Just weeks after police revealed they have a prime suspect in the leak of top-secret information to News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst, federal police have raided the Canberra home of a Commonwealth official.
The search warrant, executed in the suburb of Griffith, targeted the home of a former ministerial adviser.
The New Daily has been told the man recently worked for the Department of Defence. A colleague who answered his extension on Wednesday said he no longer worked there. The minister the man is believed to have worked for did not reply to texts or calls.
It comes three months after the original Australian Federal Police raid on the Canberra apartment of the press gallery journalist Smethurst, that sparked an inquiry into press freedom.
AFP deputy commissioner Neil Gaughan told that 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”.
In a statement, the AFP said the raids did not relate to any present or imminent danger to the public.
“The Australian Federal Police is executing a search warrant in the ACT suburb of Griffith,” it said.
“This activity does not relate to any current or impending threat to the Australian community.
“The search warrant activity is in relation to a Commonwealth official.”
Home Affairs chief Mike Pezzullo has called for the leaker to ‘‘go to jail”.
Mr Pezzullo told the press freedom inquiry that 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,” he said.
‘‘Frankly, subject to due processes, they should go to jail for that.’’
— Samuel Clark (@sclark_melbs) August 14, 2019
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 particularly 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.
‘‘It did cause director-general [Mike] Burgess, the head of the ASD, myself and Mr [Greg] Moriarty to have very direct discussions,’’ he said.
‘‘The fact this document could be displayed in the Sunday Telegraph; it is simply not acceptable.’’
The AFP also refused to rule out charging Smethurst with a crime.
‘‘It remains the case that the investigation is ongoing,’’ Commissioner Colvin said.
-More to come