5 May 2004

spying a rat

The Bulletin's article Threats, spies and audiotape alleges:

The most explosive of the new allegations is that for six weeks no action was taken after Collins passed on details of an alleged spy. Collins says in his taped interview: 'Shortly before I was deployed to East Timor I had a junior officer of the corps came up to me and made an allegation about a mid-ranking army officer being involved in espionage on behalf of a foreign government. I thought on it for some time and decided I had no option but to report it, so I reported back to the Director of Army Security ... I didn't hear back from him, so I rang him some six weeks after that and asked whether there'd been any follow up, and he claimed not to know about it.'

Frustrated that nothing was being done about an allegation as serious as espionage, Collins wrote to Cosgrove, then head of the army. Cosgrove arranged for Collins to go higher and Collins ended up meeting Jason Brown, then with defence security, and now an assistant secretary in the Defence Department.

'In the course of that interview,' Collins alleges, 'I was reluctant to name my source to them, for a range of reasons, and in attempting to give an opening into doing so, Jason Brown indicated that he possessed such power - such coercive power - that things he set in train could even force people to commit suicide, which was a reference to the Merv Jenkins case.'

Jenkins hanged himself in 1999. He was DIO's senior officer in the Australian embassy in Washington, DC, and committed suicide after officials in Canberra decided to investigate him for passing Australian intelligence on East Timor to his US counterparts. Defence sources say Jenkins felt sharing intelligence with his American colleagues was acceptable but that after he was interviewed by the officials who had flown from Canberra, he became convinced he was going to be charged and killed himself.

The Bulletin also thoughtfully provides transcripts of evidence by:

These are chilling documents that suggest the Canberra bureaucracy does not recognise any limits to its power. It is a pity their prediction of events in Southeast Asia and elsewhere is so much less effective than their skill in corridor catfights.

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