Newly declassified United States foreign intelligence documents from the late 1960s and 1970s have stopped short of issuing fully uncensored briefings about the Whitlam dismissal and Indonesian invasion of East Timor.
The daily briefings from the Central Intelligence Agency to presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford provide a summary of national security threats and opportunities from 1969 through to early 1977.
Conspiracy theorists have long held that the CIA was involved in ousting the Whitlam government, but the November 11, 1975 briefing to the president describes the dismissal as a "surprise move".
However, the final line-and-a-half briefing to President Ford about the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor government remains censored.
"There had been some speculation that [governor-general Sir John] Kerr might intercede in the current deadlock in an attempt to work out a compromise," the final sentence of the briefing begins, with the rest of the passage redacted.
An entire briefing on Australia on December 15, 1975, two days after the Malcolm Fraser-led Coalition defeated Labor at the first post-dismissal election, was redacted.
Australia and the movements of Gough Whitlam as prime minister and opposition leader feature regularly in the documents, primarily discussing the implications of the government's new foreign policy approach.
While the briefings provide little new information on the momentous events of the era, they provide an insight into the priority intelligence services placed on regional conflicts and political developments.
The election of left-wing leader Jim Cairns as Australian deputy prime minister in June 1974, for example, was of enough concern to warrant a mention in the briefings.
Noting Cairns' "outspoken" opposition to US military installations in Australia, the briefing said the election "may tarnish Whitlam's prestige, but his leadership does not appear in danger".
In a May 1971 briefing titled "Australia-Communist China", the agency outlined Whitlam's plan to visit Beijing, a year before president Nixon's trip to the country.
After the initial election of the Whitlam government in 1972, the briefing noted some of Labor's senior figures were "not well-versed on the US facilities [based in Australia]", but concluded the new governing party would eventually determine "they fit within the framework of the ANZUS treaty".
No briefing is available online for December 7, 1975, when Indonesia invaded East Timor, though Portuguese withdrawal from its former colony feature earlier, alongside border skirmishes.
However, the December 8 document from that year dedicates six paragraphs to the capture of Dili, one of them censored, while acknowledging Indonesia's use of US weapons.
A heavily redacted briefing from August 13 notes "President Suharto of Indonesia apparently has resisted demands [redacted] for an immediate invasion of Portuguese Timor", while claiming the Portuguese Foreign Minister asked for Indonesia and "Canberra's assistance in evacuating Portuguese nationals" from the former colony on August 22.
"Australia, for domestic political reasons, probably will elect to avoid overt involvement in the Timor situation," the briefing from that day said.
"President Suharto, however ... could authorise Indonesian military intervention in Timor on the grounds that he had tacit Portuguese support to restore order and protect the lives of non-Timorese."
The briefings end in January 1977 after US president Jimmy Carter's inauguration, which would have excluded information about Indonesia's placement of patrol boat orders from the United States, Australia and other countries.
The CIA released the 2500 documents, made up of 28,000 pages, early Thursday morning Australian time.
- On Labor's 1972 election victory: "... the alliance with the US will remain the cornerstone of Australian foreign policy, but Labor Party spokesmen have promised to re-examine the agreements permitting US military and scientific installations in Australia."
- On the Whitlam dismissal: "Complicated political maneuvering is still underway ... it is unclear whether the sacking will stand up."
- On Indonesia's invasion of Dili in December 1975: "Yesterday, marines and airborne troops equipped with US weapons mounted a full-scale attack against the city following a bombardment."