Australia continues to detain whistleblower who revealed espionage behind oil deal

Bernard CollaeryAustralia continues to deny freedom of movement to a former intelligence officer who revealed that Canberra bugged government offices in the small island nation of Timor-Leste, in an effort to secure a lucrative oil deal. The former intelligence officer, known only as “Witness K.”, is believed to be a former director of technical operations in the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Australia’s foreign-intelligence agency. In 2013, he publicly objected to an intelligence-collection operation that targeted the impoverished Pacific island nation of Timor-Leste, known also as East Timor.

According to Witness K., a group of ASIS officers disguised themselves as members of a renovation crew and planted numerous electronic surveillance devices in an East Timorese government complex. The inside information collected from those devices allegedly allowed the Australian government to gain the upper hand in a series of complex negotiations that led to the 2004 Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) treaty. The treaty awards Australia a share from profits from oil exploration in the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field, which is claimed by both Australia and East Timor. But in 2013, the East Timorese government took Australia to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, claiming that the CMATS treaty should be scrapped. The East Timorese claimed that during the sensitive negotiations that preceded the CMATS treaty, the Australian government was in possession of intelligence acquired through ASIS bugging.

The claim of the East Timorese government was supported by Witness K., who argued that ASIS’ espionage operation was both “immoral and wrong” because it was designed to benefit the interests of large energy conglomerates and had nothing to do with Australian national security. But as soon as the East Timorese told the Permanent Court of Arbitration that they would be questioning a witness from ASIS, officers from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the country’s domestic intelligence agency, raided the Canberra law offices of Bernard Collaery, East Timor’s lawyer in the case. The raiders took away documents that disclosed the identity of Witness K., and then proceeded to detain him for questioning. They also confiscated his passport, which prevented him from traveling to the Netherlands to testify in the case. Read more of this post

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Australian spy agency reviews gun policy after ‘drunken episode’ in Afghanistan

Australian Special Air Service RegimentThe use of firearms by Australian intelligence and security personnel stationed abroad is being reviewed following an incident in which an intoxicated special forces soldier pulled a gun on a spy in Afghanistan. According to reports in the Australian media, the review was conducted by the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, a government-appointed office that monitors the conduct of Australian intelligence and security agencies.

It is believed that the Inspector General’s office began the investigation in 2014, shortly after it was made aware of the alleged incident in Afghanistan. According to unconfirmed reports, the incident involved two members of a “defence support team” who were stationed in Kabul. Defence support teams are highly secretive outfits that operate abroad and bring together members of Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) with officers of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) —the country’s primary external intelligence agency. Some reports suggest that a group of SAS soldiers had been drinking heavily at the embassy of Australia in the Afghan capital, and that one of them, who was heavily intoxicated, pointed a loaded handgun at a female ASIS officer, while verbally threatening her.

Cooler heads prevailed and the incident ended quickly. But it allegedly shook everybody who witnessed it, and it was quickly reported to the Inspector General. The watchdog promptly carried out an audit “to make sure guns were only being issued to foreign posts that really needed them”. Its written recommendations were circulated within ASIS earlier this week. However, the agency says it will not reveal the precise content of the Inspector General’s recommendations, because it could “prejudice [Australia’s] security relations with other counties” and place spies at risk.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 21 October 2015 | Permalink

Australian spies use paid informants abroad to stop human smuggling

ASISAustralian law enforcement and intelligence agencies routinely use paid informants in Indonesia and Pakistan as part of a decade-old covert war against human traffickers in the Indian Ocean. This information has been revealed by The Australian newspaper in response to reports 1 last week that Australian authorities paid traffickers to turn around a boat transporting asylum-seekers to the country. After the reports came out, many members of the opposition Australian Labor Party blasted the government for bribing human traffickers, and calling the practice “disgraceful” and “unsustainable”. But new information published on Monday shows that, when the Labor Party was in government, it instructed the country’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies to recruit and pay informants from within the human-trafficking networks abroad.

