Australian citizen Daniel Duggan was arrested in his hometown of Orange in rural NSW on 21 October 2022, on behalf of Washington, which is seeking to extradite the former US marine over his having taught foreigners, including Chinese nationals, to fly planes in South Africa circa 2010.
Ever since the arrest, Duggan has been remanded in NSW maximum-security prisons, where he’s been classified as an “extreme high-risk” prisoner and held under conditions that amount to prolonged solitary confinement: a practice considered torture at the international level.
Duggan’s lawyer Dennis Miralis was at Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court last week, calling for an extension, so his client’s 23 November extradition hearing is delayed, despite this resulting in further time spent in extreme isolation, as the authorities are resisting a request to produce key evidence.
Following the 4 October appearance, Miralis told reporters that the matter has been adjourned until 23 October, when submissions will be heard regarding the refusal of the AFP, ASIO and the US justice department to hand 2,000-odd documents key to Duggan’s defence until right before the hearing.
The White House accuses Duggan of conspiracy to export defence services to China in violation of a US arms embargo, whilst his legal team is awaiting evidence that it considers will reveal that ASIO lured the father-of-six Australian children back to this country in violation of local law.
Dangling a carrot
“Each time his matter has to return to court… to be vacated as a result of ongoing delays in getting access to material, which we know exists…, is directly relevant to his ability to defend himself and which we know could be potentially helpful, it creates enormous stress for him,” explained Miralis.
“The case has become increasingly complicated because of the government agencies involved, due to their claim to privilege because of the secrecy provisions” the lawyer continued. “All of these secrecy provisions are undermining his efforts to get the government to be transparent.”
Duggan, who’d been running an aviation consultancy in China since 2017, was contacted by ASIO agents last year, suggesting that he return to Australia as he’d been approved for an Aviation Security Identification Card, which would permit him to work in this country and be with his family.
The former US marine returned to Australia due to the promise of a security clearance allowing him to teach pilots locally, yet this arrangement was cancelled by the nation’s chief domestic spying agency days later, and then he was taken into AFP custody and has been held on remand ever since.
The suggestion that ASIO had used the clearance to persuade Duggan to return to Australia would throw the entire extradition case into disarray, as while such false enticement is completely legal in the States, in this country such tactics on the part of spying agencies are illegal.
And so, convincing is the evidence that ASIO may have broken the law, that when Duggan’s legal team lodged a complaint about it with the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Christopher Jessup KC, the office bearer launched an inquiry into the matter that is ongoing earlier this year.
“This is building delay into the proceedings overall to his detriment psychologically,” Miralis said, referring to his attempt to push back the date of the extradition hearing.
“So, it’s regrettable that this application needs to be made, however, at the same time, it’s absolutely essential that Dan’s right to a fair hearing is preserved and nothing is done to prejudice that right.”
Clutching at straws
Law enforcement and intelligence are dragging their feet on producing the requested documents that have the potential to prove a conspiracy against Duggan, and the agencies state they won’t be able to produce them until the 17 November: just six days before the scheduled extradition hearing.
The 2017 Trump-era grand jury indictment that lays five charges against Duggan, claims that he and eight other employees of the world renowned Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA) sought to export defence services, specifically flight training, to China in breach of US arms control law.
Cardinal Legal principal lawyer and intelligence analyst Dr Glenn Kolomeitz told Sydney Criminal Lawyers in August that rather than the flight training that occurred in South Africa representing any wrongdoing, it was common for US, British and Australian ex-military pilots to teach flying overseas.
Kolomeitz, who’s representing the Duggan family and often visits Daniel inside gaol, explained that the indictment against the US marine of 13 years was established around the same time that the nations that now comprise the AUKUS pact were beginning to frame Beijing as an adversarial threat.
Based on this reasoning the pursuit of Duggan by the US is in an effort to further bolster the cold war climate of fear it has been fostering, with both sides of Australian politics having displayed an unbridled willingness to participate in the demonisation of our greatest trading partner.
Indeed, not only is the public being primed to fear Beijing, but it’s also being instilled with the idea that the threat posed by the East Asian giant isn’t confined to its geographical location or even its citizens, as our fellow Australians could be working in cahoots with China without it even registering.
The nurturing of this “reds under the bed” cold war mentality was further on display last month, when hawkish defence minister Richard Marles introduced the Defence Amendment (Safeguarding Australia’s Military Secrets) Bill 2023 into federal parliament.
This comes on the back of an announcement that Marles made last November, just a fortnight after Duggan’s arrest, that involved him launching an investigation into claims that the Chinese military had been attempting to headhunt former ADF pilots to train their own troops.
Reds under the bed
Right now, a process is taking place in this country that involves the Pentagon making ever-deeper inroads into our domestic defence forces and territory, which sees both the US and Australian armies, navies and air forces becoming increasingly interoperable: a plan first flagged in 2011.
This serves to facilitate an ever-increasing US military presence on this continent to the point that Washington is taking on something of the role of commander-in-chief, as it builds greater military capabilities of its accord in this country, which are moves ultimately authorised by the White House.
So, whilst the viability of the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine deal is increasingly appearing shaky, what is certain is that the US and the UK are establishing their own permanent attack class submarine presence in the west of this country, making us a frontline in the coming war on China.
So, it’s against this backdrop of military buildup and mounting cold war fears that Duggan is being scapegoated as some sort of US traitor to add further fuel to prime the public into considering China a threat, especially as its spies could be lurking just over the fence in the neighbour’s backyard.