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Australian government's worst-ever state-secrets leak: accidentally selling filing cabinets full of classified docs in a surplus store

Published: January 31, 2018
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Source: boing boing

Australian national broadcaster ABC has gotten hold of a massive trove of state secrets that were inadvertently sold off in a pair of cheap, locked filing cabinets purchased from a Canberra junk-shop that specialises in government surplus furniture.

ABC has inventoried and summarised the intelligence to be found in these cases, including memos detailing the mass-scale loss of hundreds of (different) secret files by the Australian Federal Police, which apparently was covered up with no meaningful effort to recover them.

This sets the tone for a series of data-mishandling mixups, which the Cabinet Files seem to typify. For example, former senior minister Penny Wong failed to destroy 195 military strategy documents whose release would constitute an "exceptionally grave damage to the national interest" when she left office in 2013. These documents included such light reading as "Defence plans to protect the United Arab Emirates from Iranian hostilities" and "Profiles of terror suspects." No action was taken after the matter was brought to the attention of then-PM Tony Abbot, a drunken racist homophobe whose administration was an all-round national embarrassment.

Other revelations: the National Security Committee under PM John Howard made a serious push to eliminate the legal right of Australians to remain silent when in police custody unless represented by legal counsel; an attempt by cabinet to make it harder to prosecute hate-speech in response to the conviction of a popular news commentator who published racist and factually unsupported remarks about Aboriginal people; a plan to sell the (disastrous) national broadband network by having telcoms giant Telstra make a series of pretend offers to provide the network, then pretend to capitulate to the government's excellent negotiators and accept terms that had been secretly set out in advance of the whole pretense; and much, much more.

ABC has published some of the source documents, but merely summarised others, "if there are national security reasons, if the information is already public, or to protect the privacy of public servants."

The thousands of pages reveal the inner workings of five separate governments and span nearly a decade.

Nearly all the files are classified, some as "top secret" or "AUSTEO", which means they are to be seen by Australian eyes only.

But the ex-government furniture sale was not limited to Australians — anyone could make a purchase.

And had they been inclined, there was nothing stopping them handing the contents to a foreign agent or government.

The Cabinet Files [Ashlynne McGhee and Michael McKinnon/ABC]

Secret govt files sold off in cheap cabinet: One of biggest security breaches in Australian history [Malcolm Farr/News.com.au]

(via Naked Capitalism)

(Image: Tanner Heffner)

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