Contributed by Adam Carlton
Connected to last week’s Federal Police raid on the Sydney office of the ABC, is the case of whistleblower David McBride. He is to be brought before a secret trial.
He will be allowed very limited representation by lawyers, who must be approved, in nay case. Nor will not be allowed to properly cross-examine witnesses. Others who speak about it outside the trial risk being arrested and possibly face prison themselves.
It has all the makings of the infamous Guantanamo trials in the United States.
The Australian government is able to do this, thanks to existing ‘anti-terror’ laws.
David McBride does not have much of a chance of receiving a fair trial.
Critics have always pointed out that they would be used on other than those charged with crimes involving acts of terror related to the situation in the Meddle East and Persian Gulf. T
The Law Council of Australia has been sounding a warning about such a broad application of the laws. It has now come to pass.
This saga began when the 55-year old former army lawyer was told on 29 April that he would be charged under the National Security Information Act, after its invocation by the Commonwealth Director of Prosecutions.
He admits that he leaked certain documents to the ABC, which began an investigation after hearing the allegation that an Australian SAS soldier had cut off the hands of dead afghans. he also said her did it in the name of justice.
McBride says he witnessed the incident and concluded that he could not stand by and do nothing.
It turns out, the commander at the time of the unit allegedly involved in the hand cutting incident was Andrew Hastie, who currently a Liberal member of parliament and chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence Matters. There is an obvious conflict of interest. This connection and that action under the existing laws, must be under the direction of the minister, marks this as a political trial.
The soldier involved in the reported incident was cleared by the Defence Forces last year.
Documents handed over by McBride, specifically detail senior military officers discussing the option of chopping off hands. Others refer to those trying to bring legal action, as politically motivated, and mention a need to protect soldiers who might be targeted.
Despite everything, David McBride insists that his intention was never to expose soldiers, but to point the finger at politicians who do the wrong thing. His issue is that what he witnessed is legal under Australian law and soldiers in life threatening situations, can be pressured into committing acts they would otherwise not commit.
In this case they were instructed to collect fingerprints for identification and found an easy way to do it, at a time when they had to evacuate the scene quickly.
David McBride is being tried as a spy and accused of harming Australia’s security for this. His persecution is to be carried out under the secret cloak of an anti-terror law trial. One would have thought that misconduct and the failure to act on it would be much more harmful to Australia’s security and interests.
The strong suspicion, is that the government wishes to silence the incident, prevent its potential political repercussions, and it doesn’t want the public to know.
If anyone believes this is a once off, think again.
The former Australian spy operating in East Timor, known as witness X, faces a similar ordeal.
This case now known as Australia’s Watergate, involves the revealing of information that Australia’s former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer ordered the bugging of East Timor’s Cabinet Office in 2004.
Downer later secured a consultant position with resources company Woodside, which had benefited directly from negotiations over East Timor Sea oil and gas reserves, and to the detriment of East Timor.
Another person, Ashton Calvert, who was the Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs, joined the same company as a member of the Board.
Witness X is now fighting to prevent his case from being heard in the same type of secret court, and the same accusation of harming Australia’s national security.
In the first place, the two charged have only exposed allegations of wrongdoing. Acts like these are not defensible. The charges should be dropped.
There is also the matter of are laws on the books, which are driving Australia down a dangerous path. They provide the government of the day power to manipulate the law for political purposes, deny those they target a proper legal process, to prevent public accountability of politicians, high officials and military brass, and to punishes whistleblowers who bring abuses to light.
These laws must be abolished.