Prime Minister John Key is refusing to confirm or deny a top secret meeting was held in New Zealand over an espionage scandal that threatens to expose the secrets of New Zealand and other Western security agencies.
The Melbourne Age reported today an alleged Canadian spy had compromised Australian intelligence information in an international espionage case which has sent shockwaves through Western security agencies.
Jeffrey Paul Delisle, a naval officer, is alleged to have disclosed a vast trove of classified information to Russian agents on a scale comparable to the alleged handover to WikiLeaks of United States military and diplomatic reports by US Army private Bradley Manning.
Sub-Lieutenant Delisle's activities have been the subject of high-level consultation between the Australian and Canadian governments and were discussed at a secret international conference in New Zealand earlier this year, the Age said.
Key said there were security meetings "from time to time" held in New Zealand but he would not confirm whether there was one earlier in the year.
He refused to comment further because it was a matter of national security.
INFORMATION ALLEGEDLY SOLD
Much of the information allegedly sold to the Russians was more highly classified than the disclosures attributed to Manning, and included signals intelligence collected by the ''Five Eyes'' intelligence community of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
According to the Age, Australian security sources have privately acknowledged the security breach compromised intelligence information and capabilities across Western intelligence agencies, especially in the US and Canada but also including Australia's top secret Defence Signals Directorate and the Defence Intelligence Organisation.
Australia's High Commissioner to Canada, Louise Hand, was briefed by the Canadian government on the case shortly after Delisle's arrest on January 14.
Information released under Australian freedom of information laws shows Hand discussed the case with Stephen Rigby, National Security Adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But her cabled report, classified ''secret - sensitive'' and sent to Canberra on January 30, has been withheld in full on national security grounds.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was also briefed on the Delisle case through liaison with its counterpart, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which also discussed the matter at a security conference attended by ASIO in New Zealand in February.
Another Australian diplomatic cable dated February 1 that refers to the case has also been withheld in its entirety.
Delisle worked at the Royal Canadian Navy's Trinity intelligence and communications centre at Halifax, Nova Scotia. He previously worked at defence intelligence headquarters in Ottawa. He was arrested after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service concluded he was passing classified information to Russian operatives.
Although Canada has for diplomatic reasons avoided publicly identifying Russia as the foreign power involved in the case, several Russian diplomats in Canada were recalled to Moscow before completing their postings.
Delisle is accused of communicating classified information to an unnamed foreign entity between July 2007 and January 2012. He faces possible life imprisonment.
His information access reportedly covered signals intelligence produced by the US National Security Agency, the UK's Government Communications Headquarters, Canada's Communications Security Establishment, Australia's Defence Signals and New Zealand's Communications Security Bureau.
An Australian security source told The Age that Delisle's access was ''apparently very wide'' and that ''Australian reporting was inevitably compromised''.
''The signals intelligence community is very close, we share our intelligence overwhelmingly with the US, UK and Canada,'' one former Defence Signals Directorate officer said.
A former Australian Defence Intelligence Organisation officer and now adjunct professor at Macquarie University, Clive Williams, said: ''Close intelligence relations inevitably result in some overlap in espionage cases, because of the very extensive sharing of information.''
An Australian Defence Department spokesperson said that ''consistent with long-standing practices, the Australian government does not comment on intelligence matters''.
Delisle will appear before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court for a preliminary hearing in October.
- The Age
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