A senior retired Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) agent, who is a primary whistle-blowing witness in an East Timorese espionage case against the Australian Government currently in front of The Hague international courts, and his wife have been been detained and had their home searched while a key lawyer has also had his office raided by ASIO and AFP agents in Canberra following allegations Australia bugged Timorese cabinet rooms to gain an advantage over Timor during negotiations of a billion dollar oil and gas treaty. 

In the 24-hours since he left the country, the lawyer representing East Timor, Bernard Collaery, told The ABC last night that a number of agents raided his office over a period of six hours, seizing documents, electronic media and other evidence under a warrant unable to be presented to his reportedly intimidated staff for reasons of national security. Attorney General George Brandis has since confirmed he issued the warrant ahead of East Timor launching its case in The Hague alleging ASIS initiated an elaborate covert operation using Australian aid organisations to bug the office of East Timor’s Prime Minister and senior staff during negotiations in Dili in 2004.

The man currently detained by ASIO was expected to give oral evidence at The Hague and is, according to Mr Collaery, “not some disaffected spy” but the former director of all technical operations at ASIS:

“We’re talking about a very senior, experienced, decorated officer who formed a proper view, as would any good person, that there was a wrong operation,” he told ABC’s Lateline, reiterating to Fairfax that “this is not a maverick whistleblower like Edward Snowden.”

Mr Collaery, who is now seeking witness protection in the Netherlands, has also accused ASIO and the Government of being “crass” by “muzzling the oral evidence of the prime witness” in a “blatant, disgraceful attempt” to impede justice.

However, Collaery maintains he has the necessary evidence with him and that the raid will do “very little” to hinder the Timorese case: “The evidence is here. I can’t see what the Government hopes to achieve by this aggressive action,” he said. “It can attempt to nullify the whistleblower’s evidence, but that evidence has flown – the evidence is here, it’s abroad, it’s ready.”

“What it may of course do is restrict the flow of evidence; it may impede others to come forward who were unfortunately pressed into the service of the minister at the time, Alexander Downer, to effect this bugging operation,” he said.

ASIO and Mr Downer have declined to comment.

via The ABCThe GuardianThe SMH