Melbourne: Security officials here are reportedly worried that American whistleblower Edward Snowden may reveal details of top-secret Australian intelligence cooperation with US which could harm the country`s ties with its Asian neighbours, a media report said on Tuesday.
According to the report in The Age daily, former Labour Defence Minister John Faulkner confirmed that the heads of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and Australia`s signals intelligence agency, the Defence Signals Directorate, David Irvine and Ian McKenzie, have briefed the federal parliament`s intelligence committee on the US PRISM internet surveillance programme.
Australian officials said it was still not clear precisely what information Snowden may have accessed from the US National Security Agency, but despite this, there was little doubt that the ex-intelligence operative had "very wide access, including access to much detail of communications intelligence cooperation between the US and Australia."
"Disclosure of highly sensitive collection operations and methodology will damage Australia`s intelligence capabilities. It already has done so. But there`s also risk of serious complications in our relations with our neighbours," one official said.
"The US may be able to brush aside some of the diplomatic fallout from the Snowden leak, but that may not be the case for Australia. China, Malaysia and other countries may respond to us in ways that they would not to Washington," he said.
The report said that the Australian government would not comment yesterday if Snowden`s exposes of top-secret US and British intelligence and surveillance programs were the subject of diplomatic exchanges between Canberra and Washington.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr`s office also made no comments on whether he has had any exchanges with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the subject.