By Marian Wilkinson May 13, 2005
A long-awaited controversial report on the Defence Intelligence Organisation outlining how officials cut off critical intelligence to Australian troops in East Timor is expected to be released soon by the Defence Minister, Robert Hill.
The report vindicates an army intelligence whistleblower, Lieutenant-Colonel Lance Collins, who first reported the damaging incident six years ago only to face an uphill battle to prove his case in the face of repeated denials.
The Government has withheld the report by the Inspector-General of Intelligence, Ian Carnell, for six months after Mr Carnell talked to the former head of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, Frank Lewincamp, about his findings.
Appearing before a Senate committee this year, Mr Carnell said he had no doubt that the cutting off of intelligence to Australian troops in December 1999 had been deliberate. The central questions waiting to be answered by the report are who ordered the cut-off and why.
In evidence to a previous inquiry by a naval barrister, Captain Martin Toohey, witnesses said the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, had expressed fury over the leaking of Defence Intelligence Organisation reports during the East Timor crisis in 1999 that linked the Indonesian military to violent local militias.
After the intelligence was restored to the army intelligence officers in East Timor, the Toohey inquiry heard, the officers were specifically instructed not to provide assessments of pro-Indonesian militia activities across the border in West Timor, where rampant abuses of civilians were occurring. Raw data on the activities continued to be collected.
The Government has rejected claims of a cover-up over its previous failure to release the Carnell report. While it was expected to be released last night, a Defence spokesman, Brigadier Mick Moon, told the Herald it was "still in the decision cycle process".
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