Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Questions remain about agencies contacted by the ABC in Snowden scandal

We will not succumb to pressure to suppress or ignore legitimate stories to protect those in power.
Kate Torney ABC News Director

In November, 2013 ABC reported on Top secret Australian DSD documents that showed Australian Spy agencies tapped the mobile phones of the Indonesian President and his wife in 2009. The report included copies of Top Secret Defense Signals Directorate Powerpoint slides stolen by US contractor Edward Snowden, currently hiding from US authorities. Public disclosure of this information has done significant damage to Australian Indonesian relations. The Australian Newspaper recently provided important background information missing from ABC's reporting that provides an explanation for Australia's interest in the private conversations of the Indonesian President and his wife.

ABC justified its reporting and collaboration with The Guardian on the basis that release of the information was in the public interest. In senate estimates ABC Managing Director Mark Scott indicated that prior to the report being published the ABC discussed the story with "Australian Authorities". According to Alan Sunderland the communications were done face to face and the ABC retained no records, explaining the failure of an FOI request we made to see documents related to this advice.

Questions remain as to which agencies the ABC contacted and the advice that was provided.

We assume if the agencies involved had Australia's interests in mind they would have strongly objected to the ABC's involvement in reporting the documents in collaboration with the Guardian. Why did the ABC ignore these requests? If objections were not made then this would represent a serious breach of duty of care to our national interests. This is a matter of public interest and as such we will attempt to obtain more details of the advice ABC was provided.

In ABC's justification for reporting this story its News Director Kate Torney concluded:
We will not succumb to pressure to suppress or ignore legitimate stories to protect those in power.
We shall wait and see whether ABC live up to this maxim? Or are those words mere confetti?

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