tip off

Are the govt’s Assange redactions 
unjustified?

The government has again used FOI exemptions to block scrutiny of its handling of the Julian Assange case, including redacting material already publicly available.

This week the Attorney-General’s Department released its response to Greens Senator Scott Ludlam’s FOI request for material relating to the Assange case. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released its heavily redacted response (large file) at the end of June.

AGD appears to have a slightly different take on exemptions and redactions than their colleagues in DFAT (bearing in mind FOI decisions are made at bureaucratic level, not by ministers). A letter from then-foreign minister Kevin Rudd to then-attorney-general Robert McClelland on November 15 heavily redacted by DFAT has been provided by AGD with some of the missing — entirely innocuous — content left in, as has McClelland’s reply a week later.

The exact nature of Rudd’s questions to McClelland about Assange’s extradition have been redacted in both letters on the grounds that it might cause damage to the international relations of the Commonwealth, but were of sufficient weight that there was, at least briefly, consideration given to holding an interdepartmental meeting involving the two departments and PM&C in order to address them.

However, AGD left in an anodyne paragraph omitted in the DFAT version in which McClelland expresses support for Assange receiving full consular assistance including attendance at his court hearings. AGD also left in a paragraph relating to DFAT’s dealings with UK and Swedish authorities and its urging that Assange’s case proceed in accordance with due process. Given even AGD didn’t think this would have posed any threat to Australia, it is clear that DFAT’s interpretation of the “damage to the international relations” legislative clause is extremely broad.

The convenient breadth of that interpretation is again demonstrated in the October response of a DFAT official, on behalf of Rudd, to Gareth Peirce, Assange’s London lawyer, who wrote to Rudd on September 15 via a letter delivered by Malcolm Turnbull. Apart from getting Peirce’s gender wrong (an error rectified in a subsequent DFAT letter to Peirce), the letter contained some minor details of discussions between Australian and Swedish officials, nearly all of which were redacted by DFAT in the FOI version.

AGD’s version, again, gives us a slightly clearer idea, and reveals DFAT redacted the highly damaging information that it had raised with the Swedes the expectation that Assange’s case would proceed in accordance with due process.

Absurdly, the letter itself has been publicly available in unredacted form for months via the Justice4Assange site. That shows AGD and DFAT concluded that it would be breaching the confidence of another government to reveal that Sweden had advised that it had a policy not to extradite for offences where the death penalty was involved and that Sweden would require the approval of the UK before it extradited Assange to the United States.

DFAT even omitted a paragraph advising that Assange’s passport had not been cancelled, on the grounds that it was personal information.

The documents also show that after McClelland’s reply to his November letter, Rudd was sufficiently interested in the issue of “temporary surrender” to ask for a briefing note . Typically for Rudd, the request was issued late on a Friday afternoon for a briefing paper by Monday, with AGD only asked for input at 4.45 on Friday. “Thanks for the email,” an AGD officer replies to DFAT. “We’ll work with you on Monday in relation to this.”

The DFAT officer told AGD that DFAT had already provided several “hasty emails” to Rudd’s office on the issue “in response to an article on this issue on the swedenversusassange website” (which is now the justice4assange site), indicating Rudd and his office team were proactively monitoring the issue and demanding input from DFAT about it. As Crikey reported earlier this week, the government’s formal view is that there is no distinction between Assange’s rights under “temporary surrender” in the event the US seeks his extradition, and his rights under ordinary extradition processes.

Even if the documents themselves continue to obscure the government’s internal deliberations about Assange, they do reveal just how absurdly broad the government’s interpretation of statutory FOI exemptions can be.

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  • 1
    Jimmy
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Gee 2 govt departments have different opinions on what should be redacted, there must be an anti Assange conspiracy afoot!!

  • 2
    Rourke
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    This makes me angry. FOI is not there so bureaucrats can slice off anything mildly controversial, it is supposed to about providing information unless there is a serious reason for omitting it. What can we do about it? First fix the culture, maybe sack a few people while we’re at it. The written guidelines are supposed to prevent this heavy-handedness already. FOI is for us to find out what our paid representatives are doing. This example is F A I L.

