March 20, 2013

Presenting a compile of music video clips of DJ Spase. All the video’s were filmed and edited by myself in Los Angeles. ENJOY!!!





Justin B. O'Brien & DJ Spase

Justin B. O’Brien & DJ Spase


September 28, 2012


Jess Maldonado Gallegus

Great Grandfather, World War II Veteran, National Guardsman, Career Barber, and among the last of The Greatest Generation.

Jess was born in 1922 in Newcastle, California to Mexican parents, one of 15 brothers and sisters. As a child, he was a hardworking member of the family,

CLP Jess Gallegus

CLP Jess Gallegus

traveling and toiling across California’s farm fields, picking grapes, prunes, apricots, and cotton. He always said it was a difficult time, and never forgot those early years.

At 17, Jess joined the Civilian Conservation Corps., cutting trails and chopping wood in the Klamath National Forest. It was there where he first tried cutting hair. He was good at it. Barbering would become a skill that would support him through his military life, from his days at Mather AFB through his time as an Army Corporal during the war in Europe. He even bragged that he once cut Eisenhower’s hair.
In fact, at 35 cents a haircut, Jess came home from WWII, lucky to be alive, and with a pocket full of cash. In 1945, upon returning home he told the captain, “I’ve got a lot of money here, what do I do with it?” And the captain said, “keep it.” It was enough to jumpstart Jess on the postwar road to prosperity.
Jess, Michael, Manny and Jimmy

Jess, Michael, Manny and Jimmy

Being a barber, and the owner of many different shops and salons over decades, would support his family for a lifetime. Generations of men and their sons knew Jess. He cut hair for 60 years, a million haircuts, by some estimates.

Jess married the love of his life Helen Valencia in 1946. They met as teens a few years earlier at a Valentine’s Day dance. They are survived by three children, Susan, Jim, and Manuel, six grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren.
Jess was clever, charming, corny, cantankerous, eager and wise. Everyone he met it seems, liked him, and wanted him to succeed.
His military service was very important to him. Like many from his era, he experienced more by age 24 than many men would in a lifetime. He carried a wisdom and maturity with him, and never took his success for granted.


June 16, 2012

My cell phone rings. I answer and it’s a good mate, Mike Amor – the Seven Network Australia Bureau Chief. “Jay .. What are you doing?”, Mike says. “I’ve got a little trip to Mexico I need your help with. It’s a few days filming and producing at a resort. It’ll be fun, there’s a pool – bring your shorts!”

(Video Courtesy of Seven Network Australia)

Johnny Varga and Justin O’Brien standing on the Mexic0 border side of the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte).

Immediately the image of drinks by the pool at a five star resort spring to mind and without hesitation I say, “YES .. Great .. When are we leaving?” “Next weekend”, Mike replies. “I’ll get Kimmy (the travel agent) to send you the flight details”.

Two days before our departure Mike comes clean. It’s not a Cabo San Lucas resort we’re heading to, but the 2010 ‘murder capital’ of the world. A Texas-Mexico border town called Ciudad Juárez. Mike’s joke was good, but the destination change made no difference. My answer would have been ‘Yes’. In journalism, there is an unwritten motto – never say ‘NO’. Plus, it was an adventure, a chance to see first hand Mexico’s ‘Drug War’ and at the same time hangout with two good mates, Mike (Reporter) and John Varga (Cameraman).

Johnny and I flew into El Paso, Texas. It was midday Saturday when we landed and stinking hot, around 101 degrees (38 degrees Celsius). Gustavo Ortiz, our driver for the next three days met us at the arrival gate. For safety, we hired a driver in El Paso, Texas. Our major concern in Juarez was being kidnapped by a local driver and transported into the waiting arms of a drug Cartel!  

Gustavo Ortiz

Gustavo grew up in Juarez. Married with two children he made a living buying used cars in Salt Lake City, then selling them at a car yard he owned across the border. But three years ago, unwilling to pay a US$1000 a month bribe or be kidnapped, Gustavo packed up his family and moved to El Paso. “That’s just the way it is in Mexico”, he said. “I am lucky, I can cross the border legally and keep my family safe”.

