how Australian mainstream politicians have been targeted by the media to advance intelligence agency agendas.


The flow of propaganda in the mainstream media has disenfranchised and disempowered the public. This is how a teacher in a political focus group held by Naomi Wolf in America describes the feeling of alienation and frustration:


“We’re not having those debates anymore. It feels now as if we never really had those debates. We’re not talking anymore about when does life begin, what does it mean to go to war, what does it mean to be an American. You always feel there is a story behind the story when you are reading the news – a story that you are not privy to. Sometimes you feel that there is all this stuff going on behind our backs. I feel that, and I try to know what’s going on.”[33]


A personal account: meetings with the Fourth Estate


I have approached multiple journalists in the USA and Australia with my allegations of FBI and ASIO interference and abuse following publication of the report on Freeport McMoran. One journalist picked up the story – an independent who also for many years had a column in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) – he was a prominent columnist in a prominent newspaper and it seemed like finally I was getting some mainstream media exposure for this story. However, for a number of reasons, I suspect that it was not his choice alone to cover it.


Firstly, the article (Ackland, Richard 26 February 2010, Secrecy is a denial of our rights, Sydney Morning Herald) contained a significant error that was to ASIO’s benefit – it said the information I had published in my note on Freeport McMoran had been provided to me in secret documents that somehow I had managed to obtain. This was wrong. I never received any documents and I had never indicated otherwise. Indeed, while I had spoken to a number of people about Freeport, it is not clear that anyone ever even gave me any anecdotal information, let alone a document, that was not already in the public domain on all issues concerning Freeport, the killings and the State Department investigation. It is not clear if the error in the Ackland article was intentional or not, or whether it was subsequently introduced by an editor or someone else, but it had the impact of falsely reassuring readers that the intelligence agencies only go after someone with good justification – if you receive a trove of classified documents for example. But this is absolutely not the case. I received no documents, but evidently, as a Wall Street analyst I had received good information from the people I had spoken with.


Further, the Ackland article seemed to come with certain additional baggage. The SMH ran an ASIO front page headline breaking story stamped “exclusive” in bold red letters within the next day or so. I wondered whether this had any bearing – such as a thank you gift to the SMH for helping out. As a follow up I offered Richard Ackland more details and information but he never wrote another instalment. However, in his weekly column over the next two weeks he published veiled references to my case though did not mention me by name. More mysteriously, in the week following his article I had lunch 3 times with someone who I knew well, at their invitation. Over lunch, they expressed interest in the article and encouraged discussion of events raised in it. Lunch, however, three times in the same week was very unusual and this particular person I knew had been pressured by ASIO in the past. It was all a bit odd and it left me wondering whether the article had been a plant, part of a fishing expedition, agreed with the SMH, to encourage me to talk about something ASIO might find of interest – though I can’t imagine what that might be.


The reality is if the agencies can target me and get away with it, they can target you, they can target anyone – any professional, for example, young or old, can be set upon if the result of their work or opinions offends, challenges or scares people in power. Every citizen is at risk – any of us can be targeted, whatever their position, anytime.


I have approached multiple journalists, only to find most associated with mainstream organisations, connected to the intelligence agencies and willing to promote their agenda, particularly so in the state owned media in Australia, the ABC.


My personal communications with many mainstream journalists reveals their close ties to ASIO or other Australian agencies. I had this email exchange with another journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald which he followed up with a veiled phone threat:


Me: What do you think of the royal commission angle?


Journalist: I think it’s interesting and worth exploring. But unfortunately my interest         will turn on your ability to persuade me as to the credibility of your claim;      notwithstanding my acknowledgement the other day that you will not have with you          hard evidence, as I would expect in other spheres.


The sentiment of a journalist wanting to confirm credibility is to be expected but in this case, not genuine on their part. Reasonable inference, not verifiable evidence is the nature of exposing ASIO and other intelligence agency scandals. Allegations are constantly made and published in the media with attribution, disclosing with agreement, the names of sources. In my case, my MP had deemed my allegations credible and raised it in parliament, and lawyers I had engaged to review my case had affirmed it credible. However, this journalist took no efforts to verify I had worked on Wall Street as an analyst, or to review other verifiable aspects of my allegations. He had no intention of running my allegations, not because they weren’t credible, but because he had a conflict of interest – an unholy association with the intelligence agencies in surrender of his public duty. This same journalist called me, not long after this email exchange as part of a series of 3 back to back calls dovetailed with others, delivering a parsed message – each person revealing a different part of it, that I was at risk if I continued with my work exposing this story.


In another personal example, a journalist from the ABC I had been exchanging emails with and who I met on a few occasions mysteriously brought a random photo he said he found on the internet to a meeting with me. The photo showed a large group of volunteers at the Sierra Club from which he was able to point out my former girlfriend, unaided by me, based on a “lucky guess” he said. This journalist was acting more like a member of the secret police than a frank and fearless member of the Fourth Estate, delivering a message, taunting me and had no intention of pursuing the matter through an independent media exposé.


The Fourth Estate is captured by corporate-political interests, its independence critically compromised. It has been largely reduced to a sophisticated tool for propaganda: the Iraq War coverage in 2003 is a perfect example – all major news outlets fell in line with the US government in its illegal push to war; there was little if any dissenting opinion, no public debate. The supposedly diverse and free media spoke in unison, the deafening lack of dissent noticed everywhere.

The media and Elected Representatives


The trail of intelligence agency intrusive activity domestically is very evident in the use of the media against elected officials. It is the attacks on government officials and other community leaders using the media that give the intelligence agencies one of their most powerful advantages but it also creates vulnerability – like leaving a calling card with a watermark evident to those who know how to look. They carry out reprisal attacks on their targets using the media to shame, humiliate or reward; they blackmail and intimidate; and help to bring about the election and rejection of the peoples’ representatives. Some of their signature attacks are described elsewhere here, including a brutal attack on a former Australian member of parliament Ross Cameron and the attack on the Wikileaks Party and its candidates in the lead up to the 2013 federal election in Australia, in particular Alison Broinowski – in both cases the scope of ASIO interference was not disclosed in the reporting, the public was duly deceived and democracy successfully undermined.


Over a number of years, I have approached my US representatives, at times with considerable persistence: my NYC congressman Jerrold Nadler sits on the House Judiciary Committee; and my NY senator Charles Schumer sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee (both committees have oversight responsibility for the FBI). My approaches were of no consequence to either. Neither Schumer nor Nadler took the matter before their respective committees, despite a member of Nadler’s staff, Celine Mizrahi, initially stating that the matter would be taken to the committee. It wasn’t and the office stopped taking my calls and returning correspondence.


This section looks at three cases of threats or payback delivered through the media; the first involving my MP Tanya Plibersek; the second, the staff in the Attorney General’s office; and third, the former Attorney General Philip Ruddock, MP.

Reprisals against my Sydney MP Tanya Plibersek


It is rare indeed to find anyone in power who will speak out in an effort to hold the agencies to account, let alone be critical of them. My Sydney Member of Parliament, Tanya Plibersek raised my concerns about abusive ASIO surveillance and interference in a speech to the Australian Parliament 28 March 2007. She pointed out the injustice of Australian law, whereby Australian citizens have no rights to receive official confirmation of ASIO allegations against themselves and therefore no opportunity to respond to them:


“I do not know whether it is true that he is the subject of ongoing surveillance. The difficulty for him is that, despite his own contacts with officials in Australia and despite the fact that I have written to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, he cannot know whether he is or is not the subject of surveillance. If allegations have been made against him, he has had no opportunity to answer those allegations. This has put enormous stress on his family. The reason I am raising this in the parliament is not because I am convinced either way of the truth of his concerns but because we have a situation where an Australian citizen is convinced—he makes a convincing case—and he has no opportunity to know whether there are allegations against him and how he can respond to them.”[34] click


Neither ASIO nor the Government responded to the concerns she raised. These remain unanswered to this day.


As an example of the problem of controlling agencies like ASIO, shortly after Ms Plibersek responsibly raised my concerns about them in the Australian parliament, the media ran a series of personal attacks that targeted her husband who held a senior position within the state bureaucracy. The articles highlighted some embarrassing aspects of his personal past, but in the interests of appearing balanced also mentioned that he was a talented individual. What is not clear is why an article about one independent government bureaucrat so prominently linked to his partner when it is an issue that has nothing to do with Ms Plibersek. Some of the articles include a very large photograph of the two of them together which no one could miss. Articles included: The Daily Telegraph 14 April 2007 (Saturday Interview, Roger Coombs, p78); The Daily Telegraph, 15 April 2007 (Politics; ‘I didn’t think I would survive being in jail’, Linda Silmalis, p3); and The Sun Herald 15 April 2007 (New education boss doesn’t have the expertise, Brian Chudleigh, p31).


The articles were a clear personal rebuke. Targeting family members sends a chilling message. The timing and substance of the articles just two and a half weeks after she raised my case in parliament cannot be proven as payback for breaking silence on ASIO abuses, but viewed with other such instances, described below, it fits a chilling pattern. It is not clear where the attacks originated – whether with the journalist, editor, sub editor, publisher, PR firm, or other, and it is not clear at what level complicity exists – only that the attack found its way into the mainstream media.


Other MPs, public bureaucrats and their family members have been chided, embarrassed, or had threats exposed in the media following my providing them with evidence of ASIO abuse, and their offers of assistance. Two cases are briefly described below, firstly concerning staff in the Commonwealth attorney general’s office; and secondly, a family member of former attorney general Philip Ruddock.

Threats to the Commonwealth attorney general’s office


On 26 May 2011, I sent a complaint letter to the Australian Attorney General Robert McClelland outlining my dissatisfaction with ASIO and critical of the poor job IGIS was doing in oversighting the agency. I requested he review the matter since ASIO operates from within the Attorney General’s department, while IGIS reports to the office of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).


I was in periodic contact with the AG’s office staffers by telephone over the following months and I had several very positive and productive conversations with them. I found them to be genuine and helpful. They responded to my concerns with intelligent and relevant questions, assured me that this was an important matter and that they would advance it to higher levels within the department. It was evident they were aware of the risks posed to citizens by a wayward and poorly oversighted spy agency like ASIO.


However, the positive interactions with staffers abruptly came to an end. Inexplicably I was advised the matter had been forwarded to the office of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) to deal with the aspect of my complaint that concerned the poor performance of the oversight body IGIS. I felt I had been fobbed off by the AG’s office. They would have nothing further to do with my complaint, including that aspect of it directed against ASIO, which they are responsible for overseeing. It was a strange and unexpected about face.


I promptly received a curt letter from PM&C that annoyingly, dismissed my complaint and reaffirmed support for IGIS without investigating any of my claims. It references a full investigation, but a full investigation was never completed by IGIS. Indeed, IGIS had specified clearly that it had undertaken not to do a full investigation and had closed the case. It fortified the intelligence bureaucrats’ impenetrable stonewall and ended scornfully, saying: “The Government is satisfied with the IGIS inquiry and will not be pursuing the matter further.”[35] The word “satisfied” is greatly overused by politicians and bureaucrats. It is intended to convey a sense of responsible review but is ultimately a meaningless statement. The word implies “due process”, “transparency and accountability”, and “fair and just” but is an empty, overused phrase. It in fact says nothing about the integrity of the officials and process that was followed, and hides the very real possibility the process of review consisted of nothing more than rubber stamping the IGIS statements.


Indeed, according to my lawyer, the preliminary investigation made by IGIS in 2004 need constitute none of the case facts or third party testimony, let alone consider my testimony and evidence; the preliminary investigation conducted by IGIS need not constitute anything more than asking the director general of ASIO if I am a legitimate ASIO target. The protection of the public by the office of IGIS need extend no further than this question. If the director general states that there was no substance to the complaint then IGIS had satisfied the obligation to conduct a “preliminary investigation” and the investigation was closed.


Despite the letter from PM&C, I stayed in touch with the AG’s staff hoping for possible further assistance from them. However the Canberra Times on 25 September 2011 published an article with headline “AG staff probed over rort allegations” that indicated a handful of the AG’s staff were now under investigation for false overtime claims and their jobs would be at stake in the event of an adverse finding:

“Senior staff in the Attorney-General’s Department with high-level security clearances have been investigated for allegedly rorting their overtime and obtaining financial benefits by deception, according to internal government files.”[36]

There were never any follow up articles to the AG’s senior staff rort allegations in any of the papers. The timing and public nature of the announcement for an apparently common type of problem, was not particularly news worthy, particularly for a mainstream paper. But it appears to be another case of the media targeting individuals that had position and power over ASIO at a time they were investigating my complaint about ASIO misconduct – and it seems to have had the impact intended.


Communication with the AG’s office staff came to a prompt end. Despite attempts throughout September to November to re-invigorate the issue through conversations with the Attorney General’s department, no one would touch it – a surprising reversal in attitude given their initial support. My complaint subsequently went nowhere.


Media attacks, are very successful in sending people scampering for cover. The reality is no official with power over ASIO wants a full investigation of the matter for fear of what it might reveal and the difficult consequences that might result for those involved, no less so the captured regulators and their investigators.

Public perceptions of bias by captive regulators have only become more pressing since my communications with the AG in 2011. Disturbingly, from a human rights point of view, the newly elected conservative government under Prime Minister Tony Abbott appointed a former head of ASIO, Paul O’Sullivan, to the Attorney General’s department as Chief of Staff. The 2013 federal election, in which Abbott came to office, bore all the hallmarks of an ASIO hatchet job with the torpedoing of Wikileak’s electoral prospects by a critical media, again like the lead up to the Iraq war speaking in unison with an uncharacteristic and disturbing singularity; and, in selective instances, ASIO spoilers planted as trojan candidates that self destruct  and masquerading as independent commentators. What hope is there that a complaint to the AG today about ASIO misconduct during O’Sullivan’s reign can be expected to be treated at arms’ length – independently and objectively; or for that matter complaints covering other periods of ASIO’s recent past? I would say next to none.


