Police raid Australian official's home after media raids

By ROD McGUIRK 04 September 2019, 12:00AM

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Police on Wednesday executed a search warrant on the home of an Australian intelligence officer in a raid that one media executive described as an attempt to intimidate people who talk to journalists.

The raid on an inner-Canberra house owned by Australian Signals Directorate official Cameron Gill came three months after police caused widespread outrage by raiding the Canberra home of News Corp. journalist Annika Smethurst and Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s Sydney headquarters on consecutive days.

News Corp. Australia group executive for corporate affairs, policy and government relations Campbell Reid drew a link between Wednesday's raid and the June 4 raid on Smethurst's home.

Police were searching for the source of Smethurst's 2018 report that Defense Department and Home Affairs Department bosses had canvassed giving the Australian Signals Directorate new legal powers to spy on Australians.

"We have always said the AFP raids on journalists were not intended to intimidate journalists but the people who have the courage to talk to journalists," Reid said in a statement, referring to the Australian Federal Police. "Today we are seeing that process of intimidation continue."

Gill is the husband of Australian Ambassador to Iraq Joanne Loundes.

Police spent around seven hours at the house before leaving with garbage bags full of material.

Canberra lawyer Kamy Saeedi told reporters at the house after police left that it was a "complex" and "sensitive" situation and he could not comment.

News Corp. and the ABC have launched legal challenges to the warrants executed in June. Police wanted the ABC's sources of classified information that formed the basis of 2017 reports that Australian troops had killed unarmed men and children in Afghanistan in potential war crimes.

The Australian Signals Directorate did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Police said the target of the warrant was a "Commonwealth official," but refused further comment.

Australian media organizations have joined together in response to the raids to demand legal reforms that would exempt journalists from national security laws passed since 2012 that "would put them in jail for doing their jobs."

The government responded by asking a parliamentary committee to hold an inquiry into the impact of Australian law enforcement and intelligence powers on press freedom.

By ROD McGUIRK 04 September 2019, 12:00AM
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