Researching this assignment, I ‘Googled’ Juarez. The first Google results was an August 2010 CBS News story about the US border town and the deadly violence engulfing it. At that stage 28,000 people had been killed in the four-year-old drug war. Crossing over the US-Mexico border, I expected to see roadblocks manned by heavily armed soldiers and police on every street.

Two hours after landing – Gustavo, Johnny and I were driving through Juarez on our way to the hotel. There wasn’t a roadblock in sight. Women with small children sat at bus stop outside an ‘S Mart’ grocery store and banners above bars promoted the ‘Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley’ boxing match, screened live from Las Vegas Saturday night. Juarez looked like any Mexican Baja town I’d seen many times before. The streets were dusty, rundown buildings stood desperately waiting for owners to reopen businesses closed long ago. But, it wasn’t the war zone I had expected. There were people on the streets.

Waiting for us at the hotel was Jordi Lebrija. A Reuters journalist who’d flown in from Tijuana to be our

Jordi Lebrija

fixer/translator. A trusting extra set of eyes and ears we could rely upon. Again, we feared hiring a local fixer who for a few ‘pesos’ wouldn’t hesitate to ‘sell us down the river!’

Checking in, the clerk laughed at John’s surname (Varga) when he handed over his identification. Varga pronounced in Spanish sounds like ‘verga’ which means cock or dick! So, we added ‘pequeño’ which is Spanish for small and for the next three days Johnny’s nicknamed became ‘pequeño verga’ – ‘small dick’! 

That’s the great thing about travelling with mates your trust. Nothing’s too tough, you ‘take the piss’ (joke around), have fun and you lookout for each other.

The ‘Mercado Juarez’ (City Market) in Juarez is now a ghost town. Several years ago it was impossible to find a car park because of all the tourists.

Back out on the road we headed to the ‘Mercado Juarez’ (City Market). Hoping to film a ‘lively bustling’ market, we en-counted a ghost town. Shuttered windows greet anyone willing to visit. Gone are the mariachi bands and the outdoor dining areas that used to feed hungry visitors who made the short border crossing from El Paso, until the Cartels and the drug war killed off Juarez’s tourist industry.

‘Sunglasses .. sunglasses’, said a 70-year old man in Spanglish. ‘Good price for you’. Three years ago he made US$50 a day selling sunglasses, now the old man said he “was lucky to make 50 pesos”.  

It’s a catch-22 situation. Tourists won’t return until they know it’s safe and locals can’t prove Juarez is safe until the market is again filled with tourists.

Across the road, is ‘the Ladies Bar’. A sign written in Spanish

‘The Ladies Bar’ across from the ‘Mercado Juarez’. The bar is now open only two nights a week.

on the door reads – “wanted .. pretty girls of 18-25 years .. good presentation .. thin and willing to flirt”. Jordi translated the sign for me and commented, “things are so tough in Juarez, that even the bad girls have left!!!”  

But it wasn’t all-bad. Jessica Simpson Meraz, a close friend in Los Angeles grew up in El Paso. Jess spent her teenage weekend’s visiting Juarez, eating and shopping. Her assignment to me was find a restaurant called ‘Barrigas’ (‘bellies’) and order the ‘Tampiquena Arrachera’ (a Mexican spiced skirt steak). The fresh crushed lime margaritas were great and the food was amazing. Just as amazing were the half dozen tables full of men and women in their 20’s dressed in prom dresses and tuxedos. Jordi said they were celebrating their graduation from College or University. Not the sight I expected to see in an alleged war zone. They were putting the ‘street’ troubles behind or at least saying – ‘we are going to live our lives’.

‘Barrigas’ Restaurant – ‘Tampiquena Arrachera’

After dinner we headed to a bar called ‘Tabasco’ to watch the ‘Pacquiao and Bradley’ fight. The bar was packed. I smiled at several woman in their mid-20’s sitting nearby, they smiled back. I then looked at the Rolex wearing, gold chained, slicked back hair middle aged men sitting with them. My eyes instinctively shot up to the big screen showing the ‘Pacquiao’ fight and I never looked back! Were they Cartel? Maybe, maybe not. I didn’t plan on finding out!

