As Australian Federal Police officers swooped on ABC headquarters at 11.30am on Wednesday morning, the broadcaster's head of investigative journalism was waiting.
Reaching for his phone, John Lyons would respond to the raid in a uniquely modern way: he live tweeted the whole thing.
Authorities typically like to do their work away from prying eyes but, over the course of the day, Lyons blasted out more than 50 tweets, providing a blow-by-blow, behind-the-scenes, photo-rich account of federal police carrying out their search of the ABC newsroom.
He was in the room as the police and the broadcaster's lawyers thrashed out which material had to be handed over.
Posting photos of the search warrant, he revealed it named ABC journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark and news director Gaven Morris and captured an "extraordinary range" of subjects.
He revealed that the warrant empowered police and their "digital forensics" experts to access a vast array of documents, data and devices, including journalists' notes, draft versions of the story in question, raw footage, meeting minutes and emails.
Just before 1pm, the cops were onto him: "The AFP have just realised I'm live tweeting the raid and raised it with me. I've said I think ABC staff and others have a right to know about a raid on our premises. I've said I won't use any names of alleged sources or confidential material. They've accepted this."
As of 2pm, the police had downloaded 9214 files that that were found in a keyword search. Lyons followed along as they went through them "one by one" to decide what fell within the scope of the warrant and could therefore be taken away as part of the investigation.
"This is a bizarre situation," he tweeted at one point. "I'm sitting in a room with 6 AFP officers conducting a raid who seem to be reading my tweets!"
Stepping away from his live tweeting, Lyons did a brief interview with 2GB broadcaster Ben Fordham as the raid dragged on.
He said the police were trying to "send a message" to journalists their actions were a violation of the free press.
"I was planning on having a very quiet night watching a game of football but I'll stay here," he said. "It could go on for hours, if not days."
AFP RAID: AFP say that they will confine their search to “very specific matters” when I say that we are extremely concerned that they are going to try for widespread access to emails and correspondence.— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
AFP RAID LIVE: AFP starting to access hard drive. Head of AFP team says “this could take some time.” Pretty confronting scene; six AFP officers trying to get into the heart of the ABC’s computer system. Is this a free media?— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
AFP RAID LIVE: serious again - the AFP going into a computer and saying they want any emails between Dan Oakes and a particular individual (I’ve chosen not to use this person’s name) relating to Afghanistan.— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
AFP now saying they want drafts and scripts of all stories relating to this issue. This really strikes at the heart of what journalists do as sometimes drafts have notes, names and numbers - that’s why they’re drafts.— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
AFP: the warrant seeks: “Handwritten/digital notes, diary/ies, correspondence - internal, external, emails & other electronic forms of messaging, minutes, reports, briefing documents, assessments, graphics, sketches, photographs or imagery/vision - drafts & final, story pitch...— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
(Continued) ...planning logs, broadcast and online schedules, raw or unedited footage in its entirety, journalist’s piece to camera, scripts -drafts and finals including voice overs, story boards/plans, status updates, website content, documents classified as ‘secret.’...— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
(Continued) ...together with any manual, instruction, password or other thing that assists to gain access to or interpret or decode any of the above things.” That’s the exact wording on the warrant.— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
In summary, the AFP want anything that at any point may have been involved in this story. This is, in my view, a chilling development for the Australian public. This is not just about the media, this is about the public’s right to know.— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
AFP LIVE RAID: ABC lawyers and AFP now arguing - ABC saying that any document with ‘secret’ from the search period should not be included in the warrant. It’s a good barney.— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
AFP RAID LIVE: I won’t reveal the name of the person but from sitting in this room it’s clear that the AFP is trying to gather evidence to build a case against one particular person.— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
The warrant is very broad - it includes any material (which I listed earlier) relating to the ABC, the ABC’s National Reporting Team, the Australian Defence Force, the Dept of Defence, the Chief of Army, the Special Air Service (SAS), the 2nd Commando Company...— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
AFP RAID: having downloaded 9214 items which include the AFP’s keywords, ABC techs are now putting all those into a new folder. The ABC and AFP will then go through those items one by one to see whether they fit the terms of the warrant.— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
AFP: I’m still staggered by the power of this warrant. It allows the AFP to “add, copy, delete or alter” material in the ABC’s computers. All Australians, please think about that: as of this moment, the AFP has the power to delete material in the ABC’s computers. Australia 2019.— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
AFP: For the record, one part of this extraordinary warrant: The AFP is allowed to “use any other computer or a communication in transit to access the relevant data; and if necessary to achieve that purposes (sic) - to add, copy, delete or alter other data in the computer...— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
AFP: (continued) ...or the communication in transit; and to copy any data to which access has been obtained, and that appears to be relevant for the purposes of determining whether the relevant data is evidential material of a kind specified in the warrant and...— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
AFP (continued) ...and to do any other thing reasonably incidental to any of the above authorised by section 3F ( 2A).”— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
How broad is that? Anything that is “reasonably incidental.”
I have to say, sitting here watching police using a media organisation’s computers to track everything to do with a legitimate story I can’t help but think: this is a bad, sad and dangerous day for a country where we have for so long valued - and taken for granted - a free press— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
Now the “culling” begins. ABC and AFP start to use a big screen to go through the 9214 documents to work out which for the warrant and which are not. Pic coming next...— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
Now for the really sensitive stuff. They’ve asked for the doors to be closed. (Somehow they haven’t booted me out so I’ll stay as long as I can.) This is a bizarre situation - I’m sitting in a room with 6 AFP officers conducting a raid who seem to be reading my tweets!— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
What’s happening now is on a big screen 9214 documents are being gone through, one by one. “Not relevant,” someone said about one. “What’s a Tardis?” one AFP officer said when he saw the word. “It’s like an editing suite,” someone replied.— John Lyons (@TheLyonsDen) June 5, 2019
- SMH/The Age