Plain-clothed police have raided the Canberra home of a senior official working for Australia’s most secretive spy agency, emerging from the property with black garbage bags of evidence.
The house is owned by Cameron Gill, an Australian Signals Directorate official, who is married to a top diplomat stationed overseas.
The property, in the leafy suburb of Griffith, is in walking distance of Parliament House, where the intelligence officer is believed to have advised Liberal ministers on cybercrime as a ministerial adviser.
A top-secret espionage spy agency, the Australian Signals Directorate’s motto is ‘‘reveal their secrets, protect our own’’.
It is responsible for foreign signals intelligence, support for military operations and cyber warfare.
The Australian Federal Police would not confirm on Wednesday if the investigation is linked to police raids at the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst earlier this year.
Her report featured top-secret classified documents on a controversial plan to expand the ASD’s power to spy domestically.
Campbell Reid, News Corp Australia’s group executive of corporate affairs, policy and government relations, said the AFP raids were part of a pattern of intimidation of whistleblowers.
“We have always said the AFP raids on journalists were not intended to intimidate journalists but the people who have the courage to talk to journalists,” Mr Reid said.
“Today we are seeing that process of intimidation continue.”
The AFP said in a statement its investigation was ongoing.
“This activity does not relate to any current or impending threat to the Australian community,” the AFP statement said.
Top-secret documents leaked to US whistleblower Edward Snowden have previously revealed the Australian Signals Directorate tried to spy on Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s mobile phone.
The revelations sparked a diplomatic rift between Australia and Indonesia.
Just weeks ago police revealed they had a prime suspect in the leak of top-secret information to News Corp journalist.
AFP deputy commissioner Neil Gaughan told a press freedom inquiry there was real concern about the suspected leaker and their seniority in the bureaucracy.
“Particularly with the one we are talking about, there is significant concern around the person who has allegedly provided the information to the journalist,” he said.
“There is significant concern around where that person potentially sits within the bureaucracy.”
At that point, AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin whispered to his deputy “just leave it at that”.
Home Affairs chief Mike Pezzullo has called for the leaker to “go to jail”.
Mr Pezzullo told the press freedom inquiry he believed the public servant involved in the leak to Smethurst was playing a “Canberra game” and insisted he or she was “not a whistleblower”.
“It was something to do with someone creating an impression that Home Affairs wanted to create certain authorities for onshore spying that was a complete falsehood,” Mr Pezzullo said.
“Frankly, subject to due processes, they should go to jail for that.”
Mr Pezzullo waved around a copy of Smethurst’s article during the hearings, complaining that it was the publication of a screenshot of the top-secret document by The Sunday Telegraph that was problematic.
“It is completely unacceptable; it is completely unacceptable for someone to have given the journalist that document. It is a crime,” he said.
Mr Pezzullo confirmed publication of the document marked “top secret” sparked great concern in the national security community.
The AFP has refused to rule out charging Smethurst with a crime.
“It remains the case that the investigation is ongoing,” Commissioner Colvin said.