Media Reports Concerning the Handling of Classified Material in the Australian Embassy in Washington
DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE AUSTRALIA
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade categorically denies
reports by Four Corners on 14 February and the Sydney Morning
Herald this morning, that its involvement in the investigation
into alleged mishandling of sensitive classified material by a
Defence Intelligence Organisation officer based in the Australian
Embassy in Washington reflected concerns about transfer to the
United States of intelligence material relating to Indonesia or
The allegations of the mishandling of information first came
to the Department's attention in late May last year, when Defence
staff at the Embassy drew the matter to the attention of senior
DFAT staff at the Post.
On 31 May the Department wrote to the Department of Defence,
at a senior level, expressing concern about the allegations and
about possible implications for Australia's intelligence relationship
with the United States. The letter noted that DFAT had an important
stake in the matter because of its whole-of-Government role in
managing the Embassy, its responsibility for mission security
and because sensitive DFAT documents may have been compromised.
The Department of Defence subsequently agreed to a joint investigation,
which was undertaken in May-June. This investigation confirmed
the seriousness of the issues raised.
It should be noted that, prior to the investigation, DFAT's
knowledge of the content of the DFAT material allegedly mishandled
was limited to two DFAT cables, neither of which related to East
From DFAT's perspective, the impetus for the investigation was
concern about inappropriate handling of highly sensitive classified
material, produced by DFAT and other Departments and agencies,
and not the actual subject matter of the documents.
The Department would also like to correct the view that it
sought to withhold intelligence material on Indonesia or East
Timor from the United States because of alleged policy differences.
There was no such intention nor significant policy differences
in this area.