Monday 28th of May 2018

the value of being awstraylan .....

the value of being awstraylan .....

Awstrayla’s mighty midget Metternich, Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, has walked away from a written undertaking to raise the case of Julian Assange in talks with the Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, next week.

Senator Carr's apparent decision to abandon consular advocacy for Mr Assange comes after the WikiLeaks publisher confirmed his plans to run as a Victorian Senate candidate in the federal election.

Fairfax Media has obtained a letter Senator Carr wrote to the Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam on February 8, advising that he intended to seek further diplomatic assurances from Mr Bildt concerning the possible prosecution of Mr Assange in Sweden.

However, Senator Carr's office has now stated that Mr Assange's case will not be on agenda when the two foreign ministers met in Canberra on Wednesday. ''There are no plans to discuss Mr Assange,'' a representative for Mr Carr told AAP.

Carr drops pledge to flag Assange case with Sweden


Now, why would we be surprised by such an announcement? Australian governments of all persuasions have a consistent record of abandoning their citizens to the predations of our “special friends”, whether big, small or indifferent.

Time & time again our political leaders have demonstrated a cowardly & contemptible reluctance to stand-up for the human & legal rights of Awstraylan citizens, even where they have been held illegally or tortured or, more recently, have died in suspicious circumstances.  

There has been a good deal of talk recently about the fact that the Labor Party & its coalition counterparts don’t seem to stand for anything. One thing is for certain, they certainly son’t stand-up for the rights of Awstraylan citizens.

Read on …..


David Hicks, Mamdouh Habib and Prisoner X: three citizens who Australian governments did not protect from torture by foreign powers. We must demand transparency of our government, write Kellie Tranter and Aloysia Brooks.

In their recent report "Globalising Torture", the Open Society Justice identifies Australia as one foreign government that aids the United States in its "torture program". The report confirms, as has long been known, that diplomatic assurances of humane treatment are insufficient to prevent grave human rights violations, and that culpability for torture does not rest solely with the principal perpetrators like the United States but with all complicit governments.

The cases of Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks, and now that of Prisoner X - the Australian/Israeli Ben Zygier - confirms the view of torture prevention organisations that transparency is one of the most important steps towards the prevention and eradication of torture.

Who has been held to account in this country?

In 2011 Vivienne Thom, Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, released her report "Inquiry into the actions of Australian government agencies in relation to the arrest and detention overseas of Mamdouh Habib from 2001 to 2005". It details the failures of our intelligence agencies, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Federal Police and the Federal Government, but makes no recommendations about clarifying whole-of-government responsibilities. The report’s narrow scope also meant that it left out any reference to Habib’s treatment in Guantanamo Bay. 

Respected UK human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce has said, "Guantanamo could never have perpetuated itself, never, if it had not had the endorsement of countries around the world."

Nothing illustrates this more clearly than a 2006 US embassy  cable published by WikiLeaks:

"Media attention to the Hicks case follows a wave pattern over time. We are currently observing a peak. The suicides of the three Guantanamo detainees provided an opportunity to Hicks’ defense team, which has generated public antipathy to his continued detention with the assistance of sympathetic media. John Howard and his Government have taken pains to defend our actions consistently, even if it costs them short term political points."

Taking pains to defend the actions of the United States obviously required the Australian government to put to one side allegations of torture made by Hicks and his lawyers, the public testimonies by detainees released before Hicks describing their torture, leaked reports from the Intentional Committee Red Cross outlining torturous treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees, the rejection of calls for an independent medical experts to assess Hicks’ condition at Guantanamo Bay, the release of emails written by FBI agents that tell of harsh treatment against detainees at Guantanamo, the high ranking Bush Administration officials who blew the whistle, the Torture Memos, findings of the Council of Europe and more importantly, the pleas of his family and concerned Australian citizens.