An hour later Johnny, Jordi, Gustavo and I were across the street at a bar/cantina called ‘San Martin’. All the seats and tables were full, it was standing room only as the crowd moved to the tunes of duelling mariachi bands! The atmosphere was great. It was as if the locals had said ‘enough is enough’ .. ‘we are taking our town back’. At one stage a couple came over and wanted to have their photo taken with us. Obviously they hadn’t seen foreigners in a while. Did I feel safe? Yes. But, Johnny and I stood-out. We were the only gringo’s in the bar. An easy target.

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Our ‘real’ assignment in Mexico, was to profile an Australian priest whose Corpus Christi Parish sits in the poorest area of Juarez. Father Kevin Mullins stands out. Not just because of his Aussie/Spanish accent or the reflector aviator sunglasses he wears, but the adulation thrust upon him by locals who flood to his Sunday service.

“I think about 200 parents have named their son’s Kevin since I arrived here”, Father Kevin Mullins said. “But .. I told my superior don’t worry. None of them have blue eyes!”, Father Mullins said jokingly.

11-years ago 30 people would turn up to the Sunday service. Now it’s more like 400 and people flow out the doors. Before we started filming, I asked Father Mullins how long the service would go for? He replied with a smile, “An hour and a half to two hours. They like a song and dance here”. He wasn’t wrong!

A father and daughter attend a Sunday service at Corpus Christi Parish, Juarez Mexico.

I was struck by the number of families – husbands, wives and children in their best clothes jammed together, sitting on pews. Then when given the opportunity, everyone was jumped their feet singing and clapping. I couldn’t help compare my own life in Santa Monica, where it’s all about what car you drive and eating organic foods. These Juarez locals have nothing, but at the same time they have everything.

Outside, we spoke to several locals about the drug violence. “Yes it’s very bad, but we have no choice .. we live here”, said Juan Lara. Drug related deaths have dropped 70% in the past three years, down from between 13 to 20 murders a day to one every second day. “Right now it’s going down the violence .. no it doesn’t stop, the violence still .. the kidnapping, it is coming now”, said parish assistant Gregorio Soto.

We head back to the hotel. Travelling in Gustavo’s Ford Explorer we discuss past assignments – Libya, Iraq, Haiti, Hurricane Katrina – we decide Juarez is not as bad as what everyone says. Talk quickly turns back to girlfriends. Jordi’s 23-year old girlfriend keeps calling to say ‘she loves’ him. While Johnny is ‘coping it’ for giving up his apartment to move in with his new girlfriend. “You’ve got the ‘furry handcuffs’ on mate”, says Mike when suddenly Gustavo points out a ‘Policia Federal’

Filming a Mexican Policia Federal (Federal Police) Truck loaded with balaclava wearing heavily armed police.

(Federal Police) Truck loaded with balaclava clad armed officers dressed in dark blue fatigues.

Gustavo speeds up. Chasing the cops so we can get close enough to film them. The sight of the Mexican Federal Police, their identities hidden and holding American made M-16 assault rifles is a reminder, all is not as it appears in Juarez. The local police chief Colonel Julián Leyzaola, who successfully battled corruption in Tijuana, is credited for reducing Juarez’s drug related deaths. But locals fear it’s just a lull in the violence, hinging upon who wins Mexico’s Presidential Election next month. “The Cartels just want to be left alone to do business”, a Juarez resident told me.   

Late Monday afternoon, we headed back across the US-Mexican border and into the safety of El Paso. Driving East along Interstate 10, there is a twinge of sadness as we look back across the US border towards Juarez and the ‘dusty’ suburbs we’d spent the past three days. It was a shared adventure and a fun time. Would I go back? Yes. Would I let a woman I love go to Juarez? NO WAY!!! 



June 9, 2012

Multimedia Journalist Justin O’Brien interviews Cameron Diaz, Chase Crawford, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Morrision and Rodrigo Santoro about their roles in the parenthood comedy ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’.

