The Cabinet Files: Staffers instructed to check every drawer before ditching cabinets after security breach
The department responsible for the loss of The Cabinet Files is now digitally tracking storage cabinets and implementing new security training for all staff after an external review.
Hundreds of top-secret and highly classified documents were obtained by the ABC and partially published earlier this year, after they were left in a filing cabinet that ended up in a second-hand shop.
The documents revealed secret Cabinet deliberations on issues including national security spanning nearly a decade.
Days after the ABC revealed one of the biggest breaches of Cabinet security in Australian history, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) confessed it was the one that lost the documents.
The department asked former defence secretary Ric Smith to review its security practices.
Mr Smith’s review was released today, and recommended a number of changes to improve the department’s security.
In releasing the Smith Review today, PM&C secretary Martin Parkinson noted the Australian Federal Police had already established through its own investigation that the security breach was due to human error and had not been motivated by any malicious intent.
Dr Parkinson said he “wholeheartedly accepted” all recommendations from the Smith Review and that the department had been working in recent months to implement changes.
Among the issues the PM&C said it was working to improve were:
- Introducing a system to digitally track the movement, custodianship and disposal of secure cabinets;
- New security training for new starters, existing staff and managers;
- Refreshing all policies, guidelines and procedures in accordance with a review of security risk assessment; and:
- Introducing a program of “cultural change” to embed a strong protective security culture in PM&C.
The AFP concluded its investigation into the breach in March this year, but it has not been publicly released.
Dr Parkinson revealed today that the AFP had also called for all staff to be re-trained on security and record keeping. Police laid no charges against anyone involved in the security breach.
The Smith Review report also states that the AFP confirmed the classified documents had originated from the Freedom of Information section of the department.
The review suggests PM&C staff should follow a detailed protocol when relocating secure cabinets in future.
The protocol requires staff to destroy all working documents under their control that have “reached the end of their life” or formally pass responsibility to another officer.
“In the event a secure container is to be moved from a division for any purpose, including disposal, the officer responsible … should ensure … it is unlocked, each drawer of a container is open and searched, and the key to the empty container remains in the key barrel.”
Mr Smith called for another review in a year’s time.