Government must come clean on secret war

Green MP Keith Locke is demanding the government comes clean on SAS activities in Afghanistan, following revelations in today’s Sunday Star Times.

“Unless it fronts with the facts, the government will continue to be embarrassed as details are drip fed through the media,” said Mr Locke.

“It’s becoming absurd when we have to rely on Nicky Hager to tell us even when the SAS first left for Afghanistan, in December 12, 2001. The government has refused point blank to release this detail, or anything else about the SAS role.

“So far Helen Clark, her ministers and officials have arrogantly dismissed arguments that the public has a right to know about what has been done in their name in Afghanistan.

“For example, the defence force chief Air Marshall Bruce Ferguson, told the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee last December that he wasn’t going to provide information just to satisfy public “curiosity”.

“I have an Official Information Act request currently with the Ombudsman to require the government to disclose the SAS departure date and other basic details — similar details the Shipley government readily provided about the SAS deployment to the Gulf in 1998.

“Nicky Hager’s disclosures that SAS personnel were “forward air controllers” raises questions about whether any of them were involved in incidents where innocent civilians were killed. Were our forces active in helping implement the American strategy — primarily “extermination” by aerial bombardment, rather than an effort to take prisoners?

“Does the government really think that Hager’s disclosures about the SAS rotations, where the unit was based, and the nature of its operations really compromise the safety of SAS members? If not, why won’t it confirm what Hager has told us, and give us additional information.

“We also want to know whether any SAS members are still in Afghanistan. Hager claims that an SAS officer was deployed with Operation Kiwi Cracker at the US headquarters at Bagram airbase in October 2002.

“I will be following up this matter with questions in Parliament this week,” said Mr Locke.