Cameron Diaz discusses motherhood, Chase Crawford his taste for Diet Coke and Rodrigo Santoro on being Jennifer Lopez’s husband.

Runs:3’14           Video courtesy of ‘Sunrise’ Australia.


December 1, 2011

IN 2010 I travelled to Burma on holiday, to see for myself a country that had intrigued me for many years.

Riding in a ‘bicycle side-car’, Burma 2010

Growing up in Australia, viewers were lucky to see several minutes a month on the Government funded ABC (Australian Broadcast Corporation) nightly news devoted to coverage of Burma and the antics of its military rulers. The commercial networks, never touched it.

I decided to become a cameraman-journalist after reading a biography about an adventurous Australian journalist named Neil Davis. Davis was renowned for his coverage of the Vietnam War and filming the North Vietnamese tanks as they rolled through the gates at Saigon’s then Presidential Palace.

For me, the trip to Burma was in small part an attempt to follow in Davis’ footsteps. It was an Asian country, ruled by a military dictatorship and shut-off from the world. When Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in 2008, flooding the Ayeyarwady Delta, killing thousands of people  and left two million people without shelter – the military Government prevented foreign aid agencies from entering the country. After seeing ‘Monk’ protesters brutally attacked in 2007 and now Cyclone Nargis, I knew I had to go and see Burma for myself.

I entered Myanmar via AirAsia on a direct one hour flight from Bangkok. With my occupation, ‘carpenter’ written in my arrival card, my passport was stamped and I walked out into a muggy Friday afternoon with $500 US cash in my pocket. Although it was 2010, there were no ATM’s or credit card facilities in the country – so budgeting was key.

‘Breakfast’ – Sei Taing Kya Teashop

As I say in the video piece above – it was like stepping back into the 1980’s. There had been no foreign western investment in the country for almost three decades and it showed. No Coca-Cola or McDonald’s – it was a rare sight.

I like a can of Coke just like the other guy, but it was refreshing to see the virgin landscape free of commercialism. The downside is locals pay for it. No foreign investment meant the average Burmese had no chance of improving their standard of living. I met many friendly Yangon residents who shared a ‘Burmese Tea’ with me and never once complained about their predicament.

Two months after my trip, an election was held and it was won by former military leaders who had simply removed they uniforms to become instant honorable civilians. A week or so later, famed Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest and as I write,

Crossing a river – near Ngwe Saung Beach, Burma 2010

Ms Suu Kyi in preparing to host a meeting with United States Sectary Of State Hillary Clinton.

In preparing for my trip to Burma I purchased a Lonely Planet edition about Myanmar (Burma). I was taken aback while reading a section called ‘TO GO OR NOT TO GO’ which suggested ‘you’ should ‘rethink’ your planned trip to Burma. The main argument was that it was highly likely 20% of your spending would go into the pockets of the military junta. What about the 80% which would go directly to locals? I’ve since folded that page in half.

A few years ago there was a travel commercial on local television promoting the Northern Territory of Australia as a holiday destination. The catch phrase was – “If you never never go, you’ll never never know.” That’s my advice about Burma – take a chance or you’ll never know.

Go have a look for yourself.







November 19, 2011



Los Angeles Sheriff Homicide Detectives announce they will be reopening their investigation into the death of actress Natalie Wood.

Wood drowned off Catalina Island in November 1983. Ms Wood was last seen alive onboard a boat called the Splendour. Her husband actor Robert Wagner, actor Christopher Walken and Dennis Davern the boats Captain were onboard at the time.

Dennis Davern now says he lied to the original police investigators almost 30 years ago. A coroner ruled Natalie Wood’s death was from accidental drowning.

The video news story was reported, filmed and edited by multimedia journalist Justin O’Brien.


November 8, 2011

Multimedia journalist Justin O’Brien reports from outside the Los Angeles Criminal Court House on the Doctor Conrad Murray guilty verdict. Dr Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of pop star Michael Jackson in 2009.

Reported, filmed, written and edited by Justin O’Brien.

