Saturday, July 08, 2006

Archival rescue 70 ~ Iraq ABC

An ABC transcript relating to Private Kovco and Juso Sinanovic's body swap, archives 68 and 69.

Bosnian man's body returned home following defence bungle
Josie Taylor
PM - Friday, 12 May , 2006 18:34:00 ABC

MARK COLVIN: The family of the Bosnian carpenter whose body was mistakenly flown to Australia from Iraq say the Australian Government never contacted them throughout their ordeal.

Juso Sinanovic died of a brain haemorrhage in Baghdad nearly one month ago.

His 21-year-old daughter Jasmina says that during that time, no one from the Australian Government or the Defence Force made contact with her family.

In an interview with a Melbourne based investigative journalist, Jasmina Sinanovic said her father's funeral could now be held, after his body finally arrived in Bosnia.

Josie Taylor reports.

JOSIE TAYLOR: Very early this morning, on a crackly phone line from Sarajevo, 21-year-old Jasmina Sinanovic spoke for the first time to an Australian about her father's death.

She said the sole reason carpenter Juso Sinanovic left home to work in Iraq, was to provide for his children.

Jasmina Sinanovic spoke to investigative journalist Tess Lawrence, from Melbourne's community radio station RPH.

JASMINA SINANOVIC: He was a nice person, he was kind, he just wanted to help everybody, and the only reason he went to work in Iraq was just to get a better future for us, for his kids, and that's the only reason because all his life the only thing that he was doing, everything that was doing was just for us and because of us.

JOSIE TAYLOR: But while he was working as a carpenter for Halliburton subsidiary Kellog Brown and Root, Juso Sinanovic died of a brain haemorrhage.

Instead of his body being returned straight home for a Muslim burial, in Kuwait it was mistaken for that of Australian solider Private Jacob Kovko and flown to Australia.

Jasmina Sinanovic says that bungle has caused her family immense distress.

JASMINA SINANOVIC: They took the body and they transported it to Australia. It was really, really hard for us. It's hard to explain the feelings, the emotions, that all this time that we have been through is very hard.

You just don't have any kinds of words to express what you are feeling. It's very hard and painful.

JOSIE TAYLOR: The 21-year-old says the company that employed her father in Iraq has been in constant contact with her family, and sent an employee to speak to the family personally.

But she told Tess Lawrence, at no stage has the family heard from Australian authorities.

JASMINA SINANOVIC: No, nothing. They didn't contact us at all, nobody. Even the ambassador or… nobody.

TESS LAWRENCE: Nobody has called you?

JASMINA SINANOVIC: If you can believe, nobody.

TESS LAWRENCE: Am I the first person that's called you?


In some way I was surprised when I heard that you say that you are from Australia, because nobody called us, nobody contacted us, so we didn't expect anybody to.

JOSIE TAYLOR: Jasmina Sinanovic said her father's body has now arrived back in Bosnia, and a funeral service will be held as soon as possible in her father's home town of Jurjevic.

MARK COLVIN: Josie Taylor.

A spokesman for the Defence Minister Brendan Nelson told PM that a senior defence official was in constant contact with Bosnian officials in Australia throughout the process of repatriation.

Archival rescue 69 ~ Iraq, ABC

An ABC report, related to SMH archive 68.

Defence groups welcome Kovco report
Saturday, July 8, 2006. 7:20am (AEST) ABC

The nation's major defence bodies have backed moves to overhaul the repatriation of Australian soldiers who are killed overseas.

An inquiry into the return of Private Jake Kovco's body from Iraq has identified a series of mistakes.

Private Kovco's body was confused with that of a Bosnian carpenter, and the wrong coffin was brought to Australia from Iraq earlier this year.

The inquiry found the wrong body was brought home, despite being clearly labelled as another man.

Defence chief, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, says the mistakes will not be repeated.

RSL national president Major General Bill Crews says he hopes that is the case.

"Of course nobody can make iron-clad guarantees in this respect but I think this will overcome certainly the difficulties that arose in this case," he said.

In the future tighter regulations will mean the return of bodies will take longer.

The Defence Association's Neil James says commonsense should be applied.

"We think it's probably more important they get back quickly, than necessarily they need to come back just in a RAAF aircraft," he said.

Mr James says he is pleased disciplinary action will not be taken against the soldier who made the wrong identification.

"It was a badly lit morgue, the digger in question was emotionally affected, the surname of both Private Kovco and the Bosnian fellow are not dissimilar, they both had head injuries," he said.

"I mean, tragic though the mistake was, I think we can all understand how it happened and sympathise with the digger in question and certainly the Kovco and Small families don't hold it against him."

Private Kovco was the first Australian soldier to die during the deployment to Iraq.

Another inquiry, into how he died, resumes on Monday.

Archival rescue 68 ~ Iraq

A dog ate our tag.

Kovco mix-up: they missed the name tag
Cynthia Banham Defence Reporter
July 8, 2006 Sydney Morning Herald

THE botched repatriation of the body of Private Jake Kovco could have been avoided if anyone had bothered to check the cardboard tag attached to the corpse and presented to the Australian Army for identification.

On that tag was written the name "Juso Sinanovic" - the Bosnian whose body was flown to Australia by mistake - and Sinanovic's passport number.

The Australian Defence Force yesterday released the final seven-page executive summary, findings and recommendations of an inquiry by Brigadier Elizabeth Cosson into the mix-up, which followed Private Kovco's death from a gunshot wound to the head in Baghdad on April 21.

Brigadier Cosson found the army had tried to get the body home too quickly to meet the wishes of Private Kovco's family, so used a commercial mortuary and aircraft rather than military ones. The Americans take eight days; the Australians were trying to do it in four.

It was also out of practice in repatriating bodies, because so few Defence Force members have died in recent years, and its doctrine covering the use of foreign mortuaries was out of date.

The brigadier found the incorrect body was placed before Private Kovco's platoon sergeant by mortuary workers, who then wrongly identified it for a number of reasons, including poor lighting and crowding. The platoon sergeant also had too close a relationship with Private Kovco, and was not in the right "state of mind" to be doing the task.

However, she said: "Against these factors, it is unfortunate that no one examined the body with sufficient care to notice a cardboard tag attached to the hand bearing the name Juso Sinanovic and his passport number."

The Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said he had accepted all of Brigadier Cosson's 28 recommendations, and would implement them alongside changes already made in repatriation procedures.

He said he had not recommended disciplinary action against either the platoon sergeant - whose name he asked not be published, because the man had "suffered enough" - or the brigadier. The sergeant should not have been put in such a difficult position, and "if we had our time over again we would obviously use a different individual".

Of Brigadier Cosson - who mislaid her report in an airport in May, with its early contents then being broadcast on radio - the chief said he had referred her case to a senior army officer, who would "decide what action to take".

He said he was "totally confident she has got a career in the army. I see this as a human error, I see this as something she has apologised for. She is really upset about the fact this happened".

The Defence Force does not plan to release the full report until after the completion of a military board of inquiry into Private Kovco's death.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Archival rescue 67 ~ Iraq

Not an SMH article, an AP one. I'm archiving it here because it relates to something I am following, including an article I archivily rescued in February 2005.

Britain confirms security in Muthana to be handed over
Australia and Japan will also transfer responsibility in Iraqi province

June 28, 2006 21:14 (KST) London The Associated Press (apwire)

Britain, Australia and Japan will hand over responsibility for security in Iraq's southern Muthana province to Iraqi forces, Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said Monday.

Blair's official spokesman did not specify when the handover would occur, but said Iraq would take control of both civil institutions and security in the province as troops from Australia, Britain and Japan continue moving toward a support role.

"It is a significant step on the way to Iraq taking control of its own destiny, and therefore we welcome it," the spokesman said, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy.

Britain has about 170 troops in the province. They may be redeployed to other areas of Iraq rather than brought home when they leave Muthana, the Ministry of Defense said.

Japan has about 600 troops doing humanitarian work in Muthana's capital, Samawah, and they are guarded by about 460 Australian soldiers.

British Defense Secretary Des Browne has acknowledged that Maysan province, where Britain has 1,000 troops, is likely to be handed over soon after the transfer in Muthana.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced shortly after taking office on May 20 that Iraqi security forces would start assuming full responsibility for some provinces and cities this month, beginning an 18-month process leading to the eventual withdrawal of all coalition forces.

News reports in Japan said Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi would announce the withdrawal of the country's troops from Iraq on Tuesday, but he says he has not yet decided when to bring Japanese soldiers home.

2006 OhmyNews

Friday, June 10, 2005

Archival Rescue 66 ~ Chen Defection

Refugee recounts torture scene, Bob Brown helps dissident in hiding from Australian and Chinese officials, another asylum seeker speaks out;

Third Chinese man backs countrymen's claims

June 10, 2005 - 12:20AM Sydney Morning Herald

A Chinese refugee in Australia, who says he saw a dissident tortured to death, can confirm the claims by two of his countrymen that China persecutes its citizens and spies on them, his lawyer says.