I have been treated like a character from Kafka’s novel The Castle – who expected due process but instead found themselves standing against the system in pursuit of a seemingly unobtainable goal – government accountability, truth and justice. Kafka’s character spent a lifetime in the castle lobby waiting for a meeting with the king that never occurred. One will grow old seeking justice and freedom, trying to hold the intelligence agencies to account in America, Australia and the other Five-Eye intelligence sharing partners (UK, Canada, NZ). Indeed, I am now in my 18th year since the FBI and ASIO set me in their scopes. It is like a medieval maze or a hall of mirrors, instructions with secret meanings and distorted representations of the path to accountability, which like a rainbow that never touches the ground where one is standing, one can forever be seeking out the right elected representative or regulator that one hopes will make a stand, that will represent you and your cause, that will investigate allegations. Even when it is their duty to do so, they do not.

The democratic promise of due process is sorely rebuffed by a constant stream of implausible excuses; stonewalled by officials with reasons that make one’s head spin as if that medieval maze were plastered with random arrows all over it each purporting to point to the exit, but point only to other arrows within the maze. The result is a vast entangled web of requests that go nowhere.

As if they didn’t already have enough stacked in their favour, guidelines issued by the AG in 2010 indicate ASIO in conjunction with the National Archives of Australia is permitted to destroy files about anyone it no longer deems a security risk. In the process, any evidence of wrong doing by the agency would also be destroyed: a practice that holds ripe potential for exploitation and abuse. [Frank Moorhouse, 2014 Australia Under Surveillance, Random House Australia]. The opportunities for collusion and access to ASIO’s capabilities by individuals across government departments and the private sector, whose motives may be less than pure “national security”, have low risk of discovery, and as I am finding out there is virtually no chance of accountability.



Former Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, MP


Moving on from efforts to work with the current attorney general’s staff, I was able to get a meeting with MP and former Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock in his Sydney electoral office after a mutual contact put us in touch. He was attorney general from 2003 to 2007 in the conservative Howard government. As AG he had departmental responsibility for ASIO during a historical period in which he oversaw the introduction of new legislation to expand ASIO powers in the “War on Terror”. He subsequently oversaw the prosecution of alleged terrorists in which tactics used by the department received harsh criticism from the judiciary for the investigative methods employed which forced the government to drop its cases in a blitz of negative publicity.


People say it takes an unusual sort of person to be a good attorney general, and many doubted Ruddock had the skills to get the balance right between civil liberties, human rights and security. Indeed, a leading lawyer, Phillip Boulten SC, who had defended several terrorist suspects was critical of his stewardship and the governments’ scruple. He said:


“Philip Ruddock abolished many procedural safeguards for refugees and asylum seekers and made an art of incarcerating innocent men, women and children who had committed no crimes. He called this “border protection”.


Governments of all types in Australia and in most western democracies have been camouflaging their policies on terrorism for the last 5 years. In an attempt to convince people that they are working towards the creation of a stable, just and secure political environment, governments have declared a seemingly never ending “war on terror”. In reality what they are doing is establishing the basis for a never ending state of fear where supposedly only those in power have the ability to keep people safe and secure.”[37]


The AG and oversight bodies do little to govern or rein in the excesses of ASIO. A subsequent Attorney General, Nicola Roxon (2011-2013) reported she refused to sign a warrant for an intercept requested by an ASIO agent because ASIO could not explain why the intercept was necessary. Astoundingly, the agency chided her, saying that never before had an Attorney General refused the agency a request for a warrant irrespective of whether or not an explanation was provided.[38]


After the Howard government lost the 2007 election Ruddock retained his seat of Berowra in Sydney’s northern district and continued life in parliament as an opposition backbencher and senior figure in the Liberal party. Given the controversial period of history and the decisions of his office while he served as AG, I held little hope he would intervene on my behalf. However, people said he was a man driven by strong Christian values, and politics being politics, the changing winds of time and a new office in opposition, I thought I would take the opportunity to meet with him and present my case of ASIO abuse. The meeting, I hoped, had the potential to move my case forward, perhaps spark a belated push for accountability and justice from our intelligence community.


First meeting with Ruddock – December 2011:


I met with him at his offices on three occasions in a large Sydney suburban office block off a busy road in Pennant Hills. The first meeting was in December 2011. He was running a few minutes late and I sat in the small reception area in front of a glass walled counter that felt a bit like a ticket counter in a railway station. There were historic black and white photographs of his electorate on the wall and a table full of policy statements and government pamphlets. The office manager opened the security door and invited me though. We walked by some work stations and into a large office with the desk across the room by the window, a separate table and work area, and a couple of couches facing each other near the door. The office was neither new nor showy, but quite comfortable and had a well used feeling to it, suitable to meet both dignitaries and members of the electorate alike. Work papers and files sat on the desk by the computer screen, and behind him were books on shelves and cabinets. Mr Ruddock got up from his desk to greet me. We shook hands and he showed me to the couch by the door which the office manager had left ajar after leaving.


He took the facing couch opposite me and broke the ice by mentioning our common connections including the person responsible for making our introduction. He gave me a long, standard summary of the structure of the Australian intelligence industry and some key dates, the sort of plain vanilla background that could be found on government websites, before we moved onto my situation. It was a cordial and relaxed meeting.


He indicated that he had read the background material I had sent him about my problems with ASIO I had experienced since 1996 but asked me recap. I briefly outlined the situation starting with my work on Wall Street as a mining analyst covering Freeport McMoran, the eyewitness testimony of the company’s alleged involvement in the killing of indigenous protestors at is Grasberg mine in West Papua, Indonesia and the US State Department investigation of the incidents alleging Freeport’s involvement. We touched on Henry Kissinger’s prominent role with the company, my former girlfriend’s role with the FBI, the lack of interest from IGIS to progress to a full investigation of my allegations ASIO concerning inappropriate ASIO involvement in the matter and abuse. I took the opportunity to mention QC Ian Barker’s comments in a letter to the editor published in the Sydney Morning Herald that any prosecutor dealing with ASIO could tell you that the agency frequently broke the law and was rarely held to account, to which Philip Ruddock replied only that he was friends with Ian Barker and caught up with him occasionally.


After completing the summary of my problems with ASIO, he appeared to be in thought for a moment as he looked up at the back corner of the office, then said he did not recall my case. Whether he said this because he had no choice as it would be illegal for him to disclose otherwise I don’t know; but he left me hopeful by saying he would take a closer look and there was potential for an investigation of ASIO in relation to this matter – something that had been denied me by IGIS. I was encouraged and hopeful that this first meeting may lead to some positive outcome. We corresponded a number of times in February and early March.


On the 23 February 2012 he sent me an email in which he offered to forward my complaint about ASIO and IGIS to the Prime Minister.




I’d certainly be happy to bring your detailed submission to the PM’s attention – so if you can put together a detailed complaint, including all the correspondence thus far, I’ll then forward that on with a covering letter.


Yours sincerely


The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP

Second meeting with Ruddock – April 2012:


In March 2012, I emailed to request a second meeting in follow up to the first and our interim correspondence, which he granted and scheduled for April. However, around this time, an article appeared in The Australian about alleged impropriety by his daughter and mentioned both her and Philip Ruddock by name. The article in The Australian (16 March 2012, Legal aid link to coal protest faces probe, p7: click) alleged she had attended a public meeting on an environmental matter in conflict with the government. It indicated that the government had threatened to launch an investigation into the allegations and cut funding to the small non profit organisation that employed her (NSW Environmental Defenders Office). The article prominently states that the NSW Premier had “…asked senior bureaucrats to report to him on Ms Ruddock’s involvement”.


It is never clear to the public where the impetus for a story originates, whether it be with the journalist, editor, publisher, PR agent or some other source. However, what is clear is this particular story lacked any significance, it was not a newsworthy item in its own right, certainly not for a national mainstream paper. But the threat of a discretionary investigation against his daughter for a trivial perceived impropriety – her attendance at a meeting, was a nasty public personal attack on one of his family members and therefore a personal attack on him.


When I subsequently met with Philip Ruddock in April, there was a noticeable change in his tone and demeanour from our previous meeting several months earlier. He said he had made some enquiries into my case – but clearly something had changed – the cordiality was still there in part but now there was also sneer and scorn. I do not know the reason, whether he received misinformation about my matter from his access to well placed people or whether he had been intimidated by the threat to his daughter, or a bit of both. In any event, he was no longer willing to offer assistance.


He reneged on the above offer to bring my matter to the attention of the Prime Minister saying that he had changed his mind as he now believed that the matter had been adequately reviewed by others. He provided some reasons, though I did not find them credible as we had discussed these together when we had met in December and I therefore remained unconvinced.


He indicated he knew much about my matter, and asked what proof of ASIO malfeasance I had. If I did have proof of malfeasance, he taunted, could I prove that any harm had resulted. Mockingly, he said he would talk to anyone I could bring forward as a witness, but he would not advocate for a formal enquiry – such as in a royal commission, where witnesses are legally protected when providing testimony against the agencies. Of course, as former AG, he knew that all ASIO operatives, collaborators, informers, etc., would be constrained by contract gag clauses, sometimes running to several pages in length, with criminal penalties for unauthorised disclosures. In effect, he was asking me to bring forward a whistleblower, someone to come forward on threat of incarceration – and trust him to do the right thing.


Again, I suggested a formal, wide sweeping investigation of the agencies, a royal commission, for example, might be a better way to go, as had been suggested by the Hope Royal Commission – a mandatory review of the intelligence agencies every 5 to 8 years or so. He scoffed at the suggestion! He taunted that ASIO cases take time to run their full course, many years sometimes, and if targets are ever declared innocent victims of agency abuse, it is only because the investigation likely didn’t run long enough!  It is clear the oversight bodies, in wilful blindness look not to see. The reticence to impose a royal commission on the intelligence agencies smacks of appeasement that stems from fear.

Third meeting with Ruddock – May 2013:


I met with Philip Ruddock for a third time in May 2013, about a year after my second meeting with him. But nothing in his response to me had changed from our previous meeting – it too was disappointing and indicated I had hit another stonewalling dead end. He offered nothing of substance by way of assistance, and like a faithful ‘public’ servant demonstrated his obstinate solidarity with the agency he oversighted but no evident support for ensuring ASIO treated the public justly and acted with integrity. I told him I intended to publish the names of ASIO operatives and was writing a book. He eyed me with a quiet sneer and without looking at it described my list as “informants” and asked with a barely concealed enmity how I intended to publish and distribute my book. His sneer slowly morphed into a slight grin while he paused for my answer. As the former political head of ASIO, he knew the barriers and depth of ASIO penetration into the world of writing and publishing better than anyone. The NSW Writers Centre, for example, is a hornet’s nest of ASIO activity and no established publisher in Australia would be defiant enough to publish and distribute such material. It was clear from this meeting that he was not going to push for any kind of investigation of ASIO, no judicial oversight or royal commission.


After the meeting I sent him the below email, and later forwarded it to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security which has oversight responsibility of ASIO (and which he is a member of).



Sent: Thursday, 20 June 2013 10:37 AM

To: ‘’

Subject: FW: XXXX Wilson – ASIO – PJCIS


Dear Sir or Madam,


I am forwarding an email I sent to Philip Ruddock last week related to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security oversight of ASIO in relation to a royal commission with broad terms of reference.


I would be pleased to brief you directly on the issues raised if you would like further information.


Thanks and regards.


XX Wilson




Sent: Friday, 14 June 2013 5:08 PM

To: ‘’


Subject: XXXXXXX Wilson – ASIO


Dear Philip,


Thank you for taking the time to meet with me again several weeks ago concerning the issues I have faced with intrusive ASIO interference. As you recall, this interference has occurred since I published a report as an analyst on Wall Street in 1996 that touched on the killings [of indigenous protestors] at the US listed Freeport McMoran’s massive Grasberg gold and copper mine in West Papua (note attached).


Following our conversation about Australian intelligence agency misconduct, it is interesting to note the recent media reports of former US National Security Agency (NSA) analyst Edward Snowden who has disclosed the extensive intelligence capability and abuses of the US government in operating an all encompassing communications dragnet domestically and abroad. Associated with this disclosure is that the US is targeting a large number of people everywhere in the world, including Australia, and in turn is sharing this information with its counterparts in foreign agencies, including Australian intelligence agencies.


The possibility of such foreign government intelligence activity in Australia was something we touched on when we spoke. Their direct involvement in Australia obviously makes the need for a warrant from the Australian Attorney General of no consequence in matters where Australian agencies can simply get such information through back door channels – ie, via their US counterparts in this instance. Based on the NSA leaks, there now seems to be little doubt that the US has the capability to bug my phone and all my communications, if they were inclined to do so, without need for the Australian government’s direct involvement or consent.


An example of recent media reports quotes Snowden telling the Guardian newspaper, “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President.” (Edward Snowden Search Began Days Before NSA Surveillance Program Reports Went Public, Reuters, posted: 06/12/2013 6:40).


It has also come to my attention, that an ASIO operative, who was aware that I had met with you on two previous occasions in 2011/12 was actively engaging staff at the Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) in mid 2012. This person is active in a local XXXXXXXXXXX community group XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and engaged the EDO on the pretext of seeking legal assistance for this campaign. On several occasions this person (not named below), who I know has been actively recruiting for ASIO, has made reference to Kirsty Ruddock and taunted that they were getting to know at least one of her office colleagues well, taking them to lunch, etc  –  with the intended implication that ASIO was actively recruiting within the EDO’s office. Based on this, ASIO, it seems, considers its brief to include the targeting of family members of officials responsible for oversight of the intelligence agencies.


