If you have been following the news recently you have probably heard something about the AFP raids on journos, and the ABC HQ in Ultimo, Sydney. But, why?
It has been deemed by some as an assault against Whistleblowers and the beginning of an Orwellian Autocracy, by others, a national security necessity. And both are important. The government holds many legitimate secrets that, when released to the public, can damage national security. An example of such would be the leak of technical US Military documents by Wikileaks, which doesn’t really provide any useful information or advantage to US citizens to be aware of, (in fact few would understand or care about them) but do provide an advantage to America’s adversaries. at the same time, not all information is related to national security, and whistleblowers, often with the help of journalists, keep governments honest.
It is also important to note that most individuals who leak classified information have signed a government contract, efficiently promising to keep secrets secret, or suffer the consequences. Whistle blowers, especially those revealing military secrets, know the risks.
But maybe that is the most concerning aspect. If someone deems information important enough for the general public that they are happy to take these risks to share the information with journalists, then it often is pretty important.
Take the Afgan files, for example. They were a series of defence documents leaked to the ABC about Australian Special Forces misconduct. This leak was dealt with professionally by the ABC. The information sparked a conversation about our defence force and changes were made, accountability was achieved, whilst other information that could have been harmful to national security was not shared.
But does the Government agree? A lot of evidence and reporting suggests that the raid on the ABC is related to the manhunt (or woman hunt) for the individual who leaked the Afgan Files originally. But, as far as we are aware, although it was embarrassing for the government, the files were not harmful to national security in any way.
So are they just covering their arses? Avoiding accountability? Maybe. Maybe not. We can’t really tell at this early stage what the point is. Was the government even involved? They are denying that they were, claiming that it is entirely an AFP matter.
Importantly, are the AFP allowed to do this? Isn’t this destroying freedom of the press? Well, they totally can. The goliath ‘Crimes Act’ with several recent amendments gives the AFP massive power to seize and comb through data. Should they be allowed to? That is what is up for debate.
Before we burn the witch that is the Australian Government for following in the footsteps of the likes of Saudi Arabia or China, we need to see how this plays out.
What do you think? Was Orwell right or are the AFP acting in our best interests? Are the government involved? Let us know in the comments!