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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Canadian film on Afghanistan

Scott Taylor (left) & Sasha Uzunov (right): filming in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2007.


Canadian film on Afghanistan

View the complete film at this link:

www.cpac.ca/forms/index.asp?dsp=template&act=view3&pagetype=vod&hl=e&clipID=4759

Canadian documentary film, "Afghanistan: outside the wire," 60 minutes long, camerawork by Scott Taylor (host/producer), David Pugliese and Sasha Uzunov.

CPAC Special
"Afghanistan: Outside the Wire"

Join respected military journalist Scott Taylor on a journey outside the protective walls of NATO bases into the heart of Taliban country.

This one-hour documentary examines how the war has affected the people of Afghanistan. It reveals efforts by Canada and its international partners to rebuild the country while dealing with political corruption. Come face-to-face with aid workers, diplomats, warlords and would-be suicide bombers in this exclusive CPAC special program.

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Created by Cable for Canadians

CPAC, the Cable Public Affairs Channel, is Canada’s only privately-owned, commercial free, not for profit, bilingual licensed television service. Created in 1992 by a consortium of cable companies to preserve an independent editorial voice for Canada’s democratic process, CPAC provides a window on Parliament, politics and public affairs in Canada and around the world. Since 1992, the cable industry has invested close to $50 million in CPAC, and today CPAC programming is delivered by cable, satellite and wireless distributors to over 10 million homes in Canada, and worldwide via 24/7 webcasting and podcasts available on this website.

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TAYLOR & PUGLIESE: THE REAL McCOY - GENUINE MEDIA TOUGH GUYS


Sasha Uzunov, an Australian cameraman/ independent film maker/ freelance journalist and former Australian soldier, talks to the New Zealand media about his involvement in an up-coming documentary film on Afghanistan, produced by award winning Canadian journalist Scott Taylor,


Money shot Quote:

Uzunov has praised Scott Taylor, the producer of “Afghanistan: outside the wire ,” and fellow cameraman on the project, David Pugliese, an award winning print journalist with Canada’s national newspaper, The Ottawa Citizen.

“Taylor and Pugliese are genuine media tough guys, there’s no pretense. They are the Real McCoy! The focus is on the story not on cheap theatrics or clichéd war reporting poses such as wearing a flak jacket and acting tough in front of camera... But unfortunately we now get celebrity style of war reporting on Australian TV screens.”



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- New Zealand Press Association (NZPA) wire story -

www.voxy.co.nz/national/aussie-cameraman-inspired-kiwi-courage/5/71620

Friday, 12 November 2010.

AUSSIE CAMERAMAN INSPIRED BY KIWI COURAGE

An Australian cameraman whose work features in an upcoming Canadian documentary film about the Afghanistan War says he drew inspiration from tenacity and bravery shown by the average New Zealander (Kiwi).

Sasha Uzunov, an independent film maker, freelance cameraman, and former Australian soldier who served in East Timor, is featured in the Canadian documentary film: “Afghanistan: outside the wire,” which will be broadcast on Canadian Cable TV news network, CPAC -the Cable Public Affairs Channel, on Sunday 20 November 2010, produced by award winning Canadian journalist Scott Taylor.

Uzunov said that New Zealand, with a small population of over 4 million, punched well above its weight on the international stage.

“Take a look at film director Peter Jackson and his conquering of Hollywood or humble bee keeper Sir Edmund Hillary conquering Mount Everest in 1953,” he said. “Recently, there was the New Zealand national soccer team, The All Whites, fighting like uncaged wild lions against the might of Italy at the 2010 World Cup.”

“I see myself in the same boat, that of underdog fighting against the odds,” Uzunov said. “Unfortunately, some sections of the Australian media do not believe that a film maker or journalist who is an ex-soldier has a democratic right to voice an opinion on defence/national security issues.”

“But that makes me more determined to get my point of view across.”

Uzunov said he cannot understand why Australia’s top war reporter John Martinkus is not being used by the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS TV) to cover that conflict.

“Martinkus is a heavy hitter who understands the Afghan war inside out and for the life of me, I can’t understand why SBS TV Dateline program isn’t using him,” Uzunov said.

“It would be like having legendary Australian leg spinner Shane Warne at his peak as 12th man and carrying the drinks during a cricket test match.”

Martinkus, a former SBS TV Dateline reporter ,is now an academic at the University of Tasmania.

Uzunov, who has worked in Iraq and Afghanistan, made his comments in response to SBS TV Dateline’s controversial story about Australian commandos and the accidental killing of Afghan civilians in a raid last year.

“In their haste to get the story out, the powers that be at Dateline were inadvertently fooled by a group of imposters claiming to be relatives of those Afghanis killed during the Australian commando raid,” Uzunov said. “Eventually the real relatives were tracked down. This is a huge mistake, something that Martinkus would’ve avoided.”

Uzunov has praised Scott Taylor, the producer of “Afghanistan: outside the wire ,” and fellow cameraman on the project, David Pugliese, an award winning print journalist with Canada’s national newspaper, The Ottawa Citizen.

“Taylor and Pugliese are genuine media tough guys, there’s no pretense. They are the Real McCoy! The focus is on the story not on cheap theatrics or clichéd war reporting poses such as wearing a flak jacket and acting tough in front of camera,” Uzunov said. “That is why Martinkus was devastatingly effective when he was on Dateline. But unfortunately we now get celebrity style of war reporting on Australian TV screens.”

Uzunov said he wanted to report on Afghanistan without military assistance.

During his two trips to that country in 2007 and 2008, he dressed in local outfits and toured the country to interview locals with fellow journalists Scott Taylor and David Pugliese from Canada.

“A lot of the reporters go embedded,” he said. “That is, they go with the military, so their movements are largely confined to what the military allows them to do.

“We decided that we had to go what they call ‘outside the wire’ and basically take a look for ourselves what was going on.”

Uzunov, an Australian of Macedonian heritage and is olive skinned with dark southern European features, was often mistaken for being an Afghan.

He said appearing like a local and showing the people from Kandahar, the heartland of the Taliban insurgency, some respect helped grant them access to locals’ stories.

“As unembedded journalists we were able to go to villages (which embedded journalists couldn’t go to),” he said.


“A trickle of fund money was being used (in these villages) to give them water, and to help them build a bakery and so on,” he said.

“But a lot of the problems aren’t being solved. There’s lots of corruption.”

Uzunov has also praised Australian reporters Paul Toohey of News Limited, ex-ABC-TV legend Chris Masters for their in depth understanding of the Afghanistan War.

He has also singled out Mark Corcoran, of ABC-TV. “Mark is the ABC’s only badge-qualified war reporter, having served in the Royal Australian Navy and later in the super-secret Defence Signals Directorate (DSD). I find it strange that the ABC don’t use him more, especially as an expert comments man as well as war reporter,” Uzunov said.

Uzunov released his first documentary film in 2009, TIMOR TOUR OF DUTY.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Aussie-Dutch rift on Afghanstan back in 2007

A new book by an ex-Australian SASR special forces soldier tells of the lack of support from Dutch allies in the Afghanistan War.

link:
www.heraldsun.com.au/news/australian-solders-left-for-dead-in-afghanistan/story-e6frf7jo-1225941976825

Australian solders left for dead in Afghanistan by Ian McPhedran
From: Herald Sun October 22, 2010

extract:

AUSTRALIAN special forces troops were left for dead by two Dutch attack helicopters during a deadly ambush in Afghanistan.


Three years ago, I was one of the first to reveal the rift in the following stories
...
http://newmatilda.com/2007/06/06/news-front

NEW MATILDA news website

Afghanistan
6 Jun 2007

News from the Front
By Sasha Uzunov

Australian journalist Sasha Uzunov reports from the Afghan front

The Forgotten War
Sometimes it takes an outsider to tell us the most uncomfortable truths.

Last week, Defence Minister Dr Brendan Nelson took a swipe at critics who question the pace at which Australian troops are securing their designated province in Afghanistan, saying:

Any suggestion Australian troops are not pulling their weight in southern Afghanistan is beneath contempt. Australia is steadfastly committed to Uruzgan as shown by the recent decision to deploy a Special Operations Task Group of approximately 300 people to the region.


However, the recent decision to send Special Forces back to Uruzgan could also be read as a tacit admission that not all is well with the mission. (Who was the genius who decided to remove our Special Forces soldiers from Afghanistan late last year?)

When I asked the Defence Minister if a rift had developed between Australian troops and the Dutch Army engineers they are serving alongside, over who was doing the most to secure Uruzgan, Nelson would not comment.

The controversy was sparked by prominent German journalist, Ulrich Ladurner, who claimed, in an interview he gave to me at Kabul airport on 14 May, that both the Australians and Dutch were being slow in establishing security in the province.

Ladurner, who is the foreign editor of the German weekly Die Zeit and co-author with Gero von Randow of The Iranian Bomb, spent weeks as an embedded journalist with Dutch Army engineers in Uruzgan Province at the Tarin Kowt base they share with Australian troops. ‘The Dutch and Australians are making a big effort but it is too slow in bringing stability to the province,’ Ladurner said. ‘The local people are not happy with the progress made. It is still not safe. The region is still wild.’

One of the reasons it takes a non-Australian to provide this insider’s view of the situation around Tarin Kowt is the Defence Department’s obsession with controlling media access to our troops.

Captain Brendan Maxwell, Australian Army Public Relations officer in the Afghan capital, Kabul, said it was impossible for a journalist to turn up in Afghanistan and demand to see the Australian soldiers at Tarin Kowt. ‘Journalists have to be embedded and that takes weeks, maybe even months to organise,’ he told me, when I arrived in early May hoping to report on our soldiers’ Afghan mission. ‘Journalists who are embedded are required to stay on base and are taken on some patrols.’

Defence’s secretiveness will prove counter-productive in the long run. Giving journalists access eliminates distrust and suspicion. The excuse that it’s too dangerous just does not wash. War journalists understand the risks and are not interested in putting soldiers’ lives on the line for a cheap story.

On 15 May, Prime Minister John Howard, farewelled a task force made up of elite SAS and Commando soldiers who are returning to Uruzgan Province (after a break of six months) in preparation for major operations against Taliban insurgents.

Their previous battles against the Taliban were some of the most ferocious fought by Australian troops since our involvement in the Vietnam War.

The Afghan people need our help. By keeping Australia’s defence debate a closed shop among a select few, we are not getting a broad view of what is actually happening in Afghanistan. And that’s of no use to anyone.

Tangling with the Taliban
They call Kandahar in southern Afghanistan the most dangerous place on earth. This is the Taliban’s stronghold. Roadside bombs regularly explode here, and a number of western journalists and aid workers have been kidnapped and murdered since the war began in 2001.

On 10 May, I flew from the Afghan capital, Kabul, to Kandahar with two Canadian journalists, Scott Taylor and David Pugliese. We’d been invited by the Afghani authorities to inspect a detention centre there that holds Taliban suspects.

We’d grown the customary beards before arriving in Afghanistan and, as a further precaution, we wore local clothes we did not want to stick out. Crazy thoughts crossed my mind about Douglas Wood, the Australian contractor kidnapped in Iraq. Taylor had also been kidnapped and tortured in Iraq.

When we entered the city I noticed a white ute with two men inside pull up close to our 4-Wheel Drive. One of the men was rubbing a Kalashnikov rifle, resting on his lap, as he watched us closely.

I was in the front passenger seat next to our crazy, hard-drinking Turkish driver. Behind us were the two Canadians. I hid my camera between my legs, not wanting to blow our cover.

The white ute then dropped behind, and followed us for about five minutes. Alarm bells really began to ring every driver in Afghanistan wants to get in front of you, not behind you.

Our driver hit the accelerator and swerved into on-coming traffic, barely missing 10 cars with the white ute pursuing us. It was a car chase straight out of a Hollywood cop movie.

Eventually, we lost the ute, and drove to the detention centre. This was the first time that Afghanistan’s intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) the equivalent to the United States’s FBI and CIA combined had given access to its Kandahar detention centre. They had done so in an effort to counter allegations that Taliban suspects were being picked up by Coalition forces, handed over to Afghani authorities without proper supervision, and then tortured.

Colonel Noor Mohammed Balak Karzai, Deputy Director of NDS in Kandahar Province, said the allegations about mistreatment of detainees and Taliban suspects were not true. ‘We have good relations with the Canadian, American and Australian forces,’ he said.

The Canadian Armed Forces have the responsibility for security of the Kandahar Province, which is the epicentre of the Taliban insurgency. Australian forces are based in neighbouring Uruzgan Province, but some detainees captured by the Australains have ended up in Kandahar. Colonel Karzai said detainees are held for 72 hours and then released, if there is no evidence against them.

However, if more time is needed, the suspect is held for another 15 days. A court order is required for an extension of detention. The relatives of the detainees are permitted to visit and bring food once a week. If a suspect goes to court and is then convicted, he is sent to the central prison in Kandahar or the main jail in Kabul, depending on the length of sentence handed down.

With the story and photos in the bag, we focussed on getting back to Kabul. When we’d flown in, we šd been told there were no return flights for over a week. Taylor had to get back in time for a plane to Canada, so our first plan was to hire a local driver (the Turk was staying behind) and a make a run for it six hours through Taliban territory.

I would sit in front because I look Afghani, while Taylor and Pugliese would sit in the back wearing burquas, the traditional female clothing which covers the whole body. The impression would be of ordinary Afghanis travelling to Kabul on business. Our driver would carry a 9mm pistol and a Kalashnikov rifle as back up.

But what if we were stopped at a Taliban roadblock? Would we journalists have to use guns to save ourselves from kidnapping and possible murder?

Fortunately we didn’t have to find out at the last minute, a contact managed to get us on a British C-130 Hercules transport plane from Kandahar to Kabul.

These are the split-second events that can put reporters’ lives on the line. The key is adaptability and a willingness to go outside the wire, un-embedded, to get the real story.

The sad truth is war reporters are no longer treated as independent observers but as targets to be killed or taken hostage for financial gain.


http://slaggedoff.blogspot.com/2007/09/dutch-oven-dutch-surrender-monkeys.html


YOUTUBE EXPLAINED

The Youtube video is of an interview of Urlich Ladurner by Sasha Uzunov in Kabul back in May 2007 where he explains that Australians and Dutch forces were slow in establishing security in Uruzgan province... video clip can be viewed at http://slaggedoff.blogspot.com/2007/09/dutch-oven-dutch-surrender-monkeys.html

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Andrew Wilkie, Iraq, WMD & Paul Moran

"The Fairfax Press and SBS TV, aided by the ABC, have been obsessed with the story of Australian Commandos involved in a botched raid that resulted in the unintentional killing of five Afghan civilians last year - but that is another story. Meanwhile, it would appear that ABC cameraman Paul Moran’s role in selling the Iraq war that has caused so much death and destruction has slipped under the radar."

The Australian public, including Mrs Shelley Kovco, the widow of Australian soldier, Private Jake Kovco, have a right to know about Moran's activities.

Extract:
www.pierretristam.com/Bobst/library/wf-202.htm

The Man Who Sold the War
Meet John Rendon, Bush's general in the propaganda war
Rolling Stone/Nov. 17, 2005

James Bamford's November 17th, 2005 profile of John Rendon, "The Man Who Sold the War," (RS988) won the 2006 National Magazine Award in the reporting category.

For the worldwide broadcast rights, Sethna contacted Paul Moran, an Australian freelancer who frequently worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "I think I've got something that you would be interested in," he told Moran, who was living in Bahrain. Sethna knew he could count on the trim, thirty-eight-year-old journalist: A former INC employee in the Middle East, Moran had also been on Rendon's payroll for years in "information operations," working with Sethna at the company's London office on Catherine Place, near Buckingham Palace.

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STORY:

You are welcome to leave your comments or feedback, either positive or negative, about this story at www.onlineopinion.com.au

Unlike the Fairfax Press, SBS and ABC, we welcome an open debate on Australia's defence and national security issues.


On Line Opinion - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate
www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=10968&page=0

Wilkie or Wilkie not ask for an ABC inquiry?
By Sasha Uzunov - Tuesday, 14 September 2010 !

Ex-Australian Army officer turned independent politician Andrew Wilkie is regarded as a brave man who resigned as an intelligence analyst over the 2003 Iraq War. He is now in a unique position as a member of the newly formed ALP-Green-Independents-federal coalition government to call for an inquiry into the controversial ABC TV camera man Paul Moran who was killed in Iraq.

Wilkie resigned as an analyst with the Office of National Assessment (ONA), an intelligence organisation that directly services Australia’s Prime Minister, disagreeing with claims made by the then Howard government about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and the reasons for going to war.

One of those killed in that war was Paul Moran, who helped to publicise the WMD story, which we now know was a complete fabrication. Wilkie has the opportunity to press for a parliamentary inquiry into the ABC’s employment of Moran and possible conflict of interest.

Moran, 39, was killed on March 22, 2003 by a car bomb while covering the war in Northern Iraq for the tax payer funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC TV). He was an Adelaide-raised freelance cameraman who worked on and off for the ABC as well as US public relations firm Rendon, which had ties to the CIA and the Bush Administration.

Walkely Award winning Australian journalist, Mr Colin James, of the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper, was the first to break the story about Moran’s shadowy past when he attended Moran’s wake in Adelaide.

He talked to relatives who revealed that Moran had a James Bond other life.

“For a freelance cameraman, Moran sure had some incredible access to US State Department officials in Washington,” Mr James said. “How many freelancers get to play games of social tennis with US diplomats?”

Moran had worked for Rendon for more than a decade in places like the Middle East and Kosovo, pushing US government spin while doing freelance work for the ABC TV as a combat cameraman.

On November 17, 2005 prominent American journalist, academic and former US Navy intelligence analyst James Bamford wrote in the influential American magazine Rolling Stone a detailed account of Moran’s work with Rendon and its link to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its selling of the Iraq War to the American public.

The controversy surrounding Moran stems from his exclusive story about an Iraqi defector who had knowledge about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program. A Rendon colleague gave him the scoop which turned out to be false, but was a pretext for the US invasion of Iraq, according to Bamford.

The Australian cameraman also helped to set up a television station for the Iraqi National Congress (INC). The INC was established by the US as an opposition group to the Saddam Hussein regime.

In 2006 the then ABC’s Managing Director, Mr Russell Balding, was approached and asked if he would launch an internal inquiry into the Moran allegations. Mr Shane Wells, his spokesman, said there would be no comment. The Moran story remains a hot potato.

Feisty, tough Maltese-Australian journalist, Monica Attard, host of the ABC’s Media Watch, dared to criticise then ABC TV news boss Max Uechtritz in his refusal to answer questions about Moran.

"The story was followed up by some parts of the media, but not by the ABC. It should have been." ("Death in Baghdad", Media Watch, April 14, 2003.)

The irony of all this is Uechtritz, now with Al Jazeera network, complained to The Age newspaper on June 30, 2003 about freedom of speech after coming under attack from the then Communications Minister, Senator Richard Alston, for alleged biased reporting by the ABC over the Iraq war.

“It is the duty of independent journalists in a robust democracy to question everything,” Uechtritz wrote. “The senator seems to think the media's duty in time of war is to fall meekly into line with the government of the day.”

Uechtritz was contacted at his Al Jazeera email address for comment on Moran but after many months there has been no response.

Last year, Sally Neighbour, a self-appointed national security expert who was employed as an ABC reporter while working for The Australian a commercially owned newspaper, ran a story about Moran without any reference to the CIA allegations and quoted fellow ABC journalist Mark Corcoran, a hugely respected journalist and genuine media tough guy who previously served in the Royal Australian Navy and super secret Defence Signals Directorate.

Neighbour wrote:

"Why has there been no investigation into the murder?" asks Mark Corcoran, presenter and veteran reporter with ABC TV's Foreign Correspondent program. "As of December 2009, I have still not seen any evidence of an investigation, either formally or informally, by any Australian official."

Mr Chris Warren, the Federal Secretary of the Media Entertainment Alliance of Australia (Australian Journalists Association) has asked Australia's Federal Attorney-General to investigate Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, better known as Mullah Krekar, and his links to UN-listed terrorist organisation Ansar al-Islam, as the mastermind who allegedly ordered the car bomb that killed Moran..

The Moran case has been linked by some ABC reporters to the highly emotive Balibo Five, Australian-based newsmen and crew killed by Indonesian troops during the 1975 takeover of East Timor. But the Balibo Five had no links to a foreign intelligence agency and launching a war crimes trial against Mullah Krekar could backfire.

It could open up a can of worms. Under the Geneva Convention, journalists in war zones are afforded some protection as non-combatants. However:

Article 29 - A person can only be considered a spy when, acting clandestinely or on false pretences, he obtains or endeavours to obtain information in the zone of operations of a belligerent with the intention of communicating it to the hostile party.

Thus, soldiers not wearing a disguise who have penetrated into the zone of operations of the hostile army, for the purpose of obtaining information, are not considered spies. Similarly, the following are not considered spies: soldiers and civilians carrying out their mission openly, entrusted with the delivery of despatches intended either for their own army or for the enemy's army. To this class belong likewise persons sent in balloons for the purpose of carrying despatches and, generally, of maintaining communications between the different parts of an army or a territory.

The definition of a spy given in this Article remains completely valid since the Geneva Convention contains no similar provision. However, a spy is also a protected person in so far as he conforms to the definition given in Article 4 of the Fourth Convention. Under Article 5 of the Convention, the spy may nevertheless be deprived temporarily of certain rights, particularly the right of communication.

Article 30 - A spy taken in the act shall not be punished without previous trial.

Moran was “killed in action” by a car bomb; he was neither surrendering nor was he captured. The next question is do we prosecute enemy combatants who have killed Australian soldiers during the heat of battle, ranging from the Boer War to the present Afghanistan conflict?

Should we now ask that the Vietnamese communist government hand over the Viet Cong guerrillas and hard core NVA soldiers for prosecution over the 18 Australian soldiers killed in action during the legendary Battle of Long Tan in 1966?

Furthermore, critics call the Iraq War launched by the United States in 2003 “illegal”. Wilkie resigned from ONA because of his opposition to that war. Assuming that the Iraq war is illegal, does Moran’s involvement in “selling” that war which has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as well as US/Coalition troops being killed, constitute a crime?

Under the Nuremberg Principles established in the wake of Nazi War Crimes Trial of 1946, Principle VI states:

The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

a)Crimes against peace:

(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

If you believe that the Iraq War was justified, then Moran deserves to be honoured as a hero killed in action in the global war on terror; he should have been given a state funeral just like any other Australian soldier, police officer or intelligence operative killed in action in a warzone.

The irony is that if Eric Campbell, the ABC reporter who was wounded during the car bomb that killed Moran, had been the one killed, the case of a war crime for killing a journalist could be justified.

The Fairfax Press and SBS TV have been obsessed with the story of Australian Commandos involved in a botched raid that resulted in the unintentional killing of five Afghan civilians last year - but that is another story. Meanwhile, it would appear that Moran’s role in selling a war that has caused so much death and destruction has slipped under the radar. Attard was brave in airing on Media Watch the Moran story.

Wilkie has the power to call for an inquiry into Moran’s activities.

(end)

About the Author

Sasha Uzunov graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, in 1991. He enlisted in the Australian Regular Army as a soldier in 1995 and was allocated to infantry. He served two peacekeeping tours in East Timor (1999 and 2001). In 2002 he returned to civilian life as a photo journalist and film maker and has worked in The Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His documentary film Timor Tour of Duty made its international debut in New York in October 2009. He blogs at Team Uzunov.


Other articles by this Author - online opinion
» Scrutinising the media's scrutiny of defence - March 30, 2010
» Reporting on the reporters - February 4, 2010
» Scotland the brave, Ulster the unsure? - December 23, 2009
» Greens win the war but lose defence - November 24, 2009
» Afghan dress code - September 30, 2009

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Recent story

www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1008/S00486/commandos-pay-political-price.htm

Commandos Pay Political Price? Scoop News
www.scoop.co.nz

COMMANDOS PAY POLITICAL PRICE? By Sasha Uzunov

Australian commandos involved in a botched raid which resulted in 5 civilian deaths in Afghanistan could face courts martial because of intense political pressure from the media... read on...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

AUSSIE COMMANDOS PAY POLITICAL PRICE?

Australian commandos in Afghanistan face political pressure from media over incident.

www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1008/S00486/commandos-pay-political-price.htm

AUSTRALIAN COMMANDOS PAY POLITICAL PRICE?
28 August 2010

By Sasha Uzunov

Australian commandos involved in a botched raid which resulted in 5 civilian deaths in Afghanistan could face courts martial because of intense political pressure from the media, as TEAM UZUNOV writing for www.scoop.co.nz warned last year.

The Fairfax press, which together with the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS TV) have been ferociously investigating the incident, reported on 27 August 2010 that:

www.theage.com.au/national/diggers-may-be-charged-over-deaths-20100826-13u5j.html

“In an unprecedented move that has angered some senior military officers, Brigadier Lyn McDade has told the army she is preparing to lay charges in connection with a deadly raid involving Australian troops near the village of Surkh Morghab in Oruzgan province.”

But both Fairfax and SBS TV have for reasons unknown not taken the story further. The focus has been on the soldiers, not the politicians or the highly paid defence experts.

A scoop article titled “Commando Regiment in Firing Line,” on 7 December 2009, revealed:

www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0912/S00060.htm

“The Australian Army’s elite reservist unit, 1 Commando Regiment, is being made a scapegoat over allegations of misconduct in Afghanistan, a former unit member has told TEAM UZUNOV [blogsite].

“The experienced ex-Commando said that he was deeply concerned over claims that poorly trained and led members had breached rules of engagement during a raid on house in Afghanistan which resulted in the deaths of 5 local children after grenades had been thrown last February.

“My concern is the unit has been left out to dry by the Defence Department even before judgement has been passed. Let due process of law take place,” he said. “If people were innocent then that should be shouted from the rooftops but if people were guilty then throw the book at them.”

“Whatever the outcome of the investigation, the responsibility is with the government of the day as well Defence Department bureaucrats. It is they who send troops to war.”

It boils down to an unfortunate incident which saw Commandos entering a Taliban compound and being fired upon. And in the fog of war a grenade was thrown into the wrong house. Now it has been blown up, pardon the pun, into My Lai Massacre proportions.

The Australian newspaper’s Rory Callinan and Jeremy Kelly have summed up the dilemma for the soldiers involved:

www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/fateful-oruzgan-grenade-was-part-of-training/story-e6frg6nf-1225911089567

“A source said the troops came under fire from a building in the compound and they responded with a grenade. When the firing continued they responded with another one as their training required, the source said. "What were they supposed to do?"

“The source said there was anger among the troops about what they would do if prosecution for a possible manslaughter went ahead. "Every time someone goes into a compound and gets shot at they will be thinking will we get charged with manslaughter if we use a grenade."

“The former governor of the province where the incident occurred, Asadullah Hamdam, described the night raid as a mistake but one largely attributable to the behaviour of the raid's alleged target, who was killed while shooting back at the commandos.”

SBS TV’s Dateline program reporter, the self-styled media tough gal, Sophie McNeill, broke the story, which initially got off to a false start, and Tom Hyland, self-appointed defence expert, has followed it for Fairfax.

McNeill back in 2008 asked not to be contacted to discuss media issues, including Afghanistan. It would appear taking no for an answer only applies to those who do not scrutinise SBS or Fairfax journalists!

McNeill’s advice for young journalists ( Walkely Magazine, issue 62, Aug-Sep 2010, page 37):

“Don’t take no for an answer. And once they actually let you in the building refuse to leave. Just quietly take over a desk and become part of the furniture...”

The ABC TV’s Media Watch program, hosted by Jonathan Holmes, revealed that SBS Dateline on 8 March 2009 with such haste put together a story by McNeill, which ended up quoting Zahir Khan, a survivor of the commando raid. But it turned out he was an imposter.

www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s2853029.htm

A year later McNeill went to Afghanistan and finally tracked down the real Zahir Khan. SBS Dateline threw the blame on wily Afghan media fixer Fazel Reshad “Arshad” Wardak for the mistake in the first story. If all else fails, blame the hired help!

You can see Wardak boasting about his services to SBS in 2008 on this youtube clip. www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-5TaNvLsrk

Jonathan Holmes then smacks naughty Sophie McNeill on the hand with the full force of a feather duster: as if the second story somehow redeems the first big mistake, a sack able offence. Great spin by Holmes. If only all journalists got such second chances.

Holmes:

“Sophie McNeill's second report is compelling. It includes film of the surviving family, and the graves of the victims, in their village in Oruzgan. And it poses serious questions about the ADF's original account of the incident, and why a year later it has said nothing more, and not even interviewed this family.”

You’re now beginning to get the picture: a boutique scandal which has Walkley Award, Australia’s version of the Pulitzer Prize, written all over it.

While the ABC’s Media Watch, quite rightly criticises the Australian Defence Force (ADF) over a lack of information on the commando story, an ever sceptical Australian public is still waiting for any more information about the controversial life and death of ABC cameraman Paul Moran who had alleged links to the CIA and was killed in Iraq in 2003. It seems the ABC is reluctant to open up its own scandals. Link:

www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0912/S00083.htm

A source, former Australian Special Forces soldier who served in Afghanistan, has revealed to TEAM UZUNOV that there are far worse incidents involving Australians in Afghanistan and cannot believe they have been buried and ignored.

“I can’t understand why they’re picking on the Commandos?” he said.

There could be three reasons why a court martial could be held. First, there is enough evidence of misconduct. Second, there is not enough evidence but a court martial would appease the media but find the soldiers eventually were not in the wrong. Third, and dare we even mention it, someone within Australia’s Defence Department, has a grudge against Commando reservists and wants them out of the frontlines.

The Sydney based 1 Commando Regiment is largely a reservist Special Forces unit, and has a high number of New South Wales State police officers who serve within the ranks.