I believe that ASIO is operating without adequate constraints in Australia, that it is operating outside its mandate and abusing its powers. Lawyer Ian Barker, QC has maintained this point of view for some time as outlined in the attached letter I sent to the committee you sit on, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. I attach the letter as a reminder of my experiences with ASIO and my inability to obtain a commitment from any Australian oversight authority to investigate my allegations of intelligence agency abuse in Australia, despite persistent efforts. The current oversight process operates in a way that provides no protection to people subjected to ASIO abuses and offers no outlet that protects the rights and interests of people targeted by ASIO (I have attached Tanya Plibersek’s comments to parliament to this effect).


The current revelations about the NSA’s conduct and Australia’s involvement might serve as the required scandal you referred to as being a necessary catalyst to launch a wide sweeping royal commission into Australia’s intelligence agencies. As we discussed, the Hope Royal Commission recommended that there be a mandatory royal commission into the Australian intelligence agencies every eight years or so, but this was never put into effect.


When we met recently, you and I discussed that I would name various ASIO operatives – agents, collaborators and informants active in my case. I have provided you a list of names previously. Operatives I intend to name initially include:


XXXXXXXXXXX, son of former ASIO Director General XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXX, staff member of the Green’s Senator Rhiannon

XXXXXXXXXXX, Sydney, stockbroking analyst

XXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXX, Sydney businesspeople

XXXXXXXXXXXX, Melbourne, former lawyer

XXXXXX, Central coast NSW and Boston, USA

XXXXXXXXX, Sydney, former business consultant

XXXXXXXXXXX, Sydney, former stockbroking analyst


I would be pleased to discuss with you or provide further information on any of the above. Please let me know if you would like further details.


Best regards.




With no mainstream or official channels open for redress of the injustices of the intelligence agency abuses I released the above to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (around the world), various MPs, journalists and civil rights groups. The public, albeit restricted release of intelligence agents’ names in Australia is not considered in the public interest, unlike the US where covert FBI agents, for example, are treated under the law like any other government employee – if they reveal their covert status to someone that is a matter for them, but the media is free to publish it, in the public interest, if it sees fit.


In Australia, I approached a number of journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald, amongst other news media. One of the journalists called me a month or two later and made a veiled and menacing threat, barley concealing their undercover status, and told me to release no further names of either ASIO agents or their suspected minions.



The intelligence agency crackdown on the Australian public and media has continued to become more severe. In October 2014, draconian new ASIO legislation enables the agency, under a single, general Australia wide warrant to access computer “networks” and to enter anyone’s personal computer. The agency is authorised to alter files, remove and delete whatever it wants in any computer attached to the “network”. ASIO agents have been given immunity from the law – except for the specific offences of murder, torture and sexual assault. However, perjury, destruction of evidence and tampering with witnesses is evidently allowable. Details of ASIO’s “special operations” cannot be published by the media or bloggers – even where operations have gone seriously wrong; even if agents have killed, sexually assaulted or tortured people. Furthermore, names of ASIO agents cannot be leaked and revealed – under threat of prison terms of 5 or 10 years depending on the offence. And public interest has been removed as a possible defence in these cases.


Astonishingly, in the lead up to this new legislation, the media offered little resistance. Barley a whimper was heard despite the significant and disturbing risks the laws pose for journalists reporting on national security and crime, and the threat such restrictive legislation poses to one of the key institutional pillars of our democracy.


The role of the media in pushing intelligence agency propaganda is increasingly evident – both in what is published and what is not. The pattern of attacking non compliant politicians and other officials in newspaper articles and threats of investigation is compelling, however, one cannot state categorically that they were the interference of ASIO as opposed to mere coincidence. Nor can it be said that any bureaucrat or politician allowed the threat of payback or blackmail to intimidate them and influence their integrity and independence. What can be said, however, is that there is a pattern of well targeted specific attacks or threats that appeared in newspapers around the time I met with officials concerning intelligence agency abuses.


ASIO has ready access to the media and the articles follow an intimidating pattern, clearly threatening or humiliating the people targeted. The public exposure of officials and their families in the media to unsubstantiated or suspiciously timed allegations, and public threats of official investigation appears to be a key weapon of ASIO, used to deter politicians and stop bureaucratic enquiries into their activities.


Placing threats and smears in the media against politicians and other critics might be an effective way to stop enquiries into ASIO and to further the career interests of ASIO staffers, but not a great way to further Australian democracy and national security interests.


Those who control the media, have the power to control the people. And where there are opportunities to control and influence the people, the intelligence agencies will be found actively engaged. Agency influence over the media appears pervasive at every level – journalists, editors, publishers. The intelligence agencies it seems, have built myriad links into the media, such that the media behaves more like a state run enterprise than a free one. It would be interesting indeed to have an independent commission document and report on the extent of intelligence agency media relationships and influence.


In the link below, I review two hatchet jobs: one targeting former Liberal MP Ross Cameron who spoke out against the Iraq War of 2003, and the other targeting Wikileaks Party candidate in the Australian federal election 2013 – Alison Broinowski.


[Further examples: The media helping intelligence agencies target politicians and officials ]


Section 9: Conclusion


Where to now? Life in Australia, Freeport and the FBI


It is now 2015. Not much has changed in the intervening years since 1996. The killing of indigenous people continues in West Papua, Freeport McMoran’s operations have at least another 30 years life there beyond 2040, and I will remain on the FBI target list (and therefore ASIO’s), it seems forever.


The plight of indigenous people caught in military conflict zones, with domestic and foreign backers funding armed violence to secure resources – the “blood commodities” – like diamonds, deserves much greater public scrutiny in places like West Papua, Nigeria, DRC and elsewhere.


It is moral bankruptcy for the worlds’ most powerful to target indigenous people for their resources. These people are easy military targets, no match for the US or other industrialised societies and their modern weaponry. Brazen disregard for extensive “collateral damage”: killing men, women, and children of all ages, as if they were legitimate military targets; indiscriminate killing of people who have no means of defending themselves is a war crime.


I have learnt there is a huge gulf in US politics between the rhetoric and its practice. It is one thing to have an intellectual understanding, that this difference exists is obvious, but quite another to have a visceral realisation based on personal experience. It is one thing to study this abstractly and resignedly acknowledge that this is how our system works; it is quite another thing to experience it, to viscerally, emotionally connect outcomes to real, suffering people, to bodies and graves containing men, women, and children around the world, and ask what you can do to stop it. “Real” subversives are now being defined by those who ask questions.


I have experienced what it means to live in a country where democratic values have been eroded, to have my dreams and hopes interfered with by the State and to live my waking life subjected to gross injustices and interferences by that State. I now find a deep and chilling resonance to the words of great democrats of the past and heed with conviction the profound wisdom that the price of democracy is eternal vigilance:


“But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.  It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.” [Andrew Jackson, Farewell Address, March 4, 1837]


Clearly, doing nothing has unintended consequences, not only for others, but for you too. To apathetically or nihilistically accept the power of the government to surveil you absolutely without protection; to surrender all your privacy by claiming you have nothing to hide may be an ideal aspired to in certain religious communes, or a communist political system, but otherwise leaves one at a distinct disadvantage in a competitive world and marketplace.


Our governments speak to us with double meaning, stated values that I had never been able to clearly see before, perhaps on account of a life lived in privilege and largely cloistered from the day to day realities of a broad cross section of peoples’ lives in the wider world. The bitter suffering that our Western governments’ brutally inflict on people at home and on others abroad (including West Papua) is business as usual.


At home, in the US, I do not believe the FBI’s response has been in any way legal, let alone appropriate or proportional, in retaliation against me for raising the sensitive issue of Freeport’s role in funding a violent crackdown against indigenous people in Indonesia, to say nothing of the violence in Indonesia itself.


However, I have learnt this about my government: that this democracy, once a bright beacon of freedom and liberty, ideals that stemmed from religious pilgrims and asylum seekers, is not that bright beacon it once was and still purports to be. Rigid structures have arisen from powerful, hard headed reason built upon unfounded axioms that mitigate the human values of truth, justice and compassion. Economic outcomes at times heavily dependent on the brute force of its military and intelligence agencies deployed with hegemonic impunity and with a liberal sense of Kissinger’s American exceptionalism delivered with a grandiose desire to be at the centre of world affairs irrespective of what good or evil it imparts to achieve this. Our government is not acting in good faith.


The US is developing unabashedly tyrannical tendencies. The intelligence agencies have set themselves beyond the law and boldly wage state wide intimidation. They fuel American’s insecurity and distrust of government. Their involvement in key decisions can be seen everywhere, for example: the repetitive, on message mainstream media voices and their lack of opposition to the highly contentious Iraq war in 2003; unrelenting retention of controversial government policies despite the changing of US administrations on matters such as the torture and illegal detention of prisoners; drone strikes for assassinations; and widespread state violence directed against peaceful US demonstrators at home (Occupy Movement). Despite Obama campaigning strongly on these issues nothing has changed. Why? Because the real power in the US increasingly and unabashedly resides with the intelligence agencies, not with the democratically elected Executive.


I did not create breaking news, this was not a new story back then, I merely considered the public information as an analyst and allowed it to influence my assessment of Freeport, and relay that to the global investment community. As is often the case, the breaking news here is in exposing the cover up, the role of the FBI in coming to Freeport’s assistance to silence legitimate, professional criticism on Wall Street.


I cannot say with certainty, philosophically speaking, that my life is better or worse for what has happened as a result of FBI interference – the timeframes in which outcomes are assessed can be determined arbitrarily, and in time, perceived losses turn into victories, and contrariwise, victories into losses. I have been hindered in, or denied the possibility of certain achievements, relationships, activities and opportunities. However, I can say this: that this awakening of sorts has brought to my life a deeper sense of personal satisfaction and meaning than my career had ever offered, in my own small way opening to a wider world helping secure the human rights of people in West Papua and by extension elsewhere, including this country, that are abused by the corruptions within our system. For this I am grateful.


As for moving forward, I think of the inspiring words from the old English ballad called “Sir Andrew Barton” paraphrased by President Reagan after an election disappointment:


“I am sore wounded but not slain

I will lay me down and bleed a while

And then rise up to fight again”


America is full of good people. It is a great country. Its leaders, if allowed to govern with the support of strong democratic institutions that ensure accountability to the wider electorate, to good people, will take America, and the world, to a better place.


Suppressing the truth, attempting to control communications and force feed the public the government’s sole version of reality is a priority agenda for Western security agencies, not open, vibrant societies. The security agencies act as if their brief is to protect the interests of their agency and the public elite, dispensing with the rule of law and accepted social values leading to greater injustices and social inequality, and lesser well being for the rest. At some stage a new cycle of emboldened public defiance will meet this elevated injustice; every new piece of oppressive legislation, every overreach and abuse of state authority slowly adds to a rising tide that, if not self corrected, will at some point create an unstoppable, wholesale cleanout.


The high value of personal liberty and how quickly liberty can be shanghaied should not be forgotten. We should remain mindful of the lessons of what happened to Germany in the 1930s and Eastern Europe under the Soviet Union. Citizens with memories of living in these places and times are aghast by what the NSA leaks reveal about the extent of the cultural slide in Western political attitudes towards the value of individuals’ liberty, and they are fearful for themselves, and us, of the possibilities.


As George Papandreou, the former Prime Minister of Greece said: “politics must again become the art of imagining a better world — and collectively finding the power to do so.”[39]


If I were asked what needs to be changed in our political system in relation to the issues of abuse I have spoken of, I would say subordinate the various offices of IGIS (that oversight the DOJ, FBI, CIA and ASIO) and put them under an independent judiciary. The reason is that IGISs are unable to perform the tasks expected in defending our democracy because each is staffed with bureaucrats that are not culturally independent either of the broader government bureaucracy on which their careers depend, nor out of reach of the intelligence agencies they are expected to oversight. No matter what powers the IGIS is given, its benefit to the public is muted by human frailty that all too readily surrenders its duty within a corrupted institutional structure.


On the innate nature of corruption and the banality of evil, US president John Adams said this in 1788:


“It is weakness rather than wickedness which renders men unfit to be trusted with unlimited power.” [John Adams, 1788]


Indeed, there is no place for mediocrity in oversight. I would adhere to Andrew Jackson’s warning and by principle establish the strongest vigilance possible to oversight our intelligence agencies; and that is achieved through an independent judiciary, not by aligned bureaucrats.


Epilogue: Several years after I had left the USA, Susan moved in with her new partner in DC and married. She was 39 and had her first child in her early 40s.


As for me, I married several years later at 42 and now have two beautiful children.


While I wouldn’t go back in time, I wish aspects of that distant history had never occurred. That the “right” woman I thought I had found then lost, back then was an illusion, a vision of my own making, created and broken in a state matrix. It is a lesson in revisionism, spiritual and material, that even our most strongly held beliefs may be wrong, open to challenge, to some future revision as new information comes to light. And with revision comes the re-interpretation of one’s entire life – a recasting of the illusions in search of a firm reality.


This is an unfolding story, now in its seventeenth year. I continue to pursue justice in relation to agency abuses, but given the prevailing culture and attitude of those in power in this new America, one that seems to have gone through a silent revolution since the end of WWII, I do not anticipate resolution any time soon.


[Further story details to come]


Postscript: FBI and ASIO agents named

(Updated 25 September 2013)


All up, I have had a dozen or two agents, or informants, collaborators, etc make themselves known to me, in each of the US and Australia, as part of the ongoing harassment and interference I have experienced since publishing the note on Freeport in 1996. I am gradually disclosing the names below of these agents that have revealed themselves to me – operatives wedged between the government, the governed, and the constitution – in successive updates of this note.


The details are set out below [details to be posted].

Aside from the above, other undercover FBI agents and collaborators self-disclosed include:

Michael Mills: the FBI agent who moved into my apartment in NYC and occupied it for several years when I sublet it before my return to Australia.

  • Kathleen Walton: former mining analyst at Merrill Lynch in NYC.
  • Matthew Levey – Kroll Associates, Inc (New York City midtown office): consulting work case manager 2003 and 2004. Former State Department employee.
  • Jeffrey S Robards: corporate finance, formerly Ernst & Young (E&Y) NYC. Now working for C.W. Downer & Co – a boutique M&A firm in Boston.


