The 23 people identified in cables signed by US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich were alleged to have links with Yemeni-based Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has advocated violence against the West and who has been implicated in planned terror attacks against America.
The list includes a grandmother once described as the matriarch of Australian Islamist militancy, a woman arrested in Yemen after her passport was cancelled, and the wife of a French terror suspect alleged to have had links with Australian terror cells.
The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, yesterday broke the Government’s policy of refusing comment on material released by WikiLeaks to describe publication of the latest cables as “reckless, irresponsible and potentially dangerous”.
He said WikiLeaks had changed its earlier practice of removing identifying features where security operations or safety could be put at risk.
“The publication of any information that could compromise Australia’s national security – or inhibit the ability of intelligence agencies to monitor potential threats – is incredibly irresponsible,” he said.
“The Government condemns the publication of any document that could seriously impact Australia’s national security.”
McClelland said Yemen was becoming an increasingly important hub for terrorism associated with al-Qaeda and that a number of Australians had been drawn to extremist figures there, including al-Awlaki.
“Australian authorities are working together with international partners to identify and mitigate threats, including by preventing Australians to travel overseas to undertake terrorism-related activity.”
In London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, under house arrest pending a ruling on his extradition to Sweden to face sex charges, attacked McClelland’s position.
“[He] bemoans having his department being publicly caught out ratting out 23 Australians to the US embassy without due process,” Assange said in a statement reported by ABC radio.
“If Mr McClelland is unhappy about being caught out, perhaps he should consider cancelling my Australian passport again.
“It has not, after all, proven terribly useful to me the last 267 days of my detention without charge. Or, perhaps he could do us all a favour, cancel his own passport and deport himself?”
The cable released by WikiLeaks, dated January 2010, names 23 Australians with alleged past or present associations with al-Awlaki.
The names were supplied by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
It recommended 11 be placed on a no-fly list, and a further 12 on a “selectee” terrorism watch list.
The list includes Rabiah Hutchinson, alleged to be a jihadist advocate who has travelled to al-Qaeda bases overseas, but who has denied any ties to terrorism.
The cable said she was included because of “demonstrated connections” with al-Qaeda.
Faced with the allegations three years ago, Hutchinson told Australian media: “They’ve got it wrong. I am not important.
“I’m just a 54-year-old granny with diabetes and arthritis. What are they so worried about?”
The cable also recommends Melanie Joyce Brown, the 34-year-old wife of suspect terrorist Willie Brigitte, and Shyloh Jayne Giddins be placed on the no-fly list.
Giddins, 33, was arrested in Yemen after her passport was cancelled.
Others named in the cable were: Rahmah Wisudo, 28, Daniel Ali Baladjam, 31, and wife Kirsty Jane Allen, Marek Samulski, 40, Kalid Vetter, 39, Walid Osman Mohamed, 28, Zean Johnson, 38, and Philippine-born Maryam Santos.
In another cable released by WikiLeaks, the Government of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is reported to have ignored Foreign Affairs Department advice to support Israel in a United Nations vote demanding investigation of alleged war crimes committed in Gaza.
Australia abstained from the vote, which occurred shortly after a senior Israeli diplomat was expelled following the use of Australian passports by Mossad agents involved in the assassination in Dubai of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
Rudd said Australia’s decision to abstain in the UN vote was not connected with the passport furore, but the US embassy cable reported that despite its fury, foreign affairs officials believed that Canberra should back Israel.
- WikiLeaks cable leak ‘irresponsible’, says Australia (guardian.co.uk)
- Sheikh complains to ASIO over link (theage.com.au)
- Sheikh complains to ASIO over link to al-Qaeda (theage.com.au)
- WikiLeaks hacked (rt.com)
- Flood of WikiLeaks cables includes identities of dozens of informants (cnn.com)
- Time for a CyberwarAgainst WikiLeaks? (foxnews.com)
- Uncensored WikiLeaks cables posted online (independent.co.uk)
- WikiLeaks Steps Up Release Of US Cables, Saying It’s Disappointed By Lack Of Media Coverage (businessinsider.com)
- Exposed: Uncensored WikiLeaks cables posted to Web (seattletimes.nwsource.com)