Hyland, flashing his Fairfax Media Sherriff’s Badge, wrote on 21 March, 2010.

http://teamuzunovmedia.blogspot.com/2010/03/fairfax-crusade-against-1-commando.html

" Along the way, it has exposed a rivalry almost as old as the army itself, between full-time troops and part-time reservists - chocos, some regulars call them, chocolate soldiers who can't take the heat."

"The regiment's experiences have triggered an intense debate within army ranks - about Special Forces tactics, and wider questions about a political and military preference for sending Special Forces, rather than large infantry units, to conflicts like Afghanistan."

Hyland, after picking up the correct scent, pardon the military pun, then pulls back and does not take another step forward, likewise SBS TV’s Dateline. But why?

Here is a key point that has been missed: why is it Australian Defence Policy to use Special Forces in an infantry role in Afghanistan, as well as throwing Army reservists in the deep end? Who caused this dramatic shift in defence thinking?

The change came about in Defence policy when two key “experts” Professor Paul Dibb and ex-Fairfax journalist turned government advisor Hugh White decided to cut back the number of full time infantry soldiers with the consequences of using reservists in combat roles.

Mr Bruce Haigh, a former diplomat, in an interview which slipped under the radar, told SBS TV’s Dateline program on 27 September 2000 that:

“Defence is the department that’s divided amongst itself, as far as I can gather, and there are certain people inside Defence who’ve taken a certain line for a long period of time - the Paul Dibb line, if you like, which is high-tech, US-alliance - and you’ve got others who are saying, "No. We’ve got the situation to the north- we need to have more people in uniform, we need to have them trained, we need to have night-vision equipment provided for them. “… the Australian Army can see what needs to be done, but many of the civilian Defence personnel, who’ve built their careers on playing up to this particular line, are arguing the other case, and feeling increasingly isolated, because they are not facing reality. That’s the problem.”

Respected Brigadier Jim Wallace, former Special Forces Commander, wrote in 2003:

“Unfortunately, Australian defence policy has been mainly wrong for the whole of this period. Even after we committed troops to East Timor, Professor Paul Dibb, the policy's chief architect, was standing in front of parliamentary committees vowing that Australia would not be conducting what he called "expeditionary" operations out of the region. This was despite a series of major UN deployments over many years to places as far afield as Rwanda and Somalia. Afghanistan and Iraq have hopefully now discredited this logic.

“At the same time, Dr Hugh White was arguing in initial drafts for the 2000 white paper to reduce the size of our army to about 19,000, on the basis that, like Professor Dibb, he didn't see the Government needing options for deployment out of the region, particularly for sending the army. The result has been an incredible demand on the dedication and professionalism of our special forces as they have again been thrown into the breach that our supposedly expert defence planners couldn't predict.”

McNeill and Hyland now need to take their story all the way and not just take aim at sitting targets—soldiers. But we seriously doubt if failed defence theorists and ex-Fairfax journalists will be scrutinised.

(end)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Now on Twitter

TEAM UZUNOV now on Twitter

http://twitter.com/UZI9mmmm

Thursday, August 19, 2010

TIM LESTER: MEDIA TOUGH GUY?

Fairfax Press's poorly disguised attempt at taking down Independent Senator Steve Fielding.


With an Australian federal election around the corner, the Kiwi media examine Tim Lester's media tough guy shtick...

Scoop - New Zealand's top independent news website.


http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1007/S00246/aus-fed-election-journo-takes-down-senator.htm

Australian Federal Election: Journo Takes Down Senator?
By Sasha Uzunov

In what can only be described as a bizarre and poorly disguised takedown, Fairfax newspapers’ reporter Tim Lester has belittled Independent Senator Steve Fielding over a trip to Afghanistan to visit Australian troops, which coincided with the Federal Labor government announcing the next election to be held on August 21 this year.

Lester, formerly a television reporter with the ABC and Nine Networks, is a self styled "media tough guy" and “defence expert” who made a name for himself covering the conflict in East Timor (Timor Leste) in 1999.

In an article for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers titled: “Steve Fielding, MIA [Missing In Action] in Afghanistan,” dated 22 July 2010, Tim Lester of Timor Leste fame wrote:


“STEVE Fielding's eccentric political career could end at next month's federal election, yet the Victorian senator has spent five vital days of the campaign on secret missions in southern Afghanistan.”

The story includes a digitally altered photo of an Australian soldier whose face is obscured with a Steve Fielding mask. You can get the gist of the story, ridiculing a politician for visiting troops in the field!

Lester, who has never served in uniform but acts as a “defence expert,” further wrote:

“The senator declined to give details of what Australian forces had shown him in Tarin Kowt [Australian Army base in Afghanistan]. ''Some of the missions are secret,'' he said. ''A lot of the stuff has been high security.

“The senator was already in Afghanistan when he learnt new Prime Minister Julia Gillard had called the election.

“Senator Fielding won only 2 per cent of the primary vote in 2004, but was elected on Labor preferences. He is widely expected to lose his Senate spot in next month's election, though he rates his chances at 50-50.

“He said his absence for the crucial opening days of the campaign ''will probably damage my re-election''.

“However, his secret trip did not stop his campaign. While abroad, he issued seven press releases from his Melbourne office on domestic issues. None mentioned the Afghanistan trip.

''We're sending people here, you know … with their lives at risk to … make the world safer and the least that I could do was, you know, not to pull out for the sake of a couple of days with my own re-election campaign,'' he said.

“ ''I thought it would probably be selfish doing that, selfish if I did come back.''

“Although claiming an early departure on his behalf from Afghanistan would have sent ''all the troops the wrong message'', he later conceded he had asked defence officials in Tarin Kowt ''about trying to get back and … is there any ways of getting back early''.”

My response to all this is so what? The Senator was right in going to Afghanistan and right in trying to get back early. After all, the electors of Australia pay the wages of both the Senator and of the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. In a democracy such as Australia and neighbouring New Zealand, politicians and soldiers are answerable to the people!

Maybe Lester has forgotten this?

In essence this is a nothing story by a journalist who has been a war correspondent flexing his muscle or flashing his Media Sheriff’s Badge in trying to show how tough he is.

But people in glasshouses should not throw stones!

In 1999 as a serving Australian soldier I had the good fortune to be a man-servant in uniform to a high ranking Army officer in the Australian Defence Forces’ (ADF) Media Support Unit in East Timor. As well making great coffee, espresso, cappuccino and Turkish, for the Commanding Officer (CO) Lieutenant Colonel “Wild Bill” Pickering I had the privilege of observing some of Australia’s top war reporters in action.

I remember when Tim Lester, then with the ABC, was being farewalled from Timor in late 1999. I was standing a few metres away when Lester struggled to place a souvenir Australian Army bush hat on his head, his fellow ABC colleague Ginny Stein, an excellent and tough reporter in her own right, giggled and joked to expatriate Australian film maker based in Bangkok, Lyndal Barry:

“Tim would have to be the most unwarlike male war reporters I’ve come across. He is so disorganised. I have to do everything for him.”

Both women then broke out in hearty laughter.

Lester who hails from the deep south Australian state of Tasmania was proclaimed a local hero by his home state newspaper, The Examiner, in September 1999:

www.examiner.com.au/news/local/news/general/lester-enjoys-work-despite-danger-says-dad/1319926.aspx

“Longford woolgrower Michael Lester remembers that his son Tim was an established journalist working in Sydney when he started paying $30 a half-hour for elocution lessons.

“Tim Lester has progressed and progressed in his career, reaching the coveted status of foreign correspondent, working as the South-East Asia correspondent for the ABC. He was among the last two ABC journalists to leave East Timor, fleeing Dili on Tuesday in a dramatic escape from the escalating drama.

“Lester was flown to Darwin, where he is understood to have remained yesterday. His father was looking forward to speaking to him again. ``He is very involved and very dedicated to his work and certainly he's suited to it,'' Mr Lester said. “

In 2008 Lester, as a reporter with the commercial network Nine, complained the ADF would not be his taxpayer funded cab service in Iraq to observe Australian troops pulling out. He moaned:

http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s2269473.htm

“I am one of the reporters who wanted the necessary transport and protection to cover our 550 combat troops as they leave Tallil Air Base in Southern Iraq.”

But surely the great Tim Lester of Timor Leste fame would not need ADF transport and protection to navigate through a warzone in Iraq?

Britain’s top war reporter Sir Max Hastings, in his autobiographical account of his career, Going to The Wars, tells of taking a private taxi to the Golan Heights during the 1973 Yom Kippur War that pitted Israel against its Arab neighbours and of driving with a colleague into the Sinai desert, after not receiving any assistance from the Israeli government.

What the Australian public deserves and needs are journalists willing to report the story without the Australian media’s obsession with the “media tough guy/gal” reporter shtick and doses of Hollywood.

The irony is that one of Australia’s top war reporters, John Martinkus, and formely with SBS TV’s Dateline program is cooling his heels in Tasmania as an academic instead of reporting in Afghanistan. Furthermore we need journalists of the calibre and strength of Ginny Stein, now with SBS Dateline, in Afghanistan as well.

(END)

Monday, July 05, 2010

MARTINKUS SIDELINED?




Why is Australia's top war reporter John Martinkus not being used to cover the war in Afghanistan?


SCOOP - Independent news - New Zealand's premier news website

www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1007/S00040.htm

Top Australian War Reporter Sidelined?
Monday, 5 July 2010, 12:37 pm
Opinion: Sasha Uzunov

Top Australian War Reporter Sidelined?
By Sasha Uzunov

No doubt many who have been watching the 2010 Soccer World Cup from South Africa have been puzzled by some of the tactics used by a number of coaches, namely Australian boss Pim Verbeek. Equally puzzling is one Australian media boss’s stubborn refusal to change his tired game plan.

I am referring to Peter Charley, the Executive Producer (coach) of Dateline, flagship current affairs program on Australian public broadcaster the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS TV).



Is Peter Charley the Pim Verbeek version of Australian television journalism?

Verbeek came up with a strange plan to counter the powerful Germans in Australia’s opening World Cup match , which resulted in a 4-0 drubbing. He kept his powerful strikers on the bench and used superstar Tim Cahill out of position. By the time Australia was allowed to play its natural game against Ghana and Serbia it was too late, Australia was out of the World Cup and rueing what could have been.