Instead former Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer said that the Australian government had sought and received diplomatic assurances from the highest levels that Hicks was being treated humanely. That was of little comfort when one examined the 2005 Human Rights Watch report, "Still at Risk: Diplomatic Assurances No Safeguard Against Torture" which was reinforced by the recent "Globalising Torture" report.

For its defence, the Howard government relied on a 2004 letter and associated report from Ryan Henry, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense to Michael Thawley, Ambassador to the US Embassy of Australia, stating that it found no evidence of abuse of Hicks. A 2005 US Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s (NCIS) confirmed Henry’s report, finding no evidence of maltreatment or abuse. 

The investigations that were ordered by the US Department of Defense into their own colleagues were described as a farce by high-ranking US officials. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson described them as "a farce … I know this kind of abuse happened. I’ve talked to people who participated in it - CIA, military and contractors."

The NCIS documents have never been released publicly by the Australian government but have been relied upon by successive governments to deny Hicks’ allegations of torture. However, one of the reports, which has been viewed by one of the authors, presents a very different story to that asserted by Howard government ministers, advisers and officials.

The contents remain classified, and therefore full details cannot be disclosed at present. However, what can be said is that the report only raises more questions, and certainly does not clear any US official of any wrongdoing, contrary to the claims of the Howard and now Gillard governments.

In an affidavit, David Hicks details the beatings that took place on transit to Guantanamo, the worst of which took place in Pasni, Pakistan. He details being spat on, and kicked and hit with rifle buts. After the beatings in Pasni, Hicks was transported to the USS Pelilieu where he was interviewed by Australian officials, including the AFP and ASIO. Hicks says he then first detailed his treatment at the hands of the US and its agents. The contents of this interview have also never been made public - the transcript was not entered into evidence in the recent proceeds of crime case against Hicks that was dropped by the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions due to lack of evidence that a crime was committed.

Hicks also detailed his ill-treatment and torture to Australian officials on many other occasions over the years of his detention in Guantánamo. One such occasion was during the NCIS investigation interview which was ordered in response to the photos of Abu Ghraib being released. Dan Mori, Hicks’ former lawyer, has stated that "an Australian official was present, and Mr Hicks went through the issues of him being assaulted as part of the US investigation, and there was an Australian official present during the entire interview."

In 2005 Hicks met with and provided a letter to Australian consular official John McAnulty, outlining his treatment in Guantanamo. Hicks described being chained to the floor for so long that he had to urinate on himself, and the use of "noise machines" - either bladeless chainsaw engines revving constantly or loud music or sounds being sent through the camps.

After reporting these issues to McAnulty, Hicks was moved to a camp designated for reprimanding detainees; Hicks and his lawyers saw this as a punishment for raising concerns over his treatment to Australian officials. Hicks’ letter also has never been released publicly.

Heavily redacted documents from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, obtained through a Freedom Of Information request, include a Record of Conversation between Hicks’ lawyer and Downer on 19 February 2007.  Others present included Downer’s then Chief of Staff Chris Kenny, and adviser Angela Macdonald.  Downer is recorded as saying:

"…he had varying degrees of worry for people held overseas….the case had progressed beyond the point where the Australian government could simply ask for Mr Hicks’ return; but a plea bargain option might perhaps get him back into Australia more quickly than proceeding with a full hearing….that while lawyers might take the view that the implications of a plea bargain would be to give credence to the military commission process…surely the best thing for Mr Hicks would be to get out of Guantanamo Bay…the government’s position remained that he should face charges. If a trial could be expedited or Mr Hicks accepted a plea bargain - that would be a win/win…"

Howard certainly did not allude to this "win/win" proposition when quizzed on a television program in 2012, and obviously any win/win scenario was unconcerned with natural justice or due process for Hicks. Following the recent Hamdan decision that confirmed that the charge "material support for terrorism" was not a valid war crime, Hicks has publicly stated that all he wants is for an investigation into his case.