  • 3
    jj mick
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Assange has been sold out by his own government. Not too different to the day Microsoft sent a jet to Sydney to take away a young hacker who had hacked the Microsoft source code.

    It is wrong that Australians can be abandoned by its own government and shows the level of indifference and arrogance from those in power. It brings to mind George Orwell’s famous quote from Animal Farm - “all pigs are equal but some pigs are more equal than others” …… nothing to do with police for those too young to understand.

  • 4
    Jimmy
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    JJ Mick - “Not too different to the day Microsoft sent a jet to Sydney to take away a young hacker who had hacked the Microsoft source code.” Hmm that’s interesting, on the other day you posted this - “as does a young lad from the Central Coast who broke the source code for Microsoft software and had a plane show up to take him away )to the US) never to be heard of again.”

    So he mover from the central coast to Sydney?

    You never did tell me his name or whether he had any family.

  • 5
    Oscar Jones
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    The US is determined to impose selected laws that suit it upon their client countries and extradition is a prime example.

    EU laws were changed to reflect that so ‘middlemen’ in software & film piracy, or the big guns like Dot Com in NZ (with a fine magistrate reading the law correctly)can be destroyed by the US legal system where Jimmy quaintly believes “all men are created equal!” except of course, when it comes to obtaining expert legal advice where only money counts and even the innocent are bankrupted.

    The UK, like Australia seems desperate to comply with US requests when once they refused to handover the vile Pinochet who murdered dozens of Spanish citizens.

  • 6
    botswana bob
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    It looks like Richard Ackland’s opinion piece on David Hicks, Assange and the supine posture of the Gillard government is correct.

    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/australia-debarked-once-again-as-us-tells-its-lapdog-to-heel-20120726-22uzd.html

    Makes one wonder what former Senator and frequent visitor to the U S Embassy Mark Arbib is doing nowadays.

  • 7
    Truth Freedom
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    It’s obvious to see our government is hiding the truth from the public on the assange extradition. They continue to state publicly that there is no evidence the US is after assange when there is evidence of a grand jury working on a case against wikileaks and julian assange - shown in the Stratfor emails.

    Many prominent US politicians have called for assange to be tried with treason, sentenced to death or imprisoned for life. He should not be allowed to fall into their hands, especially not by the Australian government! The US are just biding there time waiting to strike when they get the chance.

    Ecuador have just invited Sweden to interview assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK, it will be interesting to see if they take them up on this offer as he is only wanted for questioning. I don’t see why such extreme measures are being taken to extradite him to Sweden? Maybe its because once in sweden he can be held without charge and have no avenue to appeal any extradition requests from the US?

  • 8
    AR
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    What amerika wants, it gets, from obsequious political poltroons in UK, OZ or any other satrap. If not it will drone, render, assassinate or disappear individuals or invade, bomb, blockade, destabilise or sanction any country that it chooses.
    Oz has hermetically sealed bases in NW Cape, Pine Gap and soon will be garrisoning 2,000 marines in Darwin ( but it’s NOT a base, heaven forfend!) whilst the legalities are prepared to cede the Cocos/Keeling Islands on the same terms (none coz the inhabitants aren’t indigenous) as the UK ceded Diego Garcia.

  • 9
    Owen Gary
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Assange already handed himself into the Swedish authorities regarding the so called rape allegations which were not put forward by the women in question as both counts were of consential sex. The women were harassed by the authorities into doing this but the women refused. Although there is the possibility some incentives or threats may have been thrown in their direction since that time.

    After handing himself in during this time, the Swedish authorities said he had no case to answer & he left the country, since that time they have reversed the decision. The whole thing is a witchhunt as shown on 4 corners, but I suspect most people on here already know this.

    JIMMY still believes that Joe public is protected by the “Rule of law” apparently hasn’t heard of the “Golden Rule” which dictates he who has the gold makes the rules, & in fact breaks them when they see fit. Then again Jimmy must have an ample supply of pixie juice.

