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|The curious case of top secret files sold in filing cabinet
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|Author:||guy smiley [ Wed Jan 31, 2018 5:50 am ]|
|Post subject:||The curious case of top secret files sold in filing cabinet|
This is Keystone Cops material, times a hundred thousand.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-31/c ... ns/9168442
A couple of old filing cabinets, locked and sold without keys are sold off as surplus govt stock. After a couple of years, someone decides to remove the locks with an electric drill. Inside were thousands of govt files, including top secret 'for Australian Eyes Only'.
The files made their way to the ABC who, after taking care with the sensitive items, have been publishing aspects of the tomfoolery enjoyed by 5 seperate governments over a decade.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) lost nearly 400 national security files in five years, according to a secret government stocktake contained in The Cabinet Files.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet regularly audits all government departments and agencies that have access to the classified documents to ensure they are securely stored.
The missing documents are not the same files the ABC has obtained.
The classified documents lost by the AFP are from the powerful National Security Committee (NSC) of the cabinet, which controls the country's security, intelligence and defence agenda.
The secretive committee also deploys Australia's military and approves kill, capture or destroy missions.
Most of its documents are marked "top secret" and "AUSTEO", which means they are to be seen by Australian eyes only.
Nearly 200 top-secret code word protected and sensitive documents were left in the office of senior minister Penny Wong when Labor lost the 2013 election.
The 195 documents included Middle East defence plans, national security briefs, Afghan war updates, intelligence on Australia's neighbours and details of counter-terrorism operations.
These are not the same documents the ABC has obtained as part of The Cabinet Files, nor are they the same documents lost by the Australian Federal Police.
The sensitive documents found in Senator Wong's office should have been destroyed, according to a document in The Cabinet Files.
All the documents were security classified, with several marked "top secret" and code word protected, which is the highest level of classification in Australia.
The release of top-secret documents would cause "exceptionally grave damage to the national interest", according to the government's classification guide.
Senator Wong was the leader of the government in the Senate and a member of the powerful National Security Committee (NSC), which means she had access to the country's most secret and sensitive information.
The breach is revealed in a series of emails between the Department of Finance and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet from late 2013.
The emails reveal security staff found the documents left in the office after the election and oversaw their destruction.
John Howard's National Security Committee (NSC) gave serious consideration to removing an individual's unfettered right to remain silent when questioned by police.
The powerful committee's debate on counter-terrorism laws came just after the arrest of Mohammed Haneef and is documented in files marked "secret" and "AUSTEO", which stands for Australian eyes only.
Dr Haneef was accused of providing assistance in the 2007 Glasgow terror attack, but amid huge public controversy, the allegations were later disproven and Dr Haneef was awarded compensation by the Australian government.
The cabinet documents reveal then-attorney-general Philip Ruddock pushed for a range of new offences while Dr Haneef was still under investigation.
Critically, one of the proposals was to modify the right to remain silent during a terrorism investigation.
"I would also like NSC to consider whether amendments should be made to a suspect's right to remain silent to allow a court to draw adverse inferences in a terrorism trial where an accused relies on evidence which he or she failed to mention when questioned by police," Mr Ruddock wrote in his NSC submission.
The proposal was supported by the Australian Federal Police and ASIO, but rejected by the majority of the senior ministers in the NSC.
The divisive political commentator who breached section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was consulted when the federal government moved to change it, according to the draft legislation contained in The Cabinet Files.
The cabinet documents reveal Andrew Bolt was asked how to stop the act's "unreasonably restrictive" reach that led to the successful claim against him in 2011.
Bolt denies he was consulted on changes to the act.
"I was not consulted but was once told what had been decided," he told the ABC.
"I had absolutely no role at all in drafting legislation. Concerns I expressed about the ambit of the proposed changes had no effect."
The Federal Court ruled Bolt breached the act when he published an opinion piece about "white-skinned Aborigines" and their entitlement to welfare.
NBN Co's secret strategy for negotiating with potential investors reveals the initial lofty ambitions for the project Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has since labelled a "calamitous train wreck".
The 2009 strategy, a budget implications document and a plan for dealing with political attacks are among the trove of cabinet documents obtained by the ABC.
The documents reveal how desperate the then-Labor government was to have Telstra buy into the project on the government's terms.
"Telstra will initially approach the government with a number of proposals which the government will need to politely but firmly resist," one document reads.
"The strategy is … [for Telstra to] ultimately approach government to invest or use NBN Co's network on the government's terms."
The Government is still the sole owner of NBN Co, which is classed as an asset for budget purposes.
But with cost blow-outs and delays the Government is now facing the prospect of having to write it into the budget, rather than persisting with privatisation.
The negotiating strategy shows the initial plans for NBN Co were very different.
"The government does not need to rush into negotiations with investors making early offers," another document reads.
"The government should keep interested parties engaged through consultation, rather than negotiation."
Former prime minister Tony Abbott ignored the advice of his own department and the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) when he ordered confidential cabinet documents be handed to the home insulation royal commission.
Mr Abbott promised the controversial inquiry into Labor's home insulation scheme during the 2013 election campaign.
Once in office, his decision to break the century-old doctrine of cabinet confidentiality and hand over Labor's cabinet documents sparked the alarm of the opposition and past prime ministers of both persuasions.
At the time, the attorney-general said the decision was based on the advice of the AGS.
But documents show both the AGS and the secretary of the prime minister's own department warned Mr Abbott against it.
"We think it would be highly undesirable (and legally confounding) if the Commonwealth were to simply produce cabinet-related documents to the royal commission on the basis of a purported waiver of public interest immunity," reads the undated advice from Tom Howe QC, chief counsel at the AGS.
