U.S. Pressures Australia to Embrace Polygraph Screening

Brian Toohey writes for the Sydney Morning Herald in an article titled, “Security proves a complicated affair.” Excerpt:

The war on terrorism also means that US intelligence officials want tough action taken against any Australian minister who has an affair which they regard as a security risk.

Although ministers will want to be exempt, the US is applying strong pressure to force Australian officials to undergo polygraph tests about their sex lives and other personal matters.

Because US officials believe politicians can be compromised by illicit affairs, they will no longer accept the relaxed approach previously taken by Australian security officials to ministers’ sexual indiscretions.

Even before September 11, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation agreed to undertake a trial of US polygraph tests designed to see if its staff lie when asked about their sex lives, finances and political sympathies.

On June 25, the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, signed a new, legally binding, pact with the US to protect classified information. Although no details were spelled out in the pact, the US wants Australian officials who have access to highly classified US intelligence material to be subjected to the same polygraph tests that routinely apply to American officials.

The rationale is that ministers leave themselves open to blackmail.

The Australian public is unlikely to accept that security officials should be able to march into Parliament House and hook ministers up to a polygraph machine to check whether they curl up with more than a copy of Hansard at night in their lonely Canberra digs.

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