Keeping the nation’s top secrets isn’t just the only reason to classify documents, apparently. The former director of the Australian Institute of Criminology from 1994 to 2003, Professor Adam Graycar, wrote in a Senate committee submission of his time as the head of the research agency, where he had top secret security clearance. He said he was often bewildered at what public servants would mark as classified, and discovered that classification would be used to cover up poor work:

“From time to time I would see classified material, and often would have no idea why it was classified, because there was nothing special or secret in it. What I soon discovered was that the quality of the material was so very poor that the author or agency would have been ashamed and even humiliated were it open to public scrutiny. Not only that, there were times when material came marked as classified, which was entirely plagiarised.”

Graycar said that often material produced by certain agencies was word-for-word plagiarised from other agencies but retitled and classified.

Graycar’s comments were cited in the committee’s report, which recommended the passage of legislation that would allow the AIC to merge with the Australian Crime Commission. Graycar, among others, are opposed to the merger. He told the committee that people were either going to be unable to access research from the merged entity due to the security classification of the research, or would be reluctant to trust the data the agency chose to release.

“Hiding behind a wall of classification, as will be inevitable if all our research comes through an intelligence agency, is not in the national interest,” he said.

Both Labor and the Greens are opposed to the merger of the two agencies on the grounds of the impact on research.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey