Australian ex-intelligence agent tried for leaking documents

Bali bombings

Bali bombings

The trial has begun in Australia of a former intelligence agent accused of conspiring to leak classified documents to the press. The prosecution is accusing James Paul Seivers, a former surveillance expert with the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), of photocopying secret intelligence reports about the 2002 Bali bombings in Indonesia, and leaking them to the Australian press, with the help of his co-tenant. The secret reports, which had been compiled a few weeks before the Bali bombings, contained warnings by American intelligence agents that jihadist groups in Indonesia were preparing large-scale attacks on popular tourist nightspots. The leaked documents were published in the Australian press and led to strong criticism of Australian intelligence authorities; the latter were widely seen as having failed to prevent the bombings, which killed over 200 people, among them 88 Australian citizens. Soon after the publication of the leaked reports, Australian intelligence officials raided a number of press offices in an effort to discover the source of the leak. They eventually traced it to Seivers’ co-tenant, Francis Matthew O’Ryan, who had used his personal credit card to mail copies of the secret reports to The Australian. Both men have pleaded not guilty to charges of communicating, or aiding and abetting the communication of, classified information, while O’Ryan claims he acted alone after discovering the classified documents in Seivers’ bedroom. But the prosecution argues that the two men’s cell phone records prove they were acting together. The trial is expected to continue for at least another week.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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