Crikey’s take on leaks to The Australian

Unfortunately we can’t see the story that this item from the Crikey newsletter refers to. It has been removed from The Australian’s website, but as Margaret Simons notes, it’s a disturbing development in police-media relations when this type of deal appears to be the norm.

There’s no doubt that security services worldwide like to cultivate tame journos and editors and there’s no doubt about where The Australian stands on international terrorism. Is there an interesting convergence of interests here?

In Richard Flanagan’s novel, The UnkownCover of The Unknown Terrorist Terrorist, this scenario is played out
in a fictional way, but hey…truth is stranger, so they say.

Top Stories

1. The Oz, the AFP and the Haneef leak: What is going on?

Margaret Simons writes:

What’s going on with the editor of The Australian, Chris Mitchell, and the Australian Federal Police?

Commissioner Mick Keelty was on AM this morning claiming that Mitchell had assured him that the AFP was not the source of the extraordinary leak of the record of interview with Dr Mohamed Haneef. Keelty pointed the finger firmly at Haneef’s defence team as the source, although Haneef’s lawyer flatly denied it.

What is Mitchell doing entering into this conversation with Keelty, given that almost any discussion of sources is dangerous for journalists, since it necessarily narrows the field of suspects?

Keelty also said that no Cabinet ministers would have had access to the material, so that would seem to rule out Government as the source.

The Australian and other News Limited papers have had a few stories recently indicating that someone in the AFP or the senior public service is speaking to them and showing them documents. There was this one last week, for example. One wonders how the sources feel about Mitchell getting cosy with Keelty.

The AFP have acquired considerable experience, and presumably expertise, in investigating leaks over the last ten years. Most recently there was the case of former Customs officer Allan Kessing, and previously the leak that put Herald Sun journalists Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus in the gun for refusing to identify their source for a story embarrassing the Government.

So the great unasked question at present is why the editor and reporters of The Australian aren’t having their doors kicked in as we speak. Presumably Mitchell’s conversation with Keelty has forestalled any such action.

Can the AFP investigate a leak from themselves? Will they do so? And if they do and prosecutions result, what sort of a position will Mitchell be in?

Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or submit them anonymously here.


2. Another terror case, another leak. A pattern emerges

Greg Barns writes:

Oh no, not again. A News Limited newspaper — this time The Australian — is the recipient of a juicy leak in a terrorism case. This time it’s an extract from a 142 page transcript of an AFP interview with Mohammed Haneef.

This is the second significant leak in a terrorism related case The Australian has published in the past three months. In May The Australian’s Cameron Stewart used leaked AFP material in a story on the alleged activities of those charged with aiding the Tamil Tigers.

In 2005, when ASIO raided premises in Melbourne and Sydney as part of an anti-terrorism investigation The Daily Telegraph, The Herald Sun and The Australian published significant details of the raids.

No issue can be taken with newspapers and other media outlets publishing leaks on sexy topics like terrorism. That’s their job. But the question is, is there a pattern emerging here? Why is it that when there are significant developments in anti-terrorism investigations there are stunning leaks to selected media organisations, which are generally damaging to the accused?

 

While AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty implied this morning that Dr Haneef’s lawyers had leaked the record of interview to The Australian, how can we be so sure, given recent history?

Law enforcement and security agencies have a long history of leaking material to suit their case, and seeking to influence the community climate. And one can never rule out the possibility that government ministers also leak material directly or indirectly in such cases for political ends.

So the accusation that Dr Haneef’s lawyers are responsible for The Australian’s front page coup today should be taken with a grain of salt.

There is also an irony in Mr Keelty’s protestation this morning that the leak of the interview with Dr Haneef undermines the judicial process. Surely Mr Keelty’s political masters have done that spectacularly over the past few weeks with their jack-boot approach to Dr Haneef and their gross disrespect of Magistrate Jacqui Payne’s decision to grant him bail.

One Response to Crikey’s take on leaks to The Australian

  1. Kitty says:

    I am have just commenced reading Richard Flanagan’s The Unknown Terrorist you mention above. I look forward to appreciating the apparent connection between fiction and the real “truth”.

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