Inquest Into The Death In 1975 Of Brian Peters
NSW Coronial Inquest Into The Death In 1975 Of Brian Peters
The Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) had no intelligence which could have provided prior warning of the danger posed to the five journalists killed in Balibo in October 1975, according to the findings of the New South Wales Coronial Inquest into the death of Mr Brian Peters.
The findings, which were handed down today by Deputy NSW Coroner Dorelle Pinch, support the conclusions of five previous inquiries, which examined the nature of signals intelligence (SIGINT) relevant to the deaths of the Balibo Five.
The Coroner addressed allegations made in the book 'Death in Balibo Lies in Canberra' and other speculation that DSD intercepted an order made by an Indonesian General to kill the journalists.
"I am aware that there has been speculation that Government agencies in Australia had forewarning that the journalists were to be killed. All of the evidence before this inquest is to the contrary."
In specific reference to SIGINT, the Coroner said "I have not seen any SIGINT material received prior to 16 October in which the Indonesians indicated any knowledge of either team of the Australian journalists in Balibo, nor have I seen any intercept in which the Indonesians referred to an intention of killing the journalists. Perhaps more important than my review of the extant material in 2007 is the fact that none of the witnesses who gave evidence at the inquest about SIGINT material they saw from 1975 onwards saw any material in terms of the alleged (intelligence) intercept."
Magistrate Pinch acknowledged the unprecedented access to SIGINT provided to the Inquest by DSD and noted the extraordinary efforts made to meet the terms of the numerous subpoenas served on Defence to provide all relevant material.
"I am satisfied that all extant classified material of possible relevance to the inquest has been made available to myself and those authorised to view it" Magistrate Pinch noted in her findings.
Furthermore the Coroner expressed her appreciation for the significant cooperation of Commonwealth Officers in support of the inquest.
There have been five previous inquiries into SIGINT relevant to the death of the Balibo Five - the Hope Royal Commission 1984; the internal Defence inquiry conducted by Mr Alan Thompson in 1986; the Sherman Reviews in 1996 and 1998; and the Blick Review in 2001.
The conclusions of these comprehensive inquiries are consistent with those of the Coronial Inquest: intelligence material was passed rapidly to Government and there was no holding back or suppression of data by any Government agency.