Friday, November 02, 2007

More light on the Haneef case

Back in June I described the Haneef case as a failure in compassion - and common sense. The core of my argument lay not in the question of Dr Haneef's guilt or innocence but in the way the matter was handled at official level.

The Australian has now revealed more information on the matter. You will find the story here. You will find a PDF of the email here. It is clear that arrangements were in place to detain Dr Haneef under the Immigration Act should he be granted to bail.

I am always interested in detail and process. I was struck by the security classification Sec-in-confidence (Secretary, security?). I had not heard this before. The old security classifications used to be unclassified, restricted, confidential, secret and top secret. These classifications were based on the damage to the nation should the information be released.

Then there were a few sub-classifications like staff-in-confidence, essentially unclassified but to be protected because it contained information on an individual staff member. There were a couple of others I was going to add in, I am sure everybody knows them, but perhaps not.

I note that the protective mark is "in-confidence". All this looks a bit like a variant of staff-in-confidence, material to be protected but whose release does not have national security implications.

All this is a side issue, interesting to me, perhaps not to anyone else. However, there is one intensely interesting thing revealed by the email.

The formal material on which Mr Andrews made his decision to revoke Dr Haneef's visa was released. This was signed by Mr White who also appears in the email material. At the time, I surmised that there had been other minutes or oral briefings between Department and Minister.

While I am still sure that this was the case, I found the reaction of Mr Andrew's staffer to the latest story very interesting. She appears to have been flabbergasted. If my interpretation is correct, then it may be the case that Mr Andrews was not briefed on the Department's plans in regard to the possible visa withdrawal.

If this is the case, I would regard it as a fundamental breech of public service protocols. When I was in Mr White's position, there was no way that I would not have fully briefed the Minister and indeed his office on an issue of such importance. I may be missing something - there may be some other protocol in place - but I find it all very odd.

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