Stephan Chenault and John Klotz: volunteers Sierra Club NYC Group since 1990s.

Ben Worden, Rob Haggerty and Allison Dey (Tucson area): FBI agents involved with Diamond Mountain Buddhist group in southern Arizona and California.

  • George Schneider and Livingston Sutro (Sierra Vista, AZ); Jennifer Conner (NYC): Associated with Diamond Mountain Buddhist group in southern Arizona.
  • Paul Whitby (Tucson): biologist.
  • Leigh Freeman – Cherry Creek, Denver based head hunter. Downing Teal.
  • Robert Schultz – Albuquerque based head hunter. MRC Mining Search.

Steven D. Garber – (wife Andrea – collaborator) additional details: biologist; lived in Manhattan for much of the 1990s, before taking a two year posting to teach biology at Embry Riddle in Prescott, AZ before returning to the New York area (White Plains). Books authored include The Urban Naturalist (New York. John Wiley and Sons. 1987). PhD in Ecology, Environmental Sciences – Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-Newark. B.S. in Natural Resources – Cornell University.


ASIO agents, informers and collaborators self-disclosed include:

[The names of 9 ASIO operatives were disclosed June 2013 to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, several journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald, a number of politicians, and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security – around 12 in total. This led to ASIO retaliation and further threats to destroy my family and business. As one well placed politician told me, “there is not really anywhere to turn: the police are in on it, they’re all part of it; you can’t rely on any of them.”]

Author: John Wilson

[1] Elizabeth Brundige, et al., Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic Yale Law School, April 2004, Indonesian Human Rights Abuses in West Papua: Application of the Law of Genocide to the History of Indonesian Control.

[2] Joseph E. Stiglitz, 21 December 2013 In No One We Trust, The New York Times.

[3] Ed. Clive Hamilton and Sarah Maddison, 2007, Silencing Dissent, Allen and Unwin, p3.

[4] Samantha Michaels 29 November 2011, Is a U.S. Mining Company Funding a Violent Crackdown in Indonesia?, The Atlantic.

[5] Free West Papua 2 May 2013, UN expresses serious concerns over West Papua crackdown. . The Free West Papua Campaign on facebook is a good source of current information on ongoing human rights abuses there.

[6] Denise Leith 2003, The Politics of Power Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press

[7] Elizabeth Brundige, et al., Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic Yale Law School, April 2004, Indonesian Human Rights Abuses in West Papua: Application of the Law of Genocide to the History of Indonesian Control, p23.

[8] Denise Leith 2003, The Politics of Power Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press. P227

[9] Ibid, p23

[10] A Wall Street Journal News Roundup, Riots in Indonesia quelled; U.S. mine prepares to reopen, Wall Street Journal, Eastern edition, pA15.

[11]   Denise Leith 2003, The Politics of Power Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press. p235-236.

[12] Denise Leith 2003, The Politics of Power Freeport in Suharto’s Indonesia, University of Hawai’i Press, p219.

[13] H9196 Congressional Record – House, 30 September 1999 Indonesia’s Shameful Military Occupation of East Timor and West Papua New Guinea.

[14] Sydney Morning Herald 21-22 September 2013, PNG takes control of Ok Tedi mine, p2.

[15] RT 18 July 2013, America has no functioning democracy.

[16] Severin Carrell 22 June 2013, Bill Clinton on NSA: Americans need to be on guard for abuses of power by US, The Guardian.

[17] Malcolm Fraser, 4 February 2015 Did Gillian Triggs hit a raw nerve with her report? The Age.

[18] Noam Chomsky 17 August 2013, Chomsky: The U.S. behaves nothing like a democracy, Salon.

[19] Annie Machon, 5 October 2013 Intel union: Spy agency heads won’t roll with US and UK allied, RT.

[20] ibid

[21] John Tirman, Executive Director, MIT Center for International Studies 9 July 2013, The Quiet Coup: No, Not Egypt. Here. Huffington Post.

[22] Noam Chomsky 17 August 2013, Chomsky: The U.S. behaves nothing like a democracy, Salon.

[23] Phil Black and Tom Watkins, 16 October 2013 Snowden’s father pleased with son’s Moscow life, CNN.

[24] Jesselyn Radack 17 August 2013, How to trap a whistleblower, Salon.

[25] Jonathan Freedland, 19 October 2013, The GCHQ scandal is not about the Guardian. It is an insult to parliament, The Guardian.

[26] James Ball, 26 October 2013 Leaked memos reveal GCHQ efforts to keep mass surveillance secret, The Guardian.

[27] Justin Huggler, 6 February 2015 Britain ‘threatens to stop sharing intelligence’ with Germany, The Telegraph.

[28] Alastair Nicholson, 4 July 2014 Asylum seekers: my country, my shame, The Age.

[29] The Nazi’s murderous blitzkreig clampdown on innocent mass society during a single night represented an unassailable political turning point – the advent of widespread persecution, oppression and provocation of arbitrarily selected groups and individuals in German society.

[30] 12:35pm, 15 October 2013 Assange Calls NSA Spying ‘a Threat to U.S. Democracy’, AM 740 KVOR

[31] Ian Barker 28 December 2007, Letters to the Editor, Sydney Morning Herald.

[32] Matthew Taylor and Nick Hopkins, 14 October 2013, GCHQ mass surveillance putting right to challenge state at risk, say lawyers, The Guardian.

[33] Naomi Wolf, 2008 Give me liberty: a handbook for American revolutionaries, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, p128-129.

[34] Tanya Plibersek, MP, 28 March 2007Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Surveillance, Australian federal parliamentary record Hansard, p 111 House Of Representatives, Main Committee. (Note: I never received any confidential details of the U.S. State Department investigation into Freeport’s alleged roles in human rights abuses in West Papua that were not already in the public domain.)

[35] 20 September 2011, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet letter to Wilson.

[36] 25 September 2011 AG staff probed over rort allegations, Canberra Times.

[37] Phillip Boulten SC, 8 November 2006 Debra Dawes: Cover Up/ Terror Wars, speech at SH Erwin Gallery.

[38] Meredith Bergmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p19.

[39] George Papandreou, 20 October 2013 Rediscover the lost art of democracy, Special to CNN updated 1430 GMT (2230 HKT).

Posted in ASIO, Berlin Wall, Cheney, Cold War, corruption, dissident, election, FBI, foreign affairs, human rights, Indonesia, intelligence agency, Kissinger, mining, national security, non fiction, oversight, War criminal, West Papua | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Australia’s captive regulators are paper tigers: The Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS)


Overview – Catch 22……………….1

What kind of oversight system exists under IGIS’s watch?…….. 3

Five nations: Five-Eyes – a dismal case of oversight failure………….. 5

A personal account: the nightmare of dealing with IGIS. ……………..7

Fear and favours: ASIO, the AG and a misinformed public………………… 10

The Glomar response: say nothing; reveal nothing. ……………..12

What does the term “national security” mean?……………….. 13

ASIO’s incursions into the lives of others……………………. 15

Is IGIS acting in good faith? Others share their recent experiences………………. 19

A fearless leader: NYAG Eliot Spitzer …………………..22

Conclusion. ……………….23


Overview – Catch 22

 My lawyer tells me the authorities have absolute discretion as to how they chose to classify my case. I have no rights and there is no plausible scope for review. I don’t need to even be told that they have a file on me, let alone see it, or be told that they still have me under surveillance and subject to their interference, interdiction and disruption operations:

“The lack of evidence problem, which I discussed previously, will hamper any effort to show that there was “mis-classification” or any other improper activity, whether before a court or the IG [Inspector general].  I just don’t see how you are going to be able to demonstrate that.”

The above excerpt is an email from my lawyer to me after my FOI request was refused by agencies in both the US and Australia (I have dual citizenship), and am denied access whether applying for information from ASIO or the FBI. It is Catch 22. If I don’t have hard evidence (which is difficult to come by when dealing with covert intelligence agencies) then the IG won’t help me; whereas if I had the hard evidence already, I wouldn’t need the IG because I would then have access to the courts. As such, a captive IG in practice does little for accountability and justice; their main function is as compiler of statistics for government reports. I have written many letters to IGIS, providing evidence, and received no meaningful undertaking from either Ian Carnell or the current IGIS, Vivienne Thom.

In Australia, IGIS is the key intelligence agency oversight body and it reports directly to the Prime Minister. It is part of the bureaucracy and has a broad mandate to investigate and review Australia’s various intelligence agencies, including ASIO. Of note, its primary role is to ensure the intelligence agencies “act legally and with propriety, comply with ministerial guidelines and directives and respect human rights.” However, there is much evidence, some of which is set out below, that our intelligence community, and ASIO in particular, routinely operates outside its mandate and that oversight is ineffective in controlling it.

Ian Barker, QC a prominent Australian lawyer proclaimed his frustration with the abuses of ASIO and by corollary the lack of credible oversight, commented:

“Any defence lawyer having anything to do with a case involving ASIO will know that its agents habitually act outside their powers and routinely abuse them, always in secret. It is rare indeed for their conduct to be exposed.”[1]

IGIS is the oversight body mandated to expose ASIO abuses. The public relies on it for protection, justice and enforcement of the law against ASIO abuses. But it consistently fails to do so. Evidently, it can’t see any of this, can’t find it, doesn’t ask about it and doesn’t report it. The oversight regime is a paper tiger.

Ian Barker further said that it was disgraceful that a country like Australia had an organisation like ASIO doing what it does – targeting “dissidents” and otherwise ordinary Australians who protest government policy and exercise their lawful civil rights.[2] This abuse occurs on IGIS’s watch. As chief oversight agency, it’s own failings are implicated in the failings of ASIO, as is the system as a whole; IGIS time and time again fails to find any fault in injustices, as this section will further bring to light.

The problem doesn’t stop with IGIS. Others have surrendered their duty to the public also. Statements from various federal attorneys general I have corresponded with over time, and the office of Prime Minister and Cabinet, among others, all brush-off criticism of IGIS without conducting any meaningful investigation into my underlying allegations. They dutifully state that they are “satisfied” and “confident” in IGIS’s performance and reiterate that it operates “independently of government”, fairly and effectively: they dutifully endorse its findings, but do not look with critical analysis at its evidence and processes. Such assurances have not been held up to independent scrutiny, indeed senior officials and politicians all seem to recoil and protest vehemently at the suggestion of a wide probing royal commission. However, the evidence speaks for itself, their assurances are contrary to public experience (case studies discussed below). The public expect (in Australia and the US) that the intelligence community follow the rule of law and observe basic human rights at home and abroad.

Ironically, IGIS has become a choking point in the justice process, weakening the accountability of ASIO, and diminishing, not enhancing the public’s right to truth and justice. As a result, our intelligence agencies operate with near unfettered excess, effectively self regulated with no real checks on power. It has become a captured regulator, a corrupted and ineffective institution.

Political scientist Francis Fukuyama in an essay on political decay makes these comments about the process of institutional corruption over time:

“Institutions are created to meet the demands of specific circumstances, but then circumstances change and institutions fail to adapt. One reason is cognitive: people develop mental models of how the world works and tend to stick to them, even in the face of contradictory evidence. Another reason is group interest: institutions create favored classes of insiders who develop a stake in the status quo and resist pressures to reform.”[3]

The Inspector General fails in oversighting the intelligence agencies on both these factors – cognitive failure and regulatory capture.

What kind of oversight system exists under IGIS’s watch?

An Australian citizen might never be an asylum seeker, a boat person seeking refuge in a foreign land where they have no rights, banished to some far flung land off the Australian coast. But they could become the target of ASIO scrutiny and interference for purely arbitrary reasons, and find themselves in a political black hole with effectively no rights, treated to the deafness the government has demonstrated toward the hidden asylum seekers.

Australian intelligence agency abuses continue to occur and details revealed through occasional leaks. The unprecedented public flow of information from whistleblowers shows the system for what it is behind all the secrecy and privilege that is claimed in the name of “national security”. Most damning, it confirms the unconscionable behaviour of the people at the top of the intelligence community. Given the weak oversight, the public must take it on trust that the intelligence community acts responsibly, in the public interest.

To date, IGIS has demonstrated a gross inability to prosecute or punish even egregious abuses by the intelligence agencies of the state’s laws. There is no culture of fear of transgression within the agencies, indeed, they are greatly emboldened by the evidence that they will not be held to account. The reality is the intelligence agencies are more powerful than the oversight, certainly IGIS is not up to the task and it is dangerous to have naïve confidence that the office will protect democracy and democratic rights of individuals against totalitarian style abuse.

For example, in 2013, details emerged of illegal use of Australian intelligence agencies for economic espionage against Japan to provide iron ore negotiating price information to a large Australian mining company, BHP; and against fledgling, gas rich nation East Timor which had been targeted during a commercial negotiation with Australia over offshore gas fields that span the ocean boundary between the two countries. Despite the ASIS agent (Australian Secret Intelligence Service) that headed the illegal operation to bug the offices in East Timor under cover of an aid project blowing the whistle, IGIS did not investigate the alleged offences.[4] There are many more examples of IGIS’s failure to act – some are considered below. In the US, virtually every major trading partner has complained about US use of commercial espionage to support its corporations, presenting specific evidence and detailed complaints.

The reality is commercial and personal interests lie beneath a plethora of claims of “national security” – a term which rings increasingly hollow with every new revelation of its abuse. Indeed, it appears to be little more than a convenient way to hide illegal activities. IGIS in such cases does nothing. Not by accident. There is an intentional gaping absence of effective oversight and as a result, the agencies frequently operate disproportionately and outside the law with impunity, and their targets are left without means of redress. This is clearly evident to me in the way IGIS has dealt with my complaint over the Freeport McMoran report and subsequent FBI/ASIO interference.