In contrast, New Zealand national soccer coach Ricky Herbert (pictured above) had his players fighting like unchained wild lions against Slovakia, Italy and Paraguay and remained undefeated. The irony is that Shaun Brown, the head of SBS TV, is a Kiwi. We can only hope he draws strength and inspiration from his fellow countryman Herbert and encourages his Aussie subordinate Peter Charley!

“Team Dateline” has become a parody of its former hard-hitting best with Charley not using top “strike” reporter, John Martinkus, in covering the war in Afghanistan but instead opting for a predictable plan. Dateline had a huge gaff in one story when the identity of an Afghan man was confused relating to a botched Australian Army Commando raid last year which resulted in the deaths of civilians. Under previous ‘Team Dateline coach’ Iron Mike Carey, ironically a mate of Charley’s, this would never have happened.

Verbeek used Cahill in the role of lone striker up forward but anyone knows that the player is better suited to playing deep and then attacking from out of the blue. Likewise, Martinkus, one of Australia’s most respected and fearless war reporters who has worked for “Team Dateline” in the past, is not being used to cover the war in Afghanistan. He has taken up an academic job in Tasmania, Australia’s deep south state.

Martinkus’ style is similar to Cahill’s, in that he plays deep and then strikes. In media terms this means that the news story takes precedence, not Martinkus’ face on camera wearing a flak jacket and helmet in a contrived tough guy pose.

Instead, we have Dateline reporter Mark Davis, former lawyer turned war reporter, who carries his own camera into a combat zone but the camera is fixed on himself at all times, except for toilet breaks! This is ripe material for a sit-com. Why no one has satirised Davis and his “style” beats me? It is absolutely hilarious---though unintentional--and it detracts from the story being covered.

Then there is Charley’s obsession with the “media tough guy/gal” play so popular in the 1970s and 80s under American-Australian media guru Gerald Stone, who took a group of Aussie reporters and made them national heroes by sending them into warzones and playing tough for the camera. In reinventingthis game plan, Charley has reporter Sophie McNeill as the 21st century media tough gal. But this has encountered some problems, namely over the Afghan story mentioned above.

The Team Dateline website once hyped:

“Pick, arguably, the most dangerous region in the world today and that’s where you'll find Sophie McNeill.”

But not according to the Media Watch program on Australia’s other public broadcaster ABC TV, www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s2853029.htm

“Sophie McNeill was in Australia when the story broke, and she stayed there. She couldn't have travelled safely to the remote village in Oruzgan (Afghanistan) where the killings took place.”

SBS TV is based in Sydney, Australia; to be fair to McNeill we can regard some of the suburbs in that city as warzones!

To top that off, we have the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper’s self appointed defence expert the Irish-Australian Paul McGeough turning up on “Team Dateline” in cameo roles, complete with flak jacket and helmet in Afghanistan. It has overtones of media mates chewing the fat on camera.

Martinkus is well known for going where angels fear to tread. He spent years covering the conflict in East Timor; was kidnapped in Iraq and has been to Afghanistan. In other words, the man is a heavy hitter but with a low key and soft spoken stage persona. There are no cheap theatrics for the camera.

Australian taxpayers who pay Charley’s wages at the public broadcaster SBS have a right to know why the best man for the job in reporting what is actually going in Afghanistan is not being used. Charley should be catching a flight down to Tasmania and getting Martinkus back into the team!

Related Stories on Scoop

Sasha Uzunov: ASIO’s Poor Record 02/03/2010
AFP Hasn't Been Asked To Investigate Moran Murder 09/12/2009

*************

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Herald Sun article on Afghanistan

www.heraldsun.com.au/news/as-toll-rises-in-afghanistan-so-does-spectre-of-vietnam/story-e6frf7jo-1225882478530

As toll rises in Afghanistan, so does spectre of Vietnam

by Paul Toohey
The Herald Sun newspaper, Melbourne, Australia. June 22, 2010

WITH every step forward there is one step back. The Defence Department last week said special forces had dealt a "major blow" to Taliban insurgents in Kandahar, but then came yesterday's grim news.

Defence chief Angus Houston said the chopper that crashed and killed three Diggers was not brought down by enemy fire.

He pleaded with the Australian public for time to prove that "steady progress" was being made in Afghanistan.

But with five Australians killed in the past fortnight, bringing the total to 16 in Afghanistan, the value of the investment in Australian lives will come under closer examination than ever before.

Reports from the United Nations Security Council suggest there is no cause for optimism in Afghanistan, with a dramatic increase in the numbers of roadside bombings and assassinations of Afghan officials.

And the arrival of the northern summer means a return to more deadly fighting as insurgents emerge from hibernation to engage in battle.

"They go away in the winter and when it comes to the summer they come out of the woodwork and the shadows and start attacking coalition forces," says Sasha Uzunov, a former Australian soldier who has visited Afghanistan twice as a war cameraman.

"A lot of the Taliban activity is simply giving money to illiterate and poor teenage boys, maybe giving them $US50, and giving them a Kalashnikov and getting them to take pot shots at passing troops.

"It's as basic as that, so it's very difficult to track down who these guys are. They take pot shots and disappear and hide in the villages. How do you know who these guys are?"

Days in Kandahar at this time are up to 43C and even in the depths of the night it is hot. There is no rain in the area at this time.

The crash was in the Kandahar region where Australians Special Forces have been working with their coalition partners and claimed their success of last week.

Defence Minister John Faulkner said the tragedy of the deaths would not cause him to waver.

"We remain very committed to our operational objectives in Afghanistan," he said.

"I think these objectives, these specific goals, these reasons for being in Afghanistan remain of very great importance."

Senator Faulkner insisted the mission was worthwhile.

"I think it's important to say to the Australian people that we are making progress in Afghanistan," he said.

But Mr Uzunov said it was clearer than ever that Australia was facing an enemy it could barely recognise.

"It's a very nasty counter-insurgency war, very much like what the Aussies faced in Vietnam," he said.

"Even though we're told repeatedly there is no comparison, there are strong parallels between the two conflicts.

"It's the same thing, the guerillas doing hit-and-runs, planting booby traps, IEDs, roadside bombs: they let one off and then they disappear.

"There are caves and tunnels that have been there for centuries. The Afghans fought the British, they fought the Soviets; there's a whole heap of networks and hiding places that the coalition forces just don't know about."

(end)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

POLICE CHIEF AND THOSE MEDIA LEAKS


Victorian State (Australia) Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland is in the wars again over leaked information to the media..

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/how-overland-dodged-a-bullet/story-e6frg6z6-1225877203685

How Overland dodged a bullet

by Hedley Thomas From: The Australian June 09, 2010

IN an article in The Age nine months ago a journalist wrote about a nugget of remarkable evidence nestled in the little-known 23-page sworn affidavit of the man who is now Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Simon Overland.

Overland admitted a number of facts in this affidavit, dated November 1, 2007. The Age's Melissa Fyfe focused on the fact Overland, by his own admission, had passed on secret intelligence to his colleague, then Victoria Police media chief Stephen Linnell. The intelligence was from a telephone tap during a covert murder investigation called Operation Briars.

Although The Age's article was placed well back in the newspaper, its angle was powerful: Overland's action in passing on the secret intelligence from the telephone tap had been illegal, according to Paul Mullett, former secretary of the Police Association, Victoria's registered trade union for police.


read more...

---------------------------------

TEAM UZUNOV was quoted in The Australian last year over Overland's fury over a leaked raid on alleged terrorists.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/why-arrest-terrorists-when-you-can-arrest-journalists/story-e6frg71f-1225758769704

Why arrest terrorists when you can arrest journalists?

From: The Australian
August 07, 2009

"...Unless of course Cameron Stewart's leak was a national security agency, as Sasha Uzunov from Team Uzonov media suggests:

The Chief Commissioner's anger, or more like a case of protesting too much, is misplaced. Last month a leaked Office of Police Integrity (document) was published in The Australian newspaper by Stewart which alleged a shoot-to-kill culture within the Victoria Police. It was noticeable that the Chief Commissioner did not jump up and down and condemn the leak but used it for political mileage.

Did Commissioner Overland betray the real reason for his anger during Tuesday's press conference? ..."
------------------------

http://teamuzunovmedia.blogspot.com/2009/08/overland-hypocrisy-on-terror-leak.html
Thursday, August 06, 2009

OVERLAND HYPOCRISY ON TERROR LEAK

IN DEFENCE OF THE AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPER REPORT:
Overland hypocrisy on terror raids

By Sasha Uzunov

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Simon Overland is on the warpath over the publication of a story in The Australian newspaper on 4 August 2009 just hours before a major raid on suspected Melbourne based terrorists who allegedly planned to attack Holsworthy Army Barracks in Sydney. He has claimed that the leaked story had placed his officers in danger.

www.theage.com.au/national/the-australians-editorinchief-defends-terrorraids-story-timing-20090804-e80i.html

But the Chief Commissioner’s anger, or more like a case of protesting too much, is misplaced. The reporter of the article is Cameron Stewart, a well respected journalist and who according to his website profile is a former “spook” with the super secret Defence Signals Directorate (DSD). www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22653583-5014045,00.html

I am sure that Stewart would realise the magnitude of his story and I would personally as a journalist trust his news sense in running the story. www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25879554-601,00.html

The story was given the go-ahead by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), of which Commissioner Overland once served with.

If any blame is to be apportioned perhaps the Chief Commissioner should realise that the media is a double edged sword. Leaks usually occur for a number of reasons. Governments or the opposition release information in advance to test the waters. If the reaction is unfavorable, then the information is disowned.

To put it simply Commissioner Overland cannot have his cake and eat it too. Last month a “leaked” Office of Police Integrity (OPI) was published in The Australian newspaper by Stewart which alleged a “shoot to kill culture” within the Victoria Police. It was noticeable that the Chief Commissioner did not jump up and down and condemn the leak but used it for political mileage.

The Australian newspaper story ran on July 13 2009 titled 'No Tasers' for deadly police, by Stewart quoted a soon to be released report from the Victorian Office of Police Integrity (OPI):www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25770795-5006785,00.html

There is a long running battle between the watchdog OPI and the Victorian Police Association, the union, over the introduction of the Taser Gun. The Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland is opposed to the non-lethal weapon being handed out to all police.

