The article revealed a secret plan that would have allowed the Australian Signals Directorate — our digital spooks — to spy on Australian citizens for the first time. This was a monumental change to Australia’s national security laws given the Australian Federal Police and domestic spy agency ASIO already have the power to investigate Australians with a warrant. Under current laws the ASD — whose mission statement is “Reveal Their Secrets — Protect Our Own” — must not conduct an activity to produce intelligence on an Australian.
Legendary US newspaperman William Randolph Hearst often told his editors: ‘news is something which somebody wants suppressed: all the rest is advertising’. It’s a noble aspiration but one, admittedly, we don’t always adhere to. As a newspaper, we thought that was something you deserved to know, even if the Government didn’t want to tell you.
This was something somebody clearly wanted to suppress.
The raid on my home occurred more than 400 days after the story appeared on the front of the Sunday paper. The police officers searched my drawers, every page of my cookbooks and in my bathroom cupboards. They took paintings off the walls, snooped through handbags, my laundry baskets, my bin.
With my passcode and passwords, the police had access to text messages, emails, the to do lists I kept in my phone and screen shots of clothes I might want to buy.
That alone should not warrant a comparison with the brave work of journalists who risk their lives in totalitarian regimes in pursuit of truth. But that can't be the only measure of press freedom.
The Government and police have refused to rule out prosecuting me. But this issue is bigger than me. Raiding my home and the ABC offices exposed the risk that whistleblowers and journalists take in exposing matters that are in the public interest. Journalism is under threat.
One of the few smiles I get when I think back to that morning is my naivety. I thought, or perhaps hoped, the raid would be over in an hour, that no one would find out. I would get a quote from the carpet cleaner, go to work, cook dinner.