Following the Snowden leaks, leading experts in the field of Australia intelligence agencies and oversight are now saying publicly that the agencies are inadequately policed by oversight agencies that are not up to the task:

Australia’s foremost academic intelligence specialist, the Australian National University’s Professor Des Ball, said he found it mortifying that ”we used our highly professional security agency to get a couple of bloody percentage points in our dealings with a struggling country like East Timor. I’ve got no problems doing it to the Chinese or Japanese, who are doing it back to us … but Timor? That’s what bullies do”.

Former senior Defence Department official Allan Behm agreed, slamming the spying action against Dili as ”affronting” and ”not moral”.[5]

All of this illegal activity goes on under the supposedly watchful gaze of IGIS. The extent of the abuse gives credence to the notion that IGIS is a collaborative, captive regulator that willingly participates in a conspiracy to cover any careless tracks the agencies leave – IGIS as riding shotgun is a more apt metaphor than that of sheriff. A powerful, wide ranging royal commission would risk exposing the convenient collaboration of this relationship and likely make strident recommendations for change. No wonder a royal commission is opposed by those who would be investigated! Indeed, IGIS, to be effective, was envisaged from the outset to work in tandem with an independent royal commission; but a standing royal commission was never established by the government.

Apologists for IGIS poor performance on public justice say it has a mammoth task, and operates with a small staff and budget. However, to focus the issue as one of resourcing is a red-herring. Far more important is the quality of the appointments – the integrity and skill of the people appointed as the highly effective New York Attorney general Eliot Spitzer demonstrated. The government, however, has a well trodden path to ensure it has the “right” people in place, the puppets, career bureaucrats; not a retired judge and no royal commission.

This is how academic, Robert Manne explains the government’s approach to undermining Australia’s institutional independence and integrity, which includes ASIO and IGIS:

“The government’s obsessive and unhealthy desire for control has extended well beyond suborning previously independent institutions and taming NGOs. When inquiries into catastrophic policy failures are judged to be unavoidable, it has either appointed trusted insiders not likely to embarrass the government (Iraq) or so framed the terms of reference that a politically embarrassing finding can be ruled out in advance (AWB).”[6]

The broad dissatisfaction expressed about the oversight of ASIO, and of IGIS in particular – the most powerful of the oversight bodies, by those who have made efforts to do so, suggests there is something fundamentally wrong with the oversight process. Additionally, it raises the question about why there is such strong political resistance to rectify it. What is wrong with a deep probing royal commission on such an important issue? In Australia, the answer seems to be that if America doesn’t do deep probing inquiries into the operation and effectiveness of its intelligence system, then nor will Australia.

Five nations: Five-Eyes – a dismal case of oversight failure

Oversight is equally weak across all five members of the synchronised Five-Eye intelligence sharing countries (USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Indeed, the weakest link in this chain of maintaining secrets defines its overall strength. Well placed opinions and leaks confirm the extent of the problem.

By December 2013 with the cascading momentum of NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden’s revelations about systemic Anglo bloc intelligence agency abuses, the question arose as to how things got so out of hand with these agencies. Here is what the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) said about IGIS – the main oversight body that the public depends on for protection against ASIO:

There is…an Inspector-General of the Security Services (IGIS), Dr Vivienne Thom, but critics claim her office is under-resourced and too much part of the intelligence ”club”.

The president of Civil Liberties Australia, Dr Kristine Klugman, recently wrote to Dr Thom, urging her to investigate the impact of the NSA’s Prism program on Australians. The IGIS replied that she lacked power to ”look at the activities … of foreign agencies” and in any case would not comment on ”operational matters of the intelligence community”.[7]

As an example in the UK, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Lord Ashdown publicly declared a lack of confidence in the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) which is supposed to oversight the UK’s intelligence agencies. His insider status and well informed view is the institution is “wholly incapable of coping” with the oversight of the intelligence agencies.

He expressed concern at the challenge ahead in reliably oversighting and constraining such powerful and potentially abusive agencies to ensure that: “…under no circumstances could these powerful capabilities be used in ways that parliament did not intend” and “…we are no longer in the age when a grandee’s emollient words are enough to assure us that our liberties are safe” and concluded that the [oversight regime] was “past its time”.[8]

The Guardian also revealed its deep lack of confidence in the oversight of the UK’s intelligence agencies (emblematic of the problems found across the Anglo bloc):

“Simply to refer such issues [of GCHQ spying abuses] to the Westminster intelligence and security committee, which has neither the credibility nor the resources to assess them objectively or adequately, is irresponsible. The latest documents reveal more than 1,000 targets of surveillance of whom very few can seriously be seen as threats”[9]

Princeton scholar Rahul Sagar points out in “Secrets and Leaks” the potential threat posed by the intelligence agencies to US “judges, clerks and public defenders”, which also applies to anyone that attempts to hold the agencies to account, including IGIS (in Australia) and its staffers. In effect, the threat that the agencies may turn on, and put any official under counter intelligence surveillance and subsequent interference has a chilling effect:

“How will the resulting intrusions into the private lives of these actors affect their decisions? What sorts of actions will count as troubling enough to justify the loss of security clearance? What security will there be against ‘dirty tricks,’ especially those aimed at subduing zealous public defenders? Scholars tend not to discuss these scenarios, but they should, because these are precisely the sorts of threats that employees in the intelligence world must contend with when they expose or challenge perceived wrong doing.”[10]

Regulatory capture not only raises doubts about the performance of IGIS, it is a problem that impacts all efforts to contain the intelligence agencies, limiting independence and objectivity:

“Indeed, the extensive regulatory capture at [government] bodies…which operate in public sight, suggests that establishing an opaque and unelected “secrecy regulator” ought to actually deepen fears about the misuse of secrecy, seeing as the financial, political, and ideological interests at stake in important national security decisions would give the affected parties a powerful motive to try to “capture” the regulator.”[11]

NSA whistleblower Russel Tice revealed to the New York Times in 2005 that the NSA was targeting key officials. Below is an interview with Tice in which he discusses the extent to which the NSA targeted officials from judges to oversight committees, with the intent of blackmailing them, coercing and controlling them:

“They went after high-ranking military officers; they went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees and….judicial. But they went after other ones, too. They went after lawyers and law firms. All kinds of–heaps of lawyers and law firms. They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court that I had his wiretap information in my hand. Two are former FISA court judges. They went after State Department officials. They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House–their own people. They went after antiwar groups. They went after U.S. international–U.S. companies that that do international business, you know, business around the world. They went after U.S. banking firms and financial firms that do international business. They went after NGOs that–like the Red Cross, people like that that go overseas and do humanitarian work. They went after a few antiwar civil rights groups. So, you know, don’t tell me that there’s no abuse, because I’ve had this stuff in my hand and looked at it.”

Without a powerful judicial inquiry or royal commission, public fear of intelligence agency abuse will persist. There is no assurance for the public that members of the government and its key oversight authority are not collaborating in the cover up of serious flaws in our intelligence agencies.

What is true of America is all too often true of Australia, particularly on security and defence matters. The oversight process is thoroughly compromised in both.

A personal account: the nightmare of dealing with IGIS

In a period of 8 years between 2004 and 2012, I sent around 6 complaint letters to IGIS that included the names of agents, collaborators and informants; and described the nature of ongoing ASIO interference with me. In 2012, IGIS said it would not respond to any further complaints I made about ASIO, unless in its sole discretion it chose to do so. IGIS’s responses to that time had been to neither confirm nor deny any ASIO activity, and irrespective, it reported that no misconduct on the part of ASIO had been found. Further, it informed me that ASIO only deals with matters of “national security” implying that my case is not that, and also implying that there is some widely understood and accepted meaning of the term “national security” – which there isn’t. By using the term “national security” and casually assuming everyone agrees on its meaning, its constant inclusion in letters to me is deceptive to the extreme; and at odds with legal opinion and the experience of others that have dealt with IGIS and ASIO.

The Inspector General’s letters to me follow a similar pattern. First IGIS seeks to establish its own integrity and credibility – it emphasises how important it views the allegations I have raised and assures me how seriously it takes its duties. Then, it changes tone, and quite officiously says it will not investigate any of the matters I allege. I am reminded by IGIS that it has total power in this regard and in its sole discretion has chosen not to investigate. No reasons given other than to imply my allegations were dismissed because ASIO didn’t concur. Correspondence terminated. IGIS said it will not enter into further correspondence with me unless it chooses to do so.

The government will investigate allegations of rape made by a woman, it will investigate allegations of child sexual abuse made about a priest, it will investigate claims of house break and stolen property, it will investigate claims of armed robbery made by a random person walking in the street, but what it will not do is investigate claims against its intelligence agencies of criminal abuse. Instead, it summarily dismisses the allegations and labels the person making the complaint a liar or mentally unsound. But it won’t investigate.


In one early letter, IGIS said it had conducted a preliminary investigation and found no evidence of wrong doing. My lawyer, and later the Attorney General advised me that a preliminary investigation by IGIS need do nothing more than ask the head of ASIO a verbal question as to whether my allegations of misconduct were true or not – on the say so of the incumbent, my case rises or falls:


“…where a complaint is made to the Inspector-General in respect of action taken by an agency, the Inspector-General may…make inquiries of the head of the agency [ASIO] in relation to the action.”[12]


Absurdly, if the head of ASIO answers “no”, then the preliminary investigation can be completed to the “satisfaction” of IGIS, and at its “sole discretion”, the case closed. The process is completely superficial, partial to ASIO and readily permits whitewashing; it has little chance of discovering illegal activity or exposing institutional cover-ups. This approach makes Australia, the US and other Anglo bloc countries oversight backwaters.


There is no pretence of thoroughness or completeness in this process; IGIS reports it found no evidence of ASIO misconduct, and formally dismissed my complaint.



Thereupon IGIS assured me that it had fulfilled all the requirements of its mandate and had and has no further obligations to me. IGIS knows its processes are not transparent and its decisions will not be subjected to external, independent review by the likes of a royal commission. It is a brick wall with no effective way around it. It subsequently reports to parliament that all complaints have been dutifully dealt with to its satisfaction; but there is no mention of public justice, fairness or thoroughness of its approach.


In one letter, the then IGIS, Ian Carnell, conjectured and speculated about possible alternative explanations for events I attributed to ASIO. Patronisingly, he said a series of break-ins with tell-tale markers suggesting ASIO involvement might simply be coincidental and attributable to burglars instead of ASIO; information from a tapped phone might have been leaked by someone else and not ASIO, and so on – any plausible imagining, but not ASIO. It seems he used his vast investigative powers to plumb the depths of his own imagination; and he dutifully reported his findings to me. But he refused to conduct a full investigation in the physical world into any of my allegations, he refused to speak to any of the witnesses I identified: there were no interviews, no statements, and no probing questions to get to the truth. In dealing with my complaint, IGIS never requested follow-up information or clarification from me in relation to any of my allegations and never requested contact information for, or statements from, any of the individuals I allege either work with ASIO or have been co-opted by ASIO as outlined in my complaint.


Over the years as I provided additional evidence to IGIS of ongoing ASIO interference, it failed to investigate any of the new information and indicated the matter had already been dealt with in the “preliminary investigation”. Why bother then asking for further information? It seems to have permanently slammed the door on the idea of conducting a full investigation.


I retained a lawyer to draft various complaint letters to IGIS, though this made no difference and consequently I have made no progress in holding ASIO to account. In the process, ASIO interfered directly with my lawyer, which was the subject of a further complaint, though IGIS did not consider this to be “inappropriate” conduct on the part of ASIO.


As a result, I have not been informed by anyone in the government of ASIO’s reasons for so aggressively interfering with my life (nor have I in the US regarding the FBI). At the time of writing, this has now entered its 18th year of “surveillance, interference and disruption”. The FBI agent Steve Garber advised me that once on the “list” – shared across the Five–Eye intelligence partners and others, I can expect to remain there for life. I am virtually powerless to stop it. I have been stonewalled and shut out, but not shut down!


I complained about IGIS’s compliant oversight of ASIO in a letter to I sent to the office of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), which has oversight responsibility for IGIS. PM&C wrote back that it was very satisfied with the work of IGIS and had complete confidence in it. End of story. The process lacks any transparency and appears to be a conga line of one bureaucrat mindlessly mouthing and supporting the claims of the bureaucrat before all the way back to IGIS – the captive regulator.


After the frustrating process involved with attempting to constructively engage IGIS, one in which it utilised circularity and obfuscation of argument as its primary approach to problem solving, the realisation dawned that officials lack moral strength and integrity. For the most part, the IGIS responses have avoided the substance of my allegations, using “blow-off” techniques that include red herrings and otherwise irrelevant content intended to distract or frustrate my efforts. Bureaucrats and politicians seem to have little thought for the real world consequences of their groupthink induced surrender of professional responsibility. The realisation that IGIS would do nothing, that it is part of the problem and not part of the solution, led to frustration and disappointment.


Based on comments from others (below) who have dealt with IGIS, and based on my own experience, it is clear that IGIS offers no practical access to justice. There is growing frustration at the injustice, disproportionate and corrupt response of the system that betrayed a lifetime of indoctrination beginning in early childhood whereby all youngsters are told they are growing up in a country that respects, and practices, the principles of truth and justice. For the most part, attempting to work within the “official” oversight channels has been futile: wasted time on letters and meetings, and mental energy diverted from more constructive aspects of life.


If injustice were not enough, as a result of my attempts at accountability, ASIO has threatened me directly warning that it would wreck my business, that I might meet an accidental death or be poisoned. In the meantime, it has stripped me of privacy, monitored all my communications, hacked my computer and is fully aware of my efforts, tracked step by step, to hold it to account.


One consolation is that as threats, so far, they seem to be on the light end of the risks faced by those who stand up for their rights in this new world order. People in many parts of the world have met with the harshest outcomes, incarceration and death, as due process. One ASIO agent reminded me of this stark truth and told me I should be grateful: “you’re lucky you’re not already dead” she said.


