August 28, 2018
The lawyer who helped expose an Australian spying operation on its ally Timor-Leste was given a chilling warning by the Federal Government, just months before charges were filed against him for breaches of the Intelligence Services Act.
In a legal letter obtained by the ABC, Bernard Collaery was warned that if he disclosed secret information about the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) in his book, due to be published next year, he could face “a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment”.
The letter from the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) warns he does not have approval to make “broader disclosures about ASIS staff members and ASIS activities, much less to the world at large”.
It points out Mr Collaery agreed to particular rules — including a “secrecy undertaking” — so that he could legally represent an Australian spy.
Mr Collaery and his client, the former intelligence agent known as Witness K, are due to face court next month over allegations not contained in the letter.
The pair is accused of conspiring to communicate secret information to the Government of Timor-Lestesome time between May 2008 and May 2013.
Mr Collaery is also accused of sharing information with ABC journalists about the 2004 operation which saw Australia bug Timor-Leste’s cabinet room during maritime boundary negotiations over oil and gas reserves worth an estimated $40 billion.
Those conversations allegedly occurred after the December 2013 raid on Mr Collaery’s office, where a legal brief was seized.