Subject: Age Exclusive: Secret Timor reports `at risk'

The Age [Melbourne] Sunday, October 24, 1999


Secret Timor reports `at risk'


Confidential reports from Australian military officers on the crisis in East Timor were probably compromised because the Defence Department refused to provide secure communications equipment.

Defence and intelligence sources told The Sunday Age that there was ``serious disquiet'' at senior levels of the Australian military and its intelligence services over a senior Defence Department official's rejection of an urgent request for encryption technology by military liaison officers in Dili.

The officers' dispatches, including reports on covert movements by Indonesian military and militias, contributed to briefing material that helped shape the Federal Government's responses to the East Timor situation.

Australia's military intelligence agencies, meanwhile, have established that the Indonesian Army (TNI) planted spies into the United Nations Assistance Mission for East Timor (UNAMET), potentially compromising its operations before and after the 30August independence ballot.

Sources said the department rejected the encryption request in early July on the basis that it was in the interests of Australia, Indonesia and the UN for the operations of the liaison officers to be as ``transparent as possible''.

The department's response, they say, amounted to inviting the Indonesian military - which, with the militias, has been widely blamed for the post-ballot carnage - to spy on the Australian liaison officers.

But a spokesman for the Defence Minister, Mr John Moore, said the Australians were under the jurisdiction of the UN, which has a ``normal protocol not to use secure communications in these circumstances''.

``It was in keeping with the UN's wishes to be transparent, and we are advised that the MLOs undertook no activities which would have required secure communications,'' the spokesman said.

The primary responsibility of the officers was to work with the UN mission to ensure that the East Timor ballot was held in a free and fair environment. As part of that function, they acted as intermediaries with the Indonesian military.

But on an unofficial basis, the Australians were also sending reports to Canberra on the activities and covert movements of the Indonesian military and the militiasin a bid to predict their intentions before and after the ballot.

They requested the encryption device after finding it unsatisfactory to send their intelligence reports through the Australian consulate in Dili, which also lacked secure communications. Locally available communications, including local e-mail, was unreliable and had been ``penetrated'' by the Indonesians, they said.

A source explained that the Indonesians ``were bugging everything''.

``Consequently, Australia assumes that reporting to Australia by the MLOs ... were not secure and were accessed by the TNI.''

Six Australian officers were part of a team of about 50 international liaison officers attached to the UN mission.

The Sunday Age also understands that Australian signals intelligence has determined that the Indonesian military ``infiltrated'' the UN mission and had ``adjusted its operations accordingly''.

According to the signals intelligence, which comprised intercepted radio and telephone communications, some East Timorese employed by UNAMET were, in fact, agents of the Indonesian military.

While working full-time for the UN in East Timor, they were regularly briefing the Indonesians on UN operations in the province.

It is understood highly sensitive information was leaked out of the mission to the Indonesian military.

``It is beginning to sink in that here we had a quite heavily compromised operation. UNAMET and its MLOs and Civpols (civilian police) were in a situation where they were gathering material about the movements of TNI and the militias, and the TNI was penetrating UNAMET on several levels,'' an intelligence source said.

``First, some UNAMET staff are Indonesian agents; second, Australia's refusal to provide encryption technology means Indonesia was able to see their (the liaison officers') reporting.

``The Indonesians had a large flow of intelligence out of UNAMET ... and were adjusting their operations accordingly.''

Resistance leader Jose ``Xanana'' Gusmao vowed in Dili yesterday to rebuild his homeland from the ashes but declined to say if he would accept the job of president of an independent East Timor. ``I came to work here with my compatriots to try to begin sweeping up the ashes and to plant seeds of hope,'' he said. ``I will be here for the rest of my life.''

But asked whether he would accept the job of president, he said: ``When will they ask me? Many things can change.''

Mr Gusmao also said East Timor had to forget its past. The former Portuguese colony endured almost 24 years of often brutal Indonesian rule and was left in ruins after the violence that followed its overwhelming vote for independence.

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