Exclusive: AFP HASN'T BEEN ASKED TO INVESTIGATE MORAN MURDER
By Sasha Uzunov
Australia’s leading journalists have called upon the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to launch extradition proceedings against an Iraqi Kurd living in Norway and allegedly the mastermind behind the killing of controversial Australian cameraman Paul Moran in Iraq 2003 but strangely the AFP has not been formally asked to investigate.
Mr Chris Warren, the Federal Secretary of the Media Entertainment Alliance of Australia (Australian Journalists Association) has asked the Federal Attorney General to investigate Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, better known as Mullah Krekar, and his links to UN-listed terrorist organisation Ansar al-Islam.
But an AFP spokeswoman told TEAM UZUNOV today:
"The AFP treats all allegations of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity as serious matters. The AFP decides whether to investigate an alleged offence after evaluating a formal referral and supporting evidence.
"At this stage the AFP has not received a formal referral concerning the death of Mr Moran and therefore has not commenced an investigation. Any referral received by the AFP will be assessed in accordance with the AFP's Case Categorisation and Prioritisation Model.
"The AFP does not initiate investigations based on media reports alone. Allegations of war crimes committed overseas give rise to complex legal and factual issues that require careful consideration by law enforcement agencies before deciding to commence an investigation."
Sally Neighbour, a self-appointed security expert and reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, who moonlights for The Australian newspaper ,quotes another ABC colleague Mark Corcoran who said:
"`Why has there been no investigation into the murder?" asks Mark Corcoran, presenter and veteran reporter with ABC TV's Foreign Correspondent program. "As of December 2009, I have still not seen any evidence of an investigation, either formally or informally, by any Australian official."
Corcoran is a highly respected figure, who served in the Australian Navy and the super secret Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) before entering journalism.
Calling for a murder trial may in fact open up a can of worms. It may reveal some uncomfortable truths about Moran’s activities.
Moran, 39, was killed on March 22, 2003 by a car bomb while covering the war in Northern Iraq for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV. He was an Adelaide-raised freelance cameraman who worked on and off for the ABC as well as US public relations firm Rendon, which had ties to the CIA and the Bush Administration.
Walkely Award winning Australian journalist, Mr Colin James, of the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper, was the first to break the story about Moran’s shadowy past when he attended Moran’s wake in Adelaide.
He talked to relatives who revealed that Moran had a James Bond other life.
“For a freelance cameraman, Moran sure had some incredible access to US State Department officials in Washington,” Mr James said. “How many freelancers get to play games of social tennis with US diplomats?”
Moran had worked for Rendon for over a decade in places like the Middle East and Kosovo, pushing US government spin while doing freelance work for the ABC TV as a combat cameraman.
On November 17, 2005 prominent American journalist, academic and former US Navy intelligence analyst James Bamford wrote in the influential American magazine Rolling Stone a detailed account of Moran’s work with Rendon and its link to the CIA and its selling of the Iraq
The controversy surrounding Moran stems from his exclusive story about an Iraqi defector who had knowledge about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program. A Rendon colleague gave him the scoop which turned out to be false, but was a pretext for the US invasion of Iraq, according to Bamford.
The Australian cameraman also helped to set up a television station for the Iraqi National Congress (INC). The INC was established by the US as an opposition group to the Saddam Hussein regime.
In January 2003 I was hired as a photographer for Canadian war reporter Scott Taylor (www.espritdecorps.ca) and we tracked down Mr Gaan Latis, who was recruited by the INC to become a member of a US trained exile army à la Bay of Pigs.
US advisors had set up a training camp at the Taszar Army base in Kaposvar, Hungary. Each new recruit was paid US$3,000. But the plan failed when there were not enough suitable candidates. We went to the army base in Kaposvar and were stopped at the front gate and were threatened with having our cameras confiscated.
I had a front page photo of the Taszar base published in Canada’s national newspaper, The Ottawa Citizen (January 24, 2003), and Esprit de Corp Magazine (February 2003) along with Taylor’s revelations of the exile Iraqi Army in training.
For six years I have been following the Moran story and attempted to gain access to information from the ABC.
Ms Joan McKain, the ABC’s Freedon Of Information Coordinator, in a letter dated July 10, 2007, rejected my request for Moran’s personnel file under Section 41 (1) of the Freedom Of Information Act.
The Act spells out that any documents affecting personal privacy are considered exempt if their disclosure under this Act would involve the unreasonable disclosure of personal information about any person (including a deceased person).
Instead, Ms McKain released a different document, a draft reply from then ABC TV News boss, Mr Max Uechtritz, given to ABC program Media Watch, dated April 14, 2003, about Paul Moran.
Mr Uechtritz, in his reply to ABC program Media Watch aired on April 14, 2003, wrote: “The ABC is not in the habit of following up Adelaide Advertiser stories.”
The Media Watch program had chastised the ABC and Uechtritz: “The story was followed up by some parts of the media, but not by the ABC. It should have been.” (Death in Bagdad, April 14, 2003 episode).
The irony of all this is Mr Uechtritz complained to The Age newspaper on June 30, 2003 about freedom of speech after coming under attack from the then Australian Federal Communications Minister, Senator Richard Alston, for alleged biased reporting by the ABC over the Iraq war.
“It is the duty of independent journalists in a robust democracy to question everything, “Mr Uechtritz wrote. “The senator seems to think the media's duty in time of war is to fall meekly into line with the government of the day.”
But it appears this does not apply to journalists scrutinising Paul Moran! Mr Uechtritz is now a news editor with Al Jazeera, Arabic news network.
In 2006 the ABC’s then Managing Director, Mr Russell Balding, was approached and asked if he would launch an internal inquiry into the Moran allegations. Mr Shane Wells, his spokesman, said there would be no comment.
Moran's covert behaviour had placed all western journalists under suspicion and under danger in war zones. However, I do not condone violence aimed at someone if they are a journalist or an intelligence operative.
I was working in the Balkans in 2002-03 when I was falsely accused by a local Macedonian reporter of being a CIA spy. Later I was pulled off a bus by Macedonian guards and held at gunpoint on the border with Serbia and kicked out of the country. I had to convince the authorities I was not a spy before I was allowed to return to Macedonia.
I know first hand of the danger that journalists face because of the paranoia caused by people such as Moran and others. The cold hard reality is war journalism is a cuththroat business; there is no universal fraternity with members helping each other.
Perhaps a murder trial would finally allow a proper examination of the colourful life and death of Paul Moran.
The Australian newspaper, Terror Kingpin Escapes retribution
James Bamford, Rolling Stone magazine
James Bamford, Rolling Stone magazine
On Line Opinion - James Bond other life
Yet more on Paul Moran,by Christopher Allbritton
The First Casualty
by Paul Rouse on November 30, 2006