[BreachExchange] Australia: Urgent probe launched into accidental sale of classified documents

Audrey McNeil audrey at riskbasedsecurity.com
Wed Jan 31 20:41:34 EST 2018


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s department has launched an “urgent
investigation” into how two filing cabinets containing classified and
sensitive government documents were mistakenly sold at a second hand
furniture shop in Canberra.

In an extraordinary lapse of security, the documents, which include federal
cabinet papers that should not be made public for 20 years, were apparently
bought by a member of the public and eventually passed on to the ABC.

A spokesperson for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said: “The
secretary of the department ... has initiated an urgent investigation into
the circumstances around the disposal of two Commonwealth government filing
cabinets that alledged contained classified material. Given that the
investigation is underway, it is not appropriate for the department to
comment further at this time."

The ABC has reported the filing cabinets were locked when the unidentified
person bought them. The buyer eventually drilled open the locks and
discovered thousands of pages of documents.

Nearly all the files were classified, some as “top secret” or for
Australian eyes only, the ABC reported.

They have formed the basis of several ABC stories over the past few days
that were embarrassing to several previous governments.

The documents stretch over about a decade, the ABC has reported, and cover
the Howard, Rudd, Gillard and Abbott governments.

According to the ABC, the documents include an audit that reveals the
Australian Federal Police lost nearly 400 national security files between
2008 and 2013.

Another document reveals nearly 200 top secret and sensitive papers were
left in former finance minister Penny Wong’s office after Labor lost the
2013 election. These included Middle East defence plans, details on
counter-terrorism operations and intelligence on Australia’s neighbours.

The AFP documents and those from Senator Wong’s former office are not the
same as the  documents in the filing cabinets.

Senator Wong said: "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.
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."
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