Bob Carr the ‘authorised leaker’ and hypocrite
An insider decides to break confidence and reveal the inner workings of a country’s foreign policy, including the malign influence of special interests, combined with tittle-tattle from the diplomatic cocktail circuit on the foibles of statesmen and women around the globe — all to the fury of a later government.
Step forward Chelsea Manning? Not at all, it’s former foreign minister Bob Carr.
The evidence Carr presents in his memoirs this week about the influence of the Israel lobby, and in particular the most extreme sections of it, over the Gillard government is indeed in the national interest — as Carr says. This is a movement that prefers to operate out of sight: several different Israel lobby groups are constantly busy behind the scenes in Canberra, bombarding ministers and backbenchers with requests for meetings and urging MPs to take a sponsored study trip to Israel. And the wild overreaction from arch-Zionist Labor MP Michael Danby, who labelled Carr a “bigot”, has done more to demonstrate the way the lobby works than anything else in recent memory.
But better yet the memoir illustrates what a hypocrite Carr is, and the hypocrisy of the entire political establishment toward transparency.
As foreign minister, Carr was dismissive of WikiLeaks and its Australian editor-in-chief Julian Assange, and did nothing to raise concerns about the US government’s pursuit of Assange via the grand jury investigation that, for a long time, Carr refused to even admit existed. He habitually got basic facts wrong about Assange’s case, like how it would be easier for the US to extradite him from the UK than from Sweden. He displayed a bizarre, near-total lack of curiosity about what the US Department of Justice was doing regarding Assange. He rejected comparisons between WikiLeaks and Chelsea Manning and Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers, despite Ellsberg himself outlining how they were extraordinarily similar. He tied himself in knots as he tried desperately to avoid saying anything about the case, telling estimates hearings the government had “no interest” in the US pursuit of Assange and then saying seconds later “we have an interest in the case”. As both an obsessive Americaphile and as a former US intelligence source in the 1970s, Carr stuck doggedly to the US line on WikiLeaks and Assange.
And he’s still at it, explicitly contrasting his own memoirs with WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden. “The Australian people are entitled to know these things,” he said by way of justification for publishing material such as texts between himself and then-PM Julia Gillard — without her approval. “And by the way: isn’t it better to have a discussion led through the diary or memoir of a foreign minister of Australia, and not through revelations from WikiLeaks or from Edward Snowden?”
This is the core of the hypocrisy of the political establishment. Governments, it must be endlessly repeated, aren’t in the business of secrecy when it comes to national security, but in the business of information management. For governments, there are two kinds of national security leaks (just as there are two kinds of leaks of any kind). Those that are authorised by governments themselves for what they construe as the national interest — which is usually their own political interest — and those that occur without authorisation.
The former are rarely, if ever, investigated, even if they cause damage; usually they are handed to favoured, state-aligned journalists as background, or sourced anonymously. The latter are relentlessly pursued at whatever cost, with the AFP using its telecommunications interception powers to find out who journalists and even non-government politicians have been calling, and ASIO poised to launch a raid on the whistleblower on — of course — national security grounds.
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