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Jakarta Post

RI slams Oz, silent over US

  • Margareth S. Aritonang

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, February 18, 2014   /  09:32 am
RI slams Oz, silent over US

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa slammed Australia over another surveillance revelation on Indonesia, conducted this time in cooperation with the United States government, calling it '€œexcessive'€.

Marty blasted the Australian government for going too far in a joint spying operation on Indonesia during a trade dispute with the US and offering to share back room information with the US, as revealed by the International New York Times on Sunday.

In the Times piece, based on a top-secret 2013 document provided by former US National Security Agency (NSA) system analyst Edward Snowden, the Australian Signals Directorate assisted the surveillance of trade disputes between the US and Indonesia over exports of clove cigarettes and shrimp in recent years.

Marty said that he was not sure how snooping on a trade spat could relate to security.

'€œI have come across statements that Australia collects intelligence to save Australian lives, the lives of other people and to promote Australian values,'€ Marty said.

'€œThose are well understood as a general outlook, but I must say I find it mind-boggling: How can I reconcile discussions about shrimp and the impact on Australian security.'€

Marty was responding to a statement from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who, following the report'€™s publication in the Times, said that his government used intelligence material '€œfor the benefit of our friends'€ and '€œto uphold our values'€.

Marty expressed his disappointment of Australia'€™s eavesdropping operation during a joint press conference with his American counterpart John Kerry. Earlier in the day, Marty and Kerry signed agreements on South-South and Triangular Cooperation and on Combating Wildlife Trafficking and Promotion of Wildlife Conservation.

With Kerry standing next to him during the press conference, Marty was silent over the role of the US in the surveillance operation.

Instead, Marty delivered an apology for addressing the spying allegation during a bilateral forum between Indonesia and the US.

Marty said that the revelation about an information sharing program between Australia and the US did not have a direct impact on the superpower country.

He went on to further blame Australia for souring the good relationships with Indonesia.

Ties between Jakarta and Canberra have taken a turn for the worse following the revelation that Australia'€™s electronic intelligence agency, the Defence Signals Directorate (now called the Australian Signals Directorate) had spied on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono'€™s inner circle. Strained relations were further damaged with Australia'€™s undocumented-migrant related '€œturn back the boats'€ policy, which Marty repeatedly criticized as '€œunhelpful'€.

'€œNeighbors like Indonesia and Australia should be looking out for each other, not turning against each other,'€ Marty said.

'€œWe should be listening to one another '€” not listening in on one another. And I think that it is very important to find the distinction between the two,'€ he said.

Meanwhile, when asked for the US'€™ response over the surveillance operation, Kerry spoke about the US government efforts to reform the country'€™s intelligence-gathering operations, convinced that the US protected privacy.

'€œWe take this issue very seriously, which is why President Barack Obama laid out a series of concrete and substantial reforms,'€ he said.

Kerry also touched on allegations that spying gave US companies a commercial advantage.

'€œThe United States does not collect intelligence to afford a competitive advantage for US companies or the US commercial sector,'€ Kerry said.

In a statement to the Associated Press, the NSA earlier said Sunday it '€œdoes not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the US government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself'€.

Speaking to reporters after the press conference, Marty defended his position for not pressing the US harder on the issue: '€œThe difference is that the US has undertaken a broad review of the intelligence gathering activities.'€

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