A personal account: meetings with the Fourth Estate…p2
The media and Elected Representatives…..p3
Reprisals against my Sydney MP Tanya Plibersek…..p4
Threats to the Commonwealth attorney general’s office…..p5
Former Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, MP…..p7
First meeting with Ruddock – December 2011:….p8
Second meeting with Ruddock – April 2012:….p8
Third meeting with Ruddock – May 2013:….p9
The hunter hides undetected behind a camouflaged screen known as 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. Just so, the western “free press” offers camouflage for the propaganda of the intelligence agencies which produces and suppresses certain types of story to achieve secret, undisclosed objectives. Agents masquerading as part of the free press, undercover journalists and editors, move freely within the ranks of the media and have their work published and broadcast undeclared to an all too often unsuspecting public.
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. 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.
The flow of propaganda in the mainstream media has disenfranchised and disempowered much of 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.”
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. 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.”
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. People naively think we are 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 people were naive, blissfully ignorant of the threat they lived under.
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, including Australians, 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. The time to fix the threat from our agencies is now.
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 ejection 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.” click
Neither ASIO nor the Government responded to the concerns she raised, which 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.” 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.”
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.
I was being treated like a character from Kafka’s novel The Castle – who stood against the system in pursuit of a seemingly unobtainable and futile 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 trying to hold the intelligence agencies to account in America, Australia and the other Five-Eye intelligence sharing partners (UK, Canada, NZ) by attempting to find the right elected representative or regulator that will stand up for and represent you and your cause, that will investigate allegations, even when it is their duty to do so. The democratic promise of due process is sorely rebuffed by a constant stream of lame excuses and stonewalling officials that make one’s head spin as if in a maze with random arrows plastered all over the place each purporting to point to the exit, but all of which are false leads that go nowhere.
Former Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, MP
Moving on from efforts to work with the current attorney general’s staff, I met 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.”
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.
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 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.
The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP”
However, he subsequently reneged on the above offer 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.
Second meeting with Ruddock – April 2012:
In March 2012, I emailed to request a second meeting in follow up to the first, 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 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).
From: XXXXX Wilson [mailto:XXXXXXXXXX]
Sent: Thursday, 20 June 2013 10:37 AM
Subject: FW: XXXXXXXXWilson – 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.
From: XXXXXX Wilson XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX]
Sent: Friday, 14 June 2013 5:08 PM
Subject: XXXXX Wilson – ASIO
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 XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX community group XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 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:
XXXXXXXXXXXXXX, son of former ASIO Director General XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX)
XXXXXXXXXXXX, staff member of the Green’s Senator Rhiannon
XXXXXXXXXXXX, Sydney, stockbroking analyst
XXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX, Sydney businesspeople
XXXXXXXXXXX, Melbourne, former lawyer
XXXXXXXXXXXX, Central coast NSW and Boston, USA
XXXXXXXXXXXX, 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.
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 next section 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. https://mininganalyst.net/2014/09/29/australias-tryst-with-tyranny-asio-hatchet-jobs/
Author: John Wilson