Bernard Collaery, a prominent lawyer in Canberra, has detailed the story of an unnamed man who fled to Australia after questioning the torture of dissidents by Chinese security forces.

The last straw for the man was when he saw a Falun Gong practitioner tortured to death in his local police station.

"He hears the beating in his police station. He intervenes. He's told to go away. He goes upstairs to his office," Mr Collaery told the ABC Lateline program.

"His conscience stricken, he comes back downstairs and says: 'This must stop'.

"And then sees this naked man with his head in a chair, his legs poking out, clearly deceased, and he's horrified by it. That's the last straw."

Mr Collaery says the man was a senior officer in China's security service, but is unlikely to go public with his story because he fears for the safety of relatives back in China.

"He ... is a relatively senior, diligent, honest, serving state security official.

"He took considerable exception to the widespread torture of practitioners within his police district by this insidious gestapo apparatus that has been grafted onto the state security process in and throughout China."

Mr Collaery said he has verified the man's story by identifying the dead man and his wife.

"This has been done very carefully over the last times."

Mr Collaery said when the man had gone into hiding, his home in Australia was ransacked and some documents he brought to Australia had disappeared.

He has since been granted a protection visa, Mr Collaery said.

Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown has been helping Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin, who last weekend went public with claims China had a spy network operating in Australia.

Senator Brown said China's human rights abuses were well known and around 2000 Falun Gong practitioners were dying in its prisons.
Mr Chen should also be granted protection, he said.

"We must wonder how many other people who want to break from (China's) onerous system are deterred from doing that because of the concern that they won't be given asylum, as Mr Chen should have been given by the government when he asked for it two weeks ago," he told the Lateline program.

Mr Chen is in hiding after abandoning his post at the Chinese consulate-general in Sydney on May 26.

A second defector has backed Mr Chen's claims Beijing has a sophisticated spy network operating in Australia.

Also on Lateline, Falun Gong practitioner and Australian citizen Philip Law spoke about his arrest in China three years ago.

Originally from China, Mr Law, who has been an Australian citizen for 22 years, said he was arrested while visiting Beijing in February 2002 and held for three days.

He said he was seized on the street by plain-clothes security officers and asked to spy on his fellow Falun Gong practitioners in Australia.

"There were around about 15 plain-clothes, obviously police or national security office, they rush from all directions and caught me," he told the program.

"They asked me to spy for them. They asked me to, `once you go back to Australia, collect all the information we want and send back to us'."


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Archival Rescue 65 ~ Hao defection

Hao goes public, backs Chen;

Fresh from the Secret Force, a spy downloads on China

By Gary Hughes and Tom Allard
June 9, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

Amid secret passwords, mysterious faxes and last-minute arrangements to protect him from the alleged Chinese spy network he once worked for, the asylum seeker Hao Fengjun emerged from hiding to talk of the Secret Force.

This force, the 32-year-old Chinese police intelligence analyst says, runs spies in Australia and other Western countries.

Addressing media in Melbourne yesterday, Mr Hao - the second Chinese security official to defect in less than a week - said there were three levels of agents working for the Secret Force: the professional spies, who graduated from police college and were paid to travel overseas to collect intelligence "in all areas"; "working relationship" agents, who acted as businessmen and targeted foreign business groups; and "friends", who infiltrated foreign countries and became friendly with both Chinese and Westerners.

While the Secret Force's main job was to gather political and military information, it also closely monitored Falun Gong and other religious or Chinese democracy groups. Mr Hao knows all this because he worked for the "610 Office" in the National Security Bureau in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. His job, he said, was to collate and analyse intelligence reports sent back from Australia, the US, Canada and New Zealand about Falun Gong and other groups.

He claims to have downloaded some of these documents from his police computer into his MP3 player and given a sample of them to Australian immigration officials as proof of his claims.

Mr Hao, who has a bridging visa, said his dealings with the Immigration Department had so far been only brief, and he had yet to be interviewed by ASIO.

He and his fiancee applied for asylum after they arrived in Australia on February 15 as part of a tourist group. They have since remained hidden with the help of the Falun Gong in Melbourne.

Although he said he was using his real name, Mr Hao sat with his back to the cameras yesterday for fear of being recognised within the local Chinese community.

He said he faced execution if he was forced back to China. "I am nothing to them. The only thing waiting for me is death."

Although his claims are virtually impossible to verify, Mr Hao did show the cameras his National Security Bureau police pass, which had his photo and

the word "police" in English surrounded by Chinese characters.

Mr Hao said he decided to flee China after being detained for 20 days for making a critical comment about his government's treatment of Falun Gong, including the torture of its leaders. He said he feared for his seven-year-old son from a former marriage.

He decided to go public after Chen Yonglin went to the media at the weekend with claims that 1000 Chinese agents are working in Australia. Mr Chen, who worked at the Chinese consulate in Sydney, is also seeking asylum.

Mr Hao said he did not feel safe in Australia because of the Secret Force's presence. He did know how many of the force's spies were in country, but he supported Mr Chen's claims.

Mr Chen's case is gathering support, with Labor yesterday joining the Greens' call to give him asylum. "There is a strong prima facie case that Chen Yonglin should now be granted an appropriate protection visa, " Labor's foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, said.

The Greens made public a copy of the letter Mr Chen sent to the Immigration Department asking the Government for asylum. The May 25 letter appears to contradict claims by the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, that Mr Chen did not make a formal request.

Mr Downer said yesterday Mr Chen had applied for asylum but that he personally did not receive a formal application.

One of the victims of the spying, Mr Hao said, was Sydney Falun Gong follower Li Ying. Ms Li, whom Mr Hao used as an example, said yesterday she was aware China was spying on her because of her beliefs.

For Mr Hao's appearance yesterday, journalists were sent faxes at the last minute giving the address of the press conference and a password - "serene booking" - to gain entry. The fax was used because the Falun Gong organisers were afraid their telephones would be tapped.

At the end of the press conference, Mr Hao said he wanted to make an announcement. He had joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1991, but as of yesterday he was no longer a member. He was finished with communism.

"I will never go back to China because I know what waits for me," he said.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Archival Rescue 64 ~ Defection, Aus

Second defector speaks out, worked in 6-10;

Chen's spy claim backed by second defector

June 8, 2005 - 1:10AM Sydney Morning Herald

A second Chinese defector has backed claims China has spies operating in Australia.

Hao Feng Jun, 32, who says he worked as a security officer in Tianjin in China's north, says China has a large spy network operating overseas.

"They spend out businessmen and students out to overseas countries as spies," he told the ABC's Lateline program through a translator.

Mr Hao applied for political asylum in February while in Australia as a tourist and he says he is currently on a bridging visa, the program reported.

"If I go back to China, there's no doubt the communist Government will certainly persecute me. They know I have confidential information - some of it top secret - and I'll be severely punished," he said.

Mr Hao says he worked for the local branch of a security service known as 6-10, set up specifically to wipe out the religious group Falun Gong.

"Back in China I worked in the 6-10 office and every day a lot of time was dealing with the reports that were being sent in from overseas," he told the program.

"They'd send all this intelligence information through from Australia, from North America, Canada and other countries and are reported back to the National Security Bureau, but also the Public Security Bureau.

"They'd sent back lots of information," Mr Hao said.

His bureau in Tianjin received money from the Chinese Government, which was used to pay for spies to gather information about Falun Gong and other dissident groups, as well as military and business groups.

Mr Hao said he believed Former Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin's claims there was a 1000-strong spy network operating in Australia.

"I worked in the police office in the security bureau and I believe that what Mr Chen says is true."

Mr Hao said he had seen evidence that spies infiltrate groups such as Falun Gong overseas and collect information on their members to be sent back to China.

He said he started out as a policeman before being transferred to 6-10, but left because he saw evidence of torture by his colleagues.

"I had to go to the place where they'd detained a Falun Gong follower ... When we got there she had two huge black bruises on her back and two cuts on her back about 20 centimetres long.

"One policeman was using a half-metre length of metal bar to beat her. When I saw this I knew I couldn't do this work," he said.

Mr Hao's statements come after days of intense media coverage of Mr Chen's case.

The 37-year-old is in hiding after abandoning his job as first secretary at the Chinese consulate-general in Sydney on May 26, saying he faced persecution if he returned home after his four-year posting in Australia.

He said China had a spy network operating here, a claim Beijing flatly rejects.

But there are now calls for an inquiry into the Immigration Department's handling of Mr Chen's application for asylum.


Archival Rescue 63 ~ Defection, Aus spy network

Another defector, more denials from the Chinese Government, and more silence from Australia's Government;

'Secret documents exchanged' for asylum
June 8, 2005 - 2:02PM Sydney Morning Herald

The friend of a second Chinese diplomatic defector says he handed over secret documents to the immigration department as part of his asylum claim.

Hao Feng Jun, 32, who claims to have worked as a security officer in Tianjin in China's north, says China has a large spy network operating overseas.

Mr Hao has echoed the claims of Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin, 37, who is in hiding after abandoning his post at the Chinese consulate-general in Sydney on May 26.

