Friday, July 22, 2011


Why did Australia's domestic spy catchers ASIO keep Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser (1975-83) in the dark over a foreign diplomat's true identity?
Fifth part in a series on Yugoslav intelligence activities on Australian soil from the 1970s to the early 1990s.
A twenty year investigation…TEAM UZUNOV on the trail of a Yugoslav master spy…London, Brussels, Skopje, Belgrade, Zagreb, Melbourne...who managed to fool ASIO twice...
TEAM UZUNOV cracks open the Croatian Six Case…
By Sasha Uzunov
One of Australia’s worst miscarriages of justice, the Croatian Six terrorism case in 1979-80, may have been perpetrated by a Yugoslav master spy posing as a diplomat and who, would you believe it, not once but twice managed to outsmart Australia’s domestic spy catchers, ASIO, and even shook hands with an unsuspecting Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser.
Intelligence sources in Washington and in the Republic of Macedonia, one of the successor states of the former communist Federal Yugoslavia, have confirmed that Dr Georgi Trajkovski, the Yugoslav Consul General in Melbourne, Australia during 1978-79 was “hardcore UDBa (Yugoslav intelligence) and a key player in the Croatian Six set up.”
In 1988, Trajkovski with the same modus operandi, the use of agent provocateurs and exaggerated claims of anti-Yugoslav subversion, had a fellow Yugoslav diplomat removed from his post in Melbourne right under the nose of ASIO. This story, told for the very first time, will be detailed in part 6.
In 1991 legendary ABC TV investigative reporter Chris Masters dropped a bombshell on the Four Corners program about The Croatian Six case.
An agent provocateur set up members of Australia's Croatian community in 1979. Six Croats were imprisoned on false charges of wanting to plant bombs in Sydney.
Masters tracked down the agent provocateur, Vitomir Visimovic, who was an ethnic Serb living in Bosnia but had passed himself off as a Croat.
In fact, ASIO, the Australian Federal Police (successor of the Commonwealth Police) and the infamous and corrupt New South Wales Police Special Branch were all aware that Visimovic was an UDBa operative but suppressed the information during the trial of the Croatian Six. Moreover, the alarming thing was the Australian authorities let the man depart the country. This was during Malcolm Fraser’s tenure as Prime Minister (1975-83).
An UDBa hitman Vinko Sindicic was arrested in Scotland in 1988 after a failed assassination attempt on Croat dissident Nikola Stedul. At Sindicic's trial it was revealed he “had been in Australia in 1978, working with another Yugoslav agent on a plan to link Croatian political activists with terrorism.”
In all probability co-ordinating with Trajkovski the Croatian Six set up.
The irony is that two months after NSW Police arrested the Croatian suspects in early 1979, Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser paid a visit to the Yugoslav Consulate General in Melbourne to offer his condolences at the death of Yugoslav leader Edvard Kardelj, and shook hands with Trajkovski.
We know this because a book "Art Treasures of Yugoslavia" with a special annotation was offered on the web by the prestigious auction house Downies:
“Inside the book is an inlaid letterhead dated 18th April 1979 addressed to the Honourable J.M.Fraser MP, Prime Minister of Australia with typewritten message "With this small token,we wish to express our thanks that you found the time to visit this Consul General (which represents the Yugoslav community) to express your condolences. Please accept this book in appreciation of your thoughtfulness" and hand signed by Consul General Dr Georgi Trajkovski.
The question remains why did ASIO keep Fraser in the dark over Trajkovski's true identity?
Trajkovski, an ethnic Macedonian, was regarded as a fanatical Titoist and a specialist on foreign affairs. He authored Diplomatski Protokol, regarded as a text book on international relations in the then Yugoslavia.
Having pulled off the Croatian Six set up in 1979, Trajkovski repeated his shtick in 1988 with the removal of a fellow Yugoslav diplomat right under the nose of ASIO.

Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic communist federation founded in 1945, modelled on the Soviet Union, and fell apart in 1991 into various independent nation states.
Yugoslav intelligence (UDBa) later known as SDB, together with Yugoslav military counter-intelligence (KOS) were largely pre-occupied with silencing dissident Croats, Macedonians, Serbs and Albanians living in Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, who were agitating for independence from Yugoslavia.
UDBa was so ruthless and efficient it at one time rivalled the old Soviet KGB and Mossad in liquidating opponents. In Munich, West Germany, a whole section of a cemetery was set-aside for Croats assassinated by UDBa.
Communist strongman Marshal Josip Broz Tito ruled Yugoslavia until his death in 1980 and during the height of the Cold War managed a great balancing act between East and West. He was seen as an indirect ally of the West after his infamous split with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1949.
A number of Australian left-wing politicians, including Victorian State MP Joan Coxsedge, began to allege that ASIO was turning a blind eye to extremist Croatian elements, who were secretly training on Australian soil to undertake terrorist attacks on Yugoslav territory or upon Yugoslav diplomatic missions in Australia.
In this atmosphere of terrorism mania during the 1970s Australia’s Croat community were looked upon as the bad guy.
We now know that the alleged Croatian terrorism on Australian soil was the work of UDBa.

TOP JOURNALIST ON THE TRAIL - Hamish McDonald (pictured above)
One of Australia's most distinguished investigative reporters and authors, Hamish McDonald of the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, has told TEAM UZUNOV in a filmed interview that he became interested in the Croatian Six case after following the Balibo Five story, the murder of five Australian based newsmen at the hands of the Indonesian military during its invasion of neighbouring East Timor in 1975.
According to McDonald, vital evidence in proving the innocence of the Croatian Six and Indonesian culpability in the murder of the Balibo Five was suppressed by the Australian federal government on the grounds of "national security."

Thursday, July 07, 2011

SBS TV & that Commando "scandal"

