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Allegations By The Age of Security Breach

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News, speeches and media

Media Release

D77

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade does not believe the allegations
made in The Age newspaper today that classified documents were left in filing
cabinets that were auctioned at a surplus furniture sale on 6-7 November
in Canberra.

The Department bases its conclusion on a thorough review of the extensive
security arrangements that were put in place prior to and during the move
(up until the date of the auction) and discussions with the auctioneers
who carried out the sale of the surplus furniture.

The auctioneers, Pickles Auctions Pty Ltd, have advised the Department that,
contrary to the claim in The Age, no documents were found and, specifically,
that "no Pickles Auctions employees handed any information to a third
party"at the auction.

Many aspects of the article stretch the limits of credibility. It is claimed
that an "off-duty public servant" was handed 16 documents in the
midst of the auction that was carried out in situ with more than 100 members
of the public present who were constantly examining the goods prior to and
during the actual auction. Furthermore, that two cabinets full of documents
were also observed. Yet no-one reported anything to any of the officialspresent
and the auctioneers have specifically denied finding or handing over documents.

It is also strange that the "off duty public servant" did not
come forward at the time. There is no penalty against a public servant returning
documents found in such circumstances and no need to remain anonymous.

It may be that The Age has been given documents that are purportedly departmental
cable traffic. However, we have seen no evidence that any documents came
from the furniture auction and we do not believe that this is true. No-one
in the Department has reported missing cabinets of documents in the move
to the new building.

As is usual, the Department is investigating this purported leak of documents
and is asking the Australian Federal Police to assist. If there is such
an "off-duty public servant", he should come forward and assist
the Department and the police to investigate the matter.

Extensive security arrangements were put in place by the Department during
the move from the Administrative Building to the R.G. Casey Building.

Prior to the move, all staff were advised of special security arrangements
to move secure documents from the old building to the new;
After the Administrative Building was evacuated, a sweep of the building
was carried out by security staff to ensure no sensitive material was left
behind;

Moreover, the auctioneers themselves examined all items to be sold to satisfy
themselves that they were fit to be auctioned. They have denied the claim
in The Age that documents were handed by "an auction official"
to an unidentified "off duty public servant."

Extra guards were employed to assist in protecting both buildings for the
entire period of the move up until the auction.

A short time ago, The Age newspaper passed to the Department the one document
it had in its possession. It will be included in the departmental and police
inquiries.

For further information, please contact Paul Molloy, Media Liaison Section,
DFAT, on (06) 261 1594

Last Updated: 19 September 2014
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