Keeping pollies out of the spy trade

Cabinet established an inquiry into the Australian Secret Intelligence Service in February 1994 amid mounting concerns that - as the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gareth Evans later conceded - its "internal culture ??? places a high premium on secrecy and loyalty", valuing neither accountability nor accuracy as much as it might.

"Community perceptions about reduced security risks" also needed to be addressed.

The report of the inquiry, released in May 1995, followed through with the proposition first put to cabinet that legislative charter rather than executive direction was a better model for a reformed organisation.

The government decided to be more open about ASIS.

"In the past successive governments have strictly limited the extent of their public comment on ASIS. We judge that now is an appropriate time, given the end of the Cold War, to be more open than we have in the past."

But only up to a point.

The report noted former ASIS officers had gone public with "sensitive information about ASIS" to attract attention to their complaints for which there was "no justification".

However, the report confirmed that the two former officers and the wife of one of the officers "had been subject to improper treatment by ASIS management".

It said there had been a finding that the wife had been entitled to an apology from the director-general of the service for the "stress and hurt caused by her treatment".

This story Keeping pollies out of the spy trade first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.