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