Senior Sergeant Davies of the Victorian Police Association quite rightly has expressed skepticism at the leaked OPI report.“We do have some issues with the fact that reports are released-leaked from the OPI and then nobody butters up to answer questions about it," he said.

More to this story can be found at my article SHOOTING FROM THE LIP ,

http://teamuzunovmedia.blogspot.com/2009/07/shooting-from-lip.html

(end)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

PART 3 – THE FIGHT AGAINST YUGOSLAV INTELLIGENCE IN AUSTRALIA

Third part in a series on Yugoslav intelligence activities on Australian soil from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

HOW COPS STOPPED FLOOD OF WEAPONS IN MELBOURNE

By Sasha Uzunov

In 2007 Paul O'Sullivan, the then head of the Australia Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) warned that global terrorism would continue and there were no guarantees against more civilian casualties. In effect, all our law enforcement and security agencies can do is to minimise it as best as possible.

In light of this, a little known Victoria Police operation 20 years ago helped to stop the flood of illegal weapons getting onto the streets and into the hands of home grown terrorists. The impact it had was to send a message--loud and clear-- that overseas linked crime and terror were not going to be tolerated in the state of Victoria, Australia.

That story can now be told because one of the leading figures behind that operation is seriously ill and may not have long to live. Detective #####, who retired in 1998, was part of the PSG (Protective Services Group) within the Victoria Police at the old Russell Street offices in Melbourne’s city centre. He was tasked with investigating terrorist organisations including the Tamil Tigers, and ethnic-linked crime. He was very knowledgeable about the activities of Yugoslav intelligence (UDBa) on Australian soil and even knew some of the key agents of influence!

I got to know ##### in the late 1980s as a young reporter interested in ethnic-related crime. My parents are Macedonian migrants. He was a canny operator who would pump you for information and would never reveal anything unless it was in his interest to do so.

When he got wind of me investigating a leading UDBa agent of influence based in Melbourne with links to the Australian Labor Party’s (ALP) Socialist Left faction, he offered some fatherly advice by warning me that the agent of influence was “being protected by people high above.”

But ###### then proceeded to reveal to me that the agent of influence had between 1968 and 1979 amassed criminal convictions in the state of Victoria for stolen goods, illegal gaming and financial deception. The UDBa agent of influence was permitted to work as a state public servant despite his criminal record because ASIO had sealed his rap sheet from access. The inference being that the agent of influence may have been cultivated as a “double agent.”

One of his favourite warnings was" If you write anything about me, I'll chop you!"

He telephoned me out of the blue in 1990 asking for some information on a stolen weapons racket and if I had heard anything. He said he was deeply concerned about weapons getting into the hands of the wrong people. I told him I knew nothing and asked if he would elaborate.

But ###### being the loyal policeman did not go into detail. Months later, the story unfolded about a Police operation targeting stolen weapons. One of those unexpectedly caught in the dragnet was Oliver Bubevich (aka as Bubev, Bubevski), also the son of Macedonian migrants, and a Vic Roads (vehicle licensing office) employee and the then owner of a pub (bar) in Fitzroy, a Melbourne’s northern inner suburb. Bubevich was an obsessed illegal gun collector without links to organised crime or Yugoslav intelligence.

According to a Herald Sun report, dated 22 March 1991, "A MAN who hid a gun in his stove and ammunition in his kitchen cupboards was fined $2500 yesterday for possessing 15 unregistered firearms. Magistrate Mr David McLennan also ordered Oliver Bubevich to perform 300 hours of unpaid community work.

"Melbourne Magistrates' Court heard on Wednesday that Bubevich was fascinated with guns and had 23 weapons - all with serial numbers drilled out or stamped over. The weapons, hidden throughout his Thomastown house, were found when police raided the property last year. Bubevich, 36, of Winamarra Cres, pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful possession, one count of possessing silencers and 15 counts of possessing unregistered and unlicensed firearms.

The court was told police raided Bubevich's house after finding two unregistered handguns in his car and another two unregistered weapons in a second man's car after Bubevich had sold them to him.

"Bubevich denied supplying guns to the underworld and said his fascination with guns had led him to disregard the fact the serial numbers had been deleted. He told the court he had bought two of the guns from a man at a Fitzroy hotel and had found the rest on the site of a demolished Preston house.

" On 21 March 1991, the Herald Sun wrote: "Prosecutor Sen-Constable Maurice Lynn told the court Bubevich was arrested after police found two guns in his car on November 7, 1990. "They found two more guns, a .38 Rossi revolver and a .32 Webley and Scott pistol in a second man's car after Bubevich had sold them to him, he said. Sen-Constable Lynn said police then raided Bubevich's house and found 23 unregistered guns, two silencers and a large quantity of ammunition in kitchen cupboards.

"Bubevich's lawyer, Mr Peter Finkelstein, said his client was a "gun collector gone wrong". Magistrate David McLennan said he was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Bubevich had supplied guns to crime figures."

I lost contact with ###### when I joined the Australian Army as a soldier in 1995, serving until 2002. Recently, I heard from someone close to his family that he is seriously ill.

Victoria Police's motto is Uphold the Right...Tenez Le Droit...It certainly did that back in 1990-91 in keeping our streets safe from weapons falling into the hands of the bad guys. But we should never remain complacent.

(end)


http://teamuzunovmedia.blogspot.com/

Friday, May 07, 2010
PART 2 : The fight against Yugoslav intelligence

SECOND part in a series on Yugoslav intelligence activities on Australian soil from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

PATRIOT GAMES: ONE MAN’S FIGHT AGAINST UDBa
By Sasha Uzunov

During the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, an intelligence war was waged by the communist regime of Yugoslavia to intimidate and silence Australia’s Macedonian migrant community but one man, George Kostrevski, managed to fight the good fight.

In 1991, I met the feisty and well respected Kostrevski who was President of the Australian-Macedonian Welfare Council, in Melbourne’s western suburbs and a champion of free political thought. The AMWC is now known as the Macedonian Community Welfare Association (MCWA).

Kostrevski, who was a Socialist-Left Australian Labor Party (ALP) member and an admirer of legendary ALP right-wing kingmaker George Seitz, alleged that in 1983 he had been ordered by a local Yugoslav agent of influence in July 1983 to: “hold the Yugoslav political line…or he would not be allowed to return to Macedonia to visit relatives.”

Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic communist federation founded in 1945, modeled on the Soviet Union, and fell apart in 1991 into various independent nation states of Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Yugoslav intelligence (UDBa) later known as SDB, together with Yugoslav military counter-intelligence (KOS) were largely pre-occupied with silencing dissident Croats, Macedonians, Serbs and Albanians living in Western Europe, North America and Australia, who were agitating for independence from Yugoslavia.

UDBa was so ruthless and efficient it at one time rivaled the old Soviet KGB in liquidating opponents.

Communist strongman Marshal Josip Broz Tito ruled Yugoslavia until his death in 1980 and during the height of the Cold War managed a great balancing act between East and West. He was seen as an indirect ally of the West after his infamous split with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1949.

In the 1970s and 80s, a number of Australian left-wing politicians, including Victorian State MP Joan Coxsedge, began to allege that ASIO was turning a blind eye to extremist Croatian elements, who were secretly training on Australian soil to undertake terrorist attacks on Yugoslav territory or upon Yugoslav diplomatic missions in Australia.

In this atmosphere of terrorism mania during the 1970s Australia’s Croat community were looked upon as the bad guy. We now know that the alleged Croatian terrorism on Australian soil was the work of UDBa agent provocateurs.

Mr David Perrin, a Liberal Victorian (Australian) State Member of Parliament for Bulleen, in 1990 accused in parliament the Melbourne-based and tax-payer funded Australian Yugoslav Welfare Society (AYWS) of being a front for Yugoslav intelligence.

Kostrevski, despite the fear generated by Yugoslav intelligence (UDBa), refused to be silenced. He had tried to raise this issue with his comrades within the ALP Socialist Left but it fell on deaf ears. In frustration he met with the Liberal Perrin at the MP’s electoral office in June 1991. Kostrevski invited me to sit in on the discussion and asked I keep this quiet whilst he was alive in case his family was targeted.

Kostrevski named names, dates, places and extraordinary detail as to the activities of UDBa in Melbourne, in particular how Macedonian community organisations had been infiltrated.

He passed away in 2002 and was granted a posthumous Victorian State Award for Excellence in Multicultural Affairs.

Kostrevski was a humanitarian who believed in non-violence to combat UDBa as well as proving welfare services to his community. It would be fitting if The Republic of Macedonia, which broke away from communist Yugoslavia in 1991, awarded him a high state order posthumously for his services in defending human rights and freedom of speech.


PART 1 – published in scoop.co.nz

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1003/S00021.htm
Tuesday, March 02, 2010

ASIO’S POOR RECORD
By Sasha Uzunov

The alleged use of Australian passports by Mossad--Israeli intelligence—agents in a recent Middle East assassination suggest an impotent Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), which is responsible for our domestic safety. But ASIO has a poor record in tracking down the bad guys.

In 2006 The Australian reporter Cameron Stewart revealed that Chinese communist spies were running rampant in Canberra so much so that ASIO increased it recruitment of agents.
www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/spy-drive-to-tackle-chinese/story-e6frg6nf-1111112747905

Columnist John Birmingham has taken the mickey out of ASIO’s slick new job ads in search of nosey, latte-sipping spies. www.theage.com.au/opinion/blogs/blunt-instrument/the-man-with-the-golden--cufflinks-and-matching-tie-pin/20100224-p39q.html

It is both tragic and comical but ASIO has a poor record in catching the bad guys. The 1970s infiltration of Australia by then Yugoslav communist spies is a classic case.

Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic communist federation founded in 1945, modelled on the Soviet Union, and fell apart in 1991 into various independent nation states.

Yugoslav intelligence (UDBa) later known as SDB, together with Yugoslav military counter-intelligence (KOS) were largely pre-occupied with silencing dissident Croats, Macedonians, Serbs and Albanians living in Western Europe, North America and Australia, who were agitating for independence from Yugoslavia.

