Subject: ABC: New report backs Collins' 'Jakarta lobby' claims

Also: SMH: The man they couldn't silence

ABC Online

AM - New report backs Collins' 'Jakarta lobby' claims

AM - Saturday, 17 April , 2004 08:08:00

Reporter: Matt Brown

HAMISH ROBERTSON: Here at home, the controversy over allegations of bias and intimidation in Australia's intelligence services has deepened this morning.

A new report has been released, backing claims by top military intelligence officer, Lieutenant Colonel Lance Collins, who says he's been victimised by a 'pro-Jakarta lobby' in the intelligence community.

The Defence Minister, Robert Hill, is hoping that the deep rifts within that community, especially the Defence Intelligence Organisation, will soon be allowed to heal.

But Saturday AM understands that concern expressed in several classified documents, circulated within the defence intelligence community since 1999, contain a withering critique of the DIO's reporting on Indonesia.

And that concern persists within sections of the Australian intelligence corps to this day ­ with Indonesia still of critical importance to Australia's security.

Matt Brown reports from Canberra.

MATT BROWN: The latest report released by the Government backs the damaging assertion by Lieutenant Colonel Lance Collins that he was victimised by a pro-Jakarta lobby in the Defence Intelligence Organisation.

Written by army reserve colonel Roger Brown, who's also a magistrate in New South Wales. It states that:

"It's a vital element of both legal and intelligence work that advisors are free to tender their advice whether popular or not without fear of repercussions for failing to toe the party line."

And it adds that the findings of a previous report into the Collins affair "demonstrate that Lieutenant Colonel Collins was denied this freedom by those in the Australian defence intelligence community who did not like his opinions."

When the defence force received the results of an initial inquiry into the claims conducted by Captain Martin Toohey, it called for another legal opinion, and that report by Colonel Richard Tracey QC, found serious flaws with the Toohey report and cleared the senior management of the Defence Intelligence Organisation.

But it's now emerged that the Brown report, just released last night had found "no apparent formal defect in the Toohey report." The Defence Minister Robert Hill hopes that another secret inquiry, presently underway, will be the end of the controversy over the treatment of Lieutenant Colonel Collins.

ROBERT HILL: He's obviously a very capable professional. But those whom he is criticising, such as Mr Lewincamp, head of DIO, are also very respected and competent professionals.

This is the difficulty in this particular issue, and regrettably, despite going to the Inspector-General, which is what Colonel Collins requested in the first instance, the matters have not been able to be resolved to his satisfaction.

Well, now we've had that process, we've now had a military justice process, and now it's going back to the new Inspector-General, and I hope that that might bring the matters to finality.

MATT BROWN: But that's unlikely, because intelligence on Indonesia is today critically important to the safety of Australians on the ground in that country and to Australia's national security.

Terrorists are still planning attacks there and Australians are still at risk of being specifically targeted by militant Islamic groups. And concern about a pro-Jakarta bias in the Australian intelligence community is not limited to Lieutenant Colonel Collins.

About a year after he circulated an estimate on East Timow warning of the violence to come and accusing senior officers in the Defence Intelligence Organisation of being biased in favour of Indonesia, another expert analyst broke ranks to denounce DIO in front of the entire intelligence community.

As Australia's military geared up to go into East Timor after the vote on independence in 1999, a top military intelligence officer, Captain Clinton Fernandez, circulated a report throughout the intelligence network, classified secret, entitled 'The credulous few.'

It contained a stinging analysis of reporting by the Defence Intelligence Organisation's Indonesia section, alleging it repeated unsupportable claims that the Indonesian military were in East Timor keeping potentially warring East Timorese factions apart, as opposed to actively and centrally controlling the murderous anti-independence militias.

Around that time, Lieutenant Colonel Collins also wrote another withering analysis of the reports from DIO's Indonesia section, classified top secret, entitled 'Beyond credulity.' It contains more detailed quotes from DIO's highly classified reports.

The two intelligence officers attracted significant support from their peers, and that's why these documents are still important today, because since they were written a further analysis has been published and circulated within and outside the defence intelligence community warning that a pro-Indonesia bias continues to affect reporting on Indonesia's troubled Aceh and Papua provinces. And concern persists about how all of this reflects on Australia's understanding of the terrorist threat in Indonesia as well.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: Matt Brown reporting.

© 2004 Australian Broadcasting Corporation


The man they couldn't silence

April 17, 2004

Lance Collins is an intense, uncommonly determined man. In the words of the Chief of the Defence Force, General Peter Cosgrove, "very intelligent, perceptive and quick" with an "excellent analytical capacity" that gets to the "core of an issue".

He's also fearless in articulating his strongly held views.

"You could not get a more Australian bloke, a more principled man, or a more impressive intellectual," says Andrew Plunkett, a former military intelligence officer who worked with Lieutenant-Colonel Collins in East Timor.

They are characteristics that underpinned his rapid rise through the ADF to key intelligence posts. They also go some way to explaining why he antagonised his superiors. In the strictly hierarchical and secretive military world, many of high rank and status do not take kindly to having their views and capability derided in widely circulated emails and reports.

More importantly, Collins's tenacity - some might call it obstinacy - has sustained him though a six-year ordeal that cost him his marriage and left his career in tatters after he questioned military assessments of East Timor ahead of the 1999 independence vote.

Collins complained bitterly that his prescient assessments of Indonesian military-sponsored violence and the likely bloodbath in East Timor were going unheeded. He pressed on with his campaign, despite retribution by his superiors which would later be dubbed "disgraceful" in a report by a navy lawyer, Captain Martin Toohey.

"He's a sincere and dedicated individual," said one senior figure who has been adversely mentioned by Collins. "But, short of being told he's completely right and everything should be done his way, he's a hard man to satisfy."

Born in 1955 and raised on a farm in rural Victoria, Collins studied philosophy, anthropology and history at La Trobe University before going to jackaroo in Queensland. He joined the military in 1979 as an officer cadet and, on graduation, went straight into the intelligence corps, moving through highly sensitive posts such as the Indonesia desk at the Joint Intelligence Organisation, the electronic warfare division and rising to become deputy director of military intelligence by the mid-1990s. He also served in Kuwait in early 1998 with US intelligence.

General Cosgrove, when appointed to command the Interfet forces in East Timor, selected him as his senior intelligence officer. The archetype of the warrior-intellectual, Collins led an operation during the East Timor crisis to secure the independence leader, Xanana Gusmao, after intelligence revealed an assassination plot.

Collins reads widely, from tracts on military strategy and history to major works on philosophy and psychoanalysis. A particular area of interest is the Byzantine empire.

Of late, friends say he's taken a special interest in the Dreyfus affair, the scandal that rocked France 106 years ago after the Franco-Jewish artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason and sent to Devil's Island, even though he was completely innocent. It involved a massive cover-up at the highest levels of the military and was only exposed after the revered French novelist Emile Zola penned his famous article "J'accuse!".

Tom Allard

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