Spy's leaks show Australia passed on Indonesia file

By Greg Ansley

Snowden papers indicate Canberra offered details to Washington.

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo / AP
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo / AP

Australia's faltering relations with Indonesia have been dealt another blow by secret documents showing the nation's electronic spy agency passed on to the United States confidential legal communications between Jakarta and its legal representatives during trade disputes with Washington.

The documents, leaked to the New York Times, are the latest to emerge from the mass of data held by American whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The documents further reveal both the depth of co-operation between the Australian Signals Directorate and the US National Security Agency - including efforts to break Papua New Guinea's encrypted military signals - and the reach of spying into trade and commerce.

Australia, in an unrelated case, is already fighting allegations in the International Court of Justice that it gained commercial advantage by spying on East Timor during negotiations on oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea.

Relations with Indonesia have been battered by earlier Snowden documents revealing that the ASD and NSA had jointly spied on Indonesian and other delegations during United Nations climate change talks in Bali in 2007, and that the Australian directorate had intercepted cellphone calls by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and senior ministers.

In response, Indonesia suspended co-operation in a number of key fields, including defence and people smuggling.

Relations soured further with Australia's new hardline policy on asylum seeker boats including the towing of boats back to Indonesian waters and, recently, the transfer of asylum seekers to lifeboats for the return voyage. Australia has also admitted its warships had "inadvertently" entered Indonesian territorial waters and has promised Jakarta a copy of the navy's report into the breaches But Indonesian officials have openly doubted that the incursions were accidental.

With Australia refusing to budge, Jakarta has ramped up the pressure. At the weekend Foreign Minister Marty Natelagawa said Canberra's actions "cannot be accepted" and were in breach of international commitments.

He intends raising the issue with US Secretary of State John Kerry during talks this week, and said he would also discuss the issue with other countries in the region.

The documents leaked to the New York Times add further fuel.

The newspaper reported that a February 2013 monthly bulletin from the NSA's liaison office in Canberra said that Australia had intercepted communications between the Indonesian Government and an unnamed American law firm and had offered to pass on the data.

An earlier NSA document, also leaked by Snowden, said the ASD had broken into bulk call data from the Indonesian domestic telecommunications satellite Indosat.

The New York Times reported that the ASD had gained about 1.8 million encrypted master keys used by the Telkomsel mobile network, and had broken most of them.

The newspaper said the ASD had intercepted communications between Jakarta and its US lawyers and offered data to the NSA that included "information covered by attorney-client privilege".

Although the law firm and the trade negotiations involved were not named, the newspaper said the two negotiations at the time involved a ban on the import of clove cigarettes from Indonesia and the alleged sale of shrimp below market prices in the US.

The Chicago-based international law firm Mayer Brown represented Indonesia in both cases.

Because US law bans surveillance of American citizens or businesses without a warrant, the NSA sought legal advice on the ASD's offer. The New York Times reported the NSA bulletin as saying that on the advice of its lawyers the offer was accepted and the ASD was able to continue monitoring the communications "providing highly useful intelligence for interested US customers".

Duane Layton, a Mayer Brown lawyer involved in the trade talks, told the New York Times he did not have any evidence that he or his firm had been under scrutiny by Australian or American intelligence agencies.

But he said: "I always wonder if someone is listening."

The Australian Government refuses to comment on intelligence matters, but the Defence Force said the nation's spy agencies strictly adhered to their legal obligations in "gathering information to support Australia's national interests".

Corby under close watch

Officials from the Bali Prosecutions service planned to visit Schapelle Corby and her family at their Seminyak villa, to assess where she plans to live, Australian reports said.

Senior officers from the prosecutor's office, to whom Schapelle Corby must report each month while on parole, intend making the visit, News Limited reported.

Late last week the parole authority visited to warn against Corby conducting a TV interview or face parole revocation. News Limited reported that Corby was given a document outlining parole conditions and say Corby agreed not to be involved in any media interviews for now.

- Agencies

- NZ Herald

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