Mr Chen has said China has about 1000 spies working in Australia and fears he will be persecuted if he returns to China after his four-year posting in Australia.

A friend of Mr Hao, Serene Luo, today said he had supplied documents to the immigration department in February detailing the monitoring of dissident groups, such as Falun Gong.

But she said not all of his documents were handed over.

"Only very few which related to Australian citizens and Falun Gong Association in Sydney [were handed over] because I think that related to his application," she told ABC radio.

"I arranged translation people to do the translation ... but the rest [of the documents] he didn't give to anyone."

Ms Luo said she had been told the case was being processed, but she was worried about her friend's safety.

"I was really worried about his security situation, his safety," she said.

"He is a former police officer and I do know that according to Chinese law a person like him is not allowed to leave China, especially [because] he brought so many secret documents.

"If he has to be sent back to China he would die."

Chinese Government spokesman Liu Jianchao today dismissed claims of a spy ring.

"The news spread by Chen Yonglin is totally fabricated," Mr Liu told ABC radio.

"They are rumours and we hope you will not believe it.

"These rumours are detrimental to China-Australia relations and China is ruled by law and all issues will be handled in accordance with the law."


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Archival Rescue 62 ~ Aus prisons, NSW

Eek. Ominous. Australian NSW prisons stretched and overcrowded, prison population increases by 40 percent;

Prisons swell as tougher sentences bite

By Jonathan Pearlman June 7, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

An increase in the severity of sentences delivered by criminal courts is adding to the surge in the state's prison population and a drop in the use of community service orders, new figures show.

There are more than 9000 people in prisons in NSW, an increase of more than 40 per cent in the past decade. But the growth has been accompanied by a drop of about 35 per cent in the use of community service orders, according to figures prepared by the NSW Bureau of Crime Research and Statistics.

The drop has led to the growing cost of maintaining and building more prisons. It may also be adding to the state's reoffending rate, which is the second highest in the country.

The cost of keeping an offender in prison is $173 a day, compared with $9.56 a day to administer a community service order.

A senior counsel from the Public Defender's Office, Andrew Haesler, said pressure from politicians and the media had led to higher sentences and "revolving door jails". "Taking people off the streets and putting them in prison has short-term benefits," he said.

"Sentences have been going up in terms of severity but people who come out of jail are not better for it or less likely to commit another crime. The longer they spend in jail, the less they are able to cope with the community and the more dangerous they are."

The bureau's figures showed only 2 per cent of sentences delivered in the District and Supreme Courts in 2003 were community service orders, compared with 16 per cent in 1994.

The bureau's director, Don Weatherburn, said the figures reflected a hardening of attitudes among judges and magistrates.

"People who previously would have been given non-custodial orders are being given a custodial sentence," he said.

"We have seen an increased proportion of convicted offenders going to jail."

The shift towards tougher sentences has led to steep increases in spending on prisons and staff. Last month's state budget set aside $928million for corrective services, up 14 per cent from last year.

The Government plans to create room for 1000 more at a new jail in regional NSW and expansions of Cessnock and Lithgow jails. The jail population is expected to grow to 10,000 by 2008.

While the number of criminal convictions increased by about 20 per cent in the past decade, the number of community service orders dropped by about a quarter.

Community service orders require offenders to work for up to 500 hours at charities, nursing homes, children's homes, museums and community centres. They are designed to assist with rehabilitation by allowing prisoners to live at home while contributing to the community.

Offenders worked for about 1688 non-profit organisations last year and provided about $11.43million worth of unpaid work, according to the Department of Corrective Service's annual report.

A lecturer in social work at the University of NSW, Eileen Baldry, said people sentenced to community service were less likely to reoffend because they retained their social ties and were able to compensate the community for their crimes. "Community service orders that require some level of reparation from offenders are very beneficial," she said.

"For a lot of offenders, doing some form of work for the community is a far more connected response to their offending than going to jail. The more you can keep someone connected to the community, the more likely it is they will be able to co-operate in the community with others."

Paying The Price

- The number of inmates rose by 40 per cent in the past decade, while community service orders fell 35 per cent.

- The Government plans to spend $928 million on the prison system this year, up 14 per cent.

- The cost of keeping a prisoner is $173 a day, compared to $9.56 a day for a community service order.

Archival Rescue 61 ~ Chen defection

Defector talks to Herald, one thousand agents in Australia;

History shows defector has reason to fear the worst

By Tom Allard June 7, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

As Chen Yonglin tells it, his pro-democracy views and hostility to China's communist regime date back to when he was just three years old.

It was during the Cultural Revolution, when cadres - the Red Guards - hounded supposed deviants from Mao Zedong's extreme interpretation of Marxism.

Chen Jinfu was one of millions who was "prosecuted to death", in the words of his son. "The death of my father has been a shadow over my head. I have always been thinking about this," Chen Yonglin told the Herald.

"When I entered the foreign affairs university I came in contact with Western democracy doctrines. I was thinking very much about the past and the future of China."

As he studied the work of Socrates and contemporary thinkers and models of democracies, he says he was profoundly affected by another notorious episode of Chinese brutality - the Tiananmen Square massacre. He says he was among the protesters before the carnage on June 4, 1989.

"Three of my friends, my classmates from the same group as me, were hurt …One was seriously injured with a bullet close to the heart."

The military crackdown devastated him, he says, but he decided to pursue his diplomatic career, eventually joining the foreign service in 1991.

Nonetheless, his pro-democracy views remained intact, if closely held, even as he rose through the ranks of the diplomatic corps. They moved him to quietly assist Chinese dissidents in Australia in his post as political counsellor in the consulate in Sydney, he says.

He did not regularly join meetings or take part in anti-Chinese Government plots, but it appears he was selective in reporting on them, his primary task at the consulate.

In his letter seeking asylum, he said he had particularly helped the Falun Gong, a group he described as a cult but also "socially vulnerable" and "innocent people". His successor, Gao Li, would uncover his work, he said.

The Chinese ambassador, Fu Ying, believes Mr Chen is more interested in jettisoning his diplomatic career for

the pleasant climes of Sydney, conveniently seeking asylum at the end of his four-year stint.

His wife had lost her job in China, Madame Fu said. His daughter spoke better English than Chinese.

Then there are Mr Chen's claims of a thousand Chinese agents in Australia and his assertion that the Chinese Government abducted its nationals overseas.

Warren Reed, a former Australian Secret Intelligence Service officer, has little doubt that Mr Chen is who he says he is - a diplomat charged with spying on dissidents who probably had access to very sensitive intelligence.

Mr Reed said there are perhaps only a couple of dozen full-time Chinese spies in Australia, but the Chinese intelligence network relies on many informants.

On the alleged abductions, an Australian intelligence insider said: "There are certainly cases where Chinese nationals have suddenly disappeared, right around the world."

Other experts were more sceptical about the abduction claim but broadly agreed that an awful fate awaited Mr Chen if he returned to China, despite Madame Fu's assurances.

Archival Rescue 60 ~ Defector seeks asylum

Desperate defector appeals to US after Australian government rejects bid for political asylum;

Chen sought asylum from US

By Tom Allard and Joseph Kerr
June 7, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

The Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin tried to defect to the United States last week after resistance from Australian officials to his request for asylum, the Herald has learnt.

The bid was met with surprise by the US, not least because the Australian Government had not informed its close ally of the explosive diplomatic and intelligence development almost a week after it came to light.

The Minister for Immigration, Amanda Vanstone, conceded yesterday that Australia had rejected Mr Chen's bid for political asylum.

China's ambassador, Fu Ying, promised that Mr Chen would not face jail or execution if he returned home, even though he had tarnished China's image.

Mr Chen - a senior diplomat at China's Sydney consulate who was responsible for monitoring dissidents among the Chinese diaspora in NSW - attempted to defect on May 26, weeks before he was due to be posted back to Beijing.

He says he was a democracy advocate and had helped Falun Gong members, among others, behaviour his successor in the Sydney consulate was likely to uncover.

Australian officials informed the Chinese Government, denied Mr Chen's plea for a safe meeting place and rejected his bid for political asylum without interviewing him.

On May 31 - after being told by a foreign affairs officer that his bid had failed and encouraged to apply for a tourist visa by an immigration official - Mr Chen turned to the US.

Using intermediaries, he relayed to the US chargé d'affaires in Canberra, Bill Stanton, that he was a senior Chinese diplomat with access to classified intelligence who wanted to defect to the US.

It is understood that the US consul-general in Sydney, Stephen T. Smith, was also involved in dealing with the request.

A US embassy spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that Mr Chen contacted a US mission in Australia about his situation."

The spokeswoman would not comment further, although the US took the approach that this was a matter for Australia to sort out. However, a well-placed source said Mr Stanton - the most senior US representative in Australia - and Mr Smith had had no prior knowledge of Mr Chen's walking out of a Chinese mission, even though Mr Chen's approach to the US occurred six days after the Australian Government first knew.

Australia and the US usually closely share intelligence, and a defection bid would have been a rare "code red" event, in the words of one espionage expert.

