Arab Today, arab today afp chief happy to tell about antiterror raids
Last Updated : GMT 13:57:14
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AFP chief happy to tell about anti-terror raids

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today AFP chief happy to tell about anti-terror raids

Sydney - Arabstoday

AUSTRALIAN Federal Police commissioner Tony Negus has told a court he was happy with the result of discussions with The Australian that saw a story about anti-terror raids published on the morning they were conducted.Mr Negus yesterday gave evidence at the committal hearing for Simon Artz, a Victoria Police officer accused of leaking information about Operation Neath to The Australian in 2009.The paper published details of the operation after talks with the AFP, which worked with other agencies to arrest several men planning terror attacks on Sydney\'s Holsworthy army barracks.The Melbourne Magistrates Court heard Mr Negus had spoken to Paul Whittaker, then editor of The Australian, once he learned that journalist Cameron Stewart had information about Operation Neath.Mr Negus said the editor had questioned him repeatedly about why the story should be held back.He said he told Whittaker lives could be put at risk if the story was published immediately, to which Whittaker responded by asking how many lives.\"I expected it would be a difficult conversation to have, but it went further than I thought it needed to,\" Mr Negus said.\"I think at the end of the day we reached a decision point that was acceptable to both parties.\"I felt what had been asked of us was reasonable in the circumstances and I was happy enough to agree to it.\"Copies of Mr Negus\'s diary notes that day show he spoke to Whittaker, but do not record Whittaker\'s exact questions.Whittaker yesterday released a statement saying his recollection of the questions to Mr Negus differed to Mr Negus\'s memory.Mr Negus described the conversation as \"quite animated\" but professional.\"There was certainly no screaming down the telephone or anything like that,\" Mr Negus said. \"I would describe it as certainly very frank.\"He saw he had a legitimate story to run and it was up to me to convince him why he shouldn\'t.\"Outside court, The Australian\'s editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, said the paper had had no intention of publishing anything that would threaten lives, and had been happy with the offer proposed by Mr Negus to hold the story and get a briefing on Operation Neath.Lawyers for the AFP had previously argued that parts of Mr Negus\'s affidavit about his conversation with Whittaker should be suppressed, as he had prepared it for a separate inquiry with an expectation of confidentiality.Magistrate Peter Mealy ruled the affidavit should be released in full. Mr Artz faces eight charges including wilful misconduct, making unauthorised disclosures that could endanger life or interfere with justice, hindering police and attempting to mislead the director of the Office of Police Integrity.The court yesterday heard he was previously quoted in a story Stewart wrote in November 2008 about possible links between Melbourne\'s Somali community and Somali pirates.Philip Shepherd, a former Victoria Police media officer, said he had emailed Mr Artz after that story to advise that all contact with journalists should be approved through the media unit.The court heard that hundreds of people had access to information about Operation Neath before The Australian learned of it.AFP detective superintendent Damien Appleby, the officer in charge of the operation, said there had been a stream of documents and information going between the AFP, Victoria and NSW police, ASIO and counter-terrorism officers in every state and territory before the raids.\"As it got close to realisation it numbered in the many hundreds of people,\" he said, adding that \"even the most junior constable\" needed to understand the case.Mr Appleby agreed with Mr Artz\'s lawyer that confidential conversations with the media were necessary to maintain trust and co-operation and enable the AFP to work more effectively.\"Often we would co-opt the media, effectively giving them an exclusive so they would be happy to sit on a story,\" he said, estimating this had been done at least a dozen times in his experience.The hearing is expected to run for several weeks.

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