"We consider that producing cabinet-related documents to any court or tribunal … would not accord with legal practice and principle.
"We are not aware of the Commonwealth ever having taken such an approach in relation to cabinet-related documents."
The secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ian Watt, also warned Mr Abbott against handing over the documents in an unusually blunt and frank note sent to the prime minister and his chief of staff Peta Credlin.
"There is a longstanding and strong convention that deliberations and discussions within cabinet remain confidential and that one government does not seek access to the cabinet records of a previous government," the draft advice reads.
"This convention was reaffirmed by your government at its September 18, 2013 ministry meeting."
Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and two senior Labor ministers were warned about "critical risks" of the home insulation scheme before the deaths of four young installers, according to a report in The Cabinet Files.
The infamous Energy Efficient Homes Package rolled out subsidised insulation as part of an economic stimulus package, but was scrapped after the installers' deaths.
Mr Rudd told a royal commission into the program the rollout would have been delayed had cabinet been warned of the safety risks.
"Right through until February 2010 … each of the monthly reports said that the Energy Efficiency program of the government was on track," he said.
He said he did not know why public servants had not raised safety concerns.
But a report to cabinet from April 6, 2009 does warn of "critical risks" associated with the program. It does not specify whether any of these were safety concerns.
"[The Department of Environment] has undertaken a risk assessment which reveals a large number of critical risks for the Energy Efficient Homes Package," the report reads.
Many of these risks cannot be adequately managed in the lead-up to the July 1 start date. The timeline is extremely tight.
In a written submission to the royal commission into the insulation program, Mr Rudd stated that he had only received two implementation reports, written in February 2009, and that he had "no record of receipt of others subsequent to that".
The implementation report from April, contained in The Cabinet Files, was prepared weekly by the Office of the Coordinator-General for the Strategic Priorities and Budget Committee (SPBC).
Mr Rudd, his deputy Ms Gillard, then-treasurer Wayne Swan and then-finance minister Lindsay Tanner made up the SPBC, or so-called 'Gang of Four'.
At the royal commission, when Mr Rudd was asked specifically about the risk assessment undertaken by the Department of Environment, he said:
"I have no familiarity with that other than that I would assume that's the normal thing a department would do."
In response to The Cabinet Files, Mr Rudd told the ABC any assertion he was warned about safety risks was untrue.
"The Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program had unprecedented access to cabinet material and made no adverse finding against Mr Rudd," he said in a statement.
"Any assertion Mr Rudd was warned about safety risks to installers, or failed to act on such warnings, is completely baseless and untrue, as determined by the commission."
In fairness, this one is a tad misleading as risk can refer to financial exposure, not simply safety.
Scott Morrison agreed his department should intervene in ASIO security checks to try to prevent asylum seekers from being granted permanent protection visas.
In late 2013, the then-immigration minister was rushing through changes that would prevent any asylum seekers who arrived by boat from ever being granted permanent protection in Australia.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection advised Mr Morrison that up to 700 asylum seekers "must" be granted permanent protection under the existing legislation.
The minister was clearly concerned, requesting the exact number and advice on whether he could confer an alternative visa.
The department wrote back with a range of "mitigation strategies" and the minister signed up.
In an unorthodox move, Mr Morrison agreed his secretary should write to the director-general of security to request ASIO delay security checks so that people close to being granted permanent protection would miss the deadline.
The document states that if ASIO did not comply with Mr Morrison's request, 30 extra asylum seekers would likely be granted permanent protection each week.
It meant refugees about to start a new, permanent life in Australia would only be allowed to stay for three years.
He also agreed to reissue an order to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal to hear cases in a particular order to further slow down processing.
The initial order was sent to the two tribunals by former Labor immigration minister Brendan O'Connor months earlier.
The advice prepared for Mr Morrison notes that ASIO is not formally bound by the request, but the two tribunals are.
The secretary of the Immigration Department wrote to ASIO, but it is unclear whether ASIO complied with Mr Morrison's request.
Tony Abbott's "razor gang" considered banning anyone under 30 from accessing income support in a radical proposal ahead of the 2014 budget.
The expenditure review committee, or razor gang, was made up of then-prime minister Mr Abbott, then-treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.
It requested then-social services minister Kevin Andrews look at how to ban "job snobs" from receiving the welfare payments.
In a document marked "protected", "sensitive" and "cabinet in confidence", Mr Andrews proposed three options to permanently or temporarily halt income support for job seekers under 30.
They included cutting off under-30s entirely, cutting off under-30s in areas with employment opportunities, and limiting income support to young people with a work history.
There was also an option to roll out an income-managed basics card to "lessen the harshness of the measure".
The most extreme proposal would have saved the government nearly $9 billion over four years.
But Mr Andrews, who is a strong factional ally of Mr Abbott, also anticipated a backlash.
The documents reveal he may have been responsible for killing off the plan.
In a draft letter to Mr Abbott and copied to then-employment minister Eric Abetz and then-human services minister Marise Payne, he expressed "significant concerns" about the razor gang's request.
"This is a fundamental change to Australia's universal social security system … it is not clear that there is a strong evidence base for this approach," he wrote in the attached proposal.
"Young people in financial hardship could experience homelessness, be driven to crime and other antisocial behaviour, family breakdown and possible criminal flow-on resulting from removing the social security safety net."
He noted that there was already a crackdown on youth welfare factored into the 2014 budget and suggested any further changes be part of a broader review of welfare.
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