Sunday, 4 February 2018

Russian Dolls 101: news of historic Australian security breaches discovered nested inside a more recent national security breach

Opps, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) permanently lost 707 Cabinet and National Security Committee documents between 2008 and August 2013.

 The general public find out about these losses approximately four to ten years later in January 2018, when mention was made of the situation in one file document within thousands of other top-secret and highly classified documents obtained by the ABC after yet another security breach involving Cabinet papers and other classified files found in old government locked filing cabinets sold at public auction in Canberra.

Even John le Carré would have thought this plot line was nigh on unbelievable - but then he didn't know our very own federal bureaucracy.

ABC News, 31 January 2018:

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) lost nearly 400 national security files in five years, according to a secret government stocktake contained in The Cabinet Files.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet regularly audits all government departments and agencies that have access to the classified documents to ensure they are securely stored.

The missing documents are not the same files the ABC has obtained.

The classified documents lost by the AFP are from the powerful National Security Committee (NSC) of the cabinet, which controls the country's security, intelligence and defence agenda.

The secretive committee also deploys Australia's military and approves kill, capture or destroy missions.

Most of its documents are marked "top secret" and "AUSTEO", which means they are to be seen by Australian eyes only.

An email exchange between the cabinet secretariat and the AFP reveals the documents were lost between 2008 and 2013……

Troop deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, counter-terrorism operations, foreign relations and Australia's border protection were among the top-secret and sensitive issues decided in the five-year period.

The cabinet secretariat's general practice was to give up searching and write off lost documents if they could not be found after consecutive audits, according to another document in The Cabinet Files.

Of course it is only three or four years ago that nearly 5,000 secret, confidential and restricted documents from two major federal departments held in a "B Class" secure container ended up in a recycling yard in Canberra.

There was an internal inquiry at the time but that obviously didn't translate into accounting for the whereabouts of all secure containers/filing cabinets and safes holding sensitive documents.

Given the fact that Australia's public broadcaster actually had possession of documents in the latest security breach, rather belatedly the secutity services began to care about national security.

ABC News, 1 February 2018:

ASIO officers have moved to secure the thousands of top secret and classified Cabinet files obtained by the ABC, in early morning operations in Canberra and Brisbane.

Officers delivered safes to the public broadcaster's Parliament House Bureau and South Bank studios around 1:00am, just hours after the massive national security breach was revealed.

The ABC still has access to the documents, now kept in the safes, and negotiations are still underway between lawyers for the ABC and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).

The department launched an urgent investigation on Wednesday, after it was revealed the trove of documents had been discovered in two locked filing cabinets offloaded to a second-hand furniture depot in Canberra.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) launched an urgent investigation into how the massive breach occurred, within an hour of the ABC revealing the trove of documents.

But the ABC understands the Australian Federal Police (AFP) are yet to join the inquiry.

* Russian Doll pic found at Google Images

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