‘LATIGO @ 158 bpm’

August 21, 2011

Turning 40 is a mile stone birthday we’re told to celebrate and celebrate big.

For my 40th, I decided to spend a week with my best mates in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, my old ‘home’. A week of eating, drinking – did I mention drinking? And riding.

My birthday present to myself was an accent of Latigo Canyon. A 9.2-mile mountain climb I’d ridden many times over the years with my buddies Johnny Smelzer, Michael Kelley and David Lee.

We are all united through a passion or self-torture for road cycling. Hours spent on two wheels, sitting on a pole,peddling, duelling with cars, legs shaved and 40 mile per hour descents protected by an armour of Lycra!

'The Boys' - Johnny Smelzer, David Lee, Justin O'Brien, Michael Kelley

There is something ‘mentally satisfying’ even ‘mystical’ about climbing Latigo Canyon. So on the day of my birthday Johnny and I rolled out with a group of cyclists and set off up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) towards Malibu and 40 minutes to the Latigo turn off.

“9.2 miles of just sheer hell”, is how Michael Kelley describes Latigo.

Michael is the ‘fastest’ out of the four of us – followed closely by David Lee. “It is a great climb, it’s like a Tour de France climb .. Minus the French crowds lining the road, spitting on you!”, says Michael cracking a smile.

I’ll never compete in the Tour de France, but climbing Latigo makes you dream you could. It’s steep, alternating from 4.7% and 12% to the summit.

David Lee, who I first met in a spinning studio is a successful working actor and the funniest of our bunch. “It’s a bit of a ball breaker if I must be honest .. It brings out the honest man in you”, David says describing Latigo.

A view of Latigo Canyon, Malibu. California USA

“The first summit is a bit of an illusion because you get up there .. you think you’re there, then you pop around the corner and then there is suddenly another five miles to go and it’s kind of a little disheartening because it kicks up a little bit”, says David.

Most cyclists take between 35 minutes to an hour to climb to Latigo’s second summit. Johnny and I are part of that latter group!

My speedo is a heart rate monitor, the title of this story. 158 bpm – 158 beats per minute. There is no cheating on the road. I know I can push/peddle 158 bpm for an hour, increase it to 170 and I’ll throw up!

After 30 minutes zig zaging our way up Latigo’s bends, Johnny and I climb through the California coastal ‘June Gloom’ and into sunshine. We pass the time chatting, putting-shit-on each other.

A climbing graph of Latigo Canyon, Malibu. California USA

“What ring are ya in Johnny?”, I ask him. “The easiest one I got”, he replies.

“How about you?”

I quickly reply, “I got one gear left.”

“Ah…. You do not!”, Johnny fires back! I laugh and we peddle on.

15 minutes later we’re at Latigo’s second summit sharing a chocolate bar and jam sandwich before the 12 minute descent back to the PCH, then dinner and margarita’s.

It was the great birthday and I wouldn’t have spent it doing anything else!



January 31, 2011

On November 11, 2010 I submitted a complaint to the OmbudsmanNT about Northern Territory Police accessing my personal telephone records.

The police investigation was part of a ‘witch hunt’ to try and identify the anonymous NT Police sources I quoted while reporting for the NT News on a drug squad raid at Darwin Lord Mayor Graeme Sawyer’s house.

The report can be downloaded by clicking on this link:

OmbudsmanNT final report

Or read the an edited version of  OmbudsmanNT report below.

Commissioner John McRoberts

Dear Mr O’Brien

RE: Complaint against Police

I refer to your written complaint to this Office dated 11 November 2010, regarding the Northern Territory Police accessing your mobile phone records without your permission or knowledge and your request to investigate whether that conduct was unlawful or not.

I accepted your request not to have the Ethical and Professional Standards Command (EPSC) deal with your complaint and my office made enquiries.


As you are aware on 20 October 2010 the Northern Territory Police executed a search warrant at a house situated in Wagaman. An NT News article written by you about this search, published on 21 October 2010, stated that information had been provided to the media by a police source.

