by TRACY SUTHERLAND
(June 23 1998)
THE disbanded NSW Police Special
Branch had nearly 60,000 secret index cards on
organisations and individuals including politicians,
judges and journalists.
The Police Integrity Commission
report tabled yesterday found Special Branch was
"virtually unaccountable" and had an "unacceptable
overlap" between its functions of gathering information
on VIPs and protecting them.
The examination of a cabinet in
the Special Branch records room revealed firearms,
weapons and detonators - some of which had been there for
eight years and which the group's commander admitted to
having no knowledge about.
In total, the commission
examined 58,150 index cards contained in the records
room: 26,800 related to individuals nearly 7000 focused
on "terrorists'', with the remainder including
organisations, publications and religious
Letters to newspaper editors,
attending demonstrations and parking cars near meetings,
all resulted in reports.The retention of "dirt files" on
MPs, significantly increased the risk of "blackmail or
extortion" through leaks, the report found.
Between 1939 and 1997,
Special Branch also established an additional 10,324
in-depth files however, all but 1079 had been
destroyed&emdash;the report found their destruction might
have been illegal. [my emphasis: this means the
truth about the Hilton Bombing may never be know and
shows they had a lot to hide.]
The commission noted that the
NSW police royal commission found that Special Branch
tried to smother potentially embarrassing information
relating to the late former Justice David Yeldham's
sexual behavior in public toilets.
While it found no evidence of
"similar incidents of protection of public officials",
the report found the Yeldham example raised "the
possibility that other incidents involving public figures
could have occured and been smoothed over by Special
Branch, and any records destroyed".
However, the commission
cautioned that the public release of some material could
inflame issues and expose individuals.
Labelling Special Branch a "law
unto itself", Police Minister Paul Whelan vowed yesterday
to ensure as many people as possible had access to their
gunshoe,cloak-and-dagger days of the old Police Service
are gone," Mr Whelan said.He said the Government would
adopt the recommendations concerning the creation of a
new agency and on the use of the existing files. Special
Branch was disbanded in March, 1997 and its records