Four Corners slams “slurs” published in The Australian

By David Knox on June 10, 2012 / Filed Under News 6

ABC’s Four Corners has hit back at an article in The Australian which questions their sources following a major story on people smugglers living and working in Canberra.

The man known as “Captain Emad” fled Australia this week after the story broke on the ABC.

The Weekend Australian claims that Hussain Nasir, a source an Iraqi refugee whom the ABC has used before,  was regarded by the government as an “unreliable source” who kept “getting things wrong” and had to be removed from the Australian Federal Police’s register of agents. It claimed he had approached the CIA in Iraq and had supplied the AFP with information for two years.

The newspaper suggested journalist Sarah Ferguson and Tony Jones extensively lobbied government ministers to get Nasir residency in Australia after he had been removed from the AFP’s informer list.

But Four Corners rejected the claims made by The Australian releasing a lengthy statement:

Four Corners completely rejects the allegations made by un-named sources in today’s The Weekend Australian article by Dennis Shanahan, “AFP: Captain Emad source ‘unreliable’”.

The facts of the recent Four Corners program “Smugglers’ Paradise – Australia” are not disputed; the evidence is on screen. After the broadcast, the AFP Commissioner confirmed the AFP was investigating the key people smugglers exposed in the program and in the case of Captain Emad that the investigation had been running for two years.

Hussain Nasir has worked with Four Corners on two major programs on people smuggling; the evidence of his skill and reliability are evident in both programs.

In 2010, Hussain exposed six Indonesian-based people smugglers on camera as well as corrupt associates in the military. The key smugglers exposed in that program are still being pursued by the AFP.

It is completely false to assert, as the article does, that the ABC was warned off working with Hussain.

Hussain Nasir came to us with a strong recommendation from the US Special Forces behind him. When we first worked together, Four Corners checked Hussain’s bona fides, in particular with the US Special Forces unit he worked with in Iraq following the US invasion. The US Special Forces unit held Hussain Nasir in the highest regard because of his reliability and courage. He worked for three rotations of the same unit, passed from one rotation to the next precisely because he was so reliable.

The US Special Forces told Four Corners the members of the unit trusted Hussain with their lives. They issued Hussain with a permit to carry a weapon and brought him to live on the Special Forces base when his life was threatened. When Hussain was forced to flee Iraq after an attempt was made to blow up his house, the US military gave Hussain a letter of recommendation testifying to his courage and honesty which we featured in our first program. Four Corners’ experience of Hussain mirrors that of the US Special Forces and is sharply at odds with the slurs contained in The Weekend Australian article.

In Indonesia where Hussain was living as a refugee, he was introduced to the AFP by a senior UN official who had recognized his abilities. Hussain was always discrete about his relationship with the AFP but because of the allegations now being made about him we are compelled to put a few details on the record. The relationship continued for more than a year. We understand there were more than six meetings; Hussain provided information that assisted with the apprehension of one smuggler and the disruption of boats. In the course of the year, in text and emails to the AFP, Hussain identified major people smugglers, their phone numbers and locations of passengers about to leave for Australia. This information included a warning from Hussain identifying the smuggler who was later responsible for the Christmas Island boat disaster. Hussain was offered money by the AFP in return for his information; he chose not to take it. At no time was Hussain told to stop supplying information or that his information was “unreliable”.

When we met him, Hussain had become frustrated by the constraints faced by the AFP operating in Indonesia and after a year of supplying information to them, wanted to do more to expose the smugglers who he believed preyed on vulnerable people with impunity. The same skills he had used to get information for the AFP enabled Four Corners to expose powerful people smugglers on camera effectively and quickly. Following their exposure in the program a number of smugglers were apprehended by the Indonesian authorities.

When the Christmas Island boat tragedy occurred some months later, Hussain quickly identified to us the smuggler responsible. The AFP asked us not to publish the name in order to protect their investigation. We agreed and published it once an arrest was made some weeks later.

In the wake of the 2010 broadcast, people smugglers exposed in the program threatened to kill Hussain. He was attacked and stabbed in the back. At this time the ABC took what measures it could to protect his safety and the safety of his wife and four small children. Hussain and his family had refugee status; earlier that year their case had been sent with 500 others to Australia by the UNHCR for re-settlement in Australia. Following advice from UN officials, with his life in immediate danger, the ABC asked for Hussain to be moved to a third country while his case was considered. In the months that followed, Four Corners continued to provide information on the extent of Hussain’s record and background to the Australian authorities who were considering his case. After a thorough vetting process, he and his family were settled in Australia.

The article has used criticisms of the recent program voiced by refugee advocates seeking to defend the actions of another people smuggler Abu Ali al Kuwaiti. In 2010 Abu Ali al Kuwaiti sent 97 passengers to Australia by boat. When they disappeared at sea, Abu Ali lied to the relatives saying they had arrived safely in order to collect money from them. Four Corners was criticised by refugee advocates for exposing the truth about this smuggler.

When this boat disappeared, Hussain Nasir was the only person to take seriously the anguish of family members searching for their missing loved ones and he pursued the story alone for months.

Reporter Sarah Ferguson said: “Before publication of his article, The Australian’s Dennis Shanahan told me that the allegations about Hussain Nasir were part of ‘a government campaign to besmirch his reputation.’ The quality and reliability of Hussain’s work is abundantly evident in our programs. I am proud to work with him.”

The facts of the Four Corners program “Smugglers’ Paradise – Australia” are not in dispute. To attack a brave whistleblower, one of the very few people prepared to stand up to criminal people smugglers and to do so using anonymous, unattributed sources is disgraceful.

Sue Spencer
Executive Producer
Four Corners
ABC TV
9th June 2012

6 Comments »

  1. Ann June 11, 2012 at 8:01 pm -

    Cannot be too far of the mark, he was quick to leave

  2. msd June 11, 2012 at 3:19 pm -

    I’m sure Dennis Shanahan and The Australian will be highly amused to be called far left extremists.

  3. bettestreep2008 June 11, 2012 at 9:46 am -

    Jason D – I too congratulate the ABC and 4 Corners on another brilliant expose of the failings of the federal government.

    But I do disagree that it is far left extremists who are trying to discredit them for this damning report.

    The Australian newspaper is owned by Murdoch – a far right extremist – who is using his media empire here in Australia to try and get rid of the current government and install his puppet Tony Abbott in.

    And ironically – if Abbott is PM – do you really think the ABC will have the resources to continue doing their great work?

    Abbott will probably slash funding to the ABC to the extent that the only shows they will run would be documentaries about the Queen!

  4. Kenny June 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm -

    ““and in the case of Captain Emad that the investigation had been running for two years.”
    Until 4 Corners tipped him off, so he could do a runner before investigations were complete.

    Shows the total incompetence of the AFP. How many more years did they need?

  5. johnjet June 10, 2012 at 10:07 am -

    “and in the case of Captain Emad that the investigation had been running for two years.”

    Until 4 Corners tipped him off, so he could do a runner before investigations were complete.

  6. Jason D. June 10, 2012 at 7:25 am -

    I commend the ABC & Four Corners for their journalism and having a moderate disposition here. The far-left extremists will be up in arms to try discredit the damning report. Their underlying agenda is for mass third world immigration, but they don’t realise their misplaced goodwill can ruin the perception of multiculturalism in general, of which its policies should be supported by the public.

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