Subject: SMH: Warning on East Timor was ignored

Sydney Morning Herald

Warning on East Timor was ignored

By Tom Allard April 14, 2004

As an intelligence officer at Australian theatre headquarters in Brisbane, Lieutenant-Colonel Lance Collins was charged with writing highly classified reports on East Timor.

In July 1998, he wrote a chilling assessment that the Indonesian military was sponsoring militia violence and the Indonesian province was a powder-keg.

That began a stream of alarming intelligence reports as the East Timor crisis developed. The reports included warnings there could be mass bloodshed following the independence ballot that took place a year later.

Colonel Collins was admonished by Defence policy officials in late 1998 for going beyond his brief of looking only at operational matters and for failing to understand the foreign policy relationship with Indonesia that underpinned the government's stance on East Timor.

To critics this was tantamount to saying the military intelligence network had to consider political objectives. Australia then supported Indonesia's occupation of East Timor.

But the analyses were remarkably prescient and they were all but ignored by the military's top brass.

The violence that followed profoundly disturbed Colonel Collins and, frustrated by his treatment by military insiders, led to him taking the extraordinary step of writing to then defence minister, John Moore, in 2000. His comments were passed on to Mr Moore's successor, Peter Reith.

Colonel Collins accused a pro-Jakarta lobby at the highest levels of Defence intelligence of muzzling his intelligence reports and harboured misgivings about the suicide of Defence Intelligence Officer Merv Jenkins for passing on sensitive intelligence to the US.

The intelligence related to East Timor and came as the US was worried they weren't getting the full picture on thetroubled province.

Colonel Collins had served for five months as commander General Peter Cosgrove's top military intelligence adviser in East Timor.

But he complained that a campaign was waged against him after his return to Australia.

This culminated in the listing of his name on a federal police search warrant in August 2001.

The list of names of the warrant was leaked to the media, outing Colonel Collins as a spy, an act that cruelled his espionage career.

He sought redress through the Inspector-General of Intelligence, Bill Blick. A meeting was organised with Mr Blick, believed to have been attended by Defence Intelligence Organisation boss Frank Lewincamp.

In a Kafka-esque nightmare that followed, Mr Blick and Mr Reith said they had investigated - using ASIO - supposed allegations made by Colonel Collins that there was an Indonesian agent in the high ranks of the military.

But Colonel Collins said the allegation was never made by him.

A second internal inquiry was then conducted by a military legal officer, Captain Martin Toohey.

Captain Toohey's report, delivered in the second half of last year was damning of the treatment of Colonel Collins, reserving some of its harshest words for Mr Lewincamp.

It recommended Colonel Collins be reappointed as a military intelligence officer, commended for his work on East Timor and considered for promotion.

The matter appeared to have been finally settled. But the report was ruled inadmissable.


Spy network putrid, army man tells PM

By Tom Allard, Defence Reporter April 14, 2004

A high-ranking military analyst has accused the Federal Government of systematically putting foreign policy objectives ahead of intelligence, seriously undermining the work of its own spies.

A saga that has wracked the military for six years has culminated in General Peter Cosgrove's senior intelligence analyst during the East Timor conflict, Lieutenant-Colonel Lance Collins, writing to the Prime Minster demanding a Royal Commission into the spy services.

The letter says there has been a litany of intelligence failures, from the Sandline affair in Papua New Guinea to East Timor and the Bali bombings and, most recently, the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"I strongly urge you, Prime Minister, to appoint an impartial and wide-ranging Royal Commission into intelligence," the letter says. "To do otherwise would merely cultivate an artificial scab over the putrefaction beneath".

The Herald has seen the letter, sent last month, and has been told of an alleged campaign to ostracise Lieutenant-Colonel Collins after he complained that the Defence Intelligence Organisation was run by a "pro-Jakarta lobby".

Colonel Collins penned damning assessments as far back as July 1998, saying the Indonesian military was funding and supporting militia in East Timor. The intelligence never got through and a member of Defence's strategic and international policy division told him his reporting did not reflect the "fundamental drivers" behind the foreign policy relationship between Indonesia and Australia.

At the time, Australia recognised Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor, a unique position in the world. It is understood senior officials in Defence attempted, unsuccessfully, to prevent Colonel Collins acting as General Cosgrove's senior intelligence adviser in the East Timor operation, a post he took up in mid-1999.

But a campaign of retribution began soon after his return, allegedly involving the head of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, Frank Lewincamp.

A navy lawyer, Captain Martin Toohey, conducted a review of Colonel Collins's grievances and found his intelligence on Timor was blocked at high levels in the DIO. Captain Toohey said the DIO reported what "the government wants to hear" on East Timor. He found it vindictively and unfairly placed Colonel Collins's name on an Australian Federal Police search warrant looking for leaked intelligence documents, effectively ending his career as an intelligence officer. The names on the AFP warrant was leaked to media.

Colonel Collins remains in the military but has not been promoted and is not involved in intelligence, despite Captain Toohey finding he was the army's most outstanding intelligence officer and should be reinstated with an apology. "I find it a fact that a pro-Jakarta lobby exists in the Defence Intelligence Organisation, which distorts intelligence estimates to the extent those estimates are heavily driven by government policy," Captain Toohey found.

The Herald can reveal the DIO shut down an intelligence-sharing network at the height of the East Timor operation and ordered, in early 2000, that no more intelligence be gathered from West Timor, where atrocities against East Timorese refugees occurred.

Captain Toohey's report has been since quashed by the military for going beyond its brief.

Defence would not comment while Mr Lewincamp could not be reached. Mr Howard denied a royal commission was needed but a spokesman confirmed he had received the letter and Colonel Collins would receive "a very detailed reply which he is entitled to have."

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