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Dec 6, 2010

Bob Brown supports WikiLeaks, is Phillip Adams in the frame?

Should the government decide that it wants to pursue action around the 'Cablegate' material, other Australians involved with WikiLeaks may well be liable for prosecution. The most prominent of these is the broadcaster Phillip Adams who is, or was until recently, a member of the advisory board of WikiLeaks.

Greens leader Bob Brown has spoken out in support of WikiLeaks, following its Cablegate document release to major media that began last week. While urging the global whistleblowing website to be “diligent” in ensuring that its released documents do not put lives at risk, Brown told Crikey that “the documents have caused increased scrutiny on often controversial aspects of US foreign policy. Such scrutiny is a good thing.”

Brown’s statement comes as the Gillard Labor government, which remains in power with the support of Green MHR Adam Bandt, continues to explore ways in which it can prosecute Julian Assange. Attorney-General Robert McClelland stated yesterday that “… the Australian Federal Police are looking at whether any Australian laws have been breached,” a repeat of earlier statements. However, he is yet to specify any crimes with which Assange might be charged.

McClelland has also raised the possibility of cancelling Assange’s Australian passport, though again no grounds on which this might occur have been raised.

The Australian Passports Act 2005 currently states:

Australian Passport Cancellation Notes

18 Refusal/cancellation requests

(1) For the purposes of this Act, a refusal/cancellation request is a request made to the Minister under subsection 12(1), 13(1), 14(1) or 16(1) by a competent authority, being a request that the Minister do either or both of the following:

(a) refuse to issue an Australian passport to a person;

(b) cancel an Australian passport or travel-related document that has been issued to a person.

(2) A competent authority may make a refusal/cancellation request in relation to a person:

(a) whether or not the person has applied for an Australian passport; and

(b) whether or not an Australian travel document has been issued to the person; and

(c) whether or not the person is an Australian citizen.

(3) To avoid doubt, a competent authority may suspect on reasonable grounds that circumstances in subsection 14(1) apply in relation to a person, even if the competent authority knows that the person has already been issued with an Australian passport.

22 When an Australian travel document may be cancelled

(1) The Minister may cancel an Australian travel document.

(2) Without limiting subsection (1), the Minister may cancel an Australian travel document that has been issued to a person if:

(a) the document is still valid at the time when the person applies for, or is issued with, another Australian travel document; or

(b) the document has been lost or stolen; or

(c) the person dies; or

(d) a competent authority makes a refusal/cancellation request in relation to the person; or

(e) if the document is an Australian passport — the Minister becomes aware of a circumstance that would have required or permitted the Minister to refuse to issue an Australian passport to the person because of section 8, 11 or 17, had the Minister been aware of the circumstance immediately before the document was issued; or

(f) if the document is a travel-related document — the Minister becomes aware of a circumstance that would have required the Minister to refuse to issue a travel-related document to the person:

(i) because of section 10; or

(ii) because a Minister’s determination made for the purposes of subsection 9(1) in relation to that kind of travel-related document no longer applies; or

(g) circumstances specified in a Minister’s determination exist.

The move is reminiscent of actions by the Menzies government at the height of the Cold War, when passport cancellation or refusal to issue was one of several techniques of political censorship and repression.

Should the government decide that it wants to pursue action around the “Cablegate” material, other Australians involved with WikiLeaks may well be liable for prosecution. The most prominent of these is the broadcaster Phillip Adams, who is, or was until recently, a member of the advisory board of WikiLeaks. The board was listed on the old WikiLeaks site until earlier this year. However, there is now no mention of it …

Given that there is most likely no criminal liability for Assange, there is virtually no possibility that a charge would attach to Adams. However, the proximity of a figure who has been close to key Labor figures for decades — and only resigned his party membership this year — is no doubt embarrassing for the government.

WikiLeaks remains in operation despite repeated reports of its final demise. Last week, its rented server capacity was cancelled by Amazon, after the group was contacted by the office of Senator Joe Lieberman, the former Democrat Senator from Connecticut. EveryDNS, the agent for the “wikileaks.org” domain name cancelled the group’s account, saying that denial of service attacks on WikiLeaks was causing havoc for its other clients.

The service was rehoused at a Swiss domain name, www.wikileaks.ch, whose provider has so far resisted pressure from the French and US government to cancel service. It is also being mirrored through numerous other sites around the world. A defence organisation, WikiLeaks Central, has also sprung up after the Cablegate releases, acting as a clearing house for WikiLeaks publicity and site re-routings.

Though large parts of the site remain out of access, it now includes raw copy of the thousand or so cables on which last week’s news stories were based. These include reports from US Secretary of State that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd suggested that military action against China may be a necessary last resort in the future. Rudd’s comments came in response to questions in which Hillary Clinton explicitly acknowledged that China’s position as major US creditor posed major foreign policy problems for the United States.

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The Australian government has reiterated that it will do everything it can to assist the US in its pursuit of Assange. In response, numerous individuals and groups have begun efforts to defend Assange’s rights as an Australian citizen. It is still to be seen whether that will include any prominent members of the Australian Labor Party.

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27 comments

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27 thoughts on “Bob Brown supports WikiLeaks, is Phillip Adams in the frame?

  1. Perry Gretton

    Could I be cynical enough to wonder if the nationality and identity of the leaker are what is causing so much concern to the US? After all, what’s to prevent this happening again, via the next incarnation or clone of Wikileaks?