There have also been tensions between the US and Australia recently over the Howard Government's new closeness to China, especially after the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, said Australia may not come to Taiwan's aid if China invaded.

The Federal Government has denied that its negative attitude to Mr Chen's asylum bid and offer of intelligence information was linked to its pitch for a free trade deal and multibillion-dollar gas contract with the emerging economic power.

However, the Australian National University's Professor Hugh White said: "China has made it clear consistently that the development of an economic relationship is dependent on Australia being sympathetic to China's concerns on political and security issues."

Ms Fu said: "China has moved on. It's not the 1970s. China's not behind a bamboo curtain. I don't see there is any reason he could face jail because there is no civil crime in his behaviour … I don't know why he would be in jail."

Archival Rescue 59 ~ Seeking Asylum

Diplomat in hiding fears persecution if deported to China, Australian government turns down first visa application;

Chen lodges second visa application

June 7, 2005 - 8:50AM Sydney Morning Herald

A Chinese diplomat, who fears persecution if he returns to his homeland, has lodged a second application for political asylum in Australia, this time making a direct request to Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer.

Chen Yonglin, 37, is seeking asylum in Australia, saying he fears for his life after he walked out of the Chinese consulate-general in Sydney 12 days ago.

He has been in hiding with his wife Jin Ping, 38, and their six-year-old daughter, and says he faces persecution if he returns home after his four-year posting in Australia.

Mr Chen was denied a visa in an application received by the Immigration Department on June 3 but, after meeting a lawyer provided by the Australian Greens yesterday, he has lodged another visa application with Mr Downer for a rare type of visa, called a territorial asylum visa.

"There is now no doubt Chen Yonglin has made a direct written application to the Minister for Foreign Affairs for political asylum in Australia and a copy of that has gone to the Prime Minister," Greens leader Senator Bob Brown told ABC radio.

He said a claim by the Chinese ambassador to Australia, Madame Fu Ying, that Mr Chen would not be punished if he returned to China was a lie.

"Anybody who believes the ambassador ought to go to the US state department's human rights report on China, the most recent one," Senator Brown said.

"That shows that there are forced confessions of prisoners, torture, arbitrary arrests, extra judicial killings.

"There's over a quarter of a million people in re-education camps.

"They're of course putting the spin that you'd expect from a police state."


Archival Rescue 58 ~ Congo & Australia

Australian company implicated in war crimes;

Australian company accused of helping troops in massacre

By Meaghan Shaw June 7, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

Federal Police will be asked to investigate allegations involving assistance given by an Australian mining company to troops implicated in the massacre of more than 100 villagers in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year.

A human rights lawyer intended to make a submission to the police force asking it to investigate possible crimes against humanity.

The ABC's Four Corners last night reported the company provided vehicles, a charter plane and a guest house to the Congolese army last October to quell an uprising by rebels in the town of Kilwa, 50 kilometres from the company's Dikulushi mine.

Witnesses reported troops using the company's vehicles to terrorise the town, killing and beating villagers and looting their houses. A secret investigation by the United Nations found more than 100 deaths, with at least 28 possibly the result of "summary execution".

The company's chief executive admitted the company provided vehicles and the use of a charter plane to ferry "80 or 100 soldiers".

"This was a military action conducted by the legitimate army of the legitimate government of the country," the executive told the program. "We helped the military get to Kilwa and then we were gone. Whatever they did there, that's an internal issue."

Concerning the troops' use of the company's vehicles, he said "So what?"

Richard Meeran, a lawyer with the firm Slater & Gordon, has been approached by lawyers for two non-government organisations in the Congo and Britain.

"If they provided assistance to the military for the purpose of carrying out this massacre, and they knew that that was going to happen, then they would be guilty of an offence under Australian law," he said.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Archival Rescue 57 ~ Asylum seeker

Australia left me out to dry, says defector
By Tom Allard June 6, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

The fugitive diplomat Chen Yonglin says Australian officials immediately tipped off his bosses when he defected and repeatedly urged him to return to the Chinese consulate, despite his pleas that he was in grave danger.

Mr Chen, a long-term diplomat in Sydney with access to highly sensitive information, is the highest-profile defection since the Petrov affair in 1954. But in an interview with the Herald yesterday he said his request for political asylum was refused within 24 hours of his defection 11 days ago - without even a meeting.

Mr Chen, 37, who is in hiding with his wife and six-year-old daughter, said the information he offered on China's spies and kidnappings in Australia had been spurned. At every turn, he had been discouraged from applying for asylum and denied a safe haven. "I didn't think it would happen like this," Mr Chen told the Herald. "Australia is a democratic country. I thought they would help me. My family is desperate. We are helpless. We need to be in a safe place."

But the Chinese embassy said Mr Chen had been due to return to China and he "fabricated stories which are unfounded and purely fictitious" as a ploy to stay here.

Ties with China have never been closer and Australia is pushing for a new trade deal and lucrative gas contracts. The Australian Workers Union yesterday accused the Government of putting trade negotiations ahead of human rights, and the Greens leader, Bob Brown, said Mr Chen had been treated disgracefully.

Since going public at a rally on Saturday, Mr Chen has alleged there are 1000 Chinese spies in Australia and that abductions sponsored by the Chinese Government take place. ASIO has been concerned about Chinese spies but no intelligence official has yet sought to talk to Mr Chen.

On May 26 he walked from the Chinese consulate in Camper-down into the Department of Immigration offices near Central Station with his wife, Jin Ping, and daughter, Chen Fangong. He says his request to meet the department's state director, Jim Collaghan, was rejected, and other officers called the Chinese embassy. The Chinese consulate then called his mobile, so he fled with his family, taking a train to Gosford. He left behind a letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Herald. It revealed he had been given the task of monitoring the activities of "five poisonous groups" of Chinese dissidents for four years, including the Falun Gong, democracy advocates and separatists from Tibet, Taiwan and East Turkistan. Mr Chen said he had helped the dissidents, an act that would be viewed as treason and would soon be discovered by his successor.

"As a first secretary, I am able to access top confidential documents," he wrote, suggesting he could be an asset to Australia.

When Mr Chen finally got a meeting with Australian officials last Tuesday, he says he was advised to apply for a tourist visa.

The Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, said yesterday Mr Chen would not receive any special treatment and his application for political asylum would be considered "in the normal way". She refused to comment when asked if it would be embarrassing to grant a Chinese diplomat political asylum. "I'm simply not going to add to that," she said.

Mr Chen has now applied for a protection visa. The Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, asked if he believed Mr Chen would be persecuted in China, told Channel Nine: "That's something the Immigration Department will obviously have to weigh up."

It is the foreign minister who approves the very rarely granted visa for political asylum for diplomats. His office and department did not return calls.

The Falun Gong movement's spokeswoman, Kay Rubacek, said the group was shocked when Mr Chen admitted his sympathies, as he often used to confront its members. But she said he was brave to speak out. She said practitioners in front of the Chinese consulate in Sydney had been assaulted and sprayed with hoses, and "we've seen Mr Chen with cameras taking photographs of us".

Archival Rescue 56 ~ Chen defection

Small minded bureaucracy in Australia, as appalling as anywhere else in the world. A defector risks his life and uses his wits to survive the Immigration Department and DFAT;

Defector shunted from pillar to post
By Tom Allard June 6, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

When Chen Yonglin left the Chinese diplomatic mission in Camperdown on the morning of May 26 with his wife and six-year-old child, he knew he was taking a huge risk.

He also knew that if he was posted back to Beijing the following month, as planned, his activities would be uncovered by his successor.

He expected difficulties and stress. What he didn't expect was that one of the world's democratic models would treat his application for asylum in its borders - and the prospect of a treasure trove of priceless intelligence - with disdain.

His extraordinary account of his treatment (to which the Government would not respond last night) begins the day he defected, when the state director of the Department of Immigration refused to see him.

He presented his diplomatic identification to the departmental staff at the counter and begged them not to call the Chinese consulate.

They did, however, and Mr Chen fled the office with his wife when he was called by his boss from the consulate soon after.

"We went to the train station and caught the train to Gosford. There are not many Chinese there … so not much chance of informers on me," he said.

He left behind his explosive letter applying for political asylum and details of his access to top secret Chinese documents. He also left a contact number.

That night, he was called by an Immigration Department officer he names as Louise Lindsay. She asked for a meeting the next day but ignored his pleas for a safe haven and said there was no alternative but to meet at the department's Parramatta offices.

"I was really upset," he said. "I didn't want to go there but I had no choice, it seemed."

Mr Chen said he called Ms Lindsay back: "I asked if we could meet somewhere safe … a police station."

That idea was rejected, as was another option, secure transport to the department's office at Parramatta.

Knowing that the Chinese consulate had been warned of his asylum bid, Mr Chen decided that the risk too high and called off the meeting.

Ms Lindsay called him that afternoon, he said, and told him his bid for political asylum had been rejected.

"She also said it was extremely difficult to get other protection visa. She talked about business visa. I was very upset and ignorant about these visa categories."

