The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has obtained a treasure trove of top-secret and highly classified files, which it has dumped in a report titled: “The Cabinet files,” triggering the largest-ever breach of cabinet security in Australian history.
Top-secret documents relating to national security, immigration, welfare, communications and even controversial racial discrimination laws, which spans at least five administrations, somehow ended up at a second-hand shop in Canberra, Capital of Australia.
The ABC says the highly classified documents were locked in two large filing cabinets at a furniture clearinghouse store in Canberra without keys. An unidentifiable individual purchased the filing cabinets for a steep discount and then drilled out the locks to only discover thousands of files revealing the inner workings of government. All files are classified, some as “top-secret” or “AUSTEO,” which means government eyes only.
It is hard to comprehend the thought process here: Government officials misplaced keys to two large filing cabinets in the Parliment House, then decide to dispose of the cabinets after the keys went missing.
ABC reiterates that “no-one broke any laws” in this case, and it will be protecting all confidential sources who handed over the top- secret documents.
The embarrassing revelations for the government were reported on Wednesday by the ABC, after several days of leaks surfaced in media exposing unpopular government decisions from prior administrations in the 2013 through 2014 timeframe.
Here is a quick summary of the leaks:
- The Australian Federal Police (AFP) lost hundreds of national security files (separate from ABC leak).
- John Howard’s National Security Committee (NSC) gave serious consideration to removing an individual’s unfettered right to remain silent when questioned by police.
- Andrew Bolt consulted on changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was consulted when the federal government moved to change it, according to the draft legislation contained in The Cabinet Files.
- NBN Co’s secret strategy for negotiating with potential investors reveals the initial lofty ambitions for the project Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has since labeled a “calamitous train wreck”.
- The office of the new prime minister, Tony Abbott, was notified of the security breach in October 2013.
- Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and two senior Labor ministers were warned about “critical risks” of the home insulation scheme before the deaths of four young installers, according to a report in The Cabinet Files.
- Scott Morrison agreed his department should intervene in ASIO security checks to try to prevent asylum seekers from being granted permanent protection visas.
- Tony Abbott’s “razor gang” considered banning anyone under 30 from accessing income support in a radical proposal ahead of the 2014 budget.
Rory Medcalf, head of the Australian National University’s National Security College, described the top-secret documents as “very weird and embarrassing” from a national security and political perspective.
Metcalf said Australia’s allies, including the United States, should be concerned about the security breach, but should not be overly concerned.
“This is not catastrophically damaging for national security in the sense that that something like the Snowden revelations must have been,” he added, referring to the former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
On Wednesday, following the announcements of the security breach, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet advised an immediate investigation would be conducted.