  2. Norman Hanscombe

    I’m not being cynicalwhen I say of course Bob Brown would (as someone who’s unlikely in the foreseeable future to have the responsibility of actually being part of a National Government) revel in the opportunity to gain media attention.

  3. Delerious

    McClelland considering cancelling the passport of an Australian Citizen for spreading gossip but not for Israeli soldiers with dual Australian citizenship who point guns at Australians while boarding boats illegally. Priorities screwed.

  4. fleury

    Not that it was news that Gillard is weak on foreign policy (okay, near hopeless), but she’s truly distinguished herself as an utter disgrace now “wikileaks is illegal! go team America!”. Haven’t been this embarassed to be an Australian since Howard.

  5. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Phillip Adams “in the frame”. I’d like to see (and hear) that!

  6. Richard Wilson

    We now have assassination for the offence of embarrassment!

    Julian Assange has set out to prove that we in the West are fooling ourselves. We do not have a free press and certainly limited freedom of speech as the US exerts pressure on governments and corporations to shut down Wikileaks. He has succeeded in his goal. In a SMH poll conducted today, over 75% of readers responding support Assange and if he can get the mind controlled journalists to start questioning their editors and owners, we may move some way toward eventually securing true freedom of the press. But it won’t happen without one almighty fight.

    Assange has also been able to demonstrate the danger of a digital economy in the hands of an authoritarian or totalitarian corporatocracy. I think most of us were spooked last week when the NAB system crashed and how even under benign circumstances, things can really hit the wall when there is no hard currency. When your government decides who you can spend money with and who you can’t, you have totalitarianism. When you can no longer donate to Wikileaks using Paypal because of outside pressure or carry the Wikileaks servers as an ISP because you have been threatened; then Assange has succeeded in removing the velvet glove from the iron fist of supposed Western Democracy. The Chinese and the Russians must be tickled pink to see our hypocrisy laid bare.

    What must also be most concerning to people is that the campaign against Assange has gone into overdrive since he let it be known Wikileaks would expose at least one of the major international banks and its not so ethical dealings. So we can assume that it is probably ok to upset politicians, but very dangerous indeed to upset their purported backers.

    Assange says in his recent Guardian interview that he and his coworkers are under constant threat of assassination from US military types and that he fears for his safety. What is going on here! I don’t think he is making it up. His sites are under constant cyber attack as well from mainstream and not so mainstream media shills. But the online community has stepped up and as of this morning there are more than 200+ mirror sites that can be logged into for access to all of the released documents plus editorials from Wikileaks. I can only assume that the trend will accelerate as the assault on freedom of speech and personal liberty is ramped up by the powers that be and its fawning satraps including what seems to be increasingly for me, this sorry excuse for a democracy.

    Given that this government appears as far as I can divine to at least “sympathise” with a comment from a Canadian Minister to assassinate Assange, we can now for ourselves how Australian citizens rate in the scheme of things when they stand between the Australian Govt. and what is obviously its US masters. Cocktail party invites must take precedence as Assange so astutely puts it.

    Even Julie Bishop gets this affront to our sovereignty (See The Australian today). And of course, the SMH report on Wikileaks release concerning Rudd’s recommendation to “take out China” if it doesn’t play ball speaks volumes for his and, increasingly the Prime Minsister’s attitude to conciliation and consultation.

  7. Julius

    Phillip Adams mentioned his advisory board membership (at least on “letterhead”) but said on his program last week that he had never been asked for advice (or maybe it was that he had never given any) so that seems to make it unlikely that his connection would be enough for any Australian prosecutor to think he could prove a case (if there is any case to prove against anyone).

    Big question. Can anyone cite a single instance of harm resulting from any of the Wiki leaks or any instance of a high probability of harm which a patriotic and humane person would wish to avoid?

    If not, or anyway, what is the best case that can be made for harm done to government processes one might as an Australian and/or beneficiary of what remains good of Western civilisation wish to protect from serious harm?

    None of that questioning is meant to suggest that a bit of editorial responsibility might not properly be exercised by Assange or his agents. In respect of which, would any of the many journos associated with Crikey care to make a distinction between what Wikileaks has published, at length, even incontinently, and the usually much smaller volume of deadly stuff that occasionally gets into the printed or broadcast media because editors have judged of sufficient public interest (like Prince Charle’s recorded telephone conversations say?)? Don’t leave out the tabloids!

  8. Rena Zurawel

    I watch the Australian Parliament regularly.
    I do not believe our politicians can feel embarassed about anything in particular.

  9. Jeepers

    I’m not being cynical when I say of course Norman Hanscombe would (as someone who’s unlikely in the foreseeable to say anything worthwhile) revel in the opportunity to troll Crikey with his pointless Greens-smearing.

  10. Liz45

    @JEEPERS – Thank you!

    @RICHARD WILSON – I agree. So much for our commitment/boasting/self righteous protestations re democracy – as someone said once, ‘it’s free if you agree speech’? The sheer hypocrisy of blaming Julian Asssange and his co-workers of putting peoples’ lives at risk – I think the US and its allies have done a pretty good job at that, all by themselves. I heard this morning, that the 300+ British military person has been killed in Afghanistan – that is only the fault of his own government – and its partners!

    Julian Assange has as much right to his Australian citizenship as Julia Gillard or myself for that matter.

    @FLEURY – Me too! Ashamed also!

    I’ve read that, if Julian or his co-workers are killed, there are 100,000 people who will release more documents simultaneously! Now that’s what I call insurance!