  • 10
    Gocomsys
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Are the govt’s Assange redactions justified?”
    I don’t think any armchair critics here have the answers. Who does?

    Ecuador have just invited Sweden to interview assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK”.

    Very interesting development indeed!

    Oh, by the way, mustn’t forget to mention:
    “It is always the federal governments fault”.

  • 11
    Gocomsys
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Did I mention that everything is always the federal governments fault? “Limited News” and the LNP said so. It must be true.

  • 12
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    After the surrender for torture of two Aussie passport holders, supported by both the Howard and Gillard Governments, who would believe anything our ignoble national government says about Assange.

    DFAT is a sub branch of the US State Department…..end of story.

    I’m ashamed to be an Aussie passport holder.

  • 13
    drsmithy
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Ecuador have just invited Sweden to interview assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK, it will be interesting to see if they take them up on this offer as he is only wanted for questioning.

    Assange quite explicitly said on numerous occasions he would be happy to be questioned by the Swedish authorities in the UK, either in person or via videolink. They didn’t take the opportunity then, so there’s no reason to think they’ll do it now.

  • 14
    Apollo
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    He can face the music and let it be, if the US really get him then he will be a true martyr and prove the US is the real Satan people say it is, dodging things is tainting his image and giving the left a bad name.

  • 15
    Liamj
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    The point of show trials is not due process, it is to intimidate other subversives, so its no surprise that DFAT keeps the hood on. But do they know more than that anyway, or are they just following the manual from the US & UK?

    If there was any honour all these (DFAT ONA ASIS ASIO DSD..) clowns would have resigned after Iraq-WMD war crime was launched, but i know money is a popular substitute for honour.

  • 16
    AR
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    LiamJ -“The point of show trials is not due process, it is to intimidate other subversives” is beautifully illustrated by the letter sent by the US State dept to Ms Robinson, Assange’s Oz lawyer when this imbroglio began, full of vague threats & innuendo against her!
    Or take the Crown’s statement at trial of the Sydney airport Customs bloke at his sentencing hearing “… a custodial sentence is sought as a warning to other public servants.”!!
    “Die on your feet or live on your knees” sang a bald headed Oz rocker way back when - not sure what happened to him though.

  • 17
    Oscar Jones
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Gocomsys
    Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Did I mention that everything is always the federal governments fault? “Limited News” and the LNP said so. It must be true.”

    And yes it is their fault.
    When Australia’s majority news organisation doesn’t bother reporting that a gormless US politician says on TV that Assange is a ‘traitor’ and gives the game away by revealing that they regard us as ‘citizens’ when it suits, our lot are complicit.

  • 18
    izatso?
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Apollo, you’re not shinin’ …… an’ not volunteerin’ much, either. Like to see your style of dodgin’ when your existence is threatened. ….. and your not interestsd enough to know the details anyhow. Prat.

  • 19
    Apollo
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Izatso

    I’m. It here to volunteer for anybody or to shine.
    Be consistence, if you keep talking about respecting the law and due process then dont run away. If the Brit court say Sweden can extradite then respect it, face Swedish court and see whether there really is a female victim that need justice or prove if the US is that evil instead of keep throwing allegation at them.

    I would have strong interest if he only dedicate his work to expose wrong doings in responsible manner.

  • 20
    Apollo
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m not here to volunteer

    Typo

  • 21
    izatso?
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    so tell it to the swedes, they had their opportunity, they own the inconsistency, they own the variable agenda, they need NATO, they need the US, if you want to class self preservation as ‘running away’ this time, gahead. Volunteer. Prat.

  • 22
    izatso?
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    J.A. delayed his departure from Sweden for nearly a month, when the ‘accusations’ first reared. Nearly a month, then was (note) allowed to leave, when the Swedish Prosecutor found, note, No Case To Answer. J.A. left for the U.K. The Swedes moved the goalposts, and now its your turn……….

