Wednesday 19th of June 2024

what a rotten, despicable, cowardly, unprincipled, corrupt & wicked government we have …

totally wicked ...

from Crikey …

Government looks to jail lawyer and former agent in staggering attack on free speech

In a case expected to have major free speech ramifications, former ACT attorney-general and Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery and former ASIS officer “Witness K” face jail after the government launched an extraordinary prosecution in relation to the bugging of the East Timorese cabinet.

In 2013, Collaery — then acting both for the East Timorese government and for Witness K, a former senior Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) officer — revealed that ASIS, at the instruction of the Howard government, had illegally bugged the East Timorese cabinet in 2004 to secure an advantage to Australia in treaty negotiations with the fledgling state over natural resources in the Timor Sea. Both the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) secretary at the time, and the then-minister for foreign affairs Alexander Downer, later took positions with a beneficiary of the treaty, petroleum company Woodside.

K was unlawfully dismissed from ASIS following the East Timorese bugging and took his case to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), who advised that he would be able to raise the matter in a legal forum. Collaery, also acting for the East Timorese in their Timor Sea Treaty case against Australia, obtained advice confirming that that case met the requirements identified by the IGIS.

Five years on, the government’s handpicked Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, former Trade Union Royal Commission counsel Sarah McNaughton, has charged Collaery under s.39 of the Intelligence Services Act, which prohibits the communication of “any information or matter that was acquired or prepared by or on behalf of ASIS in connection with its functions or relates to the performance by ASIS of its functions”, without the approval of ASIS. Witness K has also been charged on one count of conspiring with Coallery to communicate information.

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                               Extract from the Summons

The charge currently carries a sentence of 10 years in jail but Collaery and K will be charged under provisions in place in 2013 — before then-attorney general George Brandis strengthened the sentence — which carries a two-year jail sentence. The matter will be heard in the ACT Magistrates Court on July 25, where it is expected that the Commonwealth will attempt to have the prosecution conducted in camera to prevent the trial from being scrutinised by the media.

In an extraordinary further move, the government has also sought to slap a gag order on Collaery to prevent him discussing his defence or aspects of the case without its approval.

The government has punished and harassed K and Collaery since 2013. K was refused his passport despite the head of ASIO making clear the domestic security agency had no concerns about the former ASIS officer being allowed to travel overseas. It is understood that Julie Bishop and ASIS are behind the decision to withhold K’s passport; K’s lawyers have taken action to have that decision overturned, but that action has now been pre-empted by the prosecution of Collaery.

Collaery has himself been the subject of constant surveillance by intelligence agencies.


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Click to read all of Bernard Collaery’s media release

McNaughton’s prosecution – which is being handled by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions’ “Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism” unit, as though the former ACT attorney-general and the former senior ASIS officer are Islamist militants – fulfils the threat made to Collaery by Brandis in 2013 that he might be prosecuted. It marks yet another step in the Turnbull government’s war on criticism and dissent, and is directly linked to the government’s current war on the ABC. ABC journalists Emma Alberici, Peter Lloyd, Connor Duffy and Marian Wilkinson, and producer Peter Cronau, are all identified in the prosecution as people to whom Collaery passed illicit information.

sleeping in the same crooked bed...


Labor stands shoulder to shoulder with Turnbull on Timor Leste cover-up


Politics editor

Only one person has ever been jailed in relation to the CIA’s torture program. Not the people who designed it. Not the torturers or managers of the “black sites” where it was carried out. Not even the people responsible for Afghan man Gul Rahman being tortured to death in Afghanistan. The person jailed for it was John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer. What did he do? He blew the whistle on the program, when the CIA was trying to cover it up and deny it existed. Kiriakou was jailed by the administration of the sainted Barack Obama.

Similarly, no one has ever been jailed — or even subjected to disciplinary action, or censure — for one of the most sordid moments in Australia’s intelligence history, the bugging of the Timorese cabinet by ASIS at the behest of Alexander Downer. The goal of the “operation” was to benefit Australia’s commercial interests and gain an advantage over a fledgling state that needed all the help it could get to become viable after decades of occupation and a violent transition to independence. Instead, we sent spies in to bug them. It’s Alexander Downer’s legacy from all those years as foreign minister, that and outsourcing Australia’s foreign policy to the Bush White House.

It was also, unquestionably, illegal under Australian law. Our overseas spy agency broke the law, as part of a particularly grubby exercise in screwing over one of the poorest countries in the region.

Now the Turnbull governments wants to punish the people who revealed it, Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery. It’s important to note that K is not a whistleblower, and has at no stage acted outside the law. He has never spoken to the media — who are in any event prohibited, rightly, from revealing his identity — and he has acted in accordance with the advice of the then-Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Ian Carnell, about how to handle his dispute with ASIS. But he’s been charged with “conspiring” with Collaery to communicate information, a novel interpretation of lawyer-client privilege.

An illegal, and particularly grubby, act committed at the direction of the Howard government, and a prosecution by the Turnbull government, by its hand-picked Director of Public Prosecutions, signed off by the Attorney-General — you’d think Labor would be all over this. But the opposition has been deathly silent. That’s because Labor is up to its ears in this saga almost as much as the Coalition. Timor Leste began its Timor Sea suit against Australia when Julia Gillard was Prime Minister, and as the ABC’s Steve Cannane reported later, it was Julia Gillard who rejected Timor Leste’s complaint about the bugging when they learnt of it in 2012. As it has on so many of the Coalition’s assaults on basic liberties, Labor is standing shoulder to shoulder with its own opponents.

The prosecution raises major free speech and transparency issues. The government will likely seek to have the trials conducted in camera. It has much to hide on the bugging operation, particularly given its illegality; there may also be evidence ASIO has bugged not just Collaery — that’s already known — but journalists as well. Collaery will seek to prevent his trial being conducted in secret. Hopefully media organisations will join his attempt to do so next month at the initial hearing. Beyond that, the sheer fact that the government is attempting to punish a lawyer for revealing something embarrassing to the government means the case will attract considerable interest as a test of how far the High Court’s implied freedom of political communication extends.

Only the minor parties — Centre Alliance’s Rex Patrick, Andrew Wilkie, Tim Storer, and the Greens’ Nick McKim — were prepared to stand by Collaery yesterday and protest the prosecution. When we write the history of how Australia became a police state, it will note that Labor colluded and collaborated in its creation.


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overkill of whistleblowers and journalists is still in the pipeline...

behaving in a dishonourable way...

Have I got this right? Fourteen years ago, when Australia was behaving in a dishonourable way towards tiny East Timor by throwing our weight around to get more than our fair share of oil and gas rights in the ocean that lies between us, our spy agency ASIS was also illegally bugging the deliberations in Timorese ministerial offices to get the inside dope on how they intended to negotiate. In response, two honourable Australians, one a former ASIS officer, blew the whistle to put a stop to it. And now those whistleblowers have had criminal charges brought against them by the Turnbull government and may end in prison?

What am I missing?

Yes, we have a long-held prejudice against “dobbers”, but the truth is the culture of whistleblowers, like a robust free press, is crucial to holding governments to account, crucial to democracy. And such a heavy-handed approach as this, intimidating whistleblowers, risks that. Don’t take my word fo it. Laurie Oakes, made the point in one of his rare tweets: “This is disgraceful. The Turnbull government erodes our democracy further.


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