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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Habib broke the camel's back-no kidding!

This may have surfaced previously-I hadn't noticed-but in the Cornall report on DIAC Freedom of Information processing, in a discussion about good practice at Defence, Cornall was told "the Habib FOI request broke the camel’s back in Defence’s legal area and led to a reorganisation of the way in which Defence managed FOI, and the establishment of the Freedom of Information and Information Management Branch." 

Not sure if this was the Habib FOI request in question, but in 2008 Mamdouh Habib, FOI and Defence were in the news: The Australian reported on an application for all documents held by the Department of Defence about him and his rendition from the time he was arrested in Pakistan in 2001:
"The Defence Department came back with a preliminary assessment of $107,145.55 that includes 1038 hours and 15 minutes to identify the documents and decision-making time examining 85,418 pages of documents that "fall within the terms of the request". It also estimated it would cost $85,603.80 to examine 82,838 pages of documents generally relating to the US rendition program."
And then the fishy bit:
"The revelation about the amount of information Defence has appears to be at odds with evidence given to the Senate estimates committee earlier this year when officials said: "Defence has no record of involvement through meetings or through the provision of advice in the matter of the rendition of Mr Mamdouh Habib." The disclosure has prompted calls from NSW Labor backbencher Daryl Melham for the federal Government to reveal what it knows about the rendition. "There is a public interest matter in this ... This should not have to be like extracting teeth." Greens senator Scott Ludlam has put questions on notice, asking Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon to explain to parliament. "There appears to be a roomful of documents about a subject which they told parliament they know nothing about ... Something is a bit fishy here."
I don't know what documents eventually emerged, but it likely was the catalyst for major, positive FOI changes at Defence.

More on Habib and what he endured here 

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