Subject: Former spy chief denies intelligence cover-up

Canberra Times (Australia)

September 1, 2007 Saturday

Final Edition

Former spy chief denies intelligence cover-up

Roderick Campbell

The Defence Intelligence Organisation's former director denied yesterday claims of a cover-up over a cut in intelligence to Australian troops in East Timor.

In the ACT Supreme Court, Frank Lewincamp, who left DIO in 2005, rejected claims that several of his staff had perpetrated a serious cover-up when they failed to tell an official inquiry that a 24-hour cut in intelligence had been a deliberate policy decision and not because of technical problems.

Only one of the three senior officers mentioned, IT manager Steve Hanson, had known the technical problems response had been wrong. Mr Lewincamp agreed it had been a serious failing by Mr Hanson not to inform the inquiry, headed by the Inspector- General of Intelligence and Security, Bill Blick.

Mr Lewincamp, a senior defence official, is suing The Bulletin magazine for defamation over two articles published in April 2004.

Among other things, the articles implied that the cut to the flow of intelligence to East Timor had been deliberate and ordered by Mr Lewincamp because of his dislike of whistleblower, Lieutenant-Colonel Lance Collins, the senior intelligence officer with the United Nations East Timor force.

Claims that this had put the lives of Australian military personnel at risk was described by Mr Lewincamp as nonsense.

Counsel for The Bulletin, Bruce McClintock, suggested the DIO's failure to tell the Blick inquiry the truth ultimately led to misleading the Australian people, in letters to newspapers and a letter from Prime Minister John Howard to Colonel Collins.

Mr Lewincamp did not agree but said the failure by individuals to reveal what they knew had been serious. Mr McClintock said two further expensive inquiries would have been avoided if Mr Blick had been told the truth.

Mr Lewincamp said, "It [one inquiry] could have been avoided if Mr Blink had found the correct cause of the cut."

He told Mr McClintock that he had been cautioned by the chairman of a Senate committee over a letter his solicitor, Ric Lucas, had sent to solicitors for reservist lawyer Captain Martin Toohey.

The caution referred to standing orders prohibiting anyone from intimidating or threatening a Senate witness.

Captain Toohey, who is also being sued by Mr Lewincamp, held a controversial inquiry into allegations by Colonel Collins over his treatment and the handling of intelligence. His report was widely published in The Bulletin.

Mr Lewincamp claimed The Bulletin had argued for two years that its allegations were true, but had then abandoned its defence. The hearing continues on Monday.

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