The Australian government has a responsibility under international law to independently investigate allegations of torture made by Australian citizens being held abroad, particularly if it is in their power to have them returned to Australia. It apparently does not do so. The WikiLeaks cable makes it clear that protecting US interests is more important in Hicks’ case than protecting an Australian citizen.

We must hold to account those responsible for colluding in arbitrary, unlawful, indefinite detention. We must hold to account those who are complicit in crimes against humanity even if that extends to prime ministers, ministers or ministerial advisers.  We can no longer accept that those who are accused of torture should be able to investigate themselves, nor can we accept inadequate internal reviews.

We must object to our government relying on diplomatic assurances about torture or degrading treatment if it permits the transfer of Australian citizens to foreign countries, and we must press our government to block the feeding of questions and information between intelligence services around the world where the major interrogation technique is torture. 

And for the future, we must insist that protocols are put in place to ensure that all information concerning instances of actual and alleged personal abuse or torture is made public.

Getting Away With Torture

as clear as mud .....

Details about the arrest of alleged Mossad spy Ben Zygier were circulated at the highest levels of the Australian government, raising questions about why Canberra did not do more to assist the Melbourne man before his death in an Israeli jail.

Yesterday, Foreign Minister Bob Carr attacked his own department over its "unsatisfactory" handling of the case, while admitting he still had no idea why the 34-year-old was arrested in the first place.

But the report into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's handling of the Zygier case, released by Senator Carr yesterday, makes it clear that knowledge of the affair extended well beyond DFAT.

Mr Zygier, an Australian-Israeli dual national who is widely reported to have been a Mossad spy, was arrested by Israel's internal security authorities on January 31, 2010, allegedly for revealing secret information to an unknown party.

Acknowledging for the first time that Mr Zygier was "an employee of the Israeli government", Senator Carr said there had been an "unsatisfactory lack of clarity"

"I really think it's unsatisfactory that things rested there instead of the officers of the Australian embassy being able to make visits and see for themselves," Senator Carr said. He also warned Israel that any misuse of Australian passports by intelligence services would be taken "very seriously" by Canberra.

"We can't say whether it happened with Mr Zygier's several passports. I hope the inquiry that takes place - one of the inquiries taking place - in Israel can clarify this position," Senator Carr said.

The report details the extraordinary secrecy that accompanied the affair as well as the confusion it caused within government, with both ASIO and DFAT apparently assuming the other agency was responsible for discharging Australia's consular duty to Mr Zygier, who hanged himself in his prison cell on December 16, 2010, more than 10 months after his arrest. It recommends that, unless the foreign minister deems otherwise, heads of mission be routinely informed whenever an Australian is detained and that a better system be established for handling consular cases with security dimensions.

The report does not lay the blame for Mr Zygier's death at the feet of either agency, noting that at no time did Mr Zygier or his family request Australia's help in resolving the affair.

It also notes Mr Zygier had more than 50 visits from his family during his detention and that Israel probably would not have granted Australian officials consular access anyway.

In a statement yesterday, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, Vivienne Thom, said she was satisfied that ASIO had not acted unlawfully or improperly and would take no further action.

The DFAT report details a string of briefings and submissions to ministers' offices that suggests basic information about Mr Zygier's case was available to senior members of the government and the bureaucracy.

A submission about Mr Zygier's detention authored by "another agency", presumed to be ASIO, was received by the Attorney-General's department on March 1, 2010.

Among those on the distribution list were then prime minister Kevin Rudd's foreign affairs adviser, the head of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Duncan Lewis, ASIS head Nick Warner, senior officials from the AG's department and then attorney-general Robert McClelland's chief of staff Leighton Pike.

The report states then foreign minister Stephen Smith's chief of staff, Frances Adamson, was also briefed. A second submission that referred to the detention of an unnamed Australian-Israeli was circulated by the Attorney-General's department on the same day.

A third submission about the Zygier case was circulated in May.

Speaking through a spokesman, Mr Rudd said yesterday he had "no recollection" of the affair and expressed concern as to why Mr Zygier was arrested.

