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 How the ABC Obtained Classified Documents
 Posted: Jan 31 2018, 02:58 PM

Rana Capillum

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This was not a leak — here's what it took to unlock national secrets

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The Cabinet Files is one of the biggest breaches of cabinet security in Australian history and the story of their release is as gripping as it is alarming and revealing.

It begins at a second-hand shop in Canberra, where ex-government furniture is sold off cheaply.

The deals can be even cheaper when the items in question are two heavy filing cabinets to which no-one can find the keys.

They were purchased for small change and sat unopened for some months until the locks were attacked with a drill.

Inside was the trove of documents now known as The Cabinet Files.

The thousands of pages reveal the inner workings of five separate governments and span nearly a decade.

Nearly all the files are classified, some as "top secret" or "AUSTEO", which means they are to be seen by Australian eyes only.

But the ex-government furniture sale was not limited to Australians — anyone could make a purchase.

And had they been inclined, there was nothing stopping them handing the contents to a foreign agent or government.

Here are just two of the related stories. Check the link to view others.

Classified files left behind in Wong's office

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Photo: Penny Wong was the leader of the government in the Senate and a member of the NSC at the time. (ABC News: Jed Cooper)

Nearly 200 top-secret code word protected and sensitive documents were left in the office of senior minister Penny Wong when Labor lost the 2013 election.

The 195 documents included Middle East defence plans, national security briefs, Afghan war updates, intelligence on Australia's neighbours and details of counter-terrorism operations.

These are not the same documents the ABC has obtained as part of The Cabinet Files, nor are they the same documents lost by the Australian Federal Police.

The sensitive documents found in Senator Wong's office should have been destroyed, according to a document in The Cabinet Files.

All the documents were security classified, with several marked "top secret" and code word protected, which is the highest level of classification in Australia.

The release of top-secret documents would cause "exceptionally grave damage to the national interest", according to the government's classification guide.

Senator Wong was the leader of the government in the Senate and a member of the powerful National Security Committee (NSC), which means she had access to the country's most secret and sensitive information.

The breach is revealed in a series of emails between the Department of Finance and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet from late 2013.

The emails reveal security staff found the documents left in the office after the election and oversaw their destruction.

Westminster convention stipulates cabinet ministers bear the ultimate responsibility for the actions of their staff, which means Senator Wong is ultimately responsible for the breach even if she did not personally leave the documents in the office.

The documents found in Senator Wong's office include:

Defence plans to protect the United Arab Emirates from Iranian hostilities
National security intelligence priorities
Counter-terrorism intelligence planning documents
Details of missile upgrades
Profiles of terror suspects
Issues with Australian Defence Force operations in Afghanistan
Deficiencies in Defence security vetting

The office of the new prime minister, Tony Abbott, was notified of the security breach in October 2013.

The Department of Finance investigated the security breach but took no further action because they had "no proof of who left them there".

Senator Wong told the ABC she had not been made aware of the matter until the release of The Cabinet Files.

"This is the first time I have ever been made aware of this matter, which relates to a change of government over four years ago," she said in a statement.

"As a former cabinet minister who participated in national security meetings, a senior member of shadow cabinet and a current member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I always take my responsibilities seriously."

NBN Co's secret negotiation documents revealed

NBN Co's secret strategy for negotiating with potential investors reveals the initial lofty ambitions for the project Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has since labelled a "calamitous train wreck".

The 2009 strategy, a budget implications document and a plan for dealing with political attacks are among the trove of cabinet documents obtained by the ABC.

The documents reveal how desperate the then-Labor government was to have Telstra buy into the project on the government's terms.

"Telstra will initially approach the government with a number of proposals which the government will need to politely but firmly resist," one document reads.

"The strategy is … [for Telstra to] ultimately approach government to invest or use NBN Co's network on the government's terms."

The Government is still the sole owner of NBN Co, which is classed as an asset for budget purposes.

But with cost blow-outs and delays the Government is now facing the prospect of having to write it into the budget, rather than persisting with privatisation.

The negotiating strategy shows the initial plans for NBN Co were very different.

"The government does not need to rush into negotiations with investors making early offers," another document reads.

"The government should keep interested parties engaged through consultation, rather than negotiation."

Among the documents are the financing options presented to the cabinet in 2009.

It costs the project at $43 billion and outlines the plan to finance it to completion in 2017, a deadline long since abandoned.

It canvases options to pay for the project, including "Aussie infrastructure bonds" marketed to mum and dad investors on generous terms.

NBN Co declined to comment.

A disgraceful lack of security with regard to sensitive documents. The Kevin Rudd/Insulation story was obtained through this source.

"Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself." - Tecumseh (March 1768 – October 5, 1813) Shawnee Chief
 Posted: Feb 1 2018, 01:17 PM


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Something doesn't smell right about this.

Presumably, this filing cabinet once stood in an office where someone had the key.

It left the office, heavy with something or other, and no one thought to open it.

It managed to get to a section where furniture is disposed of, still laden with heavy contents, where it was auctioned, and still no one opened it.

Purchased by a Second Hand dealer, with its contents intact, and no one thought to open it.

Purchased by a private citizen who, some time later, decided to drill out the lock to see what was inside. If it was me, I would have called in a locksmith to get a key made rather than drill out the lock. has passed through a number of sets of hands and no one thought to open it.

But the contents are where it gets really interesting.

For the documents to cover cabinet advice to Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Rudd, and Abbott over a period of about nine years.......seems to suggest that they were not original documents stored there but copies of documents "collected' by someone.

As Rudd stated, the document relating to the home insulation scheme was presented to the RC, so what was it doing in this collection..

I have a filing cabinet purchased from a furniture sale from Telstra, and it still has its Asset Register No. on it, so this filing cabinet should be trackable back to the last person who had control of its contents.

The AFP and ASIO are investigating, but I would almost be willing to bet that no one is held responsible for 'leaking' or sloppy disposal.

Turnbull must be grateful that none of the leaked cabinet documents refer to his time as Prime Minister.

I'll take off my tin foil hat now, and settle back for the 'Never Ending Story' to unfold.

It's a tough gig being the only duck in the shooting gallery
 Posted: Feb 1 2018, 02:26 PM

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Sounds to me like Bill is on the right track. Must be the Danish knack for smelling something rotten.

Living In An Elected Dictatorship
Flin's opinions and comments reflect his perception of the facts and not necessarily reality
 Posted: Feb 1 2018, 05:09 PM

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Yes and I just saw a whole flock of pigs flying overhead.

Everybody is Willing:
Some are willing to work, the rest are willing to let them!

The older I get, the better I was.
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