It has recently been revealed, that a secret unit of the Australian military’s elite Special Air Service (SAS) have been deployed on “dozens” of illegal spying operations inside a number of African countries over the past year. The missions, including in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria, have been “assessing border controls, exploring landing sites for possible military interventions and possible escape routes for the evacuation of Australian nationals and military assessments of local politics and security.”
A Brief history of the SAS and the operations of networks in Australia:
SAS 4 Squadron is based in Victoria, at Swan Island in Port Phillip Bay, a high-security facility that has doubled in size in the past decade, in part to accommodate the new squadron. The squadron was formally raised in 2005 by the Howard government, but it has been learnt that its intelligence-focused role was authorized in late 2010 or early 2011. The SAS is at the forefront of gender change in the Australian military, with six female soldiers being trained in the US for their work with 4 Squadron. Collecting intelligence overseas without using violence is the main function of ASIS, which was created in 1952 but not officially acknowledged until 1977. Since the mid-1980s, ASIS has been refused permission to carry weapons or use violence, but in 2004 the Howard government amended legislation to allow officers weapons for self-defence and to participate in violent operations, provided they did not use force. It was about that time, the creation of the fourth SAS squadron was authorised, as they became elite bodyguards and scouts for ASIS intelligence officers. ASIS officers are legally permitted to carry false Australian passports and, if arrested, can deny by whom they are employed. Defence Force members on normal operations cannot carry false identification or deny which government they work for.
While the SAS have worked alongside Australia’s intelligence agencies for decades, the creation of a dedicated squadron, mirrors the US model in which the military and intelligence services have forged much closer links.
So, let’s analyse for a second. How did they get there?
Last year, the (then) foreign affairs minister Kevin Rudd, asked for troopers from 4 Squadron to be used in Libya during the conflict. His plan was thwarted by opposition from the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, and the Chief of the Australian Defence Force, General David Hurley. Mr Smith and General Hurley declined to be interviewed for this story.
Well, the main Libya conflict is now over. What do they want with Africa?
It is ‘believed’ that the African missions have involved gathering intelligence on terrorism and scoping rescue strategies for Australian civilians trapped by kidnapping or civil war. However, Africa is one of the main targets in the world right now for natural resources. Did anyone remember that little gem of information?
Why is this important?
The concern is with out-of-uniform SAS troops. If they are captured on such missions, the troops would not have the legal protections of conventional spies employed by a civilian intelligence agency. According to the sources, one SAS trooper asked government officials: “What happens if we get caught?”
A professor at Australian National University, Hugh White, a former deputy secretary of Defence, said: ”[Such an operation] deprives the soldier of a whole lot of protections, including their legal status and in a sense their identity as a soldier. I think governments should think extremely carefully before they ask soldiers to do that.”
The worst part is, we are not at war with any African country and, at least in the case of Zimbabwe, no authorisation has been given for the Australian military to operate within its borders. The SAS presence in any state under such conditions is tantamount to an act of war.
It would be in violation of the United Nations charter and illegal under international law.
The reports also raise questions as to whether or not Australian forces have also been used illegally in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. As for SAS activities inside Kenya and Nigeria, they would almost certainly have been conducted in joint operations with US and British forces. The sources state that intelligence gathered by 4 Squadron “all flows into databases used by the United States and its allies in Africa.”
Other questions arise from the alleged SAS deployments in Zimbabwe, where there are no ‘Islamist movements’. The only purpose of Australians spying inside Zimbabwe over the past year, would be to contribute to international planning for a move against the Mugabe regime. Alongside Britain, Australia has been in the forefront of efforts to demonise and isolate Mugabe, paving the way for his replacement or overthrow.
Responding to media questions, Defence Minister Smith refused to confirm or deny that 4 Squadron existed, or that SAS troops were in Africa. He stated instead that any deployment would be “in accordance with our domestic law”. Asked on Sky News whether SAS troops were carrying out espionage without legal cover, he answered: “That’s a very good question and it allows me to make this point, that whenever we have our people in the field, they have the proper and appropriate protections.”
These revelations published thus far, indicate that the Gillard government has embroiled Australia in international military actions and intrigue that go beyond anything initiated by the previous Howard government. These operations are being conducted behind the backs of the population and in contempt of international law.
Author: The Herald
Source: Article has been deleted
Added/Edited Content: Ethan Nash