The Guardian 29 June, 2005

Truth, Lies and Intelligence

Joan Coxsedge

In contrast to the boring, extremely dubious over-the-top Douglas Wood saga, a vastly more important story was buried in The Age’s Green Guide, one with ramifications for free speech in this country and the role of the media in reporting serious breaches and the heavy boots of our secret agencies.

The article described the background to the doco screened on SBS last Thursday called Truth, Lies and Intelligence, arguing what we have known from day one — namely that the Iraq war was based on a litany of lies — and what happened to the producer Carmel Travers during the making of it. She was the former head of Ten’s News and Current Affairs and a veteran producer.

In the middle of making the film, Carmel was "raided" by officers from the A-G’s department (shorthand for ASIO), who "cleansed" her computers of material they claimed could be a threat to national security and her hard drive was destroyed.

They didn’t bother introducing themselves but behaved like the Gestapo, becoming more bullying and threatening with each exchange.

Travers was one of a number of computers on the spooks’ hit-list and the thread appears to have been an email of an early draft of the book Axis of Deceit by former intelligence officer and whistleblower Andrew Wilkie, who resigned from the Office of National Assessments in 2003 in protest at our involvement in the war, material available everywhere and discussed throughout the world.

The SBS program Dateline, which ran a segment on the "cleansing of her computers, has established that at least five other people received the same draft of Wilkie’s book, and that each one has received a visit from the "government cleansing squad". The book had already been on sale for some months when the "cleansing" took place.

Dateline reported that virtually everybody involved in the production of the book had signed an agreement with the government preventing them from talking about how the book was censored. "Dateline understands that breaking this agreement can result in a jail term, and that the government initially tried to prevent anyone from even disclosing the fact that the book had been censored at all."

Because of the agreement that he had signed with the Commonwealth, Wilkie could comment on what had been censored from the book.

Dateline continued: "On the fifth floor of this building in central Melbourne are the offices of Black Inc, Andrew Wilkie’s publishers. The government cleansing squad spent a week here, going through every computer the draft manuscript had been stored on. After taking legal advice, no-one from the company was prepared to appear on camera."

Dateline went on to reveal how the government had come to know the contents of the book before it was published — a lawyer who had been asked to check for any inadvertent breaches of national security in the draft, had taken the manuscript to the Attorney-General’s Department, "without consulting either the author or publisher."

Carmel Travers later checked out the powers of the raiders, and of course, as we know, found they were within their legal bounds to behave in that way. A few years ago, ASIO was given the power to act like a virus by deleting or altering data on a computer.

The most disturbing part is that the "computer cleansing" incident was buried in a TV guide, and otherwise ignored by Australia’s print media. As I said in submissions sent re-ASIO’s powers, the legislation was a determination to curb dissent, to shut us up. (See article opposite)

A sobering reminder of the freedoms we have lost in the last few years and the dangerous direction we are going in. A giant step to becoming a police state. The least readers can do is talk about the intimidation used to try and stop the story from coming out.

And congratulations to Carmel Travers for finishing the film.

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