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.
In each case I complained 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 looked into none of the illegal activities I reported despite having vast powers to do so. 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 the evidence in Australia, he had advised me over a 12 month period and knew it well. 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.
I sent a complaint letter about my lawyers and ASIO interference to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) – the Australian watchdog that is meant to constrain ASIO. He wrote 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 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. (The Guardian, 14 October 2013, GCHQ mass surveillance putting right to challenge state at risk, say lawyers. click):
“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.”
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/38850305/The%20FBX%20Blog%2015%20October%202013.docx [Updated 15 October 2013]