Australian whistleblower, David McBride, “had no option but to enter a guilty plea” according to his lawyer, Mark Davis. While originally charged with five offences, Mr. McBride plead guilty to theft of Commonwealth property, unlawfully giving away defence information and unauthorised disclosure of defence information in relation to provision of the Afghan Files to journalists.
The plea follows two attempts to aid his legal defence in the ACT Supreme Court, including attempting to argue to a jury that while Mr. McBride had disobeyed orders, he did so as part of his duty to act in the public interest.
Justice David Mossop rejected this along with refusing an application from Mr. McBride’s legal team to access information held by the Commonwealth which they argued would prejudice his defence if it remained secret. The court upheld that this evidence would have the potential to jeopardise “the security and defence of Australia” if it were to be released to the public.
Acting on behalf of the commonwealth, Andrew Berger KC, presented evidence from intelligence agencies, including the Office of National Intelligence, suggesting that the disclosure of this evidence could “compromise intelligence information provided by Australia’s allies.”
Mr. Berger went on to state that both Australia’s reputation and information-sharing agreements with foreign intelligence would be damaged if the documents were released:
“The public interest at play here is a very important one, the national security and defence of this country…Indeed, we say it is harder to think of a stronger public interest than the security and defence of Australia?”
Outside of court Mr. McBride stated:
“I’ll say one thing, and that is, I stand tall, and I believe I did my duty ... and I see this as the beginning of a better Australia.”