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Aussie Official Commits Suicide

December 1, 2000

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) _ An Australian intelligence officer based in Washington hanged himself after Australian authorities interviewed him about revealing sensitive information to the United States, a government report released Friday said.

The report said Mervyn Jenkins, an officer for Australia’s secretive Defense Intelligence Organization, believed he faced up to seven years in prison. He had been interviewed about revealing documents marked ``AUSTEO″ _ for Australian eyes only _ to U.S. agencies, the report said.

Jenkins was cleared of any wrongdoing, but not before he committed suicide in Washington on June 13 of last year.

The government on Friday released a heavily censored version of a report into the suicide. The release was prompted by accusations from Jenkins’ widow, Sandra, that government agents mishandled the case and caused his death.

The report, by former attorney-general’s department secretary Tony Blunn, found that Jenkins had disclosed secret documents to U.S. officials but that he believed he was authorized to do so. Blunn found there was ambiguity about whether revealing AUSTEO documents to Australia’s allies was allowed.

Jenkins was interviewed during a joint investigation by Australia’s defense and foreign affairs departments. In his report, Blunn said investigators overemphasized the disciplinary aspects of the investigation when talking to Jenkins.

The investigation came just weeks after an embarrassing security breach by another DIO officer, Jean-Philippe Wispelaere, and general concern about information leaks.

Wispelaere was arrested in the United States for allegedly trying to sell secret information to an unnamed foreign power. He is awaiting trial in the United States.

Releasing the Blunn report, Defense Minister John Moore described Jenkins’ death as a tragedy.

``We have already instituted a number of reforms in the management of DIO,″ Moore said.

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