Over the weekend, Mr Chen called Ms Lindsay, again asking for a meeting. According to Mr Chen, she said he should come to department's main office in Sydney on Monday.

After a marathon taxi ride to Sydney, "I was in the car park around the back of the building, and then I called her," Mr Chen said.

"She says she is not ready and needed to talk to her superiors in Canberra." Come back the next day, she advised.

By this time Mr Chen was highly agitated, but when he came back the next day he got his meeting with Ms Lindsay and two other women, who said they were a Foreign Affairs protocol officer and a senior Immigration official.

Again, he was told his bid for political asylum had been rejected. He said he was also told by the officer from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that he should return to the Chinese consulate.

He said the immigration official discouraged him from taking out an ordinary protection visa and suggested a tourist visa.

"My feeling was that they were playing with me under pressure of the embassy and the Chinese government," he said. "They discourage me with political asylum but encourage me to return to the Chinese consulate."

In the end, he put in in his temporary protection visa form despite being told it would be "extremely impossible".

Refugee lawyers say he may have saved himself by doing so.

He went public that same day, realising it might be the only way his bid for asylum would be treated seriously.

Archival Rescue 55 ~ Chen defection

Downer could grant diplomat a visa: lawyer
June 6, 2005 - 7:18AM Sydney Morning Herald

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has the power to grant a a Chinese diplomat seeking asylum in Australia a special political asylum visa, an immigration lawyer says.

David Manne, a lawyer and coordinator of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, says Mr Downer could take the unusual step of intervening in the case of Chen Yonglin, who says he fears for his life after walking out of the Chinese Consulate-General in Sydney 11 days ago.

"There's a very rare visa under the migration legislation called a territorial asylum visa, it's commonly known as political asylum, and it's generally by the minister, usually in fact by the foreign minister," Mr Manne told ABC radio.

"That shouldn't be confused with refugee status, it's different, but presumably it's for public positions, high public positions, for instance politicians or diplomats who need protection in Australia.

"As far as I'm aware there have only been a handful of visas granted on this basis in the past 45 years."

Mr Chen came out of hiding on Saturday to speak at a rally in Sydney at which he said the Beijing government had 1,000 spies in Australia and Chinese people were being abducted and taken back to China.

The Chinese mission in Sydney said Mr Chen was lying and made up the stories because he was due to return home after four years in Australia and wanted to stay.

The Australian head of the Federation for a Democratic China, Chin Jin, said Mr chen was feeling safer now he had exposed himself to the media.

"He feels okay now, he feels a bit safer then previous days," he told ABC radio.

"After his media public exposure and a lot of media coverage and being with us, he feels a bit safer."


Archival Rescue 54 ~ Seeking Asylum

Australian Government abandons asylum seeking diplomat;

Australia left me out to dry, says defector

By Tom Allard June 6, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

The fugitive diplomat Chen Yonglin says Australian officials immediately tipped off his bosses when he defected and repeatedly urged him to return to the Chinese consulate, despite his pleas that he was in grave danger.

Mr Chen, a long-term diplomat in Sydney with access to highly sensitive information, is the highest-profile defection since the Petrov affair in 1954. But in an interview with the Herald yesterday he said his request for political asylum was refused within 24 hours of his defection 11 days ago - without even a meeting.

Mr Chen, 37, who is in hiding with his wife and six-year-old daughter, said the information he offered on China's spies and kidnappings in Australia had been spurned. At every turn, he had been discouraged from applying for asylum and denied a safe haven. "I didn't think it would happen like this," Mr Chen told the Herald. "Australia is a democratic country. I thought they would help me. My family is desperate. We are helpless. We need to be in a safe place."

But the Chinese embassy said Mr Chen had been due to return to China and he "fabricated stories which are unfounded and purely fictitious" as a ploy to stay here.

Ties with China have never been closer and Australia is pushing for a new trade deal and lucrative gas contracts. The Australian Workers Union yesterday accused the Government of putting trade negotiations ahead of human rights, and the Greens leader, Bob Brown, said Mr Chen had been treated disgracefully.

Since going public at a rally on Saturday, Mr Chen has alleged there are 1000 Chinese spies in Australia and that abductions sponsored by the Chinese Government take place. ASIO has been concerned about Chinese spies but no intelligence official has yet sought to talk to Mr Chen.

On May 26 he walked from the Chinese consulate in Camper-down into the Department of Immigration offices near Central Station with his wife, Jin Ping, and daughter, Chen Fangong. He says his request to meet the department's state director, Jim Collaghan, was rejected, and other officers called the Chinese embassy. The Chinese consulate then called his mobile, so he fled with his family, taking a train to Gosford. He left behind a letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Herald. It revealed he had been given the task of monitoring the activities of "five poisonous groups" of Chinese dissidents for four years, including the Falun Gong, democracy advocates and separatists from Tibet, Taiwan and East Turkistan. Mr Chen said he had helped the dissidents, an act that would be viewed as treason and would soon be discovered by his successor.

"As a first secretary, I am able to access top confidential documents," he wrote, suggesting he could be an asset to Australia.

When Mr Chen finally got a meeting with Australian officials last Tuesday, he says he was advised to apply for a tourist visa.

The Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, said yesterday Mr Chen would not receive any special treatment and his application for political asylum would be considered "in the normal way". She refused to comment when asked if it would be embarrassing to grant a Chinese diplomat political asylum. "I'm simply not going to add to that," she said.

Mr Chen has now applied for a protection visa. The Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, asked if he believed Mr Chen would be persecuted in China, told Channel Nine: "That's something the Immigration Department will obviously have to weigh up."

It is the foreign minister who approves the very rarely granted visa for political asylum for diplomats. His office and department did not return calls.

The Falun Gong movement's spokeswoman, Kay Rubacek, said the group was shocked when Mr Chen admitted his sympathies, as he often used to confront its members. But she said he was brave to speak out. She said practitioners in front of the Chinese consulate in Sydney had been assaulted and sprayed with hoses, and "we've seen Mr Chen with cameras taking photographs of us".

Archival Rescue 53 ~ Iraq, trial

Prosecuting Saddam "a waste of time" says Iraqi government;

Saddam will be tried on only 12 charges

June 6, 2005 - 12:38AM Sydney Morning Herald

Saddam Hussein could face up to 500 charges, but he will be tried on only 12 "thoroughly documented" counts because prosecuting him on all would be a "waste of time", the Iraqi government said.

A prime ministerial spokesman, Laith Kuba, said yesterday Saddam was likely to be tried within the next two months on a range of charges, including alleged crimes committed in Iraqi Kurdistan.

"There should be no objection that a trial should take place within that time frame," Kuba said during a press conference. "It is the government's view that the trial of Saddam should take place as soon as possible."

No date has been set for the trial of Saddam, who is being held in a US-run detention facility in Baghdad since being captured in December 2003.

Kuba said investigating judges believe Saddam will be convicted on 12 "thoroughly documented" charges and could face up to 500 counts, but trying him on all would be a "waste of time."

"The number of charges on which he will be tried are 12 and the judges are confident that he will be convicted of these charges," Kuba said.

Saddam has been accused of ordering the killing of tens of thousands of Shi'ites and Kurds who rose up against him in 1991 following the Gulf War that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.

He was arraigned on July 1 in Baghdad on broad charges including killing rival politicians over 30 years, gassing Kurds in the northern town of Halabja in 1988, invading Kuwait in 1990 and suppressing the Kurdish and Shi'ite uprising.

Raid Juhi, head of the Iraqi Special Tribunal set up to try Saddam, said the former dictator's morale had plummeted because of the gravity of the war crimes charges he faces.

"The ousted president has suffered a collapse in his morale because he understands the extent of the charges against him and because he's certain that he will stand trial before an impartial court," Juhi told the London based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in an interview published yesterday.

Saddam's lawyer, Khalil al-Duleimi, rejected Juhi's comments, telling The Associated Press that his client was in high spirits and that he was not aware of the 12 cases the judge referred to.

"The last time I met Saddam was in late April and his spirits were very high," al-Duleimi said.


Friday, June 03, 2005

Archival Rescue 52 ~ False alerts "terrorism"

Howard and Downer stung. "Ramping up of emotion" unpopular;

Howard accused of over-reacting to letter scare

By Cynthia Banham and Anne Davies
June 3, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

The Government's rapid response to the embassy scare has met a mixed response, with some saying it was an over-reaction.

Clive Williams, a terrorism expert at the Australian National University, said he believed the Government had mishandled the incident in unnecessarily linking it to the Schapelle Corby case.

The offices of the Prime Minister and of the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, confirmed yesterday that they had linked the letter - written in Indonesian - to protests over Corby's drug-smuggling conviction in Bali before being briefed on a translation of its contents, which are not believed to contain any direct reference to her.

Mr Williams also criticised Mr Downer for referring to the substance in the letter sent to the embassy as a "biological agent", saying it had resulted in a "ramping up" of emotion in Australia and in the foreign press.

He said although anthrax occurred naturally, lethal forms of the substance had only been produced in state laboratories, and not even terrorist groups had managed to manufacture it.

