AFP launches Ben Roberts-Smith USB probe
The Australian Federal Police has launched a fresh investigation into Ben Roberts-Smith after allegations he buried a USB containing classified material in his backyard.
AFP Deputy Commissioner Investigations Ian McCartney fronted a Senate estimates inquiry on Wednesday, confirming a new probe has been launched over allegations aired by 60 Minutes and Nine newspapers this week.
Mr Roberts-Smith, a Victoria Cross winner and alleged war criminal, was accused of burying a USB containing classified material in his Queensland backyard.
"The AFP has opened an investigation into aspects of that reporting," Mr McCartney said.
Mr McCartney was questioned over whether the AFP had possession of the USB but said he did not want to launch a "running commentary" over an ongoing case.
"What I can say (is) some of the allegations that have been raised are serious issues, and it's being treated as a priority by the Australian Federal Police," he said.
The USB reportedly contained images of soldiers misbehaving on military bases in Australia and Afghanistan as well as an image of a dead Afghan man with coins placed over his eyes.
"The AFP does have access to some material. Some of that material was actually … was referred to the AFP by the journalist in question and also by his newspaper," Mr McCartney said.
Mr McCartney confirmed the AFP had been made aware of the new information on March 25. The matter was determined to be a sensitive investigation on March 29, the same day as the cabinet reshuffle.
He could not confirm whether former home affairs minister Peter Dutton or his successor Karen Andrews had been briefed on the meeting, saying whether to brief the minister was decided on a "case-by-case basis".
The USB's metadata suggested Mr Roberts-Smith had obtained, altered or transmitted the material after leaving the military, according to Nine newspapers.
Unlawfully accessing classified material is a serious criminal offence and carries a hefty jail term.
Originally published as AFP launches Ben Roberts-Smith USB probe