It’s been just over two weeks since the Australian Federal Police (AFP) rang the doorbell at the ABC and searched the home of Sunday Telegraph reporter, Annika Smethurst.
And pretty much everyone (except Joe Kelly and Samantha Maiden) have failed to notice the real story.
Yes. It is ridiculous that Australians are not supposed to know about a plan by our spy agencies to spy on us.
However, that’s what you get if your approach to ISLAMIC (I cannot highlight that word enough) terrorism is to pretend that it’s racist to keep Islam out and instead decide that the solution to this problem is to massively increase government control over the rest of us while banging on about diversity.
Plenty has been said about that. For instance, even New South Wales Greens Senator, Mehreen Faruqi, has railed against this ‘attack’ on democracy. That’s nice enough but I’m not sure she’s really interested in tackling the big problem here…
The AFP raids we have seen on the home of Annika Smethurst and the ABC offices last week are a blatant, brazen attack on democracy, press freedom and the community. pic.twitter.com/zqSLAe6I67
— Mehreen Faruqi (@MehreenFaruqi) June 11, 2019
Yes. It is ridiculous that the ABC and its supporters are now a bastion of free speech activists even though ABC commentary is boringly biased and its staff, by and large, are completely indifferent to outrageous laws designed to silence conservative opinion.
Plenty has been said about that too, perhaps none better than by The Mocker in The Australian who noted the hypocrisy of the ABC’s favourite guest and Greens’ leader, Richard di Natale:
“An attack on the press for doing their job is an attack on our democracy,” tweeted Greens leader senator Richard Di Natale.
How noble. I have been thinking of designing a hashtag for such converts — how does #JeSuisFullofIt sound, Senator? In March Di Natale revealed his inner tinpot when he told his admiring Melbourne inner-city audience of his plans to silence conservative journalists.
As @sarahinthesen8 has said today, Australians deserve to know what the Government is doing. Journalists should be able to report the facts without looking over their shoulder for the AFP. An attack on the press for doing their job is an attack on our democracy. https://t.co/QGUyWOTr1S
— Richard Di Natale (@RichardDiNatale) June 5, 2019
And yes. There is merit in criticising the over-classification of documents, as some have done, including Bret Walker SC.
But none of these points, valid as they are, come close to the real story uncovered in the wake of these raids.
And that news is that the ABC’s news is fake news.
The ABC has been caught red-handed making stuff up and almost no one has even noticed.
In the process poor David McBride has been hung out to dry. This whistle blower went to Aunty with one story (a real one) and the ABC ran off and published something entirely different.
The ABC ran The Afghan Files after receiving material from David McBride. The story starts with these words:
Hundreds of pages of secret defence force documents leaked to the ABC give an unprecedented insight into the clandestine operations of Australia’s elite special forces in Afghanistan, including incidents of troops killing unarmed men and children.
The ABC can reveal that some of the cases detailed in the documents are being investigated as possible unlawful killings…
…The documents, many marked AUSTEO — Australian Eyes Only — suggest a growing unease at the highest levels of Defence about the culture of Australia’s special forces as they prosecuted a bloody, secretive war against insurgents across a swathe of southern Afghanistan.
David McBride was not quoted in this story but the documents he admits that he gave to the ABC were. And after reading The Afghan Files one is left with the clear impression that the ABC had stumbled across evidence that the SAS was up to its armpits in war crimes.
But that is not the story the ABC was given. McBride went to the ABC to complain that politicians and Defence leadership had thrown soldiers under a bus and allowed them to be treated as war criminals despite the fact that they had done nothing wrong. He gave the ABC the documents to prove that the allegations were baseless.
And how did McBride know this? He was a legal officer involved in investigating complaints and rumours and had found no wrong doing at all.
He said as much to Samantha Maiden from The New Daily in a recent interview. This is how that story starts:
It was the notorious claim that an SAS soldier had chopped off the hands of dead Taliban insurgents that led to allegations of “war crimes” in Australia’s name.
But the whistleblower who leaked the internal report and sparked last week’s police raids on the ABC insists he was trying to expose the willingness of politicians and Defence to throw the soldier under the bus to appease voters – not criticise the troops.
McBride goes on to state:
“As I told them at the time, it was not actually a crime, despite the minister’s and others’ hysteria.”
And he also told Joe Kelly at The Australian this:
But he said the 2017 ABC story based on documents he provided, which contained allegations of possible unlawful killings by SAS soldiers, was a “different story to the one I wanted”.
“They (ABC) published something about SAS soldiers shooting people by accident, which I found disappointing.”
So there you have it. David McBride might be guilty of leaking classified documents. But his biggest mistake was giving them to the ABC. This ‘principled’ organisation used them to run a story that completely contradicted everything McBride set out to say. And it now has the hide to claim that it will do all it can to protect whistle blowers.
So if you’ve got a story you’ll probably want to think twice before you decide to speak to the ABC.
Something stinks with the way that Defence has handled this entire affair.
Based on reports from Fairfax (which have resulted in defamation action by Victoria Cross winner Ben Roberts-Smith) and the ABC, allegations of various war crimes have apparently been floating around for over a decade.
Yet not a single person has been charged.
Instead, Defence has advertised to the Taliban, calling on anyone in Afghanistan with a yarn, good story or mere rumour to come forward. And feminist academic Samantha Crompvoets has been handed a truck-load of cash to write up reports about Defence culture while the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force has been running a pointless inquiry that has lasted about as long as the entirety of World War One.
None of these processes can make findings of guilt. They can only destroy reputations. Unjustly.
It’s pretty simple.
If a soldier goes absent without leave, evidence is produced, they are charged under the Defence Force Discipline Act and, if found guilty, punished.
If a soldier commits a war crime exactly the same process should be followed.
The fact that the Chief of Defence Force needs an Inspector General inquiry to provide recommendations outlining how allegations should be dealt with is a disgrace.
And so is the fact that Defence asked the AFP to chase up the ABC for leaks from David McBride but has shown zero interest in finding out how Samantha Crompvoets’ report was leaked – even though it was based on exactly the same classified material.
When it comes to leaks, Defence only seems to act on the ones intended to support our soldiers.
And that just proves David McBride’s point.