Bacteria belonging to the bacillus groups - as the original analysis of the material indicated it was - exists in most households and is harmless.

Mr Williams said that "coming out and saying biological agent" was "basically just irresponsible", and that describing it as just "white powder" that was being investigated by the Australian Federal Police would have been sufficient.

Another terrorism expert from Monash University, David Wright-Neville, said he believed the Federal Government "did what it had to do".

"I don't think it was an over-reaction," he said. "You have to err on the side of caution with this kind of thing. The last thing you want is to underplay it and have a major diplomatic incident.

"[Sending the letter is] an outrageous and stupid thing to do and I think the Government responded in the only way it could."

But Mr Wright-Neville said he was "a little surprised" by the speed with which the Government described the substance as a biological agent and revealed that the letter to the Indonesian ambassador had been posted from Victoria.

The Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, Kevin Rudd, and the Premier, Bob Carr, visited the Indonesian ambassador at his residence in Canberra yesterday.

Mr Carr said he expressed his "commiserations" to the ambassador "about what was a frightening incident".

"I told him it is important to stress that, despite the Corby case, Australia is interested in having a good relationship with Indonesia - strategic, economic and personal exchanges - and that has to be reinforced," he said.

"His spirits were good. I told him Indonesia has a lot of friends in Australia.

"We have to curb anti-Indonesian sentiment that has taken hold in parts of the Australian population."


Wednesday, 10.28am
ACT police receive call from the Indonesian embassy about suspect biological material.

By noon Sample being examined in Canberra hospital.

2.20pm Foreign Minister Alexander Downer tells Parliament the AFP "are investigating a possible suspicious package that was received this morning by the Indonesian embassy".

3.11pm Downer says package contained a "biological agent".

4-5pm The Prime Minister, John Howard, says: "It would be the first time, if the preliminary results are confirmed, that such a biological agent has been sent in Australia … It certainly won't help Schapelle Corby."

6.40pm Howard tells A Current Affair he was told the letter contained bacillus bacteria, some forms of which are linked to anthrax.

7-8pm Federal Police believed to have become aware tests suggest the substance in the letter was almost certainly not an active bacteria.

10.31pm: All Indonesian staff taken home by bus.

Yesterday, 8.08am
Downer: "I can confirm there was a message … I haven't seen a translation of it yet, but … the parcel was sent from Victoria."

12.35pm ACT chief police officer John Davies says: "Very unlikely that the substance contained any bacteria of significant pathological significance."

6.23pm Anthrax ruled out.

Archival Rescue 51 ~ EU Constitution

Netherland and French citizens distrust new constitution

Dutch voters deliver another blow

By David Rennie in The Hague
June 3, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

It may take months, even years, for Europe to work out what the double no from the Netherlands and France means for the European Union.

Dutch voters overwhelmingly rejected a new constitution for Europe on Wednesday, following France in undermining the region's ambitions to play a stronger role on the world scene.

Preliminary results yesterday showed a 62 per cent "nee" vote in the Dutch poll, an even more emphatic rejection than the 55 per cent "non" verdict by French voters on Sunday.

But one message has already been made clear to all those countries hoping to join the European Union: Old Europe is turning in on itself. Frightened for their jobs and anxious about losing generous social welfare benefits, voters have little enthusiasm for further expansion of their once cosy club.

If one thing united the very different no votes in France and Holland it was a sense that the EU had expanded too far, too fast. In two decades, it has gone from 10 nations to 25, with Romania and Bulgaria both on course to join as early as 2007.

Croatia and Turkey have begun the formal accession process, while Serbia, Macedonia, Ukraine and Georgia all wish to join.

Interviewing French citizens last week, it often felt as if the vote was a referendum on enlargement, not the constitution.

The debate was dominated by the mythic "Polish plumber" coming to France to undercut French workmen and steal their jobs, and the "Romanian lorry driver" about to roar down French roads for miserly pay, cross-eyed with fatigue thanks to unlimited working hours.

French politicians from the no campaign complained, more subtly, about the speed with which communist nations such as Poland and the Czech Republic had entered the EU. They had a moral argument we could not ignore, said leading campaigners, because they had suffered Soviet domination, and then the Berlin Wall came down. The fall of the Berlin Wall sounded like a trap that France had been unable to avoid.

The French no camp, on the left and the right, was particularly incensed the new member states were proving valued allies of Britain, Ireland and other low tax, free-market EU nations.

One French Green European MP complained that the Franco-German alliance had been replaced by an "Anglo-Polish axis".

Marek Belka, the Polish Prime Minister, said this week that enlargement was in trouble. "That is so obvious you do not need diplomatic language to say so," he said.

One Eastern European official said his government was deeply concerned that a freeze on enlargement would be matched by France, Germany or other founding nations forging their own smaller "hard cores" within a weakened EU. "This outcome in France and Netherlands brings a different quality to the EU," he said. "Maybe old EU states will try to build a hard core; we're really frightened of that kind of integration."

The Dutch Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, said Wednesday's outcome spoke clearly of Dutch concerns about a "loss of sovereignty, about the speed of the changes and about our financial contribution".

"The Dutch people won against this crazy constitution," said Tiny Kox, a member of the small Socialist Party, which was pivotal in the "nee" campaign.

Britain remains a staunch advocate of further enlargement, including the admission of Turkey, in the face of clear opposition from voters in France and Holland.

Edmund Stoiber, the premier of Bavaria, said Germany's conservative opposition did not want Turkey in the EU, but rather to enjoy a "privileged partnership".

Telegraph, London, The New York Times

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Archival Rescue 50 ~ letter threat "terrorism"

Howard leaps to conclusions, shakily invents more bogeymen;

PM: embassy attack makes it harder for Corby

By Cynthia Banham, Mark Metherell and Joseph Kerr
June 2, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

Relations with Indonesia were plunged into uncertainty last night after a dangerous biological agent - possibly linked to anthrax - was sent to the Indonesian embassy in Canberra in a suspected act of retribution against the Schapelle Corby sentence.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, issued an immediate apology to Jakarta, describing the act as "recklessly criminal", and saying it was a "very serious development for our country".

It was likely the incident was linked to the outrage over Corby's 20-year drug smuggling sentence. "Can I say to people, please, this is not helping her. In fact it will hurt her and anybody who imagines that this kind of gesture towards the Indonesian ambassador is going to alter attitudes in Indonesia - it will have a negative effect on the judiciary, it will have a negative effect on political opinion in that country."

Mr Howard held back from labelling the act as terrorism, but if initial analysis proves correct, yesterday's events will be the first time in Australia a biological agent has been used to further political motives.

The embassy and Indonesian consulates have received a number of death threats since the beginning of the Corby trial.

Yesterday's discovery was made at the embassy when two staff opened a letter addressed to the ambassador, Imron Cotan, and a white powder fell out.

They alerted Australian authorities who closed the embassy for 48 hours. Inside, nearly 50 staff were isolated but allowed to leave late last night after being decontaminated. The substance was sent for testing to the ACT Government laboratories.

The ambassador was not in the building at the time.

An Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Marty Natalegawa, said Indonesia would "not succumb to such acts of intimidation".

Mr Howard said he had been told the substance was a bacteria belonging to the bacillus group. "It's still being tested … it's not an innocent white powder, it's some kind of biological agent," he told the Nine network. "I'm not a scientist but they say it belongs to the bacillus group and is being tested."

He said he could not "overstate the sense of concern I feel that such a recklessly criminal act should have been committed".

Mr Howard told the Herald the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, had phoned the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirajuda, last night, who was with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Mr Downer told Dr Wirajuda Australia was very concerned about the incident and strongly condemned it, and that the Government would work hard to track down the perpetrators.

A spokesman for Indonesia's Foreign Ministry, Marty Natalegawa, told the ABC last night that Indonesia would not be intimidated or close its embassy in Canberra.

Mr Howard said the incident was "damaging" and had put a strain on relations, which had been very strong in the wake of Australia's response to the Boxing Day tsunami.

The incident triggered a high-security operation with hazardous substance experts wearing protective gear and breathing apparatus to begin decontamination measures.

Australian Federal Police cordoned off the block around the embassy for most of the day.

A spokesman for the ACT police refused to say whether security patrols of the embassy had been stepped up. At the embassy, Superintendent Mick Kilfoyle said "the matter is currently being investigated by the AFP as a serious criminal offence".

Police and emergency officials last night appeared to be preparing for a vigil outside the embassy, with support vehicles, including portable toilets, being installed as night fell. Superintendent Kilfoyle would not say if there were any suspects.

The Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, Kevin Rudd, said he was disgusted, and that the act was "appalling".

There were 360 white powder incidents in Australia after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Archival Rescue 49 ~ two years ago today

Back flash - Andrew Wilkie;

A lack of intelligence
May 31, 2003 Andrew Wilkie Sydney Morning Herald

Australia's spies knew the United States was lying about Iraq's WMD programme. So why didn't the Government choose to believe them? Andrew Wilkie writes.