The spokesman said Mr Rudd was awaiting "formal confirmation" as to whether a connection existed between the Zygier case and the use of Australian passports by Mossad in an operation to assassinate Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai January 19 2010 - 12 days before Mr Zygier's arrest.

Top Level Briefings Received On Zygier Affair

no way out .....

A UN human rights advocate has called on Britain and the US to release confidential reports into the countries' involvement in the kidnapping and torture of terrorism suspects, accusing them of "years of official denials, sophistry and prevarication" to cover up the truth.

In a speech to the UN human rights council in Geneva introducing a report on the issue, Ben Emmerson, a British barrister who is the UN's special rapporteur on protecting human rights within efforts to combat terrorism, demanded that Britain publish the interim findings of a report by a retired judge, Sir Peter Gibson, into the involvement of MI5 and MI6 in the removal and mistreatment of terrorist suspects.

In a response delivered at the council, British officials said the government was "looking carefully at the contents of the report by the Gibson inquiry on its preparatory work, with a view to publishing as much of it as possible". There was no word on when this might happen.

Emmerson also asked the US to release a similar report by the Senate's select committee on intelligence into the CIA's secret detention and interrogation programme.

Failure to do so showed a seeming unwillingness by both governments to face up to serious international crimes and "a policy of de facto immunity for public officials who engaged in acts of torture, rendition and secret detention, and their superiors and political masters who authorised these acts", Emmerson said.

"Words are not enough. Platitudinous repetition of statements affirming opposition to torture ring hollow to many in those parts of the Middle East and North Africa that have undergone, or are undergoing, major upheaval, since they have first-hand experience of living under repressive regimes that used torture in private whilst making similar statements in public," he added.

"The scepticism of these communities can only be reinforced if western governments continue to demonstrate resolute indifference to the crimes committed by their predecessor administrations."

Britain and the US have come under increasing pressure as details emerge of the so-called secret rendition programme, in which terrorism suspects - some wrongly identified - were often snatched off the streets and flown to either secret CIA prisons or detention centres operated by other countries, for example Egypt, where many complained of torture and other mistreatment.

On Monday, a Libyan politician suing the former foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and the British government for damages after being kidnapped at Bangkok airport and sent to jail in Tripoli, where he was tortured and also interrogated by UK intelligence officers, offered to settle the case for £3, so long as he receives an unreserved apology.

Despite government efforts to keep such acts secret, Emmerson said, more and more details had emerged, "and calls for accountability are fast approaching a critical mass".

He makes a series of specific recommendations in the associated report, including a call for 35 countries that had failed to respond to questions from a UN study on secret detention to do so, and that Britain and the US should release their reports.

Shortly before the speech, Emmerson told the Guardian it was time for "a reckoning with the past".

He said: "In South America it took up to 30 years before the officials responsible for crimes like these were held fully accountable. With the conspiracy organised by the Bush-era CIA it has taken a decade, but the campaign for securing the right to truth has now reached a critical point.

"The British and American governments are sitting on reports that reveal the extent of the involvement of former governments in these crimes. If William Hague is serious about pursuing a policy of ethical counter-terrorism, as he says he is, then the first thing the British government needs to do is to release the interim report of the Gibson Inquiry immediately."

The Gibson report was announced by David Cameron in July 2010. However, rights groups and victims' lawyers decided not to take part when it emerged the inquiry would have no power to compel official cooperation or evidence. In January 2012, the government said the inquiry was being scrapped owing to police investigations into alleged crimes. However, Emmerson said, there were no prosecutions pending and the government should publish an interim version of the report handed to them by Gibson in July last year.

Emmerson's report into the issue goes into greater details about what has so far been uncovered about the US network of secret detention facilities for terrorism suspects and other countries' complicity in the process.

