Subject: Age: Spy Whistleblower in E. Timor Vindicated

The Age (Melbourne)

December 10, 2004

Spy whistleblower vindicated

By Brendan Nicholson National Security Correspondent

The Defence Force chief denied a claim by whistleblower Lance Collins. It turns out to be true.

A fresh investigation has confirmed that the flow of intelligence to Australian officers in East Timor was cut off during the 1999 intervention there.

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Ian Carnell, who oversees the operations of several intelligence agencies, has uncovered new evidence confirming the claim made by a high-ranking army whistleblower early this year was true.

In March Lieutenant-Colonel Lance Collins, who was Australia's most senior military intelligence officer in East Timor, wrote to Prime Minister John Howard alleging that there were serious flaws in Australia's intelligence operations.

He said agencies sometimes told the Government what it wanted to hear and made incorrect assessments on East Timor and Iraq.

Colonel Collins also said that during the East Timor operation the flow of intelligence to Australian troops was deliberately shut down for more than 24 hours.

On April 21, Defence Force chief Peter Cosgrove and Defence Department secretary Ric Smith, issued a joint statement emphatically denying that the flow of intelligence was cut.

"There was never any cut to the overall intelligence flow to forces in East Timor, nor were the lives of Australian personnel endangered," they said.

The claims were subsequently investigated by the former inspector- general of intelligence, Bill Blick, who said that on the available evidence the shutdown was the result of a technical problem and not a policy decision.

Mr Carnell took over from Mr Blick and continued to investigate Colonel Collins' claims and interview witnesses who had not been questioned by Mr Blick.

Mr Carnell wrote to Defence Minister Robert Hill in November revealing his new finding that access to the intelligence database had been deliberately turned off.

He said that was not done on the instructions of the Director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, Frank Lewincamp.

Mr Carnell said there were at the time security concerns, including the need to protect certain categories of intelligence and establish limitation in the database on what particular groups of users could access.

He said the short-term loss of access did not seem to have been a critical deficiency in operational terms.

The executive-director of the Australia Defence Association, Neil James, said the issue must be investigated further.

"This only tells half the story. They've finally admitted access was turned off as a policy decision but they haven't said whether it was legitimately authorised or not.

"The finding begs the question of who authorised the access to be turned off and why?" Mr James said.

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