UDBa was so ruthless and efficient it at one time rivaled the old Soviet KGB and Mossad in liquidating opponents. In Munich, West Germany, a whole section of a cemetery was set-aside for Croats assassinated by UDBa.

Communist strongman Marshal Josip Broz Tito ruled Yugoslavia until his death in 1980 and during the height of the Cold War managed a great balancing act between East and West. He was seen as an indirect ally of the West after his infamous split with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1949.

A number of Australian left-wing politicians, including Victorian State MP Joan Coxsedge, began to allege that ASIO was turning a blind eye to extremist Croatian elements, who were secretly training on Australian soil to undertake terrorist attacks on Yugoslav territory or upon Yugoslav diplomatic missions in Australia.

In this atmosphere of terrorism mania during the 1970s Australia’s Croat community were looked upon as the bad guy.

No doubt this was not helped by the fact that a sizable number of Croats during World War II had collaborated with the Nazis. However, a large number had also fought against the Nazis as Partizans, including Franjo Tudjman later to become President of independent Croatia in 1991. But UDBa began to target the émigré Macedonian community in Australia, which had no history of large-scale Nazi collaboration, in fact the opposite.

Then there is Federal Attorney General Lionel Murphy’s infamous ASIO raid on 16 March 1973.

So much has been written about Murphy’s raid on ASIO. The controversial politician used the pretext that he was being kept in the dark by ASIO about alleged émigré Croatian terrorism on Australian soil aimed against the Yugoslav government. ALP Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said the Murphy raid was a mistake which hurt his government.

On 27 June 2007, I applied under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the media briefing notes of George Negus, Murphy’s Press Secretary and later celebrity war reporter, hoping if they could throw more light on the raid. But I ended hitting a bureaucratic brick wall.

We now know that the alleged Croatian terrorism on Australian soil was the work of UDBa. In 1991 legendary ABC TV investigative reporter Chris Masters dropped a bombshell on the Four Corners program.

Masters filed a story about The Croatian Six case. An agent provocateur set up members of Australia's Croatian community in 1979. Six Croats were imprisoned on false charges of wanting to plant bombs in Sydney. Masters tracked down the agent provocateur, Vitomir Visimovic, who was an ethnic Serb living in Bosnia but had passed himself off as a Croat.

In fact, ASIO, the Australian Federal Police (successor of the Commonwealth Police) and the infamous and corrupt New South Wales Police Special Branch were all aware that Visimovic was an UDBa operative but suppressed the information during the trial of the Croatian Six. Moreover, the alarming thing was the Australian authorities let the man depart the country. This was during Malcolm Fraser’s tenure as Prime Minister.

Masters’ older brother, fellow journalist and Rugby League Legend, Rugged Roy Masters wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on November 25, 2005:

“It is fashionable now to be a Croatian Australian, what with nearly half the Socceroos, including captain Mark Viduka, of Croatian background, plus Tony Santic, the owner of Makybe Diva, the triple Melbourne Cup-winning horse, and Andrew Bogut, the basketballer making a big impression in the United States.

“But when a young Scottish-born girl named Shirley, raised in north Queensland, started going out with Nikola Stedul, a Croatian-born cane cutter, in the early 1960s, her sister was horrified, asking, "Does he carry a knife?"

"Croatians were the bogymen then," Shirley, who married Stedul in 1965, said. "Like Muslims are today."

The Steduls, who live in the Melbourne suburb of Altona, after being adrift in Europe for 30 years because the Australian government would not renew Stedul's passport, warn the new anti-terrorism laws will create more problems than they are likely to solve. They claim a possible outcome is a society divided into the privileged and the proscribed, creating fertile ground for home-grown terrorism.

"Paradoxically, the police and security agencies will be more efficient but the population will be less secure," Stedul, 68, says.

“The Steduls accuse ASIO of conspiring with the Yugoslav secret police to prevent them returning to Australia and co-operating with a paid assassin, Vinko Sindicic, who fired six bullets into Stedul as he leaned through a car window outside their Edinburgh [UK] home on October 20, 1988.

“Two bullets entered his mouth and four were fired into his body, one nicking his spinal cord, causing a slight limp.

“Sindicic was arrested at Heathrow Airport after a neighbour had recorded the registration number of the hire car from which he had shot Stedul.

“The assassination attempt and the resulting trial, where Sindicic was sentenced to 32 years' jail, were given widespread publicity, and a film was produced for Scottish television. At the trial it was revealed that Sindicic had been in Australia in 1978, working with another Yugoslav agent on a plan to link Croatian political activists with terrorism.”

Television reporter Sarah Ferguson, the wife of ABC TV Lateline host Tony Jones, rehashed some of the discredited claims of Croatian terrorism on the now defunct Channel Nine program Sunday:

“The post-war migration boom brought not only cultural diversity, it brought ethnic divisions and old-country politics and foreign agents. It also spawned the first manifestations of domestic terrorism, a threat ASIO failed to deal with because the offenders were anti-communist Croatian nationalists.”

(The Spying Game, 2 April 2006, Sunday program)

Ferguson did not interview Chris Masters about his 1991 expose nor did she speak to anyone from the Croatian community.

Because my parents were Macedonian migrants to Australia, I naturally developed an interest in UDBa’s activities. I began to investigate the infiltration of the local Macedonian community by UDBa. My quest took me to Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia in 1993, which broke away from Yugoslavia together with Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1991. I spoke to Aleksander Dinevski, a former high-ranking official within the Interior Ministry, responsible for both the Police and Security Services.

Dinevski revealed he had read a number of files that confirmed UDBa had monitored and infiltrated Australia’s Macedonian community.

On 6 January 2006 I received a curious email out of the blue from Dr John Schindler, Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy, United States. Naval War College:

“I encountered your recent article discussing UDBa terrorism and was intrigued. I'm doing research into the topic of Yugoslav state security (UDBa, later SDB) anti-émigré operations during the Cold War, including assassinations.

“I've found some information you cite, including the ASIO scandals of the 1970s, but as an American I must confess some of the cases you cite (eg Croatian Six) were new to me. Have you published anything else on this topic? Any thoughts on where I ought to be looking for more info on UDBa operations in Australia?”

I explained to Dr Schindler that the Australian authorities, in particular ASIO, had turned a blind eye to UDBa operations on Australian soil or had tried to hush things up.

In 1974 Dr Blagoja Sambevski a Macedonian dissident living in West Germany was assassinated by having his skull smashed in ala Trotsky style by an UDBa hit man in a Munich train station. In 1981the hit man entered Australia on an unknown task but was quietly told to leave by immigration officials.

Mr David Perrin, a Liberal Victorian State MP for Bulleen, in 1990 accused in parliament the Melbourne-based and tax-payer funded Australian Yugoslav Welfare Society (AYWS) of being a front for Yugoslav intelligence.

Professor Nikola Zezov, an academic at Saints Kiril and Metodi (Cyril and Methodius) University in Skopje, has bravely explored Macedonia’s controversial communist past within Yugoslavia.

He is co-author of the 2005 ground-breaking book “The repressed and repression in contemporary Macedonian history” (Represijata I represiranite vo sovremena Makedonska istorija). He was given access to 14,000 intelligence files. He concluded that one in five Macedonians living in communist Yugoslavia (1945-91) were paid informers for UDBa. This is an alarming figure on par with East German communist intelligence, the Stasi, and its hold on the population.

In March 1993, Stevce Pavlovski, Macedonia’s Public Prosecutor told me in an interview he would not open an investigation into communist crimes because he would end up having to imprison fifty per cent of Macedonia’s old communists.

It is surprising that no Australian big name investigative reporter or scholar has ever bothered to access the old UDBa files held in the newly independent states of Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro (Crna Gora), and Kosovo. They must contain a goldmine of information on Australian politicians and journalists!

(end)

Friday, May 07, 2010

The fight against Yugoslav intelligence

SECOND part in a series on Yugoslav intelligence acitivities on Australian soil from the 1970s to the early 1990s.

PATRIOT GAMES: ONE MAN’S FIGHT AGAINST UDBa
By Sasha Uzunov

During the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, an intelligence war was waged by the communist regime of Yugoslavia to intimidate and silence Australia’s Macedonian migrant community but one man, George Kostrevski, managed to fight the good fight.

In 1991, I met the feisty and well respected Kostrevski who was President of the Australian-Macedonian Welfare Council, in Melbourne’s western suburbs and a champion of free political thought. The AMWC is now known as the Macedonian Community Welfare Association (MCWA).

Kostrevski, who was a Socialist-Left Australian Labor Party (ALP) member and an admirer of legendary ALP right-wing kingmaker George Seitz, alleged that in 1983 he had been ordered by a local Yugoslav agent of influence in July 1983 to: “hold the Yugoslav political line…or he would not be allowed to return to Macedonia to visit relatives.”

Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic communist federation founded in 1945, modeled on the Soviet Union, and fell apart in 1991 into various independent nation states of Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Yugoslav intelligence (UDBa) later known as SDB, together with Yugoslav military counter-intelligence (KOS) were largely pre-occupied with silencing dissident Croats, Macedonians, Serbs and Albanians living in Western Europe, North America and Australia, who were agitating for independence from Yugoslavia.

UDBa was so ruthless and efficient it at one time rivaled the old Soviet KGB in liquidating opponents.

Communist strongman Marshal Josip Broz Tito ruled Yugoslavia until his death in 1980 and during the height of the Cold War managed a great balancing act between East and West. He was seen as an indirect ally of the West after his infamous split with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1949.

In the 1970s and 80s, a number of Australian left-wing politicians, including Victorian State MP Joan Coxsedge, began to allege that ASIO was turning a blind eye to extremist Croatian elements, who were secretly training on Australian soil to undertake terrorist attacks on Yugoslav territory or upon Yugoslav diplomatic missions in Australia.

In this atmosphere of terrorism mania during the 1970s Australia’s Croat community were looked upon as the bad guy. We now know that the alleged Croatian terrorism on Australian soil was the work of UDBa agent provocateurs.

Mr David Perrin, a Liberal Victorian (Australian) State Member of Parliament for Bulleen, in 1990 accused in parliament the Melbourne-based and tax-payer funded Australian Yugoslav Welfare Society (AYWS) of being a front for Yugoslav intelligence.