'Intelligence" was how the Americans described the material accumulating on Iraq from their super-sophisticated spy systems. But to analysts at the Office of National Assessments in Canberra, a decent chunk of the growing pile looked like rubbish. In their offices on the top floor of the drab ASIO building, ONA experts found much of the US material worthy only of the delete button or the classified waste chute to the truck-sized shredder in the basement.

Australian spooks aren't much like the spies in the James Bond movies. Not many drink vodka martinis. But most are smart - certainly smart enough to understand how US intelligence on Iraq was badly skewed by political pressure, worst-case analysis and a stream of garbage-grade intelligence concocted by Iraqis desperate for US intervention in Iraq.

It wasn't just the Australians who were mystified by the accumulating US trash. The French, Germans and Russians had long before refused to be persuaded by Washington's line. British intelligence agencies were still inclined to take a more conservative position. And the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, even went so far as to say during a late April interview that "much of the intelligence on which the capitals built their case seemed to have been shaky".

So it was no surprise in some of the more mysterious corridors of Canberra last week when news broke about the CIA investigation into the US intelligence failure over Iraq. In fact, there was probably some relief, given the importance to Australian security of having the US intelligence system work properly.

After all, the Australia-US intelligence relationship is supposed to be one of the main reasons for the broader alliance between the two countries.

The CIA had clearly lost the plot if its October 2002 report on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program was anything to go by. Either that, or the agency was party to a disinformation campaign designed to encourage support for a war. How else to explain the excerpt quoted by the Prime Minister in early February: "All key aspects ... of Iraq's offensive biological weapons program are active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War."

The CIA's public acknowledgement of a review smells more like early positioning for its day of reckoning than a genuine interest in continuous improvement. The CIA can't afford another serious blunder so soon after its failure to pick up the September 11 attacks.

Condoleezza Rice was smart enough to attempt her U-turn weeks ago. According to the US National Security Adviser, WMD bombs, missiles and drones are out. Dual-use technology and just-in-time manufacturing are in. Find a pesticide factory, for instance, and you find a chemical warfare facility. And don't be concerned about looters. The more the place is trashed, the more difficult will be any dispute about the evidence. More recently, the US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, has said publicly that Iraq may have destroyed its WMDs prior to the war.

The Howard Government will not be keen for an inquiry into Australian assessments on Iraq. Much better to let the whiff of US intelligence failure drift across the Pacific in the hope it implies that Australia was the victim of advice beyond its control. The last thing the Government wants is too much scrutiny of its claims about Iraq's WMDs and links to al-Qaeda, or the fact these claims were in the main contrary to advice from the Government's intelligence community.

Some in the Australian intelligence community had latched onto the dodgy American intelligence, resulting in partial contamination of assessments with an overestimation of Iraq's WMD capability. But Australian intelligence agencies made it clear to the Government all along that Iraq did not have a massive WMD program (that dubious honour remains restricted to at least China, France, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Britain and the US). Nor was Saddam Hussein co-operating actively with al-Qaeda. And there was no indication Iraq was intending to pass WMDs to terrorists.

There could not have been any doubt whatsoever about all this in the mind of the Prime Minister or of any member of the national security committee of cabinet. Report after report from the bureaucracy made it abundantly clear that the US impatience to go for Iraq had very little to do with WMDs and an awful lot to do with US strategic and domestic interests. John Howard's suggestion yesterday that the Government strong line on WMDs matched intelligence advice is contrary to the more moderate line contained in ONA reporting.

Yet Australia was happy to go along with George Bush. Shame it put thousands of Australian troops at risk, cost nearly a billion dollars and has increased the terrorist threat to Australia.

Howard's February statement on Iraq was like something out of a time warp - one Gulf war and 12 years of international sanctions and UN weapons inspections out of date. "Iraq has form. Saddam Hussein has without provocation invaded Iran and Kuwait. He has fired missiles at Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain, and Qatar," he told Australians.

THE ONA was central in the lead-up to war. It understood months before it commenced that war was inevitable and Australia would be involved.

Despite Howard's protestations that no decision had yet been made, the ONA's people in Washington were frantically calling on their best contacts in the State Department and the CIA. Analysts in Canberra were preparing assessments almost daily; briefing teams were tramping back and forth to Parliament House constantly. Staff were gearing up to run a round-the-clock intelligence assessment function.

Now the WMD claims are unravelling. All that US intelligence garbage is on the nose. Coalition forces in Iraq have not found thousands of chemical artillery shells ready to be fired or ballistic missiles loaded with deadly bacteriological agents.

Moreover Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, has explained the WMD justification as a bureaucratic compromise, while a senior British spook has been reported as saying his country's public dossier on Iraq's WMD programme was manipulated by Downing Street to make a more compelling case for war

There is no big al-Qaeda apparatus - not even a box of plans for spiriting WMDs to terrorists. Only a broken country and a disgruntled people. Oh, and lots of oil.

That explains Howard's lurch towards his much-broader muddle of reasons for involvement in the war.

This is not to say that Iraq was of no concern or that some WMD-related materials will never be found in Iraq. Iraq had what's known in the business as a breakout WMD capability in its many dual-use facilities. The Fallujah III castor oil production plant near Baghdad, for example, was, like similar plants elsewhere in the world, suitable for conversion to a ricin toxin factory.

And Iraq, again like many countries including Australia, probably still has stockpiles of potential WMD ingredients - the chlorine needed for clean water, for example, can also be used to make deadly chemical agents.

Moreover, Iraq almost certainly had other WMD-related materials. US claims about mobile biological warfare facilities could yet prove true, though the implication that Iraq's biological weapons program relied on a handful of trailers tends to confirm the program was limited.

The trailers, and any other finds, will remain irrelevant until scrutinised by independent officials. The same goes for the interrogation reports of former Iraqi scientists, including those now detained in Morocco. With so much at stake, the possibility can't be ruled out that a zealous coalition official might attempt to tamper with the evidence.

Claims by Iraqis in custody that the WMD program was dismantled before the war could be true, especially if Saddam thought he could survive the war and achieve some sort of moral victory. But that would mean the program must have been much smaller than US assessments. Just as elusive is hard evidence of active co-operation with al-Qaeda. This was always an extraordinary proposition, not least because Saddam was a secular dictator intent on eradicating Islamic fundamentalism.

Another mystery is the Howard Government's enthusiasm for playing up the more general risk of WMD terrorism. It was well-advised, in briefing after briefing by ONA, that the risk of such an attack was - and still is - low, and that any such attack would almost certainly involve an unsophisticated device incapable of causing mass casualties. The chemical, biological or radiological device used was not likely to be a true WMD. The Government had also been advised of the many reasons countries do not pass WMDs to terrorists, not least the fear of massive US retaliation.

One of the major concerns about the war now is the way it will encourage the proliferation of WMDs. America's adversaries are being encouraged to acquire WMDs to deter US aggression. Mutually assured destruction kept the US and Soviet Union from each other's throats for decades. And, for now, Iran's and North Korea's arsenals seem to be influencing the US to back off.

Not that the US has any interest in multilateral arms control. The neo-cons in Washington think arms control doesn't work and is contrary to US interests.

Hence the US's lack of interest in the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban and Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaties. Washington's determination to develop new battlefield nuclear weapons is an especially alarming development.

"This is not going unnoticed and will come back to haunt us," says Richard Butler, the former head of the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq. "It's simply preposterous for the US to take the stand that it does on other people's WMD and ask the world to believe that its such weapons are of no such concern ..."

Another big concern is the dumbing-down and politicisation of Australia's intelligence. Most junior analysts try to offer frank and fearless advice. But the process is flawed. It involves so many layers of politically astute managers that the final result is often a report so bland as to be virtually worthless, or skewed ever so subtly towards the Government's preferred line. Better that, management would argue, than a brave report prepared in good faith that contradicts Government thinking or is likely to prove wrong over time.

Not that leaving the sharp edges on the intelligence reports would make much difference if a government chooses to believe only what it wants to believe and selects from the intelligence only what best suits its political purposes. The Federal Government pays much more attention to the mush of politicians' and advisers' views, public opinion and media commentary. And it applies a good dose of pro-US sycophancy. The result can be a fine compost indeed, as this whole Iraq business has proven.

Andrew Wilkie is a former analyst at the Office of National Assessments who resigned in protest at the Federal Government's actions over the Iraq war.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Archival Rescue 48 ~ Aus detention

Disturbing, released detainee speaks out about harsh treatment... and is promptly locked back up again.

Rau back in psychiatric care
May 27, 2005 - 12:23pm Sydney Morning Herald

Cornelia Rau has been returned to psychiatric care in Adelaide, just days after being released into the community.

After being wrongfully locked up in immigration detention last year, Ms Rau was released from the psychiatric ward at the Royal Adelaide Hospital on Monday on strict conditions that included taking medication daily.

However, her guardian - the Office of the Public Advocate - said today the former Qantas flight attendant had been returned to the Glenside Psychiatric Hospital on Wednesday night.

Spokeswoman Margaret Farr said the public advocate believed things had got "out of hand" in terms of what information had been reported in the press.

"We would ask if the media could respect her privacy," Ms Farr said.

