Australia probes sale of secret papers in filing cabinets
CANBERRA – The Associated Press
The Australian government on Jan. 31 launched an urgent investigation into the loss of thousands of classified documents that were sold with two second-hand filing cabinets.
The cabinets were sold by a Canberra furniture shop at a discount price because they were locked and no one could find keys, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
The ABC has not identified the buyer who removed the locks with a drill and found thousands of Cabinet documents spanning more than a decade and four prime ministers, the most recent being Tony Abbott. Abbott was replaced in 2015 by the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Several businesses trade in what is described as ex-government furniture in Canberra, the national capital.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said the department boss initiated an urgent investigation into the disposal of the filing cabinets.
The ABC reported nearly all the documents are classified. The classifications include “top secret,” “sensitive,” ‘’Australian eyes only,” and “cabinet-in-confidence.”
The ABC has not said when the documents were found. But it has used them in recent weeks to report stories that have been embarrassing to the former administrations of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Abbott as well as a number of serving lawmakers.
The state-owned broadcaster said it had chosen not to report some documents on national security grounds.
The documents cover Australia’s intelligence priorities and counterterrorism planning. They detail missile upgrades, profiles of suspected militants and Australia’s desire in 2010 for more Indonesian cooperation to stop asylum seekers reaching Australian shores in fishing boats, the ABC said.
One document refers to an audit that revealed that the Australian Federal Police had lost almost 400 national security files over five years ending 2013.
The documents also reveal that a former finance minister left 195 top-secret papers in her old office when her government was voted out in 2013.