Friday, February 23, 2024

An Australian Intelligence Agency and AARO


Grant Lavac



Recent excellent investigative work by Melbourne researcher Grant Lavac, has provided further information on the identity of "A Defence representative at the Australian Embassy in Washington..." who attended the May 2023 UAP briefing by the former Director of the U.S. All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office, (AARO) Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick. Also, it has provided more details on the internal thinking of the Australian Department of Defence (DOD) on the topic of UAP.  

FOI 579/23/24

Grant submitted two requests to the Australian Department of Defence  under the Australian Freedom of Information Act (FOIA.) Defence FOI 579/23/24, dated 22 December 2023, read:

"On 15 December 2023, the Australian Department of Defence answered Senator Peter Whish -Wilson's Question on Notice #168 (refer attached) as follows:

Did the Australian Department of Defence receive an invitation from the US All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) to attend the inaugural Five Eyes Forum on UAP in May 2023 led by AARO Director Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick?

Yes. A Defence representative at the Australian Embassy in Washington attended.

On consideration of the above statement by the Australian Department of Defence, please be advised that I wish to submit the following FOI request:

I kindly request copies of correspondence and emails (including supporting file attachments) sent from, to, cross-copied (Cc:) the "Defence representative at the Australian Embassy in Washington" that attended the Five Eyes forum/briefing/meeting on Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) led by the US All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) in May 2023, that include the following keywords: AARO; All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office; Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena; UAP; Unidentified Flying Object; UFO; Five Eyes; Five Eyes forum; FVEYS; FVEY; FVEYS meeting; Sean Kirkpatrick. The date range of the request is 1 April 2023 to 15 December 2023 (inclusive.)"

The response, dated 19 February 2024, from the Australian DOD included the statement that "I identified one (1) document as matching the description of the request." The decision was:

"I have decided to:

a. Refuse access to the document in accordance with section 22 of the FOI Act on the grounds the deleted material is considered exempt under sections 7 [exemption of certain persons and bodies] and 47(d) [Public interest conditional exceptions..."

Further on in the response letter:

"7. Section 7 provides that agencies are exempt from the operation of the Act in relation to particular types of documents. Section 7 (2A) states:

"(2A) An agency is exempt from the operation of this Act in relation to the following documents:

(a) a document (an intelligence agency document) that has originated with, or had been received from, any of the following:

(i) the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

(ii) the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

(iii) The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

(iv) the Office of National Assessments.

(v) The Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organisation.

(vi) the Defence Intelligence Organisation.

(vii) The Australian Signals Directorate."

"9. I am satisfied that material contained in the document requested by the applicant is material that originated with, or was received from, an exempt agency."

What does this mean?

This confirms that a Defence representative at the Australian Embassy in Washington attended the May 2023 forum on UAP. There was a document created about that meeting. Material contained in the document "...is material that originated with, or was received from, an exempt agency." One of the seven listed above. Out of these seven agencies, (i); (ii); (iii); (iv); are not part of the Department of Defence; leaving (v); (vi)) and (vii) which are part of the Department of Defence. My best educated guess, based on their function; is that the agency is the Defence Intelligence Organisation. The DOD is not going to release the document, either in full or redacted format. 

FOI 571/23/24

The second FOIA request, which Grant submitted on 20 December 2023, provided the same introduction as FOI request 579/23/24 then went on to say:

"I kindly request copies of Australian Department of Defence produced emails (including supporting file attachments) and written correspondence that relate to and support the determination made by the Australian Department of Defence that "A Defence representative at the Australian Embassy in Washington attended " the Five Eyes Forum on UAP, led by the Director of the All-Domains Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick in May 2023."

The DOD responded, dated 19 February 2024, and stated that "I identified one (1) document as matching the description of the request....I have decided to: a. refuse access under section 7 [exemption of certain persons and bodies] of the FOI Act...."

It goes on the cite the argument that seven listed agencies are exempt and repeats this statement "I am satisfied that material contained in the document requested by the applicant is material that originated with, or was received from, an exempt agency" as in the previous FOI request 579/23/24.

FOI 386/23/24

In a separate but related FOIA request dated 28 October 2023, Grant asked for access to:

"1. a copy of the current version of the document titled "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena/Unidentified Flying Objects" (previously identified as PDR No: SB23-000235), and 2. Copies of emails (including supporting file attachments) relating to the Air Force Senate/Budget estimates topic of Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP), or otherwise similarly identified as Unidentified Aerial phenomena, Unidentified Flying Object (UFO/UFOs) for the date range 1 July 2023 to 26 October 2023 (inclusive."

In a reply, dated 15 February 2023, the decision maker advised that "I have identified seventeen (17) documents as falling within the scope of the request." All 17 documents were released, with redactions.

The document package provided to Grant consisted of a briefing paper for Air Marshal Robert Chipman, Chief of Air Force and Professor Tanya Munro, Australia's Chief Defence Scientist, for the October 2023 Senate Supplementary Budget Estimates Committee, and associated emails.



Extracts

1. "Handling Note: "Air Marshal Robert Chipman, Chief of Air Force, to lead on topic. Professor Tanya Munro, Chief Defence Scientist to lead on Defence Science and Technology Group activities related to Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena."

Comment: What DSTG activities related to UAP? I wasn't aware that the DSTG was involved in any UAP research.

2. "The magnitude of Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena reporting needs to justify the cost of establishing such a system. We do not believe that this threshold has been met."