Reality show proposal: Dibb's Deli. Australia's premier Arm chair General Professor Paul Dibb and his views on Army cooks.
By Sasha Uzunov
Lance Corporal Andrew Jones was first and foremost a trained Australian soldier who was also an army cook. His tragic death at the hands of a rogue Afghan soldier in May of this year highlights the dangers that support troops face in the Afghanistan War and also hammers home how out of touch our highly paid defence experts are.
The irony of it all is that you the Australian taxpayer, not once but twice, have to pick up the tab every time an “expert” comes up with a harebrained scheme or a journalist from the state owned media chases a “boutique defence scandal” in the hope of winning an award.
Let us start proceedings with the Lord High Priest of Australian defence experts, Professor Paul Dibb. In 2008 I wrote:
“Let us not forget some of the hair-brained schemes to save money from the Defence budget. Highly paid academic and a former Secretary of Defence, Professor Paul Dibb, proposed in 2006 to "civilianise" some trades within the Army. He complained that there were too many Army cooks.
“But what he failed to understand is first and foremost cooks are trained soldiers who can be used to patrol bases, and secondly how many civilian cooks are prepared to work in a warzone. Maybe if we hired many Gordon Ramsey styled chefs, they could hurl abuse at the Taliban!
“Maybe we need to employ some unorthodox methods to beat the Taliban. Here is a suggestion to the Defence Minister why don’t you commission Professor Dibb to go to England and recruit these foul-mouthed cooks who would strike terror into the terrorists.
“Let us call it Dibb’s Deli. It would also be televised. Great reality television.”
Dibb together with his disciple, Hugh White, a former Fairfax newspaper journalist turned defence expert, came up with the “brilliant idea” of cutting back our frontline combat troops, such as infantry, in the mid 1990s. When the East Timor crisis erupted in late 1999 the Australian Army did not have enough infantry “gunslingers” and was forced to canabalise reserve units for soldiers.
In 1998 the then Chief of Australia's Army Lieutenant General Frank Hickling was so concerned that our army was run down at the hands of Dibb-White that he issued his famous back to basics directive ordering all soldiers sharpen up their war fighting skills. A year later his move had potentially saved the lives of many young Australian soldiers engaged in a conflict with pro-Indonesian militia in East Timor. General Hickling had to fight off opposition from some of Canberra's desk warriors and self-appointed experts who "knew better."
Moving right along here…The Australian My Lai Massacre that never was story, being pushed by the taxpayer funded Special Broadcasting Service’s (SBS TV) Dateline program, and aided and abetted by the other state owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC TV) as well as Fairfax newspapers.
In February 2009 Australian Commandos entered a Taliban compound in the Oruzgan province of Afghanistan and were fired upon. And in the fog of war a grenade was thrown into a room to subdue the Taliban but instead six civilians were tragically killed.
The Australian newspaper’s Rory Callinan and Jeremy Kelly summed up the dilemma for the soldiers involved:
“A source said the troops came under fire from a building in the compound and they responded with a grenade. When the firing continued they responded with another one as their training required, the source said. "What were they supposed to do?"
“The source said there was anger among the troops about what they would do if prosecution for a possible manslaughter went ahead. "Every time someone goes into a compound and gets shot at they will be thinking will we get charged with manslaughter if we use a grenade."
SBS TV’s Dateline program reporter, the self-styled media tough gal, Sophie McNeill, broke the story, which initially got off to a false start, and Tom Hyland and Rafael Epstein, self-appointed defence experts, have followed it for Fairfax.
In 2010 I predicted that the McNeill story would win an award, simply because it had the media template of “bad” Australian soldiers, a controversial war and an obstructionist Defence Department. But as we shall see the story simply had no legs. Why it won an award is hard to fathom:
“The ABC TV’s Media Watch program, hosted by Jonathan Holmes, revealed that SBS Dateline on 8 March 2009 with such haste put together a story by McNeill, which ended up quoting Zahir Khan, a survivor of the commando raid. But it turned out he was an imposter.
“A year later McNeill went to Afghanistan and finally tracked down the real Zahir Khan. SBS Dateline threw the blame on wily Afghan media fixer Fazel Reshad “Arshad” Wardak for the mistake in the first story. If all else fails, blame the hired help!
“You can see Wardak boasting about his services to SBS in 2008 on this youtube clip.
“Jonathan Holmes then smacks naughty Sophie McNeill on the hand with the full force of a feather duster: as if the second story somehow redeems the first big mistake, a sack able offence. Great spin by Holmes. If only all journalists got such second chances.
““Sophie McNeill's second report is compelling. It includes film of the surviving family, and the graves of the victims, in their village in Oruzgan. And it poses serious questions about the ADF's original account of the incident, and why a year later it has said nothing more, and not even interviewed this family.”
““You’re now beginning to get the picture: a boutique scandal which has Walkley Award, Australia’s version of the Pulitzer Prize, written all over it.”
As a consequence, taxpayer dollars were spent in prosecuting some of the Commandos involved in the raid. But the charges against two were thrown out this year.
The honourable thing for McNeill to do is to apologise and return her Walkely Award and for the Executive Producer of Dateline Peter Charley to fall on his sword and resign. The media expects politicians to be accountable, why not journalists?
There is a public perception that journalists have become a law onto themselves that is they have a special media sheriff’s badge they can flash, whilst the rest of us cannot even ask a question.
Let us take Rafael Epstein, former ABC TV reporter and now with Fairfax.
In 2010, the taxpayer funded journalist got up to some shenanigans and tied up valuable court time:
Victoria Police will not prosecute a former ABC journalist accused of breaching police roadblocks after the Black Saturday bushfires.
“Rafael Epstein and a cameraman were stopped by officers in the main street of Kinglake on February 24 last year.
“Mr Epstein, who now works at The Age, admitted to deliberately entering an area restricted by the coroner. Mr Epstein's lawyers and the Office of Public Prosecutions agreed charges would not proceed, no conviction be recorded and that the matter would be dealt with through the Magistrates Court diversion program.
“Under diversion, Mr Epstein donated $2000 to Strathewen Primary School and admitted wrongdoing. He said: ''I apologise to local residents and police. I do wish to stress that my intention was to provide constructive and responsible coverage.''
I am trying to come up with a nick name for Epstein: Rafael “Roadblock” Epstein or Rafael “Smokey and the Bandit” Epstein:
I can just picture Epstein with a Burt Reynolds moustache and cowboy hat in a car with Sophie McNeill, as the Sally Field character, and the former Victoria Police Chief Simon Overland playing the role of Buford T. Justice.
Perhaps Epstein did not have a media sheriff’s badge but simply a note giving him permission to breach the roadblock “signed Epstein’s Mother!”
Would the law have been lenient with a 17-year-old boy or girl, acting as a citizen journalist, with a video camcorder wanting to shoot a youtube clip?