EU Australia Online - News & information from the capital of Europe direct to Australian businesses

Ending 2013: “Five Eyes” get a black eye over Snowden spy tales …

  • December 18th, 2013
  • Posted by EU Australia

eyeThe drip feed of information purloined from American security files continued this year as Edward Snowden, former CIA-NSA contractor, continued the campaign from his Russian sanctuary.

Merkel A portrait Obama EUThe news of American phone-tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel (picture), provoking an apology from President Barack Obama (picture) who indicated such practices would stop, was matched by complaints from South-east Asia saying Australia was running the Asia-Pacific side of such operations.
Targetted in this were the so-called Five Eyes states that share intelligence, the United States and the old “white Commonwealth”: Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand.


The impacts of various new leaks from Snowden in Russia were mapped out by a trail of blogging activity and diplomatic complaints; disclosing the side issue of governments in the Region deciding to give the new administration in Canberra a try-on as well.

The government of China tied it in with a decision by Australia, in line with all other states, to ignore its unilateral declaration of a Chinese air defence zone over the China sea.

Wang Xi RESIZEThe Foreign Minister, Wang Yi (picture), had a go at his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, in front of reporters in Beijing on 6.12.13. She reiterated earlier statements, citing a general position of not recognising such claims.

See Video, SMH,, (17.12.13).

Senior government figures in Malaysia took a lead with the general theme, objecting to Australian spies using advanced software to monitor phone traffic; East Timor revived complaints about the Australian side eavesdropping on its negotiators, at the time of the 2002 Timor Sea negotiations on petroleum exploration.


SBY familyThe trigger-factor was the most immediately disruptive and threatening: news delivered by Snowden to The Guardian Australia, shared with Australian ABC, 17.11.13, that an Australian security agency had been listening in on the cell phone conversations of the Indonesia leadership, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and his wife Kristiani Herawati (picture, family group).

The documentation was a slide show about it, given to American officials and kept in the leaky United States archives.

The response has been a broad withdrawal by Indonesia of cooperation on projects shared by the two countries, with Indonesian armed forces personnel withdrawn from a base in Australia; a hold on police cooperation taking in work against organised crime, and possibly terrorism, and withdrawal of collaboration on the stressed issue of the movement of asylum seekers out of Indonesia by boat to Australian shores.


asylum seekers 2The conservative government elected in Australia in September (Liberal and National parties) had campaigned on a slogan of “Stop the Boats”; undertaking to put border patrols under military command, and take action on Indonesian soil, e.g. run advertising campaigns and buy up old fishing boats to stop people smugglers using them.

Asylum seekersIt had been given a leg-up by the previous Labor government’s policy of diverting all “boat people” to camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, with no access to entry into Australia, bringing on a marked drop in numbers.

Yet, it had also proclaimed a regional-based foreign policy, with slogan, “Jakarta not Geneva!”, and within three months that ambition was looking askew. (One rejoinder doing the rounds, inexperience of the government in mind: “Please don’t let them go to Geneva!”).

In the final weeks of 2013 statements from both sides affirmed that in the middle term they would be moving back to normal relations, though with no sign of hurry in Jakarta.

SBY, himself a child of the era of Merdeka (born three months before the final capitulation and replacement of Dutch colonial rule, 27.12.49), not known for extreme Third World sensitivities about decolonisation, has taken a cooperative attitude towards the Southern neighbour.

However he has domestic politics to think of now, with his own term approaching its final time, but parties jostling for position ahead of presidential elections set for July. Being able to give one of the Five Eyes a bit more of a public caning might help with that.

Edward Snowden (picture), considered a fugitive from justice in America, where he is wanted for breach of security laws, in the meantime has maintained efforts to find a country he could get to, that would offer him amnesty – possibly in South America. See EUAustralia Online, Spies all over, 6.7.13.

After first contacting journalists in 2012, he left the United States last May, and the first disclosures of information from the security files were published in June.

They drew on information shared with other Western powers, drawing in several agencies including the Five Eyes, and others from at least Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden.

In a time of zealous out-sourcing of government business to private businesses or short-term contract employees, even national security matters came to be handled by a former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), then contractor with the National Security Agency (NSA).

An Information  technology worker, Edward Snowden, 30, was first said to have moved over 2000 000 documents, the estimate extended at times to 1,7-million, his associates in news media saying 1% of the total has so far come out in public. They say nothing directly harmful to persons has been allowed to come out. Biographical information to date suggests the man may have loosely libertarian views about freedom of information and distrust of public authorities.

What happened to agents of the state or Crown sworn to secrecy in the interest of public safety; entrusted with limited collections of classified material, supervised and watched?

Blame the news media? Government-linked media in Australia  – partisan mastheads from the Newscorp stable – have cried out that the story they missed should not have been run, as it was about spy operations.

Journalists more generally, hard wired to disclose, have been seen contorting over that: who can laugh their head off and shake it in disbelief at the same time?


Zurairi Arby, Top secret system used to spy on Malaysia, Australian intelligence confirms, The Malay Mail, 2.8.13. :, (17.12.13).
Michael Brissenden, Australia spied on Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, leaked Edward Snowden documents reveal, ABC, Sydney, 18.11.13., (18.12.13).

Asia-Pacific Perspective (Web log), 7.11.13, Malaysia gathering evidence to prove US, Australia spying.

DFAT, Canberra, Agreement Between the Republic of Indonesia and Australia on the Framework for Security Cooperation., (18.12.13).

Ewen MacAskill and Lenore Taylor, Australia’s spy agencies targeted Indonesian president’s mobile phone, The Guardian, Manchester, 18.11.13.,(17.12.13).

SMH, Sydney, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop repeats China air-zone concerns, 7.12.13.

SMH, Sydney, Julie Bishop denies US interference, 28.11.13. Video., (17.12.13).

Pictures   eyebloggers, Jakarta Post, wikipedia