Bound to cause further headache to the Tony Abbott government, already reeling under allegation of spying on Indonesia, latest reports noted U.S. Whistleblower and Former National Security Agency Contractor Edward Snowden may have accessed and leaked between 15,000 and 20,000 files containing Australian intelligence reports.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is seen in this still image taken from video during an interview by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6, 2013. Fugitive U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden said calls for more oversight of government intelligence agencies showed he was justified in revealing the methods and targets of the U.S. secret service. In "A Manifesto for the Truth" published in German news magazine Der Spiegel on November 3, Snowden said current debates about mass surveillance in many countries showed his revelations were helping to bring about change. Picture taken June 6, 2013. (REUTERS/Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras/Courtesy of The Guardian/Handout via Reuters)
Although the spying scandal outbreak has not impacted the level of intelligence sharing between agencies in the U.S. and Australia, The Australian reported that authorities in the country have expressed concerns on the fallout of Snowden's leaks to their counterparts in the U.S.
Known as the most damaging blow to Australian intelligence gathering systems, the documents leaked Snowden has also severely damaged Australia's efforts to foster closer relations with its Asian neighbors, particularly Indonesia.
The Australian claimed news of the volume of documents leaked by Snowden comes at a time when Australia is striving to revive relations with Indonesia, damaged after it was reported by Guardian Australia and ABC that Australian intelligence agencies monitored the phone calls of the Indonesian president, his wife and senior government functionaries.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, along with Defence Secretary Dennis Richardson and Peter Vargese, head of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are currently in Jakarta to hold "broad-ranging" talks on the way forward for the two countries, post the spying scandal.
Indonesian Pres. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called for the setting up of new protocols of behavior between the two countries, including the area of intelligence cooperation.
Bishop is expected to discuss these issues with her Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa.
The Australian reported the country's intelligence agencies have scoped the potential damage which may arise from any further leaks that may come from the documents passed on by Snowden to The Guardian.
Intelligence assessment suggested Snowden could have accessed between 15,000 and 20,000 secret Australian intelligence files, although it is still not known how many of these were actually passed on to The Guardian.
It is suspected that most of the leaked reports were likely related to political, economic and military intelligence gathered by Australian agencies, especially the Australian Signals Directorate (formerly DSD) in the Asia Pacific region.
The files containing Australian intelligence reports were among the millions of Western intelligence reports Snowden was known to have leaked before he took refuge in Russia.
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