Thursday, 21 April 2016
Then Australian Attorney-General George Brandis in March 2015: "Media organisations are not the target of this law. The targets of this law are criminals and paedophiles and terrorists"*
The Australian federal police have admitted they sought access to a Guardian reporter’s metadata without a warrant in an attempt to hunt down his sources.
It is the first time the AFP has confirmed seeking access to a journalist’s metadata in a particular case.
The admission came to light when the AFP told the privacy commissioner it had sought “subscriber checks” and email records relating to the Guardian Australia journalist Paul Farrell, and the correspondence was sent to Farrell by the office of the Australian information commissioner……
The AFP’s submission said: “You will see that exemptions have been claimed under s47E(d) and s37(2)(b) on some folios. These exemptions primarily relate to e-mail and other subscriber checks relating to Mr Farrell, and examination of meta data associated with some electronic files.” [The Guardian, 14 April 2016]
At 11.35am AEST on 17 April 2014 The Guardian published journalist Paul Farrell’s article Australian ship went far deeper into Indonesian waters than disclosed with this map:
And this observation:
The redacted version of the classified report, obtained by the Australian Associated Press under freedom of information laws, said: “Entry to Indonesian waters was inadvertent, arising from miscalculation of the maritime boundaries, in that the calculation did not take into account archipelagic baselines.”
Crucially, the report adds: “Territorial seas declared by foreign nations are generally not depicted on Australian hydrographic charts.”
But the digital map from the vessel casts doubt on these findings, and clearly shows the Australian ship crossing the red line that marks the point of Indonesia’s baselines and entering its waters past the headlands near Pelabuhan Ratu bay. Indonesia’s territorial seas are 12 nautical miles further out from where the baselines are marked in red. It is not known whether the digital mapping device was operational at the time the Ocean Protector entered Indonesian waters.
If he wasn’t a blip on the Australian Federal Police radar before the publication date of that article, Paul Farrell was from then on.
However, it is unclear if the initial request to investigate this journalist came from the then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, his department or some other individual or agency.
Although what appears to be Folio 3 of an est. 200 pages in Case No.5610147 seems to suggest that Customs (now called Border Force) may have been the complainant of record by May 2014 and the media finger points to the head of Australian Customs and Border Protection Services, Michael Pezzullo.
On 12 Febraury2016 Farrell stated of this investigation:
The files are made up of operational centre meeting minutes, file notes, interview records and a plan for an investigation the AFP undertook into one of my stories. Most concerning is what appears to be a list of suspects the AFP drew up, along with possible offences they believe they may have committed.
The documents show that during the course of an investigation into my sources for a story I had written, an AFP officer logged more than 800 electronic updates on the investigation file.
Farrell is not the only journalist whose metadata has been accessed in search of sources, but the Australian Federal Police insists that it has not accessed any journalist’s metadata for the last six months – the last time being in 13 October 2015.