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Inside Chief Justice Higgins Mind – where sensitive ASIO documents just follow you home

By johnboy - 18 May 2010 22

Back in 2004 ASIO documents relating to the Bali bombings ended up in the hands of The Australian. Eventually it became clear that James Paul Seivers had taken them home and his housemate Francis Matthew O’Ryan had sent them to the papers.

Last year a jury found James Seivers guilty of contravening s 18(2) of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979.

But today Chief Justice Higgins (with Justices Penfold Ryan JJ) and has thrown it out because hey, when you work at ASIO isn’t it normal to take home sensitive documents by mistake?

The hypothesis that the documents were removed from ASIO by the appellant inadvertently, intermingled with other documents, was not inconsistent with the presence of other ASIO-related documents in the appellant’s spare bedroom which was used by Mr O’Ryan’s daughter. They included documents which, though not directly related to intelligence disclosures, did reveal ASIO operational practices, and were found in the box of documents in the spare bedroom. They would, on their face, have had some intelligence value if released to hostile interests. No case was made or suggested that those documents were removed deliberately or with a view to unauthorised disclosure. These facts undermined the Crown’s assertion that documents could not be inadvertently removed from ASIO.

Departmental Security Officers across town will be crying into their coffees this morning.

What’s Your opinion?


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22 Responses to
Inside Chief Justice Higgins Mind – where sensitive ASIO documents just follow you home
georgesgenitals 7:21 pm 18 May 10

Wraith said :

And these are the sort of people that get clearances…………

Everyone that ever deliberately leaked classified information had a security clearance…

Wilco 6:15 pm 18 May 10

chewy14 said :

Did you actually read the judgement?
How they came up with a guilty verdict in the first place is beyond me.
Taking the documents home had nothing to do with what he was charged with. For him to be found guilty of the charge, the crown had to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he had given the documents to his roommate with the express intention of leaking them.
They didn’t even come close.
Guilty of extreme stupidity but not the actual charge.

+1

Clown Killer said :

I get it! In Canberra if i didnt mean to commit a crime, then im not guilty

That should be the case for all jurisdictions where the offence is not one of strict liability. It’s up to the prosecution to establish two things: that an act took place, and that the defendant deliberately committed that act.

This isn’t about whether or not he took the documents home (which is a pretty silly thing to do), but whether or not he passed them on knowing that they would be disclosed to the press. The prosecution simply failed to establish that he deliberately leaked the information.

On the balance of things this looks less like a Chief Justice Higgins cock up and more like common garden variety incompetence on the part of the prosecution.

Senior prosecutors, both Commonwealth and ACT are paid rather more than peanuts. Yet their performance locally is that of monkeys. Very few have successfully practiced law in the private profession where reputations are forged on results. No win, no brief!

Wraith 5:37 pm 18 May 10

And these are the sort of people that get clearances…………

54-11 5:13 pm 18 May 10

chewy, the facts are irrelevant on the RA. Here, Higgins quite rightly gets a serve for any decision he makes. They’re generally crap, whether he’s right or wrong.

On with the lynching…

James-T-Kirk 3:42 pm 18 May 10

Clown Killer said :


On the balance of things this looks less like a Chief Justice Higgins cock up and more like common garden variety incompetence on the part of the prosecution.

It is pretty simple – In order to have an effective prosecution, you should *really* pay some quality staff – if you don’t pay the quality staff, expect ratshit outcomes.

Same goes for drafting legislation – To draft good legislation requires staff who are capable of reading and writing, and who understand the subject material. Pay a pittance, and expect nonsense.

I love Canberra. Can somebody remind me why I bother operating within the lawguidelines?

Clown Killer 3:20 pm 18 May 10

I get it! In Canberra if i didnt mean to commit a crime, then im not guilty

That should be the case for all jurisdictions where the offence is not one of strict liability. It’s up to the prosecution to establish two things: that an act took place, and that the defendant deliberately committed that act.

This isn’t about whether or not he took the documents home (which is a pretty silly thing to do), but whether or not he passed them on knowing that they would be disclosed to the press. The prosecution simply failed to establish that he deliberately leaked the information.

On the balance of things this looks less like a Chief Justice Higgins cock up and more like common garden variety incompetence on the part of the prosecution.

georgesgenitals 1:55 pm 18 May 10

There have been instances where peoples’ houses have been certified (in accordance with the relevant ‘standard’), but the type of info being processed by ASIO (that is of genuine interest to others) precludes access at home by all but a very few humans.

chewy14 1:53 pm 18 May 10

Did you actually read the judgement?
How they came up with a guilty verdict in the first place is beyond me.
Taking the documents home had nothing to do with what he was charged with. For him to be found guilty of the charge, the crown had to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he had given the documents to his roommate with the express intention of leaking them.
They didn’t even come close.
Guilty of extreme stupidity but not the actual charge.

johnboy 1:33 pm 18 May 10

Indeed GG, and I’m pretty sure teenage girls bedrooms don’t get that certification.

georgesgenitals 1:30 pm 18 May 10

Unless his home had been security assessed and physically certified to an appropriate level, he was doing the wrong thing just by bringing the material home.

p1 1:02 pm 18 May 10

So, let me get this straight. He couldn’t have broken the law by taking home stuff which then leaked, because he took home other stuff which he didn’t leak?

Deano 1:00 pm 18 May 10

So by this logic I won’t be found guilty of stealing a photocopier because no-one ever complained about all of the other stationery that I ‘inadvertently’ brought home.

johnboy 12:37 pm 18 May 10

Nah, you could have meant it, you just have to tell the nice Chief Justice you didn’t.

nexus6 12:19 pm 18 May 10

I get it! In Canberra if i didnt mean to commit a crime, then im not guilty.

thats pretty easy to understand.

eyeLikeCarrots 12:04 pm 18 May 10

Pubes – take information and document security seriously. Please.

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