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Australia to Witness New Intelligence Laws By Sweeping Older Ones

Australian intelligence laws to be reviewed

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Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne (L-R), China's PLA Lieutenant-General He Lei and Canada's Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan listens to U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis' address at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, June 2, 2018. VOA

Australia’s intelligence laws are to be reviewed in the most comprehensive overhaul of national security legislation in decades.

The review will take 18 months and will be led by a former spy chief. It will be the most comprehensive review of Australia’s intelligence laws since the 1970s. Much of its terms of reference are being kept secret but officials say the shake-up will look at how information is shared among the nation’s six security and intelligence agencies, as well with other law enforcement bodies.

Analysts say the review is long overdue with existing laws designed for a previous era. They say the review would likely address the main threats facing Australia; terrorism, cyber-warfare and influence by foreign powers.

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Law books, Representational image, Pixabay

Australia’s federal Attorney-General Christian Porter says the overhaul will help to integrate the various agencies that keep the nation safe.

“The control, direction and coordination of all of these agencies, and the way they interact with non-intelligence agencies and state-based agencies, such as state police forces. It is looking at how we share information and whether or not that can be improved on.It is looking at the overall staffing and resourcing, so it has a very holistic approach, and the other thing it will look at is accountability and oversight,” said Porter.

The review comes amid rising fears in Australia over the influence of China in its domestic affairs.

Earlier this week media reports detailed allegations apparently contained in a top-secret report that China has attempted to influence Australia’s political parties for the past decade, as well as every level of government.

Beijing has previously accused Australia of being anti-China.

Last year the Australian government introduced new foreign interference laws into federal parliament, which, if passed, would put a ban on all overseas political donations. In January, Australian opposition Senator Sam Dastyari was forced to resign over alleged links to Chinese authorities.

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Australia’s National Terrorism Threat Level remains set at “probable,” which means security agencies believe that individuals or groups have the intent and capability to carry out a terrorist attack in Australia. (VOA)

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Trump Grants National Security to People Rejected by Government for an Array of Concerns

The White House had no immediate comment on the security clearance issues

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FILE - White House adviser Jared Kushner speaks with people in the East Room of the White House, June 29, 2018. VOA

A whistleblower from inside the White House has told congressional investigators that senior Trump administration officials granted national security clearances to at least 25 people that government reviewers had rejected for an array of concerns.

The whistleblower, Tricia Newbold, said the officials, cleared for security credentials after career employees recommended they be denied, include two current unnamed senior White House officials, government contractors, and other staff aides working for the office of President Donald Trump.

Newbold, an 18-year veteran of the security clearance process under both Republican and Democratic presidents, last month told investigators for the House Oversight and Reform Committee that while Trump had the right as president to overrule career employees’ denials of the security badges, the officials’ clearances “were not always adjudicated in the best interest of national security.”

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FILE – House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, D-Md., speaks during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 14, 2019. VOA

The committee chairman, Congressman Elijah Cummings, told the panel’s members that Newbold told investigators that those eventually cleared by senior Trump administration officials “had a wide range of serious disqualifying issues involving foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use, and criminal conduct.”

Newbold told investigators she had been suspended for 14 days without pay earlier this year after protesting internally about the way in which the security clearance denials had been overturned and now was worried about returning to work after she decided to go public with her concerns.

“I’m terrified of going back,” she told investigators. “I know that this will not be perceived in favor of my intentions, which is to bring back the integrity of the office.”

But Newbold said she decided to become a whistleblower because “I would not be doing a service to myself, my country, or my children if I sat back knowing that the issues that we have could impact national security.”

Cummings’s memo on Newbold’s statements to investigators did not identify any of the officials who have been granted security clearances against the recommendations of the security reviewers.

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FILE – (L-R) White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner walk to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington,Aug. 4, 2017. VOA

But the panel said it is reviewing the clearances given to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom are White House advisers, and national security adviser John Bolton. News accounts earlier this year said Trump had personally intervened last year to overrule then-White House chief of staff John Kelly to grant a clearance to Kushner, a move Kelly found so unsettling that he recorded Trump’s direction to him in a memo.

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Cummings, in a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, said he “has given the White House every possible opportunity to cooperate with the investigation, but you have declined. Your actions are now preventing the committee from obtaining the information it needs to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.”

Cummings said his panel would vote Tuesday to subpoena Newbold’s former boss, Carl Kline, who now works at the Defense Department, along with five other current and former White House officials involved with the security reviews to testify about their role in the clearances.

The White House had no immediate comment on the security clearance issues. (VOA)