Given the secrecy surrounding the intelligence agencies and resulting difficulty of taking them to court, IGIS is virtually the only avenue by which targeted members of the public can hope to seek an effective remedy.  But in the absence of obtaining hard evidence, something IGIS was established to access and independently assess, I have limited evidence I can use to seek justice in court or take to the media. In the absence of institutional support from the likes of IGIS, it is virtually impossible to gain concrete evidence of the sort required to launch legal proceedings. At this point in time, I have to wait 30 years (currently being reduced to 20) to get access to my files. ASIO says it can’t release files any sooner because it would put “national security” at risk. This injustice inflicted on large numbers of innocent, often unsuspecting Australians is an absurd justification for abusing peoples’ lives. Even after the 20 years, ASIO can prevent release of the files on its say so.


There is little comfort to know that history has not been kind to certain bureaucrats for their complicity in failing to oppose illegal state sponsored, secret police abuses while playing a key role in enabling their continuation: Adolph Eichmann comes to mind. It seems such lessons have no bearing on modern day bureaucrats whose earnest and willing participation is as removed from moral consideration as Eichmann’s “banality of evil”; functionaries acting in a culture of bureaucratic cowardice surrender their conscience. But individual’s cannot deflect the blame and absolve themselves of responsibility as easily as history might forget about them; as Martin Luther King, Jnr. said: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal”.


Fear and favours: ASIO, the AG and a misinformed public


Intelligence agencies deeply penetrate all aspects of civil society for reasons that have nothing to do with national security. Surveillance and interference stem from an unchecked desire to exploit natural advantage to increase their power and influence; using the tools at their disposal to target individuals or professions that they would otherwise have to share power with.


As part of the intelligence community’s efforts to evade scrutiny, it and the various institutions that oversight it downplay its penetration of civil society, the true scope of its surveillance, collection and interference activities against ordinary Australians. It often claims privilege on the pretext of “national security” – but what does this term really mean? It is a convenient euphemism to confuse the public and hide the extent of its real involvement in Australian life.


In 2014, I again approached my former MP, Tanya Plibersek who had raised concerns from my complaint about ASIO in the Australian parliament in 2008. This time when I contacted her office, it was clear that one of her staff members I dealt with had been recruited by ASIO. ASIO penetration of MP’s offices was something I had encountered before – in the office of Green Party senators Lee Rhiannon and Kerry Nettle for example. The staff member informed me that my matter would be taken no further on this occasion – the message was delivered in a mocking impersonation revealing access to my personal information – in classic ASIO style taunt. I couldn’t be certain that this ASIO tainted messenger had not sabotaged my efforts to have my matter given further airing. Non-the-less their closing comment on the call was interesting, saying something to the effect of “There are a lot of people not happy about ASIO. It is not just you.”


ASIO operates from within the department of the Attorney General, and reports to the AG as the responsible minister. One would therefore expect the AG would be highly familiar with the operations of the agency. I corresponded with the then current AG, Robert McClelland, and former AG Philip Ruddock. In their letters to me responding to my complaint, they each downplayed the scope and extent of ASIO’s activities against ordinary Australians. Aside from not addressing directly the facts of my allegations, they ignored any suggestion that ASIO was conducting inappropriate interference operations. Instead, like IGIS, they avoided the substance of my allegations and any notion of abuse, and said that ASIO limited its activities only to matters of “national security”. However, they neglected to define what they meant by “national security” but implied it refers only to very unusual and specific types of threat. Not daily life affairs of normal Australians going about their business or exercising their peaceful democratic rights. As Philip Ruddock said,


“ASIO’s role is to provide advice to the Australian Government on security related matters. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 requires that ASIO deal only with matters of national security. There are extensive safeguards to ensure that ASIO complies with the requirements of the law. Therefore unless ASIO has reason to consider that a person is a threat to security there would be no reason to suspect that ASIO has an interest in, or need to involve itself with, that person or their everyday affairs.”[14]


The Attorney General Robert McClelland’s staff also sent me a letter which contained similar statements:[15]


These letters are the standard government response: that Australia faces “legitimate” national security related matters to which ASIO must attend. Both Ruddock and McClelland describe ASIO’s remit in a way that implies ASIO would not be involved in surveillance and the type of interference I have alleged – though they are careful not to explicitly state this. Their statements lead one to believe protestors, people active in general civil society, writers and other “ordinary” members of the public exercising what are taken to be their civil liberty rights and going about their normal business would not be the subject of ASIO interest, let alone surveillance and interference – consistent with the commonsense notion of what most people think is implied by the term “national security”.


Ruddock and McClelland each employed the terms “threat to security” and “extensive safeguards” to imply that ASIO is on a tight oversight leash and that only the most serious, imminent threats to physical security would warrant ASIO attention. The reality is very different. ASIO does in fact involve itself extensively in the lives of Australians (as does the FBI with Americans) and in matters that only the broadest possible interpretation of “national security” could allow. ASIO’s history and current complaints reveal the absurd breadth of its use of the term “national security”, so distorted as to be dishonest and all but meaningless.


All of this extreme secrecy gives the state cover to conduct extensive surveillance of, and interfere with, its citizens, abusing pretty much every human right protected by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, including privacy and right not to have social networks and livelihoods maliciously interfered with by the state. Under their national security secrecy claims all manner of abuses are routinely perpetrated against ordinary Australians who pose no existential threat to the state whatsoever but may present a perceived impediment to some economic interest, however insignificant; or support some local community, social or environmental cause.


The extensive secrecy and myriad of laws surrounding the agencies rights and punishment, including jail time for secrecy transgressors makes it virtually impossible for a target to be informed of ASIO’s activities, let alone to challenge or correct errors in their records; or have their lives returned to “normal”, at least without arbitrary assistance from political insiders.


The Glomar response – say nothing; reveal nothing: Acting above the laws of the land


A standard refrain by IGIS, current and former attorneys general, and others in oversight positions, as to why any member of the public, including myself, is not entitled to official confirmation of ASIO’s interference, states the necessity of absolute secrecy: it won’t confirm or deny anything – the Glomar response. There is no doubt there are some dangerous people in the world, perhaps living in Australia (or the US or UK), who would do great harm if they could. There is a need to identify and contain these people; but there are varying degrees of threat that need to be taken into account from the terrorist that would use weapons of mass destruction to make a political point, to a journalist who speaks out against the Iraq War or in some way embarrasses established interests. Irrespective of the level of the “threat” secrecy, no matter what it is hiding is the cart blanche excuse used for non disclosure of the intelligence agency activities.


I have received the template “Glomar response” repeatedly from IGIS and from others including this letter from the Attorney General Robert McClelland:


“As you are aware, there are legitimate security reasons why the IGIS and other authorities cannot confirm nor deny whether a person is the subject of intelligence interest. You may appreciate that to adopt any other approach could provide a “back door” means by which individuals who are of legitimate intelligence interest, could inappropriately ascertain whether or not they have come to official notice and if so, take effective counter-measures to avoid investigation.”[16]


For good measure the attorney general added: “However, the scope of the IGIS’s role ensures that any indication of illegality or impropriety will be investigated by the IGIS.”


The reasons for not providing me with confirmation of the existence of their surveillance and interference campaign, let alone provide the details of such are claims of secrecy in the interests of “national security”. The public has no way of knowing whether in any specific instance the claim of secrecy in the name of “national security” is being appropriately used, and therefore whether any individual has been fairly targeted. There is no effective way to challenge it. The authorities give scant public justification; and never specify what interests and what damage might occur from unauthorised disclosure. Should causing minor affront or embarrassment to an official, foreign or domestic, be considered harmful to national security that warrants the cloak of state secrecy privileges?


In the face of the Glomar response there is little I can do to obtain more information. Australian (and evidently the Five-Eye intelligence partners including America and Britain) place themselves above their international obligations and withdraw their commitment to human rights in the face conflicting opportunities. Our governments feel no obligation to reveal the extent and nature of their meddling in civil society and the private lives of their citizens.


Given that statements from lawyers contradict government officials on the nature of ASIO’s activities, one can only conclude that ASIO and the intelligence community are intentionally making great efforts to conceal the extent of their activities that target members of the public in Australia and allied countries. The fact is ASIO interferes with different people in different ways for different reasons. But one thing that is clear, its tactics are frequently illegal, and the reason for its surveillance and interference of people often have no bearing to common sense notions of Australian national security.


The tactics of concealment I have experienced used by IGIS in Australia are the same as those used by the Inspector General at the US Department of Justice (DOJ), which has responsibility for oversighting the FBI. In dealing with the US DOJ in an effort to gain FBI accountability, I have been brazenly lied to. The affable person I had been dealing with told me, after a number of constructive conversations, he had been instructed not to talk to me any further and passed me on to liaise with his superior who then refused to either speak to or correspond with me. I have found the FOI system unreliable.


Sensitive files are lost or exempted from disclosure. For example, the FBI was aware I had participated in a rally in downtown Sydney during my university days in the early 80s to save the Franklin River in Tasmania from being dammed. They were aware of personal details of my involvement – someone on the footpath had openly photographed me and was photographing others as we walked by. The person next to them had a clipboard and was pointed by the photographer to the person they had just photographed and they were asked to sign a petition which involved providing a signature, name and contact details. For those who refused, there was someone else 20 metres down the road watching with another clipboard and petition and would try again, and then another. I signed the third one. People on the march said it was ASIO, the FBI knew these details and implied it was ASIO, but my FOI request in 2014, returned no files.


What does the term “national security” mean?


IGIS, ASIO and the attorney general are distorting the common usage of words, particularly the use of the term “national security”. As applied, definitions are creative, not within the normal public usage of the terms, and highly adaptable to the situation. Their intention is to deceive the public, hiding the true scope of ASIO’s activities so as to avoid the resultant constituent pushback expected from the public if it understood the full extent of ASIO’s incursion into their lives.


Phillip Boulten SC who I spoke with and Julian Burnside QC, lawyers experienced in dealing with Australian intelligence agencies, have stated that large range of matters in practice involve ASIO due to the broad interpretation the agencies apply to the term “national security”.


Julian Burnside, QC states in relation to ASIO legislation:


“National security is defined in a way which takes it way beyond what most people would understand by the term. ‘National security’ is defined to mean: ‘Australia’s defence, security, international relations or law enforcement interest’… International relations is defined to mean political, military, and economic relations with foreign governments and international organisations.”[17]


As such, my matter, based on their definitions, is one ASIO could be involved in – since it touches on US corporate interests. No further justification is needed. Julian Burnside’s definition makes clear, and which concurs with my personal experience, the intelligence agencies of the Five-Eye’s alliance protect American business interests like Freeport McMoran’s in West Papua, even where those interests involve highly contentious operating practices which would never be tolerated in a “first world” country or by a free people. The iron clad grip over media reporting of these situations gives the public a rare glimpse of the true scope and reach of domestic intelligence agency activity; and with it the appearance of a free and open society is replaced with a different reality – that of a closely watched and controlled society.


The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who has direct responsibility for IGIS, and therefore the conduct of the Australian intelligence community, says that through the intelligence agencies “Australia should do what we can to protect our citizens, to help our friends and to advance our values.”[18] Helping friends and advancing values goes way beyond what most people would understand and accept “national security” to mean – yet here is probably the clearest explanation of what our agencies in practice, actually do. There is no elaboration on whose friends are being helped and whether these are domestic or foreign; no mention of whose values – and whether these prioritise social, environmental, political, religious or economic ideals.


The fact is, despite their denials, the intelligence community is engaged in a massive illusion, a deceit of the public, disguising what they are really doing – the massive, widespread extent of their intrusive activities. Their intelligence gathering is ubiquitous and invasive, and publics are frequently outwitted, duped and blocked out. Elites are very smart at how and where they hide their real power. They keep the public from seeing the source of their power and how it is used. In obscuring what they are really doing, the public is lulled into an opiate like apathy; it does not resist; unquestioningly accepts what it is told – propaganda – not recognising it as such. The powerful vested interests that suppress the truth do so to protect themselves from a potential backlash from the masses – the broader objective and meaning of “national security”.


The tools of power are very subtle but very vulnerable to public disclosure; it frequently hinges on deception, and therefore credible exposure of the lie is a simple and effective remedy. As Samuel Huntington, professor of political science at Harvard said: “power remains strong when it remains in the dark. Exposed to sunlight, it begins to evaporate”[19]. Hence the government’s vicious crackdown on the greatest threat to the establishment’s hold on power – the unauthorised disclosures by the likes of whistleblowers and alternative media organisations like Wikileaks.


The people, technologies and institutions we depend on most, we least want to think are compromised. We tend to want to trust them and this then is our most vulnerable spot. These are the very hiding places preferred – where the integrity of relationships and contracts are quietly compromised, the protection offered by state secrecy laws just another hiding place – a place where honourable men and women are not suspected of dealing away our rights and freedoms. But this is precisely what happens. There is no limit to what the use of reason might justify in the hands of the authorities as they use the term “national security”. As philosopher David Hume succinctly explains: “‘Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.”


As in Australia, the distortion of the meaning of “national security” is a tactic the FBI has mastered. Ryan Shapiro a PhD candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and animal rights activist is suing the FBI, CIA and NSA for abuse of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a potentially powerful piece of legislation in the service of democracy, but which in many people’s experience is completely broken (his experience and mine). He has been labelled a “threat to national security” by the FBI claiming that his work would “irreparably damage national security” because it exposed, and therefore threatened, certain commercial factory farming interests in the US. In an interview with Democracy Now! Shapiro reminded listeners of Judge Murray Gurfein’s words “in his ruling against the Nixon administration’s infamous attempt to prevent The New York Times from publishing the leaked Pentagon Papers, ‘The security of the Nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions.’” [20]


ASIO’s incursions into the lives of others


Between looking at the National Archives website and Meredith Burgmann’s recent book of ASIO case-file histories, a much clearer picture emerges of the extent of ASIO’s activities and penetration of civil society than does by relying on the definitions and explanations from ASIO, IGIS and various former and serving attorneys general. It makes little difference what ASIO states its primary objective as – uncovering communists, protecting national security, crime – they bring under that definition whomever they want to pursue.  The picture that clearly emerges is the government and intelligence agencies are in the service of protecting and maintaining the status quo – the position of the top groups in society. Anyone with any influence that could challenge their “values” is potentially a target of our intelligence agencies.


