Over the past few days I’ve been getting rather bemused by the phone tapping scandal that’s been hiting the Australian and Indonesian Governments. However the events surrounding this scandal haven’t surprised me anywhere near as much as some of the comments that have been made about it. Namely, that Indonesia didn’t have a clue that Australia was tapping the phones of Indonesian citizens. This is closely followed by some of the seriously deficient research that parts of the Australian and Indonesian media have conducted into this story, since it first broke. The context of a story often provides its key, and in all honesty that’s what I feel has missing from this entire scandal so far.
I also regret the statement of Australian Prime Minister that belittled this tapping matter on Indonesia, without any remorse. *SBY*
— S. B. Yudhoyono (@SBYudhoyono) November 19, 2013
Now as anyone who follows South East Asian current affairs and politics closely would know, Indonesia’s Detachment 88 has been tapping the phones of Indonesian citizens for ages. Given that none of the tapped phones on the list provided by the Australian Signals Directorate to the other “5 Eyes” members were secure models, it’s no surprise at all that these phones were tapped. As a Reuters article from 2010 shows, phone tapping technology and expertise are resources that the Indonesians have requested and received from Australia, the US, France and the UK throughout most of the period since the 2002 Bali Bombings.
A U.S. embassy spokesman in Jakarta declined to comment, but a U.S. government document showed the unit had received technical support, training and equipment under the State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program since 2003.
An Indonesian official, who spoke on condition on anonymity, confirmed the unit got Australian and U.S. help in advanced wiretapping technology, and also some British and French aid.
Indonesia and the United States are likely to discuss further security cooperation during Obama’s visit. Washington has been considering whether to lift a ban on military training for Indonesia’s notorious special forces unit, known as Kopassus.