It says: "There is now credible evidence to show that CIA 'black sites' were located on the territory of Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania and Thailand and that the officials of at least 49 other states allowed their airspace or airports to be used for rendition flights."

Despite the scale of this, the report notes, just one criminal case has been brought, when an Italian court in 2009 convicted 22 CIA agents in absentia along with Italian intelligence service officials over the case of an Egyptian-Italian national kidnapped in Milan and sent to Cairo, where he was tortured.

Britain & US Asked To Release Secret Torture Reports

spooks on the loose .....

In late 2010, then foreign minister Kevin Rudd paid a two-day visit to Israel. After back-to-back meetings including talks with Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Rudd was driven to Ben Gurion Airport just outside Tel Aviv for a 4.40pm flight to London on Tuesday,  December 14.

By pure coincidence, he passed within a few kilometres of Ben Zygier, the Melbourne man turned Mossad agent now known as Prisoner X, who was being held in secrecy in Ayalon prison, just south of the airport.

The following day, Zygier was found dead, apparently having hanged himself in the bathroom of his supposedly suicide-proof cell.

Rudd said this week through his spokesman that he had ‘‘no recollection’’ of ever being told of the Zygier case, either as prime minister nor after he became foreign minister in September 2010.

‘‘Mr Rudd is particularly concerned about this, given that Mr Zygier died in an Israeli prison on  December 15, 2010,’’ his spokesman said. ‘‘Mr Rudd’s general practice as foreign minister was to raise consular cases of concern to DFAT in meetings with relevant ministers of foreign governments.’’

Whether an intervention by Rudd would have meant that Zygier would still be alive today will never be known. A report aired on Israel’s Channel 2 this week claimed the 34-year-old father of two was deteriorating mentally and emotionally, and barely eating in his last days.

On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr put a rocket under his own department as he released the internal inquiry into the consular handling of Zygier’s imprisonment, reigniting concern over the Prisoner X affair and raising questions as to why Canberra turned its back on the case.

The report details a communication bungle between branches of government and reveals that top officials, including the highly respected public servant Dennis Richardson, broke their own department’s rules on providing consular care to Australian nationals by leaving the job to the spy agency ASIO.

It also raises the possibility that intelligence channels might have been given priority over the welfare of an Australian being held by a foreign government at a time when relations between Israel and Australia were strained because of Israel’s misuse of Australian passports.

Owing to what Carr branded an ‘‘unsatisfactory lack of clarity’’ between ASIO and the Department of Foreign Affairs, nobody checked on Israeli assurances that Zygier was OK.

‘‘I don’t think that’s satisfactory. I don’t think it’s remotely satisfactory,’’ Carr said.

Moreover, the news of Zygier’s arrest by Israeli authorities appears not to have rung alarm bells in Canberra on the security front, even though it came on the same day as revelations that Israel had used fake Australian passports in the assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010.

While there is no evidence that Zygier had any involvement in the Dubai operation, there is a strong likelihood that he was recruited by Mossad precisely because he was Australian and therefore could travel on a passport that bore the stamp of political neutrality in a region rife with hostility and suspicion.

‘‘I’ve got to say there are unanswered questions about the use of Australian passports by dual nationals working for the government of their other country,’’ Carr said.

‘‘If it transpires that Australian passports were used for security or intelligence-gathering by Israel in this case, it’s something to which we take the strongest opposition.’’

For still unspecified national security crimes, Zygier, who had moved from Melbourne to Israel in2000, was arrested on January 31, 2010.

According to Wednesday’s report, Mossad informed ASIO – which was investigating Zygier along with at least two other dual nationals it suspected of working for Israeli intelligence – about the arrest just over two weeks later.

Zygier had held three Australian passports in different names in the space of several years while living in Israel. He legally changed his surname twice in Victoria, first to Burrows and then to Allen.

Amazingly, Zygier had not actually committed any crime in Australia – even by working for Mossad. (ASIO was investigating as an intelligence agency, not a law enforcement body.)