National Archives of Australia: the website, containing the content of targets’ ASIO files that can be publicly viewed, gives a clearer description of what in practice “national security” means with specific civil society examples of the type of reasons that ASIO uses to justify surveillance and maintain files on Australians. The reasons are chillingly trivial in cases and include: “…membership or involvement in political association, participation in demonstrations, association with other persons under surveillance.”[21] Members of literary groups and writers are also mentioned. “The National Archives in Canberra holds ASIO files on several Australian literary groups and a large number of Australian writers.”


The National Archives site goes on to give a partial list of writers, in excess of two dozen names, which includes many well known luminaries. Bizarrely it states: “Files on individuals are particularly useful in showing their social and political involvement and the causes to which they lent their time and talents.”[22] It, however, omits to indicate whether the surveillance, interference and secret files kept on these individuals were linked to “national security”. Is this the pathetic reason for enforcing such extreme secrecy around its activities? Indeed, ASIO has long had an obsession with writers, and even vetted applicants for Commonwealth Literary Fund grants[23]. As one example of ASIO’s ongoing obsession with writers, my experience dealing with the NSW Writers’ Centre in Sydney is that ASIO operates vigorously, albeit clandestinely, through the centre – a beehive of ASIO activity.


The broad targeting of Australians as revealed in the National Archives, senior lawyers and members of the public, confirms how pervasive ASIO’s presence actually is in the lives of ordinary Australians. From this broad sampling, one concludes a key task of ASIO is to take control of opinion leaders in Australia. Art and science, business and politics are each potential instruments of state power. It targets people of influence or possible influence, whatever the channel for that influence, including poets, journalists, folk singers, artists, actors, businessmen, politicians, scientists, even those able to influence those who can influence others – such as friends, family members and colleagues of people of influence.

The invasion of peoples’ rights does not stop with privacy. ASIO frequently uses its detailed knowledge of its targets’ lives to secretly interfere with and manipulate them.


Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO files: a book edited by Meredith Burgmann contains details of individuals recalling the contents of their ASIO files, released to the National Archives of Australia (NAA) after the then mandatory 30 year holding period. Burgmann is an academic and former parliamentarian; her book helps the public understand the culture of ASIO, and its methods of twisting, extending or ignoring its stated targeting priorities to pursue anyone who influences civil society or government policy. The files reveal a number of common elements, all denied by ASIO, the Attorney General and IGIS: ASIO systematically targets people who are not a threat to national security, or a threat to other objectives previously prioritised by ASIO. Many of ASIO’s targets were simply good communicators, or “engineers of social progress”[24] including womens’ liberation activists, anti Vietnam War, anti-apartheid, civil rights, pro-abortion, aboriginal land rights, prison reform and gay rights; some of the many causes in civil society which enjoyed broad public support but which were not backed by government policy of the day.


The files also reveal that ASIO penetrates surprisingly deep into its targets social and family circles (something I have experienced directly) – cases include lovers and parents in law. Indeed, few fail to succumb to the agencies obviously persuasive carrot and stick recruitment approaches. There seems to be little trouble finding informants – people prepared to accept a fee to inform on groups, meetings and other select or otherwise closed or private political, business or social gatherings, and extensive networks are indicated. The dossiers reveal ASIO systematically targeted and/or recruited university academics and the media, as well as writers, and even well known film critic and organiser of the Sydney Film Festival David Stratton.


There is a high level of mundane information, in many of the files, about peoples’ lives, their friends, family, reading material, interests and also private/personal matters. The targets for the most part had no idea they were the subject of ASIO interest, mainly because they were not active, they thought, in any matters ASIO would have any reason to be interested in.  Most feel the detailed work that went into preparing their file was not only a waste of public money but also an unnecessary burden on themselves when they realise that through secret interventions ASIO had interfered in not only the targets’ lives but also that of their family and friends. A number of people complain about having had their careers interfered with and of some of their friends careers being damaged or terminated by ASIO interference.


From Burgmann’s book, and the NAA website, it is clear ASIO has targeted, at one point in their lives, many eminent Australians from their student days and beyond. These include former high Court judge Michael Kirby, journalist and former chairman of Greenpeace International Anne Summers, Aboriginal rights activist Gary Foley, apolitical film critic David Stratton, Meredith Burgmann, Wendy Bacon, Phillip Adams and on and on and on.[25] These are not just hapless citizens; nor are they subversives or threats to national security. Even once the facts of their lives were established by ASIO and it was clear these people were of no threat, the files were not closed but remained open and active.


This is how Burgmann summarises her ordeal with ASIO:


“During all my time as a political activist I have never advocated violence or subversion. I believed in and practised ‘direct action’ tactics when appropriate. I may well have been a threat to public order but never a threat to life or limb and certainly never a threat to the state. My friends and I should never have been under surveillance.”


Intriguingly she reveals other people mentioned in her ASIO file had ASIO file numbers recorded against their names – her father who was Chairman of CSIRO and her grandfather who was a bishop. When these files were requested under FOIA, ASIO did not release them nor did it acknowledge their existence[26]. Files seem to “disappear” within ASIO or be withheld from release without acknowledgement even when the law requires their release.


Former Justice of the High Court of Australia Michael Kirby (1996 – 2009) said this of the ASIO file that covered his formative years:


“…my file shows the critical importance of always rendering security agencies accountable to the civilian government; retaining a measure of scepticism about their occasional over-enthusiasm; and affording remedies to those who are wronged by their collection and use of false or unreliable information. Any person of common sense who glances at the trivial entries in my ASIO file would have quickly come to the conclusion that I was no threat whatever to the security of Australia.” [27]


High profile Australian journalist Anne Summers said this of the extent of ASIO penetration after reviewing the contents of her ASIO dossier from the 1970s and others:


“I have spent a great deal of time reading various other ASIO files on the NAA [National Archives of Australia] website and have been quite taken aback by some of what I have found. ASIO was everywhere, observing, reporting, commenting – often in the most personal way.”[28]


She went further in describing her reaction as she read through her ASIO file and realised the extent of the agency’s interference in her life and in her work:


“As I delved further [into my ASIO file], though, my mood began to change. I became perplexed at why I was being singled out for so much attention, and then angry when I realised the extent to which ASIO had, for no good reason, significantly interfered with my life.”


Others whose ASIO files have been released expressed similar sentiments of dismay about the level of ASIO intrusion into their personal lives and the number of people they had working for them. Journalist and academic Wendy Bacon said, “ASIO…had far more informants and agents than we ever suspected.”[29] Penny Lockwood who drew scrutiny on account her father was the subject of ASIO surveillance, expressed dismay after reading her own file “of how pervasive the surveillance” had been of her. The files reveal ASIO even followed her to the US where she had taken a job and was “preparing to recommend against her appointment.”[30] Peter Cundall, an Australian war veteran and well known ABC TV presenter of Gardening Australia expressed the same sentiment about his files concerning “the extent of the surveillance over such a long period [over 16 years] and the detail provided…”[31]


A former Labor government minister Clive Evatt’s ASIO file reveals “that the government had spies everywhere, ready to denounce people whose views were unpopular with government.” “ASIO apparently took the view (no doubt reflecting that of the federal government) that anyone taking a stand against authority should be considered a security risk.” It was clear “that those who took a different view from the government on issues of human rights…[and other issues]…were regarded with suspicion…” And that “most of the material in his file, even those marked ‘top secret’, had nothing to do with security.” [32] Colin Cooper, a senior union official from 1966 to 2007 reveals that ASIO targeted him for years “based on membership of legitimate organisations that, despite all the ASIO surveillance, were never found to have acted illegally or to threaten the nation’s security. The justification for considering me or any other person a security risk based on our legitimate political activity should be of concern to all.”[33]


Culture is difficult to change, and what is clear from the extensive historical files of ASIO is that the agency’s predilection to target people with influence, or who stand in legitimate opposition to authority, remains a key part of its mission.


This is how academic Tim Anderson described the contents of his voluminous files:


“These documents were mostly collections of surveillance and trivia, including news clips, and cold trails of the many attempts to gain compromising material on mostly left-wing activists. They were riddled with errors, but that did not prevent many expressions of great confidence in their false conclusions. After all, who would contradict these secret files?” [34]


Anderson was falsely convicted of a politically motivated crime, and served 7 years in jail, only to be exonerated when a Special Inquiry found the police had hidden critical evidence that would have prevented his conviction at trial. He goes on to say: “This example shows the ‘one way street’ these secret files represent: they are there to help the state, but only hurt the targeted citizen.”


The agencies that comprise the Australian intelligence community, such as ASIO, ASIS, and various others, and their oversight bodies, such as IGIS, are quickly becoming a national pest, which they have likely been for far longer than the general public realises.


Is IGIS acting in good faith? Others share their recent experiences


I am not the only person making recent public disclosures critical of personal dealings with IGIS. Others have revealed the shortcomings of IGIS based on their experience of dealing with it. Those who have personally come face to face with and tried to access justice in relation to FBI and ASIO excesses, as I have, quickly come to the conclusion that the system is broken. Oversight of individual complaints is handled by IGIS, which is a captive regulator – it fails to act with independence and its process lacks all transparency. Its opinions should not be relied upon. I can personally attest to its shortcoming, as can a long list of others that includes Lance Collins, Warren Reed, Andrew Wilkie and Mamdouh Habib.


Of the many complaints about IGIS, former military intelligence officer Lieutenant Colonel Lance Collins and former ASIS officer Warren Reed offer a revealing insiders’ perspective. In their book Plunging Point they provide examples of IGIS’s complicity with the government of the day to shield the intelligence agencies from accountability after a disturbing intelligence related incident during Australian military operations in East Timor in 1999. They describe a serious abuse that was covered-up, in this case to protect senior Australian intelligence officials in Canberra. The truth came out 5 years later in 2004. Arising from this IGIS was implicated in a cover-up, and was forced to revise and contradict its findings in a previous “investigation” it had conducted:


“This grave example [of how abuses are covered-up] is worth studying, for it uniquely involved the incumbent Inspector General for Intelligence and Security directly contradicting the methodology and findings of his immediate predecessor. The Minister, though dismissed the cover-up, claiming that while the initial investigation was, ‘comprehensive it was not exhaustive’[35]. The Government has never had to take remedial action.”[36]


In another incident following the corruption of intelligence to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the US led “coalition of the willing”, Lance Collins and Warren Reed went on the public record on ABC Radio National saying their complaints about the corruption of intelligence agencies were sanitized and whitewashed by IGIS [37]:


Warren Reed: Well, there were half a dozen of us who had similar cases. Almost all the cases caused by intransigence on the part of Foreign Affairs, not that ASIS people are perfect…And we had all gone through the IGIS process, that’s the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, and all of our cases were effectively whitewashed.


Lance Collins was sufficiently disaffected by his experience with IGIS that he wrote to the Prime Minister about the serious deficiencies in the oversight regime (something which I am now experiencing firsthand):


“Dear Prime Minister, I am writing to inform you about the failure of institutional controls over the Australian intelligence system…It is clear that the Australian intelligence community is unable to identify reality in a timely manner, or convey its significance to Government…I strongly urge you, Prime Minister, to appoint an impartial, open and wide-ranging Royal Commission into Intelligence and the influences upon it.”


Nothing ever came of their complaints, nor from a similar letter I sent to the Prime Minister Tony Abbott. This is how they summed up their experience in dealing with IGIS and other oversight institutions:


“The various mechanisms of the law, as well as the inquiries and committees that oversee the intelligence system, might most usefully be described as ‘instruments’. That is, they have a specific purpose to fulfil….These ‘instruments’ are officially promoted as being ‘independent’ of the executive government and designed to bring closure and justice to a dispute through the application of common sense and fairness. Regrettably, this is rarely the case.”[38]


Another example of IGIS’s unreliable enforcement was its failure to protect an Australian man, Mamdouh Habib who was arrested as a terrorist suspect and held in detention from 2001 to 2005. During this time he was renditioned (kidnapped) by the Five-Eye intelligence agencies and secretly flown to Egypt. There he was tortured at the hands of the CIA with an ASIO agent present, according to a credible corroborating witness that had come forward in Egypt, the ASIO agent was named, and the existence of recordings and video was disclosed.


His case, with supporting evidence and witnesses, apparently found no support from the office of IGIS, at the time headed by Dr. Vivienne Thom. Nonetheless, based on the strength of his evidence, in 2010 he won clearance in “the Federal Court to sue the [Australian] Government for aiding and abetting his torture by agents in Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.”[39] As a sign of its complicity, and on the recommendation of the Solicitor General, the Australian government promptly settled with Habib for an undisclosed sum of money to keep details from the public in what promised to be a scorching indictment in court of ASIO, and those who oversight it – IGIS, and ultimately the Australian government.


The Habib matter revealed other fractures in ASIO’s facade ignored by IGIS. A judge hearing the Habib case in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in 2007 said that ASIO testimony lacked credibility and that the agency’s officers had a proclivity to lie under oath:


“Why should we take your word for it when again and again we find things that are said to be the subject of national security concerns turn out not to be? I mean it looks like an easy way out for ASIO: when in doubt, just say ‘national security’.”[40]


The Habib case raises the question as to what was the role played by IGIS in covering up for ASIO, in this egregious failure to constrain the agency and provide justice for Habib? Given IGIS’s vast investigative powers, why wasn’t the matter resolved before it went to the Federal Court? Why didn’t IGIS, which presumably had prior access to the same evidence as the judge, and possibly considerably more given its unfettered internal reach, arrive at a similar condemning conclusion implied by the Solicitor General – that ASIO grossly and intentionally violated Habib’s rights. I wonder if IGIS experienced any institutional embarrassment at seeing what justice, when delivered, really looks like. I suspect not, however, its hubris established in unassailable power unlikely to be dented by court disclosures alone. It is clear that bureaucratic and political insiders and captive regulators abrogated their responsibility to the public – a clear indictment of the extent of political meddling in their internal reviews. If not for an independent court review, where the rule of law was applied with integrity away from the interference of the government agenda, justice would once again have been denied another individual of ASIO’s abuse.


