A former US soldier convicted of leaking classified information in one of the most sensational trials of recent history plans to come to Australia for speaking engagements. Does the Coalition government let them in?

If they’re coming to raise funds for the Liberal Party, absolutely. If not, they’re banned.

Chelsea Manning was coming to Australia this week for a series of speaking engagements. She served seven years out of a sentence of 35 years for leaking classified information to Wikileaks and was released last year following Barack Obama’s commutation of her sentence. The government is intending to ban her from entering Australia.

David Petraeus is also a convicted criminal. The former soldier and head of the CIA was convicted in 2015 of leaking classified information to his girlfriend Paula Broadwell with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Unlike the information leaked by Manning, which the US government admitted at trial had caused no damage to national security, the material leaked to Petraeus was highly sensitive and contained “identities of covert officers, code word information, war strategy, intelligence capabilities, diplomatic talks.” Petraeus also lied to the FBI about the documents. Then-FBI director James Comey said Petraeus should have been prosecuted more aggressively but the Obama administration backed off. This is Comey on Petraeus:

He had taken home and stored in a backpack notebooks full of notes about some of the government’s most sensitive secrets. Classified at the top level in the government, including conversations with President Obama about special access programs, some of our — our most closely guarded secrets. And he had given these notebooks to this person who had neither a need to know, nor the appropriate clearance. And he’d actually allowed her to photograph pages containing top secret information. And then, when the F.B.I. interviewed him about it, he lied about it. And so you had clearly intentional misconduct by a guy who’s in charge of the country’s secrets as the director of the C.I.A., involving huge trove of our top level classified information. And then obstruction of justice.

But Petraeus’ high-powered legal team was able to bargain down the charges and he escaped with a $100,000 fine. Last year Petraeus, who immediately moved onto a lucrative corporate career after his disgrace, was allowed to enter Australia to help the Liberal Party raise money. According to a report in the Telegraph — which carefully avoids mentioning he is criminal — Petraeus waived his usual six-figure speaking fee to address a Liberal Party “gala dinner” fundraiser in June 2017.

Nor was that the first time this criminal had been permitted to enter Australia. In 2015, he was permitted to enter, just months after his conviction, to address the Lowy Institute, hosted by a cooing Michael Fullilove, who had railed at Wikileaks and the release of Manning’s leaked information.

Remember that Petraeus leaked to impress his girlfriend. Manning leaked to reveal evidence of US war crimes, murder and other atrocities, and the systematic use of the US diplomatic network to pursue the interests of US corporations at the expense of the host countries. 

Presumably if Manning offered to speak at a Liberal fundraiser, the Liberals would let her in. Or perhaps she can ask Peter Dutton to let her in as an au pair and donate to the Liberals.

Do you think Chelsea Manning should be banned? Write to [email protected] and let us know. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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