  • 23
    izatso?
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    …. if it is any consolation, J.A. seems a bit of a Prat, too. No excusing it.

  • 24
    Apollo
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Wow, you’re fired up there.

    May be you are a volunteer and assume that I am also but I’m not. If I volunteer I would not be posting on this site like I have been, but try to reach broader audience, I don’t think you can change the world by commenting on Crikey, it’s a niche limited audience.

    Like I said, he can be a true martyr and prove to the world the the US is evil, the world is watching. Whether the Swedish moved the goal post or found new evidence does not matter to me. I’ve already expressed my view before that he failed his duty of care and published people’s name when he should have blanked them out and that is reprehensible.

    Do I have concern for him? I didn’t before but after I read Karen’s comment I do feel some concern but I don’t see the point of him keep living as a fugitive. I am not interested in keeping commenting all the times, that’s why after I read Karen’s comment I did not reply or come back to that article. Sorry Karen.

    That’s it I’m not gonna comment on this anymore. Have a nice weekend!

  • 25
    izatso?
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    yup. run away….. have a good one.

  • 26
    Gocomsys
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    OSCAR JONES Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 11:32 am |

    Did I mention that everything is always the federal governments fault? “Limited News” and the > LNP said so. It must be true.

    It is what’s called in French a “doubler négative”.
    “Limited News” and the LNP in this instance secretly agreed with the governments action. There was no outright condemnation because a conservative government (reference to Howard) would have reacted exactly in the same way.
    If in their eyes it wasn’t the governments fault, but they blamed them regardless, is the above statement still true?
    What sort of politically wise (megaphone diplomacy possibly?) reaction would YOU have expected from our government in this “high profile” case? Over to you.

  • 27
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    APOLLO:

    You say:

    ” I don’t think you can change the world by commenting on Crikey, it’s a niche limited audience”.

    You’re back in the days of electric typewriters & Tippex.

    Who do you think are the targets of the neocons ? or AIPAC?…….right!!..a niche limited audience….. in the form of the US Congress.

    Wrap your head around this post and then tell me if Crikey originated data, may be influential:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alMC9AoF9I8&feature=related

  • 28
    drsmithy
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Be consistence, if you keep talking about respecting the law and due process then dont run away.

    Really ? So you’d send homosexual expatriates back to Iran ?

    If the Brit court say Sweden can extradite then respect it, face Swedish court and see whether there really is a female victim that need justice or prove if the US is that evil instead of keep throwing allegation at them.

    The Swedes can ascertain whether or not there’s a case to be answered without extradition, and Assange has indicated clearly that he happy to assist them. They haven’t, which - quite understandably given Sweden’s history - is scaring him.

  • 29
    Gone Are The Days
    Posted Saturday, 28 July 2012 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    The writer and poet Jonathon Swift, wrote and described a Phillistine as ” a gruff bailiff who shows no mercy.”

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) described a Phillistine as one who not only ignores all conditions of life which are not his own, but also demands that the rest of mankind should fashion its mode of existence after his own.

    Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816) calls Phillistines blood-thirsty Aristocrats. I could go on.

    The Phillistines have entered the DFAT and are executing their US foreign policy agenda against Assange.

    Fortunately for us, we have articles like this from Bernard Keane and sites like this one, Crikey, which are the ” Jaw-Bone of an Ass ” at the throat of the Phillistine…alerting people with information and knowledge.

    Don’t let Delilah cut your hair Bernard.

  • 30
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Sunday, 29 July 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Those original “phillistines” and their present day descendants might have a claim to be insulted by the above allusions.

  • 31
    Oscar Jones
    Posted Sunday, 29 July 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    I think the Ecuador ‘option’ was well planned in advance with officials and Assange knowing the UK would always privately back the US via Sweden. (I’ve seen ‘Spooks’ too!).

  • 32
    Come On Carlton
    Posted Monday, 30 July 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Yes, Hamis. The things some people will do and write just to draw a metaphoric between a current day person and some ancient-day very strong man. Unbelievable!

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