Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Australia Gains from US Intel ; Prime Minister Howard Has Announced That Australia Will Double Its Intelligence Agency by 2010

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Australia Gains from US Intel ; Prime Minister Howard Has Announced That Australia Will Double Its Intelligence Agency by 2010

Article excerpt

Australia's controversial participation in the US-led war in Iraq has yielded a few rewards for the conservative government of John Howard, a strong Bush supporter: First, and more public, was the speeding up of the free-trade agreement with the US. Then came a more shadowy benefit: The right to share in the highest levels of intelligence which had so far been reserved for the US's closest ally, Britain.

Some experts see this benefit as a mere formality, but Australian intelligence officers are now at least officially on par with their British counterparts.

In the past, Australian officers were often banned from briefings during the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, by the American officers in charge, even if the information being discussed contained intelligence gathered by the Australians.

Australia was gladly accepted as part of the "coalition of the willing," but it was clear that it was a second rank member.

This was something Prime Minister Howard, who announced Sunday that Australia will double the size of its intelligence agency by 2010 to combat terrorism, took upon himself to persuade the Bush administration to change.

Howard got his wish after last year's AUSMIN meeting of Australian and US foreign and defense ministers when, as The Australian newspaper reported, the two countries signed a joint statement indicating a new level of intelligence sharing had been agreed upon.

The agreement granted Canberra access to all levels of raw US intelligence, US assessments of that intelligence, and real time operational information and planning.

Also Canberra reportedly now has a permanent senior officer stationed at the US Strategic Command in Nebraska. The Australian's foreign editor, Greg Sheridan writes that "...to have Australians stationed there at high levels of seniority is a sign of the depth of the intelligence relationship."

"This information is going to be at levels not seen here before, and definitely beneficial to Australia, although it is a two-way business and it may make countries like neighboring Indonesia more cautious about what they share with Canberra, as it's likely to go to Washington," says intelligence expert Leszek Buszenski, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University. …

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