Comment: Unless you establish a reporting system and promulgate guidelines to DOD personnel that there is no stigma associated with reporting UAP, how are you going to know how many reports of UAP are going to come in? 

3. "We are aware of the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) within the US DoD and monitor their reports."

Comment: Which segment of Defence is monitoring AARO reports? The DIO?

4. "Defence takes all threats to aviation safety or national security very seriously. However, noting the multiple reporting mechanisms already in place, there would need to be UAP reporting of sufficient volume and credibility to justify consideration of allocating resources to establish a body similar to AARO in the Australian context."

Comment: Back to my argument above. Issue guidelines to DOD personnel to report UAP and see what comes in.

5. "Defence Science and Technology Group does not conduct specific research and development on UAP and is currently not funded to do so. Defence Science and Technology Group aligns with Air Force's position that there is no scientific reason to conduct research on UAP."

Comment: Note the part of the remark about "...is currently not funded to do so." Would they conduct research if suitably funded and mandated. I believe the answer would be yes.

6. "Defence Science and Technology Group provides support to the ADF to identify and classify objects detected by sensing technology and currently has in place projects aligned with the requirements of the Defence Strategic Review to improve sensing and intelligence gathering in support of  Defence of Australia and its interest."

Comment: So, this is where DSTG fits in. Identify and classify objects detected by sensing technology.

7. "Defence Science and Technology Group works with Allied Scientists and to date has had no collaboration on UAP; nor has there been any indication that collaboration would be of benefit. Specifically Defence Science and Technology Group collaborates closely with the USAF Research Laboratory through the Air Senior National Representative forum, who have not placed any priority on collaboration in UAP."

Comment: Some interesting information here.


8. "If raised: has the US shared intelligence regarding UAP? The United States has shared intelligence on UAP. Defence will continue to monitor and engage with the AARO on UAP, especially if there is deemed to be a security or safety threat."

Comment; Here then is a clear statement that the US has shared intelligence on UAP. The mention of AARO would suggest that some of this information was partly shared at the May 2023 AARO Five Eyes UAP briefing.

9. "Air Force continues to receive a number of FOIs on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena from constituents."

Comment: These have mainly come from researchers Paul Dean, Grant Lavac, and myself, plus a limited number from investigative journalists.

10. Persons consulted on the Budget Estimate Committee brief included:

a. Air Commodore James Badgery, Chief of Staff - Air Force Headquarters Air Force.

b. Air Vice-Marshal Wendy Blyth, Head of Air Force Capability.

c. Defence Science & Technology Group Mr. Andrew Seedhouse, Chief Cyber, Intelligence & National Security.

11. An email dated 11:15am 16 October 2023 from a redacted DOD address, in Defence Space Command, to RAAF MILO (Ministerial Liaison) contains the following:

"I'm seeking information regarding details pertaining to "unidentified aerial phenomenon" that was mentioned in a Senate estimate by Air Force. I'm unsure of how long ago. The Australian Space Agency (ASA) is requesting this information for a brief. Would you be able to provide it to me, or if necessary, direct me to the right person who can assist me further? Many thanks in advance."

Comment: There have been some FOIA dealings with the Australian Space Agency -in the past. Interesting that they are developing a brief, presumably in case they are asked questions about such things as NASA's interest in the topic. 

12. In another email dated 9:44am on 18 October 2023 about amendments to the Senate brief, there is:

"SB23-000235 UAP "Need better description of our engagement with US authorities [what is our relationship with them], particularly attendance at 'set briefings.' and "Ensure that Dr Munro at DTSG has a copy of this brief."

Comment; The released brief does set out more information of Australia's engagement with the US than we have seen before.

13. The former iteration of the Defence Science and Technology Group, (DSTG) namely the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) maintained a UAP file. Its title was "DSTO records on unidentified aerial phenomena," National Archives of Australia (NAA) file series 4090, 529/1/16 Part 1. Date range 1974 -1996. There was no part 2 of this file in the NAA. I reported on the contents of this file in a series of June and July 2017 blog articles.  

14. The Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO) was the forerunner of the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO.) The JIO maintained a UAP file between 1957-1971 titled "Scientific Intelligence - General - Unidentified Flying Objects." NAA file series JIO63 control symbol 3092/2. I wrote an article about relevant JIO files, dated 5 July 2017

15. In order to undertake due diligence, I decided to check the DOD's FOIA Disclosure log for any additional UAP related FOIAs of which I was unaware. I found one. Defence FOI308/23/24. On 27 September 2023 [name redacted] sought:

"...copies of Australian Department of Defence produced emails and written correspondence that relate to and support the determination made by the Australian Department of Defence that 'Australia did not attend a United States briefing on UAP."

A two-page document with redactions was produced. A 20 June 2023 email from [redacted] at DOD SP&I Ministerial and Parliamentary asked:

"Good afternoon team, Thank you so much for your time on the phone just now, as discussed, appreciate your assistance in answering the below Senate question on notice from Senator Whish-Wilson on 20 June 2023.

* Did Australia attend the recent Five Eyes meeting held in May 2023? If so, did it attend the US briefing on UAP?"

Ministerial and Parliamentary responded on 21 June 2023:

"I have spoken with our divisions and they are unable to provide input. They are not aware of this meeting and briefing."

Congratulations

Congratulations to researcher Grant Lavac for all his hard work on obtaining the above documents which let us all digest what is occurring within the Australian Department of Defence as regards to UAP.

1 comment:

  1. Great article Keith and kudos to Grant for unearthing this information.

    ReplyDelete

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