At midday on Friday 5 February, 2016 Julian Assange, John Jones QC, Melinda Taylor, Jennifer Robinson and Baltasar Garzon will be speaking at a press conference at the Frontline Club on the decision made by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on the Assange case.

Friday, May 27, 2011

May 23 - Assange subject of ASIO scrutiny

Assange subject of ASIO scrutiny

23 May, 2011 06:37 AM
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Photo: Reuters
Prime Minister Julia Gillard's department has revealed WikiLeaks and its Australian founder Julian Assange were the subject of Australian intelligence reporting last year as the Government anticipated the website would spill ''highly sensitive and politically embarrassing'' Australian secrets.

Australian officials also feared WikiLeaks could publish information from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

However, declassified official briefings do not support Ms Gillard's assertion Mr Assange broke Australian law by publishing leaked US government secrets.
Confirmation of Australian intelligence reporting on WikiLeaks comes as the Government moves to amend security laws to broaden ASIO's ability to spy on Australians engaged in activities outside Australia that are of interest to the government.

Last December, Fairfax published stories based on leaked US embassy cables provided by WikiLeaks that revealed highly critical US assessments of former prime minister Kevin Rudd; senator Mark Arbib's contacts with the US Embassy, secret Australian Government concerns about the war in Afghanistan, Australian assessments the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah terrorist groups had been effectively broken, and other sensitive issues.

Fairfax has secured under Freedom of Information legislation more than 260 pages of secret AUSTEO (Australian Eyes Only) prime ministerial briefing papers, records of meetings and situation reports relating to WikiLeaks during last November and December as the website began issuing thousands of leaked US diplomatic cables.

The papers show the Labor Government went into crisis mode as soon as the US Government alerted Australian officials in Canberra and Washington on November 24 about WikiLeaks' prospective publication of US cables.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contacted Mr Rudd on November 25 to express her deep regret the material had been leaked.

The first meeting of a high-level interdepartmental committee on WikiLeaks, chaired by Deputy National Security Adviser Margot McCarthy, met on November 25.

Senior officials from the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Defence, the Attorney-General's Department, the intelligence community and the Australian Federal Police immediately noted the potential for disclosure of ''highly sensitive and politically embarrassing matters''.
Later that day, Ms Gillard's department told the Prime Minister efforts were being made to ''devise an approach to gain first-hand access to the cables to conduct our own analysis''.
However, Foreign Affairs and Trade Department secretary Dennis Richardson later admitted it took ''a frustrating amount of time'' before US officials provided a detailed briefing and Australia was ''spectacularly unsuccessful'' in its attempts to obtain copies of the leaked cables from the State Department.

Ms Gillard was briefed by her department at least three times before the first international publication of leaked cables on November 29, and four more times before the first publication of Australia-related cables on December 8. WikiLeaks was the subject of Cabinet consideration during this period.

The declassified papers show that talking points provided to Ms Gillard as early as November 26 emphasised it was ''a matter for relevant law enforcement agencies to consider whether any offence under Australian law may have been committed'' by Mr Assange through the publication of the leaked cables.

A further talking point referred to offences that could apply if an Australian Government official disclosed official information without authorisation, but made no assertions concerning any offences under Australian law by Wiki Leaks or Mr Assange.

However, in a radio interview on December 2, Ms Gillard said the publication of the US diplomatic cables on the WikiLeaks website was ''a grossly irresponsible thing to do, and an illegal thing to do''.
Media and public criticism of this comment for prejudging the issue appears to have prompted Ms Gillard's department to seek urgent advice from the Australian Federal Police which had commenced a preliminary inquiry two days earlier.

The AFP's response, transmitted to Ms Gillard's office by National Security Adviser Duncan Lewis later on December 2, has been withheld.
The declassified papers issued to Fairfax have been censored to remove information that it is claimed could harm Australia's national security, defence or international relations.

Some information has been withheld on grounds that it would make the US ''feel inhibited in communication with Australia about key issues of importance to Australia.''

National security information has also been withheld that describes ''operational capabilities, current threats ... and potential vulnerabilities''.

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