That information included the identity of the owner of the house at Wagaman which was information not released to the media by NT Police.

The Police received a complaint from the home owner dated 27 October 2010 regarding leaked information. The EPSC had prior to that date launched an investigation to find the

Darwin Lord Mayor Graeme Sawyer

Darwin Lord Mayor Graeme Sawyer

Police Officer responsible. The Ombudsman was notified of the complaint from the homeowner on 5 November 2010.

The actions of a police officer providing information to you was a breach of Section 155 of the Police Administration Act. It was also potentially an offence under Section 76 of the Criminal Code:

’76 (1) Any person who, being employed in the public service or engaged to do any work for or render any service to the government of the Territory or any department or statutory body thereof, unlawfully communicates confidential information coming to his knowledge because of such position is guilty of a crime and is liable to imprisonment for 3 years.

(2) If he does so for purposes of gain he is liable to imprisonment for 5 years.’

If an offence was committed by a police officer providing information to the NT News the person obtaining that information could also have been guilty of the same offence as an accomplice, inciter, abettor or procurer.

A155 Communication of information

(1) A member shall not, without reasonable cause, publish or communicate any fact or document to any other person which comes to the knowledge or into the possession of the member in the course of his duties as a member and which the member has not been authorised to disclose.

Justin B. O'Brien - Multimedia Journalist

Multimedia Journalist - Justin O'Brien

Penalty: $1,000 or imprisonment for 6 months or both

First CCR search — 19 October — 22 October

On 21 October 2010 a Senior Constable from the Operational Intelligence Section (015) completed a Request form which was allocated to another Senior Constable from the Drug and Intelligence Division. The Request was for CCR and RCCR records for the period

19/10/2010 to 22/10/2010 for your mobile 0401442440. On 22 October 2010 the acting Officer in Charge of 015 authorised the request.

The Authorisation was electronically sent to Optus on 22 October 2010. Unfortunately the officer completing the electronic request made a clerical error and entered incorrect information into the document citing that the CCR and RCCR information was for an investigation into offences contrary to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

This incorrect information appears to have no effect on the Police meeting the Commonwealth requirement for Authorisations. The request accurately recorded the enabling legislation (Section 178(2)).

Subsequently, Police noted their error and corrected their records identifying section 155 of the Police Administration Act as the reason for seeking the carrier (Optus) records. They also advised Optus of the mistake to ensure that no record existed linking your phone number as having some connection with the misuse of drugs.

The Police on obtaining your phone records determined the name of a Police officer believed to have breached section 155 of the Police Administration Act. Details for phone numbers showing on your records were sought from the carrier to identity the subscriber to that number.

The search of your charge records to this point was limited to a four day period during which it appeared that a Police officer provided information to you. Your records identified a Police officer’s phone number. The records showed two calls from your number to the officer’s and one call to you from the Police officer.

The first call on the records between the two numbers showed that the contact was initiated by you.

Ms Richards found NT Police acted 'unreasonably'.

I am satisfied that the records and evidence show that the first search of your call charge records was lawful and was reasonably necessary for the investigation of suspected offences. Those offences could have been breaches of Section 155 of the Police Administration Act, a breach of Section 76 of the Criminal Code and possible breaches of Sections 12, 43BG, 43BH, 43B1 or 104 of the Criminal Code. Further investigation by NT Police to find out who used the phone sets matching the subscriber numbers was warranted.

The Second CCR search — 22 September 2010 — 27 October 2010

On 28 October 2010 a Senior Constable from 01S, sent another request for your records. The request was only for your CCR records, ie, records of whom you called, not who called you. However the period was expanded seeking records from 22 September 2010 to 27 October 2010. The authorising officer was the Territory Intelligence Coordinator (TIC). The electronic Authorisation for your records was sent on 01/11/2010 to Optus. The Authorisation was given by a Senior Sergeant whom I am satisfied had a lawful delegation under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act.

Also on 28 October 2010 the Police applied for and obtained CCR’s (22/09/10 to 27/10/10) for a Police officer believed to have been responsible for the information leak.On 5 November 2010 this officer was interviewed and on 8 November 2010 the officer was disciplined (section 14(c) of the Police Administration Act) for not reporting contact with you.