A further eight days later, ASIO verbally briefed Foreign Affairs boss Richardson and first secretary Greg Moriarty. Richardson told the inquiry he had no ‘‘clear specific recollection’’ of the briefing.

By not telling the Australian embassy in Tel Aviv about the case, Richardson and Moriarty breached the department’s rules, which state that ‘‘consular officials are charged with protecting Australians even if they hold another nationality’’.

Aside from a quick inquiry by Moriarty several weeks later, Australian officials ‘‘did not follow up on the assurances received about Mr Zygier’’ from the Israelis. They left the job to ASIO, which typically has no responsibility for consular care.

ASIO, in turn, relied on Israeli assurances that Zygier was OK, even though Mossad had already broken an explicit deal with ASIO that it would not use Australian nationals for espionage.

Richardson and Moriarty also failed to directly inform then foreign minister Stephen Smith or Rudd, although key advisers in Smith and Rudd’s offices appear to have been briefed, after which the flow of information quickly descends into a labyrinthine tunnel of who knew what, when.

Only then attorney-general Robert McClelland says he remembers being briefed. Smith does not recall ever being told of the matter.

In the defence of the Australian officials, the report points out that, according to Israeli authorities, Zygier had regular access to his lawyers and more than 50 visits from his family in his 10 months in jail. Neither he nor his family ever asked for consular assistance.

Plus he was an Israeli citizen working for Mossad and had lived in Israel for 10 years. The foreign affairs officials apparently felt he should be regarded as an Israeli for the purposes of the case.

Carr, adopting a position that has dismayed some in DFAT, feels otherwise. ‘‘No one of these above facts, while they complicate the case, absolves us from responsibility for attending to our consular duty,’’ he said on Wednesday.

‘‘And this is where the department appears to have failed. There should have been more attention, more visits, and a follow-up on the guarantees that we received from the Israeli government.’’

This week  Israel’s Channel 2 revealed at least two prison workers who met Zygier during his final days told the Israeli Prison Service that he  posed a danger to himself.

One unnamed prison service worker said Zygier was a ‘‘very sensitive’’ man who ‘‘just made a huge mistake’’. ‘‘He wanted to be a hero, he had a good conscience, and he couldn’t deal with himself after it all happened,’’ the worker said. ‘‘Zygier just knew too much.’’

It remains unclear what crime Zygier was charged with – it is subject to an Israeli gag order. The crime carried a penalty of up to 20 years’ jail – which, based on Israel’s penal code, suggests he committed ‘‘serious espionage’’ but without the deliberate intention to harm the country.

Although he had several visits from a social worker, they provided no comfort to him because he was not allowed to discuss what he had done, or what he was in jail for, Channel 2 reported.

‘‘He wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone about it. He felt that he had to share what he’d done, to talk to someone, and to find out what was going to happen to him,’’ the prison official said.

‘‘I saw old pictures of him, when he was a full man. But he became just a pair of eyes. He was deteriorating. He barely ate. He said it made him sick, except for vegetables.

‘‘He ate himself up from the inside. He took antidepressant pills... He was scared of what was going to happen to him when he’d get out.’’

Another Israeli media report quoted a prison guard saying that Zygier was not given the routine mental health screening that other prisoners received because his seclusion meant he was cut off from the daily workings of the jail.

However, one of Israel’s most senior attorneys, Avigdor Feldman, who also visited Zygier in his final days, has previously said he saw ‘‘no signs that he was going to kill himself’’.

When contacted by Fairfax Media late on Thursday, Feldman refused to comment further.

‘‘I am not referring to it any more. I am fed up with it,’’ he said.

David Kretzmer from Hebrew University in Jerusalem – a leading international law expert and a founding member of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel – said international human rights law allows for secrecy in cases where national security requires it.

‘‘[But] the fact that he was kept in secret [did not] ... excuse them from ensuring he had all the checks that are generally in place to examine the mental health of a prisoner and whether there are any suicidal tendencies,’’ Professor Kretzmer said.

