An Australian government official is facing trial for allegedly leaking the contents of a secret intelligence document produced by one of the nation's spy agencies in 2012.
The case of Michael Scerba, currently before the ACT Supreme Court, is shrouded in secrecy, with confidential documents locked in safes, and strict orders preventing prosecutors, court officials, or defence lawyers revealing sensitive information associated with the proceedings.
A Canberra judge has also ordered classified documents be destroyed within 28 days of the case ending.
A judgment published late on Friday said the charges against Scerba relate to sensitive information and data from a classified report produced by the Defence Intelligence Organisation in May 2012.
The DIO, one of three defence intelligence agencies, produces intelligence assessments about international developments that affect a foreign nation's ability to wage war or that could threaten regional stability.
Scerba is alleged to have improperly disclosed the information in the report, although the exact nature of the leak is unknown.
No date has yet been set for trial.
Scerba, represented by lawyer Paul Edmonds, is facing two charges and was committed to the ACT Supreme Court in June.
The first allegation relates to the unauthorised access to, or modification of, restricted data. The second relates to the alleged disclosure of information by a Commonwealth officer.
The case has created a tension between concerns for protecting Australia's national security interests and ensuring the principle of open justice, associated with the right to a fair trial, is upheld.
It has also warranted the intervention of federal Attorney-General George Brandis to protect sensitive information from becoming public during the case.
Lawyers filed a secret affidavit on behalf of a "senior officer" of the DIO explaining the national security ramifications of some of the evidence.
They applied for the information to be restricted, something consented to by Scerba's lawyer and the Commonwealth prosecution.
Justice Richard Refshauge said of the information: "It is my view that the disclosure of the sensitive information may cause prejudice, in some instances very serious prejudice, to Australian national security."
Justice Refshauge was asked to set ground rules for the case so Scerba could get a fair trial without compromising national security.
"A court must … consider each case separately to decide how significant the actual departure from the principle of open justice will be," he wrote in his judgment.
"The principle of open justice has long been recognised as fundamental. However, it is accepted that this important public interest is a 'principle and not a right'.
"Accordingly, the principle must, of necessity, give way or accept modification to ensure that the proceedings are conducted in a manner which serves the overall interests of society."
Justice Refshauge ruled on the application on Friday, making a series of orders to protect the sensitive evidence involved in the case.
"For the purposes of these proceedings, a version of the brief of evidence which has sensitive information redacted from it, and any such redacted document, may be used in the proceedings," he said.
The orders included instructions that all security classified documents be filed by handing the documents in a sealed envelope to the registrar of the Supreme Court. When not in use in court, the material would locked in a safe with restricted access.
The judge also ordered the report not be disclosed to anyone without permission.