Media release from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

1 December  2000

The Jenkins Case

Along with our colleagues in the Department of Defence, DFAT regrets the tragic death of Mr Mervyn Jenkins last year in Washington.

Mr Jenkins served at the Embassy in Washington as an Attaché for the Defence Intelligence Organisation.

Handling the Jenkins case is the responsibility of the Department of Defence.

Because of recent misrepresentations in the media, it might be helpful to explain DFAT's involvement in the case on the occasion of the release of an unclassified version of the Blunn Report that was commissioned by the Inspector-General for Intelligence and Security.

The key findings of the Blunn Report are that:

  • the allegations made against Mr Jenkins in May 1999 were serious and warranted investigation;
  • the decision to investigate the allegations was timely and appropriate; and
  • there was nothing improper or contrary to Commonwealth procedures in the processes used by the investigators.

DFAT became involved in the case when it was advised on 26 May 1999 of allegations that Mr Jenkins had on repeated occasions passed AUSTEO (Australian Eyes Only) documents to foreign nationals. 

Such action is expressly forbidden under long-standing Australian security instructions.  This position has been subsequently reaffirmed by the National Security Committee of Cabinet.

DFAT became involved in the investigation because it has responsibility for security at overseas missions and also for relations with foreign governments.  DFAT was also concerned because some of the AUSTEO documents that Mr Jenkins had allegedly passed to foreign nationals were DFAT-origin diplomatic cables.  It was agreed with the Secretary of the Department of Defence to commission a joint investigation by two Canberra-based officers, one from each Department.

The investigation was conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Commonwealth Fraud Investigation Standards Package.  This is accepted by the Australian Government as a set of best practice standards for security and other investigations.  These standards are designed to protect not only the interests of the Commonwealth, but also the rights of affected individuals.  The investigation procedures take account of the relevant provisions of the Commonwealth Crimes Act 1914.  DFAT has an important responsibility to the Australian government and people to protect classified information belonging to Australia and uses these procedures routinely in investigations of security, fraud and misconduct.

It is not true that sensitivity over East Timor was the reason the investigation was undertaken.  The allegations which led to the investigation referred to mishandling of a large number of classified documents, including DFAT diplomatic cables marked AUSTEO.  The allegations made no reference to the content of the cables.

Media inquiries:    Matt Francis (Departmental) 02 6261 1555