This is what Habib says about his efforts to work through the official oversight channels: “I had come to realise that if a citizen complains about an intelligence agency to a government department, nothing is ever done. The excuse is always that it is always a matter of ‘national security’.”[41]


There are others as well who believe IGIS has not well served the cause of democracy well in failing to represent and protect their rights and interests against intelligence agency incursions into their lives. There is a long list of recent examples from a broad cross section of Australian society that includes David Hicks who was held in the US “enemy combatants” prison at Guantanamo Bay, Scott Parkin the American peace activist who was deported at the behest of ASIO, and Andrew Wilke an Australian intelligence officer who resigned in opposition to the Iraq war was vilified, subsequently ran for parliament as an independent, won the seat of Hobart.


Issues of ASIO and IGIS abuses and other agencies within the intelligence community are ignored, issues of injustice are avoided leaving a gaping hole in the justice system. IGIS’s eventual report on the Habib case was pathetic. The Federal Court decision and Solicitor General’s recommendation indicates that Habib’s allegations were highly credible about a range of ASIO misconduct and complicity in his kidnapping and torture – but you wouldn’t know it from the IGIS report. IGIS’s most damning discovery and stinging public rebuke of ASIO related to the inadequacy of records it kept. The dearth of records was put down to sloppy note taking procedures and IGIS gently rebuked ASIO officials and recommended that they take better notes of their future activities! Matter resolved to the “satisfaction” of IGIS and with the “confidence” of the government.


Disturbingly, the report denigrated Habib; but it praised Dennis Richardson, the man who had been the head of ASIO at the time of Habib’s detention – and now, in his new job, he was a prospective future employer of all aspiring IGIS staffers. At the time IGIS wrote the report, Richardson was a very powerful, senior member of the bureaucracy, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which gave him line responsibility for all Australian diplomatic placements and plum trade assignments sought and frequently filled by government officials.


IGIS’s internal ties to serving officials fuels scepticism about the extent of its independence and of the integrity of its determinations. In “Greasing the Wheels of Justice” scholars Meredith Fuchs and Gregg Webb describe a key standard by which to measure independence: true autonomy requires the “lacking of any current or known future relationship with…the government”.[42] By definition, internal regulators, such as the office of IGIS, lack cultural separation from those they oversight, and therefore independence. Career ambitions and future job aspirations are a key source of potential corruption.


A fearless leader: NYAG Eliot Spitzer


While it may be true IGIS operates with a relatively small budget, that is not the problem. The argument that IGIS’s poor record in defending and delivering justice to members of the public is on account of inadequate resources is misleading. The key problem is regulatory capture which undermines its institutional independence.


In the 2000s, New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer demonstrated what a small, fearless team of dedicated and highly qualified individuals could achieve with the powers vested in them, even where they were opposed by powerful counter forces. They went up against the apex of US business – powerful Wall Street banks and their political ties to Washington. Spitzer achieved prosecutions and settlements in the billions of dollars, changed industry culture, and put the world’s business leaders on notice that if they wanted to do business in NY and America they had better obey the law. He achieved these results through unusual courage, tenacity and ingenuity, even while better resourced and more powerful regulators like the SEC and FBI failed to act.


Spitzer’s professional achievements dispel the myth that a small regulatory office cannot achieve outstanding oversight outcomes if it is staffed with the right people. Staffed with motivated individuals and strong leadership, he used his considerable powers to subpoena witnesses and corporate documents to uncover evidence that underpinned his successful criminal prosecutions of white collar crime and securities fraud. He sued some of America’s biggest and politically well connected insurance companies like AIG and major Wall Street investment banks like UBS Warburg, Bear Sterns, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan Chase.


From the outset, Spitzer was an exceptional appointment to head a small regulators office. A smart and driven man with a Harvard law degree, and the integrity and strength of will to operate with independence from establishment forces, however flawed the culture of his times. He showed what a small office vested with extensive powers could achieve against all odds if staffed with the right people possessing extraordinary skill and integrity – holding powerful, established business interests to account. It is a pity other regulators are incapable of maintaining a disciplined approach to their mandates, or aren’t given the right incentives to do so, and to follow Spitzer’s fearless lead. Spitzer eventually paid the ultimate price many years later when his career was brought to a halt by a vindictive FBI investigation that publicly revealed personal flaws inimical to his political advancement – an outcome most insiders see as payback.


ASIO has a long history of acting outside its mandate, illegally and for evading accountability. It is a rare occasion that the agency is held to account by IGIS, a dismal state of affairs attested to by senior members of our government, the judiciary, civil society and even the intelligence agencies themselves.

ASIO powers and compromised oversight are a potential threat to all Australians, refugees and visitors. Various mechanisms have been tried to hold ASIO and the other intelligence agencies accountable, but with little success, including legislation and oversight by executive committees. What is clear is that a large number of regular Australians remain disaffected and have had their lives detrimentally interfered with by ASIO for no morally or legally legitimate reason. IGIS, the main oversight body, has proved to be a captive regulator, incapable of acting with cultural independence in their defence and consistently failing to deliver on justice and enforcement. There are numerous cases of abuse reported, at times egregious, including torture, but not a single prosecution of an ASIO officer.

The flaws of this system are not easily detected, nor do they lend themselves to easy correction by normal democratic processes. The details of assessments and deliberations by IGIS and other insider officials, government institutions and committees are secret, there is no way of knowing what standards are being used, whether each assessment is subjective, whether they are applying the law consistently and fairly – none of this is open to public view. IGIS knows this, and also knows the expectations of its political masters. The public is left with no alternative: it must trust and depend upon statements from IGIS officials that all is well. The public never knows for certain which statements are true and which are merely politically self serving.

What is clear from the Snowden NSA revelations and US Senate Intelligence Committee into the CIA’s use of torture is that the intelligence community has deliberately and dishonestly side stepped democratic accountability to legislators and is routinely making key decisions free from any oversight not just in the US. This phenomena is also seen is Australia as well. The stark lies and deceptions perpetrated in the lead up to the Iraq War will not be forgotten anytime soon by a public now all too aware of its vulnerability in an age of mass surveillance. In becoming a law unto themselves, the intelligence agencies have threatened and weakened the democratic institutions that have stood in their way, undermining public protections. They have hollowed out the very pillars of freedom our ancestors fought for over many centuries, at least since the seeds of democracy were sown with the Magna Carta in 1215. In the process, the current regime of oversight, led by IGIS has been revealed as inadequate for maintaining security and the principles of freedom valued by an open society.

Alternative methods of oversight, particularly increasing judicial involvement, have been suggested to correct the structural flaws and dangers posed by IGIS. Mr Justice Hope in the recommendations of the 1983-84 royal commission into the intelligence agencies recommended IGIS be established in conjunction with mandatory royal commission to be conducted every 6 to 8 years’ or so, which would include review of the performance of IGIS. IGIS was established in 1987, however, the government has steadfastly opposed implementing a royal commission because it sees this as a threat to its own power and influence. As a result, a key recommendation of the Hope Royal Commission, the establishment of a strong oversight regime which depends on two essential components – IGIS and a royal commission – working in tandem, was never implemented. Creating IGIS but leaving the royal commission out is a bit like building a aeroplane with one wing missing – it looks right from one angle but doesn’t actually work. As a result, the agencies have never had their activities effectively reviewed and democracy has suffered as a result.

Technology and communications are making dramatic strides in scope and reach year by year, and the power of the intelligence agencies in leveraging these new tools seems to be growing exponentially. Agency capabilities are only going to increase further in years to come, making them even more powerful and harder to control, their impact on society, on our hard won freedoms, more confronting. Concerns are activists defending social and environmental standards expected by many in the community will increasingly be within reach and targeted by ASIO, bolstered not only by technological advances but also greater legislative power (as was passed in 2014), and have no recourse or access to a marginalised media, and sidelined courts and parliament. This power to marginalise the participants of civil society and prioritise business may be good for state growth objectives; but not good for personal liberty. In a global economy, do competitive pressures permit us the luxury of the social and environmental standards we once aspired to as communities? This is not a question for IGIS to determine alone with the government of the day, or the intelligence agencies to decide in secret, but for communities and people to weigh in on, which is what a strong, independent civil society is meant to achieve.

The fight between the people and the intelligence agencies is shaping up as the key battle of this century. Judicial oversight and royal commissions have an essential role to play in the sharing of power and the effective oversight of the intelligence community. This fact will continue to be resisted by politicians who would need to cede significant power to the judiciary – something former High Court judge Michael Kirby likens to a changing of the guard, a bloodless palace coup. Under such shared oversight, the agencies, including IGIS, would no longer be able to operate as a law unto themselves, but once again be subject to the laws of the land.

Now is the time to contest the rightful bounds of authority and ensure the mechanisms of separating and sharing power are not pulped into meaninglessness.

Author: John Wilson

[1] Ian Barker 28 December 2007, Letters to the Editor, Sydney Morning Herald.

[2] Personal communication between the author and Ian Barker during a telephone conference call 2011.

[3] Francis Fukuyama, September/October 2014 America in Decay: The Sources of Political Dysfunction, Foreign Affairs, p8.

[4] Tom Allard, 5 December 2013 Intelligence agency failed to investigate spying claims, lawyer Bernard Collaery claims, The Sydney Morning Herald.

[5] Deborah Snow, 7 December 2013, Who is monitoring the covert operations of the world’s spy

agencies?, Sydney Morning Herald.

[6] Ed. Clive Hamilton and Sarah Maddison, 2007, Silencing Dissent, Allen and Unwin, pviii-ix.

[7] Deborah Snow, 7 December 2013, Who is monitoring the covert operations of the world’s spy

agencies?, Sydney Morning Herald.

[8] Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor, 19 November 2013 Surveillance technology out of control, says Lord Ashdown, The Guardian.

[9] Editorial, 21 December 2013 NSA and GCHQ: snooping because we can, The Guardian.

[10] Rahul Sagar, 2013Secrets and Leaks: The Dilemma of State Secrecy, Princeton University Press, p69.

[11] Rahul Sagar, 2013Secrets and Leaks: The Dilemma of State Secrecy, Princeton University Press, p72.

[12] Undated and unsigned letter from the Attorney-General The Hon Robert McClelland MP to The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP (2008) MCO8/1874. Obtained by author under FOIA.

[13] Letter from IGIS Ian Carnell to John Wilson, 22 September 2008.

[14] Undated and unsigned letter from The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP to The Hon. Bruce Baird, MP (circa 2006-07). Obtained by author under FOIA.

[15] Personal correspondence, 8 March 2011 from Annette Willing at the Attorney General’s Department to John Wilson.

[16] Undated and unsigned letter from the Attorney-General The Hon Robert McClelland MP to The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP (2008) MCO8/1874. Obtained by author under FOIA.

[17] Julian Burnside, 2007 Watching Brief: reflections on human rights, law, and justice, Scribe Publications Pty Ltd, pp148-149.

[18] David Crowe, 10 June 2014 Sharing spy material will protect citizens, says Tony Abbott, The Australian.

[19] Noam Chomsky 17 August 2013, Chomsky: The U.S. behaves nothing like a democracy, Salon.

[20] Amy Goodman, 25 March 2014 Why Did the FBI Label Ryan Shapiro’s Dissertation on Animal Rights a Threat to National Security?,

[21] Security intelligence records held in Canberra – Fact sheet 33, National Archives of Australia. Downloaded 6 January 2014.

[22] ASIO files on writers and literary groups – Fact sheet 69, National Archives of Australia. Downloaded 10 January 2014.

[23] Meredith Burgmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p29.

[24] Meredith Burgmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p142.

[25] Meredith Burgmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing.

[26] Meredith Burgmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p15.

[27] Meredith Burgmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p67.

[28] Meredith Burgmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p75,81.

[29] Meredith Burgmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p255.

[30] Meredith Burgmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p418,421.

[31] Meredith Burgmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p431.

[32] Meredith Burgmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p323,328.

[33] Meredith Burgmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p307.

[34] Meredith Burgmann, 2014 Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, NewSouth Publishing, p394.

[35] Senator the Honourable Robert Hill, 9 December 2004 Media Release: Inquiry By Inspector-General Intelligence and Security, Parliament House, Canberra.

[36] Lance Collins and Warren Reed, 2005 Plunging Point: Intelligence Failures, Cover-Ups and Consequences, Harper Collins Publishers, p270.

[37] Background Briefing, 30 May 2004 Intelligence Wars: Behind the Lance Collins Affair, ABC Radio National. As reproduced in Lance Collins and Warren Reed, 2005 Plunging Point: Intelligence Failures, Cover-Ups and Consequences, Harper Collins Publishers, p324, 327. Disturbingly, Australia and Australian intelligence agencies have a long history of accepting Indonesian military abuses – in Australia’s “national interest” under an unstated policy of Realpolitik. Indeed, Australia has helped train elite Indonesian military forces and provided military hardware irrespective of widespread human rights abuses by the military in Indonesia.

[38] Lance Collins and Warren Reed, 2005 Plunging Point: Intelligence Failures, Cover-Ups and Consequences, Harper Collins Publishers, p253.

[39] ABC News, 8 January 2011 Gillard says Habib deal in taxpayers’ interests.

[40] Sally Neighbour, 15 January 2011 Mamdouh Habib’s story is backed by evidence, The Australian.

[41] Mamdouh Habib with Julia Collingwood, 2008 My story: the tale of a terrorist who wasn’t, Scribe, p64.

[42] Rahul Sagar, 2013Secrets and Leaks: The Dilemma of State Secrecy, Princeton University Press, p68.

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