Investigation Outcome

This investigation revealed that the Police made two (2) applications to Optus to obtain your CCR’s, the initial application included obtaining your RCCR’s.

I have seriously considered your view that Section 180(4) of the TIAA – Authorisations for access to prospective information or documents – applies to Section 178. Section 178 is the section of the TIAA that Police relied upon to obtain your records.

Prospective information (as referred to in section 180) is not defined within the Act, however it was described by NT Police as accessing real time data. In researching a 2007 submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee I found prospective data being described as information that comes into existence during the life of an authorisation. The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 Annual Report for the year ending 30 June 2009 describes prospective data as data that comes into existence during the period for which the authorisation is in force. It does not include data that came into existence before the authorisation was in force. The disclosure of prospective data may be authorised by a criminal law-enforcement agency when it is considered reasonably necessary, by an authorising officer, for the investigation of an offence with a prison term of at least three years.

The seeking of your phone records in the second instance (starting from 22/09/2010) was in my view unnecessary. At the time of this second request the Police Officer believed to be responsible for the ‘leak’ had been identified. You had identified yourself in the article you wrote as a possible accomplice.

The Police informed me that the second search of your CCRs was to find out what communication occurred between the Officer and you before and after the calls on 20 October 2010. They said that you and the officer connected to the number you called on 20 October might have been close friends regularly in touch which would tend to dilute anything sinister about the calls on 20 October. I was also told that it was necessary to have the records to be ready to challenge the officer concerned when he was interviewed in case he claimed to be regularly in touch with you as a friend. I reject that latter explanation as a sufficient reason justifying the extent of the records requested.

The officer concerned was interviewed three days before Optus provided the CCRs which causes me to discount the “friendship” defence as a sufficient reason. I also consider that even if the CCRs for a five week period showed that your phone and the officer’s phone were connected often, such records would not prove who made the calls and what was said. Those records for a five week period were not capable of disclosing anything of probative value beyond what  had  already been obtained by the first search.

Although I am satisfied that the second search of your CCRs was lawful and authorised under Section 178 of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act that search was “unreasonable” within the meaning of Section 101 of the OA. Police have powers and they have a discretion to decide when and how to exercise those powers. They also have a duty to respect the human rights and dignity of the citizens they serve and protect. There must be a balance maintained and intrusive powers ought not to be exercised unless it is reasonably necessary to do so. In the instance of the second search of your CCRs for a period of five weeks it is my opinion that the intrusion into your privacy was not reasonable even though it was lawful.

The Commissioner of Police disagrees with my view. His view is that the second request to Optus was in accord with “standard investigative techniques … to establish whether contact between parties is an ongoing occurrence and whether there is a pattern to the conduct…”.

I have not accepted that view in your case because any contact between you and a police officer prior to the execution of the warrant, on 20 October 2010, was of no relevance to an alleged offence of unlawful disclosure of an event which happened on one occasion only, on either 20 or 21 October 2010. I have given the Commissioner of Police my reasons for the view I hold and I include an extract of my letter to him:

“In my opinion to access phone call charge records for a period of three weeks before the event which precipitated the offence under Section 155 of the Police Administration Act was unreasonable. It was in my view unreasonable because any interaction or communication between Mr O’Brien and any police officer prior to the execution of the warrant on the house in question was not capable of producing any evidence that could logically have carried any probative value. Citizens of the Northern Territory have a human right to privacy, recognised by International Conventions and Declarations, and to some extent recognised by the Common Law.

There was no proportionality between the seriousness of the offence being investigated, the value of any information likely to be obtained and the degree of invasion of Mr O’Brien’s human right to privacy. It is the failure to balance the value of his rights against the outcome sought or potentially available that amounts to the exercise of the discretion to access his records being, in my view, unreasonable. In many other cases the investigative techniques you describe might well shift the balance and make the needs of law enforcement or prevention of harm reasonably override a person’s right to privacy. I do not believe it was reasonable to do so in this instance.”