"So what we are saying is just that she has been returned to hospital for further assessment."

Following her release, Ms Rau caused her carers some worry on Tuesday when she left her accommodation in the morning and did not return until late that night.

While she was essentially free to come and go as she pleased, her long absence raised concerns.

On Monday Ms Rau, whose wrongful immigration detention is now the subject of an official inquiry, said she would pursue financial compensation in the courts.

Ms Rau was wrongly identified as an illegal immigrant last year and held in a Queensland prison and then in the Baxter Immigration Detention Centre in South Australia for a total of 10 months.

Ms Rau said she had been "locked up in a cage like a caged animal".

Her lawyer, Claire O'Connor said Ms Rau was upset at being returned to Glenside and it was hoped another trial release could be arranged soon.

Archival Rescue 47 ~ Aus Detention

Over 88,000 detentions, 200 cases of "extra" wrongly detained detainees, and Howard is still trying to cover his eyes. One has the sense Australia's immigration and mandatory detention policy is collapsing in tatters, all a journalist need do is walk past, nudge a toe at the keeling edifice and another collumn comes tumbling down;

PM won't step up detainee enquiry
By Joseph Kerr and Louise Dodson
May 27, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

The Federal Government yesterday ruled out a royal commission into hundreds of cases of people being detained when they were lawfully in Australia. This is despite reports that its appointed investigator has called for a judicial inquiry.

While Liberal MPs pushing for changes to the detention system have attracted support from the Anglican Church and the public, the Prime Minister, John Howard, has defended the Immigration Department, which is under investigation over more than 200 detention cases, and the Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone.

Mr Howard said more than 88,000 people had been detained by the Department of Immigration between July 2000 and April 2005, so the 201 cases under investigation represented only 0.2 per cent of the total.

A former Federal Police commissioner, Mick Palmer, is heading an investigation into the cases after he was appointed in February to review the wrongful incarceration of German-born Australian resident Cornelia Rau, but it is unclear if he will see out the full investigation.

In Parliament yesterday, Mr Howard said he did "not intend to relieve Senator Vanstone of her responsibilities" but he suggested improvements could be made to the detention system after Mr Palmer had submitted his recommendations.

Senator Vanstone has refused to respond to reports that Mr Palmer has told her he will no longer head the inquiry after submitting his report on Ms Rau in about three weeks' time, or that he has called for a judicial investigation into the other cases.

Until the end of June, the other senior officer with the inquiry, former Victorian chief police commissioner Neil Comrie, will be in charge of the investigation into deported Australian woman, Vivian Alvarez Solon, and the other detention cases.

According to documents obtained by the Herald, Mr Palmer has two contracts with the Immigration Department, one worth $291,500 and the other $150,000. Mr Comrie also has two contracts, one worth $220,000 and the other $110,000.

A Senate committee heard last night that Mr Palmer and Mr Comrie are involved in a security company named Global Village Survival. It is not known if it has had contracts with the organisations the two men are investigating.

The secretary of the Immigration Department, Bill Farmer, told the Senate estimates hearing yesterday that the department was "preparing for what may well be an extension of those contracts" but he could not say how far they need to be extended.

A department spokesman said the total cost of the Palmer inquiry so far was $460,622. Mr Palmer had been paid $112,500; Mr Comrie $59,091 and other contractors have been paid $160,677.

Meanwhile, the bishops of the Anglican diocese of Melbourne, including Archbishop Peter Watson, yesterday supported the private member's bills, proposed by Liberal MP Petro Georgiou and backed by Bruce Baird and Judi Moylan, aimed at limiting long-term detention.

In an open letter, the bishops supported the bills as an opportunity to review Australia's "inhumane immigration and detention policies".

"It is greatly encouraging that some Coalition parliamentarians are now giving voice to these ethical concerns," they said.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Archival Rescue 46 ~ Aus Detention

200 wrongfully detained, 928 more detainees to check.

Scandal explodes to 200 detainees
By Joseph Kerr, Louise Dodson and Lee Glendinning May 26, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

The inquiry into the immigration fiasco has grown exponentially to cover more than 200 people in detention despite being lawfully in Australia, as confusion deepens in the Government over its mandatory detention system.

The head of the inquiry, the former federal police commissioner Mick Palmer, will not take on the extra load - and instead will recommend his investigation be handed over to a judicial power such as the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the ABC's Lateline reported last night.

But the cases referred to the inquiry could run even higher, as officials admit they are yet to check thoroughly the status of all 928 detainees.

Turmoil in the Government grew yesterday as the Prime Minister, John Howard, contradicted his Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, by saying a child born in Perth would not return to detention on Christmas Island with his mother and father.

And there is tension among Labor MPs, after the Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, denied them a conscience vote on two private member's bills to be put forward by the Liberal MP Petro Georgiou to release long-term detainees. Mr Howard had already ruled out a free vote for his MPs.

Mr Beazley staunchly supported mandatory detention yesterday, which he said Labor "invented", but he said its operation should be humane.

Appearing with senior immigration officials before a Senate estimates committee, Senator Vanstone announced the second wave of changes to immigration procedures in three months and revealed her department had referred a total of 201 cases to the Palmer inquiry. But Lateline said Mr Palmer would walk away. And Senator Vanstone, interviewed on the program, would not comment on whether he had recommended a wider inquiry.

The program said he believed a more open inquiry - with judicial powers to compel and protect witnesses - was needed. It said he would report only the original case he was asked to investigate: that of German-born Australian resident Cornelia Rau, who was held in Baxter detention centre for four months despite warnings she may have been schizophrenic.

But it has grown to include the wrongful deportation of Vivian Alvarez Solon to the Philippines - and a further 199 cases of detainees found to be lawfully in Australia.

Senator Vanstone said these included people detained for a "very short period of time whilst their identity and legal status is determined" and others who became legal while in detention, such as children made citizens automatically upon turning 10 if born here.

The detention changes announced by the minister include increasing the frequency of visits by psychiatrists to Baxter, from once every six weeks to once every fortnight; placing two new psychiatric nurses at the centre; better measures to identify people in detention; and making her department more open to complaints.

The Government is facing an unprecedented rebellion from its ranks, with six Liberal MPs backing the Georgiou bills.

Archival Rescue 45 ~ Outsourced torture

Tortured suspect had ASIO checks
By Marian Wilkinson National Security Editor May 26, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

An Australian citizen who claimed in a Kuwaiti court his fingernails were ripped out under torture by Kuwaiti police was investigated more than a year ago by ASIO in Sydney, according to his brother.

Tllaal Adrey appeared in a Kuwaiti court for the first time since his arrest by Kuwaiti State Security in February and asked to see officials from the Australian embassy in Kuwait.

"They pulled out my fingernails at State Security," Adrey told the court before he was charged as part of a terrorist group, the Lions of the Peninsula, which allegedly planned the deaths of several Kuwaiti security officials. Details of the specific charge against Adrey were pending last night.

The Australian Government has repeatedly said it attempted to gain access to Adrey more than 16 times since his arrest. But his brother, Fahed al-Saad, speaking through a family friend told the Herald the Australian Government knew a lot more about the case and revealed that ASIO had first questioned him about his brother almost two years ago, after Adrey returned to Kuwait.

According to Mr Saad's account, ASIO took an interest in him and his brother when a member of their Bidoon community in south-west Sydney established a radical website. The Bidoons are a minority in Kuwait deemed stateless by the Kuwaiti government.

A group of Bidoons were granted refugee status in Australia after the first Gulf War, including Adrey and his brother.

Mr Saad believes ASIO questioned other Bidoons about his brother in the past few months, according to their spokesman and friend, Ali Hamdy.

Yesterday, the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, declined to confirm or deny any investigation by ASIO. However, when asked whether any information from ASIO was passed to the Kuwaiti authorities on Adrey, his office said Mr Ruddock wanted to make it clear the Australian Government did not condone torture for any reason and that "we would not be putting Australian citizens in a position where that activity is likely to be carried out".

Mr Ruddock's office also said ASIO had no contact with Adrey. No Australian official attended Adrey's court hearing on Tuesday despite being given notice of his appearance.

But Bruce Billson, parliamentary secretary for the Foreign Affairs minister, said the Australian consul in Kuwait had been assured by Kuwaiti authorities that Adrey was "in excellent health" and had seen medical reports by prison officials.

Mr Billson said an Australian embassy official did attempt to attend the court but was unable to obtain entry. Officials will meet Adrey on Saturday. Mr Billson also said Kuwaiti Justice Ministry officials had told the acting ambassador that the case "would be a bit of a circus".

Twenty-one other men and a woman charged in the case pleaded not guilty. Adrey has repeatedly protested his innocence of the terrorism charge. All the suspects reportedly told the court they confessed under duress and four took off their shirts in the dock to show scars on their backs they claimed were the result of torture.

Islamic Friendship Association of Australia president Keysar Trad released a copy of a letter from Adrey to the Australian Mufti, Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly, asking for help.

The sheik is negotiating on behalf of Douglas Wood who is being held captive in Iraq.