Date: August 19 2012
Julian Assange continues to be the subject of Australian intelligence reports more than a year after the WikiLeaks website published thousands of leaked US military and diplomatic documents.
In a recent freedom-of-information decision, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed to Fairfax Media the existence of at least two intelligence reports concerning WikiLeaks and Assange from Australia's embassy to the United States in February and March this year.
The secret Washington embassy cables, one running to 10 pages, have been withheld from release because they are ''intelligence agency documents.'' Australia's intelligence agencies - including the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service - are all represented in Washington and liaise closely with their American counterparts.
Other freedom-of-information decisions have also revealed Australian intelligence interest in WikiLeaks and Assange. In December 2010, Prime Minister Julia Gillard received a ''top secret'' ASIO briefing on WikiLeaks that was accompanied by media talking points concerning ''WikiLeaks release of ASIO-derived information.''
Foreign Affairs and Trade deputy secretary Gillian Bird consulted with ASIS when preparing briefing about WikiLeaks for former foreign minister Kevin Rudd in December 2010. The entire brief has been withheld from release on national security grounds.
Other diplomatic cables relating to WikiLeaks and Assange sent from the Washington embassy though late 2010 and 2011 have also been withheld from release because they contain intelligence information. Australia's ambassador to the US, former Labor leader Kim Beazley, has made high-level representations seeking advance warning of any US moves to extradite Assange on charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining secret US government information.
On Thursday, Ecuador granted Assange political asylum at its London embassy on the grounds that if extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations he will be at risk of extradition to the US.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr yesterday continued to deny any knowledge of any intention by Washington to prosecute Assange.
Senator Carr confirmed that Australia is monitoring the US military prosecution of Private Bradley Manning, who allegedly leaked information to WikiLeaks.
In June, Senator Carr told the ABC Insiders program: ''I've received no hint that they've got a plan to extradite [Assange] … I would expect that the US would not want to touch this.''
Australia's Washington embassy reported in February that ''the US investigation into possible criminal conduct by Assange has been ongoing for more than a year''.
A spokesman for Senator Carr acknowledged yesterday that WikiLeaks could be linked to that investigation but insisted that did not mean the US is intent on extraditing Assange.
British police are stationed outside Ecuador's London embassy, ready to arrest Assange if he leaves the building.
This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.
[ Canberra Times | Text-only index]