According 2 to The Australian, the use of paid informants is part of a wider secret war between the Australian intelligence and security agencies and the trafficking networks, which began in 2001. This “covert war”, said the paper, is meant to identify the structure and operations of human-trafficking syndicates and stop the constant flow of tens of thousands of asylum-seekers to Australia. According to the paper, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) was the first Australian government agency to begin the practice. It was followed in 2005 by the Australian Federal Police, which also began stationing officers abroad and tasking them with running networks of informants. In 2009, ASIS received $21 million (US$16.5 million) from the Australian government to develop networks of agents in several countries where large human-smuggling cartels are known to operate. The agency used the funds to station officers in several Indonesian cities, as well as in Pakistani capital Islamabad, where it operates in coordination with the Federal Investigations Agency of Pakistan’s Ministry of the Interior.

The Australian quoted an unnamed Australian intelligence official who had access to the intelligence reports from the ASIS anti-smuggling operations. He told the paper that the use of informants who are members of smuggling gangs was the only effective way of eventually “collapsing these networks”. Meanwhile, the government of Australia has refused comment on the allegations of bribing human smugglers.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 17 June 2015 | Permalink: https://intelnews.org/2015/06/17/01-1716/


  1. B. LAGAN “Australia accused of bribing smugglers to take refugees away” The Times [13jun2015] 
  2. C. STEWART “Spies, police have paid Indonesian informers for years” The Australian [16jun2015] 

Australia tries to stop ex-spy from testifying in international court

Australia and East TimorBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The government of Australia has confiscated the passport of a former intelligence officer who was preparing to testify at an international court that Canberra engaged in illegal economic espionage. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, is preparing to hear a case brought against Australia by the government of East Timor. The small island nation accuses Australia of bugging the offices of key Timorese officials in an attempt to acquire inside information on a crucial energy deal. East Timor claims that a group of Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) officers disguised themselves as a refurbishing crew and planted numerous electronic surveillance devices in an East Timorese government office. The information collected from the listening devices allegedly allowed Australia to gain an upper hand during negotiations that led to the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) treaty. The treaty, signed in 2004, allows the two countries to share the revenue derived from the exploitation of the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field, sections of which are claimed by both Australia and East Timor. But the Timorese side now claims that Canberra gained an unfair advantage in the CMATS negotiations through its bugging operation, and is asking for the treaty to be terminated. Sometime last week, Australian authorities found out that the East Timorese side had secured the cooperation of an ASIS whistleblower, who was prepared to testify at The Hague about the details of the bugging operation. The unnamed whistleblower, who is believed to be a former director of technical operations at ASIS, was prepared to tell the court that the operation was both “immoral and wrong”, because it was designed to benefit the interests of large energy conglomerates and had nothing to do with Australian national security. On Tuesday, officers from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), which is the country’s domestic intelligence agency, raided the offices of Bernard Collaery, who is acting as East Timor’s lawyer in the case. The raiders took away legal documents that disclose the identity of the ASIS whistleblower. Shortly afterwards the former ASIS official was questioned by Australian authorities, who then proceeded to confiscate his passport, so as to prevent him from traveling to the Netherlands. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #857 (hacking edition)

