The Collins allegations

The Collins allegations


Lieutenant-Colonel Lance Collins, the former intelligence officer of the National Command Element in East Timor, claimed that on December 20, 1999, access by his office to the Joint Intelligence Support System (JISS) was intentionally turned off by DIO officers for several days, seriously damaging ADF operations under InterFET on the border with Indonesian West Timor. Collins’ allegations, which derived from his long-standing concerns about the influence of a pro-Jakarta lobby in the Defence Intelligence Organisation, led to a series of military and intelligence inquiries and reviews. In November 2004 the Inspector-General of Intelligence, Ian Carnell, concluded that Collins’ fundamental assertion on this matter of the intelligence cut-off was correct.

Government sources

Inquiry by Inspector General Intelligence and Security, Media Release, Senator Robert Hill, Minister for Defence, 9 Dec 2004.

Report of inquiry into the loss of access by Dili users to an intelligence database in December 1999 (abridged version) (Carnell Report), Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, Australia. 2004

“The conclusions I reached were:

  • the denial of access to the intelligence database in December 1999 was deliberate and not the result of technical faults in any part of the system

  • while the evidence did not establish that the then Director DIO directed the cut in access, a person identified as ‘Mr A’ had instructed another person to effect this outcome, and

  • Mr A may have made statements in 2001 that potentially raised issues of a legal or administrative nature.

“I noted that while the denial of access to the particular database for 26 hours did not seem to have been a critical deficiency in operational terms, one can readily understand the sensitivity of those in the field to any change, without consultation, in intelligence access arrangements. It appeared that security concerns were the motivating factor within DIO for the action. The issue of what general responsibility should lie with the then Director of DIO was also canvassed.”

Col. Tracey’s report into redress of grievance for Lt. Col. Collins, Department of Defence, February 2004.

Brown Report, Colonel Roger Brown, Department of Defence, September 2003

Annex 3 – Inquiry into concerns raised about DIO By Lt Col Lance Collins (Blick Report),  Annual Report 2003-04, Inspector General of Intelligence and Security [original date May 2000].

“71. I have no doubt that Mr Collins’s concerns were and are sincerely held. Nevertheless, his allegations do not stand up to objective scrutiny.
72. What Mr Collins interpreted as an attempt to quash contrary views appear to be legitimate expressions of concern about parts of the content of his assessment and about his wide distribution of assessments and comments.
73. DIO assessments during the period in question did not uniformly, or even predominantly, adopt a pro?Jakarta line although there were instances where that interpretation might be available.
74. It might be desirable to consider, in special cases where it is warranted, establishing ad hoc external reviews of intelligence performance.
75. To the extent that evidence is available, it supports the DIO contention that the loss of [the database] access resulted from technical problems rather than a deliberate decision.
76. There is, therefore, no need for formal recommendations arising from this inquiry.”


Desmond Ball, Silent Witness: Australian Intelligence and East Timor, in Richard Tanter, Gerry Van Klinken and Desmond Ball (eds.), Masters of Terror: Indonesia’s Military and Violence in East Timor, (second edition), Rowman and Littlefield, 2006

Soldier claims Australians exposed in Timor, Tom Allard, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 July 2005.

Plunging Point: Intelligence Failures, Cover-Ups and Consequences, Lance Collins and Warren Reed, Fourth Estate, 2005

Intelligence Wars: Behind the Lance Collins Affair, Produced by Peter Cronau, Background Briefing, Radio National, ABC, 30 May  2004

Intelligence Wars – Selected documents

Threats, spies and audiotape, John Lyons, The Bulletin, 5 May 2004.
Includes key documents.

The Captain and the Cover-Up, John Lyons, The Bulletin, 28 April 2004

The spy chief left out in the cold, Alan Ramsey, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 April 2004

Justice under fire, John Lyons, The Bulletin, 21 April 2004

‘Transcript in confidence’, taped record of interview with Lt Col Lance Collins, Capt Martin Toohey,  14 May 2003

See also

8 March 2008