Filing Cabinets' Keys Were Lost. Drilled Open, Secrets Emerged

Australia has a security mess on its hands
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 31, 2018 7:09 AM CST
Filing Cabinets' Keys Were Lost. Drilled Open, Secrets Emerged
A stock photo of file cabinets.   (Getty Images)

The Australian government on Wednesday launched an urgent investigation into the loss of thousands of classified documents that were sold with two second-hand filing cabinets, reports the AP. The cabinets were sold by a Canberra furniture shop at a discount price because they were locked and no one could find keys, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reports. The ABC has not identified the buyer who removed the locks with a drill and found thousands of Cabinet documents spanning more than a decade and four prime ministers, the most recent being Tony Abbott. Abbott was replaced in 2015 by the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The ABC reports nearly all the documents are classified, but it does not specify when they were found. The classifications include "top secret," "sensitive," "cabinet-in-confidence," and "AUSTEO"—Australian eyes only.

The documents cover Australia's intelligence priorities and counterterrorism planning. They detail missile upgrades, profiles of suspected militants, and Australia's desire in 2010 for more Indonesian cooperation to stop asylum seekers reaching Australian shores in fishing boats. One document refers to an audit that revealed that the Australian Federal Police had lost almost 400 national security files over five years ending 2013. The documents also reveal that a former finance minister left 195 top-secret papers in her old office when her government was voted out in 2013. Australian Cabinet documents are usually kept secret for 20 years, before they are made public in a heavily redacted form. The head of the Australian National University's National Security College calls the situation "very weird and embarrassing" but "not catastrophically damaging."

(More Australia stories.)

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