Australia Spies On Soldiers
- Military spying on soldiers
By Cameron Stewart and Michael McKinnon
July 31, 2004
MILITARY police have stepped up the war against rogue soldiers in the
ranks by eavesdropping on private telephone calls and emails, and
using electronic tracking devices to monitor the movements of people
and vehicles during investigations.
The hi-tech covert surveillance, revealed in confidential defence
documents, means military police are now catching crooked soldiers by
employing methods similar to those used by the civilian police and by
The Howard Government is expected to further beef up the powers of
the nation's 673 military police as part of efforts to improve the
troubled and much-maligned military justice system.
An Australian Defence Force-commissioned report recommending tougher
investigatory powers for military police has been completed amid
growing concerns about drug use and bastardisation in the ranks.
The report by Ernst & Young, which has not yet been considered by the
Government, coincides with a sweeping Senate inquiry into the
effectiveness of the country's military justice regime.
But defence documents obtained by The Weekend Australian under
Freedom of Information laws reveal that the military police have
already acquired a raft of Orwellian capabilities to monitor rogues
in the ranks.
A confidential review of the investigative capability of the military
police, conducted by consultants Fulcrum Risk Services in June 2003,
found that "(military police) investigation practices have become
increasingly dependent on technology".
"This has meant that covert electronic means of tracking people and
vehicles (and) telephone interception to 'eavesdrop' on telephone
conversations (both fixed and mobile), facsimiles, email exchanges
and internet access have become standard features of high level
"Of more recent origin (is) satellite technology to supplement these
The review concludes that more needs to be done and that the military
police battalion will "require significant technological upgrades".
The introduction of hi-tech investigation techniques for the military
police follows the scathing 2001 Burchett inquiry, which found
Australia's military police were badly equipped and poorly trained to
investigate rogue soldiers.
The Burchett inquiry was commissioned after a flurry of bashings
during 1997-98 in the Sydney-based 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian
The 2003 Fulcrum review said military police had traditionally been
poorly perceived by many regular troops, who gave them the "dark side
"The Military Police Battalion occupies the same position within the
army as Internal Affairs does in the police forces ... in current
parlance, mate against mate.
"This has significant consequences for leadership, as (the MP
Battalion) is required to simultaneously give powerful support to
field units, while ensuring that the internal police arm is not given
the "dark side" treatment."
The review calls for Australia's military police to eventually be
linked to international risk management groups that have access
to "secret-level computer technology" for clients. "They provide
audio and visual forensic expertise and deal with exhibits and court
proceedings on behalf of their clients, including England's
The Senate inquiry into the military justice system, which is
expected to make its interim report in September, was set up in
October last year amid concerns about a spate of suicides of young
people in the ADF. These included 20-year-old trainee soldier Jeremy
Williams, who hung himself after he was left to languish in a
rehabilitation platoon, whose soldiers were victimised.
Other shortcomings were revealed by the treatment of RAAF air defence
guard Nathan Moore, who was bashed and victimised by colleagues after
he blew the whistle on drug use at Queensland's Amberley RAAF base in
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