I made four recommendations to the Commissioner of Police. The Commissioner of Police has accepted two of them as follows:

1. The Commissioner of Police will issue a general order to make it patent that access to a person’s telephone call records must be authorised by a member of the rank of Superintendent or above.

2. The Commissioner of Police will issue a new authorisation under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act replacing the exiting authorisation of Commissioner Paul White authorising only officers of the rank of Superintendent and above only to make requests for telephone call records under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act.

I note that you have approached my office concerning a response from NT Police to a request by NT News under the Information Act for the release of documents. It is correct that under the Information Act documents obtained by EPSC to investigate a complaint against Police that is covered by the Ombudsman Act are exempt from disclosure. That exemption arose first when NT Police notified the Ombudsman of the Lord Mayor’s complaint on 5 November 2010. No document before that date would be covered by the exemption of documents and information created or obtained under the Ombudsman Act.

Other exemptions may be applicable but not the exemption created by Section 49C of the Information Act. I do not know what documents were requested under the Information Act and I cannot investigate any matter arising under the Information Act unless it is referred to me by the Information Commissioner.

If you require any further information please contact the Assistant Ombudsman, Bert Hofer.

I advise that the notice served relating to disclosure of the draft of this report remains valid.

It does not apply to this report.




August 9, 2010

When I first arrived in Los Angeles in December 1993 – almost 17 years ago, it wasn’t unusual to see a homeless person pushing a shopping cart half full of drink cans and plastic


'Sorting The Street Gold'

bottles, on their way to recycle their loot for cash.

With this knowledge – I was recently intrigued by the number of regular Angelino’s who were using the recycling facilities, once the domain of the homeless.

In June, drove to my local Rite Aid drug store to purchase five litres of coolant for my Jeep (yes, you can purchase almost anything in an American drug store), when I was distracted by the large number of people at the rear of the parking lot.

These people weren’t there to shop at the drug store – but to use the recycling centre, operating out of an old shipping container.

“It’s better than putting it in the ocean” says Maria, a woman in her twenty’s who along with boyfriend Felix and her brother Michael have spent the past month collecting and storing their used plastic bottles and cans. “.. thousands and thousands of bottles end up in the ocean every year” she continues.

But, Michael and Felix’s motivations for recycling are more honest. “Why do I recycle?” asks Felix as he answers his own question, “Cause it’s good for the environment and at the end of the month when money is low, use the extra money.” Michael then pipes in – “… it just helps make extra cash every month.”

'Loaded Up With Recyclables'

'Loaded Up With Recyclables'

During the hour I am filming at the Vine Street, Hollywood recycling facility more than fifty people pull up in cars – men and women, families and unload their recyclable trash.

“It’s 50 percent homeless and 50 percent are people who the economy sucks for them right now. So they’re doing this on the side” claims Bakri, the owner of the Vine Street centre and two additional facilities several blocks away.

With money tight, either because of the ten percent and climbing unemployment rate due to the downturn in the US economy or fall-out from the sub-prime mortgage crisis, people now realise the recycling facility is a way to supplement their income with a few tax free dollars.

Homeless men like Dan and Julian, who I met don’t worry about these people with roofs over their head muscling in on their trade. “You know when I was born in my baby crib, I dreamed that I was going to push a cart and jump in dumpsters” says Dan in a threatening frustrated manner. “We’ll recycle anything that isn’t tired down.”

Julian is friendlier when questioned about his days. Pushing a cart He and Dan work as a team – ‘We got to walk a lot of mother fuck’en miles to get a little bit of money’ says Julian.

'Sorted' - 'Cash For Cans'

'Sorted' - 'Cash For Cans'

The Rite Aid parking lot and its daily transaction of pounds to dollars, says a lot about the current state of the American economy. Gone are the days when the homeless had a monopoly on LA’s street recycling business.

NOTE: The imperial system of measurement is used in the above article. The metric conversion is: one kilo of glass = US$0.24, one kilo of aluminium = US$3.31 and one kilo of plastic = US$2.05