Kostrevski, despite the fear generated by Yugoslav intelligence (UDBa), refused to be silenced. He had tried to raise this issue with his comrades within the ALP Socialist Left but it fell on deaf ears. In frustration he met with the Liberal Perrin at the MP’s electoral office in June 1991. Kostrevski invited me to sit in on the discussion and asked I keep this quiet whilst he was alive in case his family was targeted.

Kostrevski named names, dates, places and extraordinary detail as to the activities of UDBa in Melbourne, in particular how Macedonian community organisations had been infiltrated.

He passed away in 2002 and was granted a posthumous Victorian State Award for Excellence in Multicultural Affairs.

Kostrevski was a humanitarian who believed in non-violence to combat UDBa as well as proving welfare services to his community. It would be fitting if The Republic of Macedonia, which broke away from communist Yugoslavia in 1991, awarded him a high state order posthumously for his services in defending human rights and freedom of speech.




PART 1 – published in scoop.co.nz


http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1003/S00021.htm
Tuesday, March 02, 2010

ASIO’S POOR RECORD
By Sasha Uzunov

The alleged use of Australian passports by Mossad--Israeli intelligence—agents in a recent Middle East assassination suggest an impotent Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), which is responsible for our domestic safety. But ASIO has a poor record in tracking down the bad guys.

In 2006 The Australian reporter Cameron Stewart revealed that Chinese communist spies were running rampant in Canberra so much so that ASIO increased it recruitment of agents.
www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/spy-drive-to-tackle-chinese/story-e6frg6nf-1111112747905

Columnist John Birmingham has taken the mickey out of ASIO’s slick new job ads in search of nosey, latte-sipping spies. www.theage.com.au/opinion/blogs/blunt-instrument/the-man-with-the-golden--cufflinks-and-matching-tie-pin/20100224-p39q.html

It is both tragic and comical but ASIO has a poor record in catching the bad guys. The 1970s infiltration of Australia by then Yugoslav communist spies is a classic case.

Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic communist federation founded in 1945, modelled on the Soviet Union, and fell apart in 1991 into various independent nation states.

Yugoslav intelligence (UDBa) later known as SDB, together with Yugoslav military counter-intelligence (KOS) were largely pre-occupied with silencing dissident Croats, Macedonians, Serbs and Albanians living in Western Europe, North America and Australia, who were agitating for independence from Yugoslavia.

UDBa was so ruthless and efficient it at one time rivalled the old Soviet KGB and Mossad in liquidating opponents. In Munich, West Germany, a whole section of a cemetery was set-aside for Croats assassinated by UDBa.

Communist strongman Marshal Josip Broz Tito ruled Yugoslavia until his death in 1980 and during the height of the Cold War managed a great balancing act between East and West. He was seen as an indirect ally of the West after his infamous split with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1949.

A number of Australian left-wing politicians, including Victorian State MP Joan Coxsedge, began to allege that ASIO was turning a blind eye to extremist Croatian elements, who were secretly training on Australian soil to undertake terrorist attacks on Yugoslav territory or upon Yugoslav diplomatic missions in Australia.

In this atmosphere of terrorism mania during the 1970s Australia’s Croat community were looked upon as the bad guy.

No doubt this was not helped by the fact that a sizeable number of Croats during World War II had collaborated with the Nazis. However, a large number had also fought against the Nazis as Partizans, including Franjo Tudjman later to become President of independent Croatia in 1991. But UDBa began to target the émigré Macedonian community in Australia, which had no history of large-scale Nazi collaboration, in fact the opposite.

Then there is Federal Attorney General Lionel Murphy’s infamous ASIO raid on 16 March 1973.
So much has been written about Murphy’s raid on ASIO. The controversial politician used the pretext that he was being kept in the dark by ASIO about alleged émigré Croatian terrorism on Australian soil aimed against the Yugoslav government. ALP Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said the Murphy raid was a mistake which hurt his government.

On 27 June 2007, I applied under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the media briefing notes of George Negus, Murphy’s Press Secretary and later celebrity war reporter, hoping if they could throw more light on the raid. But I ended hitting a bureaucratic brick wall.

We now know that the alleged Croatian terrorism on Australian soil was the work of UDBa. In 1991 legendary ABC TV investigative reporter Chris Masters dropped a bombshell on the Four Corners program.

Masters filed a story about The Croatian Six case. An agent provocateur set up members of Australia's Croatian community in 1979. Six Croats were imprisoned on false charges of wanting to plant bombs in Sydney. Masters tracked down the agent provocateur, Vitomir Visimovic, who was an ethnic Serb living in Bosnia but had passed himself off as a Croat.

In fact, ASIO, the Australian Federal Police (successor of the Commonwealth Police) and the infamous and corrupt New South Wales Police Special Branch were all aware that Visimovic was an UDBa operative but suppressed the information during the trial of the Croatian Six. Moreover, the alarming thing was the Australian authorities let the man depart the country. This was during Malcolm Fraser’s tenure as Prime Minister.

Masters’ older brother, fellow journalist and Rugby League Legend, Rugged Roy Masters wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on November 25, 2005:

“It is fashionable now to be a Croatian Australian, what with nearly half the Socceroos, including captain Mark Viduka, of Croatian background, plus Tony Santic, the owner of Makybe Diva, the triple Melbourne Cup-winning horse, and Andrew Bogut, the basketballer making a big impression in the United States.

“But when a young Scottish-born girl named Shirley, raised in north Queensland, started going out with Nikola Stedul, a Croatian-born cane cutter, in the early 1960s, her sister was horrified, asking, "Does he carry a knife?"

"Croatians were the bogymen then," Shirley, who married Stedul in 1965, said. "Like Muslims are today."

The Steduls, who live in the Melbourne suburb of Altona, after being adrift in Europe for 30 years because the Australian government would not renew Stedul's passport, warn the new anti-terrorism laws will create more problems than they are likely to solve. They claim a possible outcome is a society divided into the privileged and the proscribed, creating fertile ground for home-grown terrorism.

"Paradoxically, the police and security agencies will be more efficient but the population will be less secure," Stedul, 68, says.

“The Steduls accuse ASIO of conspiring with the Yugoslav secret police to prevent them returning to Australia and co-operating with a paid assassin, Vinko Sindicic, who fired six bullets into Stedul as he leaned through a car window outside their Edinburgh [UK] home on October 20, 1988.

“Two bullets entered his mouth and four were fired into his body, one nicking his spinal cord, causing a slight limp.

“Sindicic was arrested at Heathrow Airport after a neighbour had recorded the registration number of the hire car from which he had shot Stedul.

“The assassination attempt and the resulting trial, where Sindicic was sentenced to 32 years' jail, were given widespread publicity, and a film was produced for Scottish television. At the trial it was revealed that Sindicic had been in Australia in 1978, working with another Yugoslav agent on a plan to link Croatian political activists with terrorism.”

Television reporter Sarah Ferguson, the wife of ABC TV Lateline host Tony Jones, rehashed some of the discredited claims of Croatian terrorism on the now defunct Channel Nine program Sunday:

“The post-war migration boom brought not only cultural diversity, it brought ethnic divisions and old-country politics and foreign agents. It also spawned the first manifestations of domestic terrorism, a threat ASIO failed to deal with because the offenders were anti-communist Croatian nationalists.”

(The Spying Game, 2 April 2006, Sunday program)

Ferguson did not interview Chris Masters about his 1991 expose nor did she speak to anyone from the Croatian community.

Beacause my parents were Macedonian migrants to Australia, I naturally developed an interest in UDBa’s activities. I began to investigate the infiltration of the local Macedonian community by UDBa. My quest took me to Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia in 1993, which broke away from Yugoslavia together with Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1991. I spoke to Aleksander Dinevski, a former high-ranking official within the Interior Ministry, responsible for both the Police and Security Services.

Dinevski revealed he had read a number of files that confirmed UDBa had monitored and infiltrated Australia’s Macedonian community.

On 6 January 2006 I received a curious email out of the blue from Dr John Schindler, Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy, United States. Naval War College:

“I encountered your recent article discussing UDBa terrorism and was intrigued. I'm doing research into the topic of Yugoslav state security (UDBa, later SDB) anti-émigré operations during the Cold War, including assassinations.

“I've found some information you cite, including the ASIO scandals of the 1970s, but as an American I must confess some of the cases you cite (eg Croatian Six) were new to me. Have you published anything else on this topic? Any thoughts on where I ought to be looking for more info on UDBa operations in Australia?”

I explained to Dr Schindler that the Australian authorities, in particular ASIO, had turned a blind eye to UDBa operations on Australian soil or had tried to hush things up.

In 1974 Dr Blagoja Sambevski a Macedonian dissident living in West Germany was assassinated by having his skull smashed in ala Trotsky style by an UDBa hit man in a Munich train station. In 1981the hit man entered Australia on an unknown task but was quietly told to leave by immigration officials.

Mr David Perrin, a Liberal Victorian State MP for Bulleen, in 1990 accused in parliament the Melbourne-based and tax-payer funded Australian Yugoslav Welfare Society (AYWS) of being a front for Yugoslav intelligence.

Professor Nikola Zezov, an academic at Saints Kiril and Metodi (Cyril and Methodius) University in Skopje, has bravely explored Macedonia’s controversial communist past within Yugoslavia.

He is co-author of the 2005 ground-breaking book “The repressed and repression in contemporary Macedonian history” (Represijata I represiranite vo sovremena Makedonska istorija). He was given access to 14,000 intelligence files. He concluded that one in five Macedonians living in communist Yugoslavia (1945-91) were paid informers for UDBa. This is an alarming figure on par with East German communist intelligence, the Stasi, and its hold on the population.

In March 1993, Stevce Pavlovski, Macedonia’s Public Prosecutor told me in an interview he would not open an investigation into communist crimes because he would end up having to imprison fifty per cent of Macedonia’s old communists.

It is surprising that no Australian big name investigative reporter or scholar has ever bothered to access the old UDBa files held in the newly independent states of Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro (Crna Gora), and Kosovo. They must contain a goldmine of information on Australian politicians and journalists!

(end)