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Bombing Inquest



Special Branch


Special Branch Spied on 60,000



The Australian

(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 groups.

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 files.

"The B-grade 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 seized.