Excessive government secrecy and repression of whistleblowers and journalists is on the rise. This is a government which persecutes its citizens for doing the right thing. This oped, written befittingly by Name Withheld for Security Reasons, identifies another target whose name is also withheld for security reasons.
One of the more puzzling aspects of the 12 month incarceration of Australian-British academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert by the Iranian regime is that the Australian government decided to stay silent about the whole thing.
It is no surprise that the dictators of Iran are reluctant to issue a press release about the arrest, but surely an open democratic society such as Australia should be told when a travelling academic from Melbourne University is incarcerated by a hostile regime for an extended period.
At the very least, it would serve as a warning to others about travelling to Iran, such as the two bloggers who were recently arrested for using a drone. If they had known about Dr Moore-Gilbert’s plight they might not have even visited Iran in the first place.
Keeping quiet on matters of security and intelligence has long been a hallmark of Scott Morrison and his senior security colleague Peter Dutton, particularly since the introduction of the media blackout about “on water” matters related to asylum seeker boats.
However, there comes a point where obsessive secrecy, when combined with aggressive police tactics against whistleblowers and journalists, raises concerns as to whether Australia is lurching towards a secretive police state itself, at least at the Federal level.
The situation with Witness K has been well documented, but the Government is still not taking a backward step, even after being subjected to the full symphony of a forensic Four Corners exposé by the ABC last month; and facing a backlash for hounding someone who blew the whistle on patently unethical behaviour.
The Government is persecuting its citizens for doing the right thing. And now it is happening again.
This media service is aware that, in addition to Witness K, there is another Australian intelligence officer who has been in trouble with the law.
Indeed, according to military sources, this individual has spent much of the past two years in jail, only recently being released back into the community.
Given the reverence which the Coalition usually shows towards intelligence and defence personnel, you would think that locking up an intelligence officer would be something that would have been brought to the attention of both MPs and the media. Strangely, there hasn’t been a whisper about this second case thus far.
Why? An additional complexity in the second case is said to be the mental wellbeing of the individual at the time the inappropriate disclosures were alleged to have occurred.
Scott Morrison is very loud and proud about his support for increased funding of mental health programs such as Headspace. So when an intelligence officer puts their hand up citing mental health issues, is it really appropriate to drag them through the courts, suppress the information from the public and then lock the person up, a person who has dedicated more than ten years of their life to serving this country?
With the recent AFP raids on the ABC’s Sydney office and the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst, this was clearly related to material which had been leaked by military or government whistleblowers to major media outlets.
The same goes with Witness K who was concerned that Australia would bug the Cabinet office of East Timor and allegedly took steps to inform the public that this had occurred.
Michaelwest.com.au understands that the alleged information disclosures by the recently jailed intelligence officer went to just two internal people and ultimately did no damage to the national interest. However, with all the recently toughened national secretary laws, this ultimately led to the public servant being unfairly jailed for an excessive period.
Jailing intelligence officers on dubious grounds when mental health is an issue is something which should be fully ventilated through Parliamentary and media processes, but it isn’t, seemingly due to the Government’s excessively secretive approach.
The re-elected Morrison government is attempting to intimidate both whistleblowers and the media who deal with whistleblowers, as the institutions who subscribe to the #YourRightToKnow campaign say.
It should not be up to this particular individual, who we have been told remains in a fragile state after being released from prison, to insist on public disclosure, but that is what might eventually happen if the military and the senior ministers involved continue to take the hardest of hard lines.
If this appallingly treated intelligence officer wants his story told, perhaps he should consider reaching out to a member of the media or an independent Federal MP, such as Andrew Wilkie.
Given this week’s launch of the #YourRightToKnow campaign by News Corp and Fairfax, now is as good a time as any to assist this individual get their story out.
As for the Government, Dutton and Morrison should demand to be fully briefed on the situation and then they should get on the front foot and let the public know what happened and why.
Watch this space.
Editor’s Note: the author of this story is known to us and is trusted. The name of the author has been withheld for reasons of personal security. The name of the source has been withheld for obvious reasons.
It is the view of this independent media organisation that, had the mainstream media been more robust in holding government to account, the #YourRightToKnow campaign might never have been needed. As it is, it is needed, and we lend our voice in support.
Public support is vital so this website can continue to fund investigations and publish stories which speak truth to power. Please subscribe for the free newsletter, share stories on social media and, if you can afford it, tip in $5 a month.