Zygier’s family remained silent this week. His father, Geoffrey Zygier, did not return calls. Friends of the family declined to comment. Even family friend Henry Greener, who previous spoke volubly to Fairfax and the ABC, refused to talk this week. He was reprimanded by the family for speaking before.

The little that does filter out of family circles is just a profound sense of sorrow and grief.

In spite of Carr’s proclamations of the unsatisfactoriness of it all, bureaucratic heads will not roll.  Stephen Smith, now Defence Minister, has expressed full confidence in Dennis Richardson, who now heads the Defence Department. Foreign Affairs head Peter Varghese offered similarly robust support to Moriarty.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Vivienne Thom, said she was satisfied that ASIO had not acted unlawfully and inappropriately, and would take no further action.

Wednesday’s report, despite its broad criticisms of the handling of the case, acknowledges this was an unusual situation and says the DFAT officials’ judgment not to follow up on Zygier ‘‘was reasonable in the circumstances’’.

Perhaps most tellingly, the report adds that their decision ‘‘took into account concerns that a diplomatic approach may jeopardise the intelligence channel’’.

Did intelligence interests trump consular concerns for an Australian national – coming at a time when, as the report states, Israel’s misuse of Australian passports was ‘‘a preoccupation of the national security community’’?

The government’s national security committee met on the night after news broke of the passports scandal and the top foreign affairs officials were told by ASIO of the Zygier case.

The meeting would have included Rudd, Smith, McClelland and Richardson. Yet it is understood Zygier was not raised at this meeting.

Julie Bishop, the opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, says this ‘‘beggars belief’’. She finds it impossible to accept that Smith and Rudd were never told of the case.

‘‘An Australian citizen was detained, in jail on charges relating to national security involving secret intelligence. It would have raised alarm bells,’’ she said. ‘‘We were dealing with a very sensitive issue between the Australian government and the Israeli government over the use of passports. Two issues came to a head at the same time and no one thought to ask the questions?

‘‘It just does not add up.’’

Spies Like Us

is this the same julie bishop?

is this the same Julie Bishop who approved of Israel methods to go and assassinate people in other counties by using fake passports — including australian passports?

the world of bullshit bob ....

from Crikey ….

Crikey says: threat to Assange confirmed (again)

It was "sheer fantasy" that Julian Assange was in danger of being extradited from Sweden to the United States, Bob Carr declared in February. If anything, it was even less likely Assange could be extradited from Sweden than the United Kingdom.

Last night Swedish justice Stefan Lindskog -- engaging in the highly unusual step of discussing publicly, and in detail, a case that might yet come before the Swedish justice system -- described the case against Assange as "a mess" and, contrary to some media reports today, admitted the possibility that Assange might be extradited. Lindskog, perhaps purposefully hedging his bets on the issue of extradition, suggested it may be difficult for Assange to be legally extradited to the US under Swedish restrictions on extradition, but conceded Sweden had previously illegally rendered people to America.

In 2001 two Egyptian nationals, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad al-Zery, were handed by the Swedish government to the CIA and transported to Egypt, where they were tortured. The current Swedish ambassador to Australia, Sven-Olof Petersson, knew of the rendition at the time as a Swedish foreign affairs officer. Lindskog last night expressed the hope that the Swedish government wouldn't act illegally in that manner again.

Carr's cavalier dismissal of the threat to Assange is consistent with his insouciant approach to the case. Carr has persistently denied there is a US investigation underway into Assange, despite the fact that as recently as last week a Department of Justice spokesman confirmed a WikiLeaks grand jury investigation is continuing.

The allegations made against Assange in Sweden are serious, and deserve to be resolved. But they should not be the pretext for yet another US government assault on whistleblowers and online activists - people it has persistently subjected to exemplary punishment and ongoing persecution. But the response of Carr, and the Gillard government, has been to turn its back.