Australian Federal Police say Wikileaks committed no crime

Friday, December 17, 2010

Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard
Image: MystifyMe Concert Photography.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has stated that the whistle-blowing website known as WikiLeaks has committed no crimes in Australia by publishing over 250,000 United States diplomatic cables. An investigation by the AFP into the release of the cables revealed that Wikileaks had not broken any laws under Australian jurisdiction.

"[The AFP has] not identified any criminal offences where Australia has jurisdiction and as a result have not commenced an investigation," said Robert McClelland, attorney-general of Australia in a statement to the press. "As has previously been stated, given the documents published to date are classified by the United States, the primary jurisdiction for any investigation into the matter remains the United States."

The investigation into Wikileaks actions came after the Australian Government referred the release of U.S. diplomatic cables to the AFP. McClelland stated that the Government's reaction to the WikiLeaks issue was "prudent." Further cables that the Government queries the legality of would also be forwarded to the AFP as well. He also added that the government remains "concerned" about the situation and "unauthorised and irresponsible distribution of classified material."

Controversy had also been raised today after Julia Gillard changed her stance on the release of the cables from calling the action "illegal," to calling it "grossly irresponsible," after the AFP had released their findings. Ms Gillard said at a press-conference in Sydney today that she did not intend to say that the release of the cables was illegal, but that their theft was. Deputy leader of the opposition (Liberal Party) Julie Bishop said there was no room for Ms Gillard to "weasel out of it."

"She is a lawyer. She well knows about the presumption of innocence," said Bishop. She added that the prime minister's legal background did not warrant her comments. Calls have also been voiced by the Green's Senator, Scott Ludlam, for Ms Gillard to retract her comments.

Wikileaks has been the subject of past investigations in Australia. In March of 2009, the proposed Australian Communications and Media Authority internet blacklist was leaked to the website. That matter was also referred to the AFP, who later abandoned pursuing criminal charges.

"It's my understanding from the AFP that they considered the prospects of success under their guidelines, but it wasn't sufficient to get a prosecution," said Chairman Chris Chapman during a Senate Estimates Committee meeting in February.