Mossad sealBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
►►UK spies hacked Belgian phone company using fake LinkedIn page. British spies hacked into the routers and networks of a Belgian telecommunications company Belgacom by tricking its telecom engineers into clicking on malicious LinkedIn and Slashdot pages, according to documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The primary aim, reports the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which obtained the documents, was to compromise the GRX router system that BICS controlled, in order to intercept mobile phone traffic that got transmitted by the router.
►►Indonesian hackers behind attack on Australian spy service website. Indonesian hackers are believed to have brought down the website of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Australia’s leading spy agency. The page was not working on Monday afternoon after hackers launched a “denial of service” attack. A “404 not found” message typically appears when a website crashes under a “denial of service” attack. The cyber attack is reportedly a response to revelations that Australia had been spying on its closest neighbor through its Jakarta embassy.
►►Hamas blasts alleged Mossad website. Hamas officials released a warning about a website called Holol (“solutions”), claiming it is a ruse set up by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency to recruit Gazans as informants. The website’s “Employment” page states, “due to our connections with the Israeli Civil Administration, we can help you bypass the bureaucratic tape and procedural processes which prevent you from leaving Gaza”. The site also offers Israeli medical assistance, “due to connections with the Ministry of Health and the Israeli Civil Administration”. Palestinians interested in contacting the website’s officials are asked to provide their full name, telephone number, email, topic of inquiry, and an explanation of why they are asking for help. Last month, Lebanese group Hezbollah accused the Mossad of being behind a website seeking information on Hezbollah’s intelligence wing.

News you may have missed #775

Ramstein Air Base, GermanyBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israel arrests man for allegedly spying for Syria. Israeli prosecutors have charged Iyad Jamil Assad al-Johari, a Druze resident of the occupied Golan Heights, with spying for Syria. The Shin Bet internal security service said in a statement that Johari, who is from the border village of Majdal Shams, was charged with “having contact with a foreign agent” and “passing information to the enemy”. The Shin Bet said Johari was arrested last month “on suspicion of maintaining contact with Syrian intelligence and passed information on Israeli army deployment on the Golan Heights”. The man’s family has denied the accusations.
►►German NATO employee charged with spying. Markus Koehler, a spokesman for German federal prosecutors, said in a statement that the suspect –identified only as Manfred K. in accordance with German privacy rules– was arrested Monday on charges of obtaining state secrets with the intent to provide them to an unidentified third party. The civilian NATO employee, who works at the US air base at Ramstein, is alleged to have obtained the data and then transferred it to his private computer.
►►Aussie spy agency looking for locksmith. In a new notice on its careers webpage, ASIS, Australia’s foreign intelligence agency, is looking for a “corporate locksmith”. “This is a unique role for a highly motivated and dedicated locksmith to provide complex locksmith services and advice across our organisation”, the notice states. “The position involves interstate and overseas travel, often at short notice”. The job notice says the successful applicant would have to manage the purchasing of all locks, safes and other secure containers for the service.

News you may have missed #767

Omar SuleimanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Aussie spy chief warns of ‘digital footprints’. For the first time in the 60-year history of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Australia’s main external spy agency, its Director has spoken publicly. Nick Warner used this unprecedented opportunity to reflect on where ASIS has come in the last 60 years, and the challenges it faces into the future. Among them, he said, are “developments in the cyber-realm”, which “are a two-edged sword for an agency like ASIS; they offer new ways of collecting new information, but the digital fingerprints and footprints which we all now leave behind complicate the task of operating covertly”.
►►India arrests alleged Pakistani spy. Indian authorities have announced the arrest of Zubair Khan, 37, of Uttar Pradesh, who was allegedly caught with several Indian Army documents in his possession. He had been reportedly asked to gather information on Air India pilots, military bases in the country, journalists who frequently visit Pakistan, and relatives of officials working in the Indian High Commission in Pakistan. Maps of cantonment boards and details of many battalions have been recovered from him, according to Indian media reports. Investigators are also said to have identified one of Khan’s handlers, a man named “Talib”, who works at Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi.
►►Egypt spies try to repair image as ex-Director dies. Egypt’s top spy agency, the General Intelligence Service —known as the “Mukhabarat” in Arabic— is taking a small but unprecedented step out of the shadows, in an apparent attempt to win the public’s support in the new Egypt. In an unusual move, the agency released a 41-minute-long documentary boasting of its achievements, presenting itself as the defender of the nation and vowing to continue to protect the country. The effort comes as the Mukhabarat’s former Director, the notorious Omar Suleiman, has died in the United States.