September 24th 2005

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Telstra sale: not a 'done deal'

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Could Australia cope with a natural disaster?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Are new anti-terror laws good for Australia?

INTELLIGENCE: Past espionage failure spooks US partnership

STRAWS IN THE WIND: New Orleans - a cracked society / Unemployment / Costello's new constituency / Liberal leadership / Potemkin politics

TAIWAN: Taiwan's tax system keeps money in the family

UNITED STATES: Judge Roberts impresses at US Senate hearing

AGRICULTURE: Unbridled globalism harms poorer nations

SPECIAL FEATURE: How the sex industry destroys society (Part 2)

THEATRE: Play's one-sided slant on Bush and the Iraq War

Who is to blame for New Orleans tragedy? (letter)

Tony Blair and the Iraq War (letter)

Family Law's five-fold disaster (letter)

OBITUARY: Frank Rooney - R.I.P.

BOOKS: UNSPEAKABLE: Facing Up To Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror, by Os Guinness

MAKING 'BLACK HARVEST': Warfare, film-making and living dangerously in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea

Books promotion page

Past espionage failure spooks US partnership

by John Miller

News Weekly, September 24, 2005
Australia should not get too euphoric about a recent supposed upgrading of its intelligence relationship with the US, cautions a former senior intelligence officer, John Miller. Negligible action was taken on a federal police probe in the early 1990s, which revealed that a number of ASIO officers were spying for hostile intelligence services.

A recent front-page headline of The Australian (September 1, 2005) declared: "New ranking lets us share in US secrets".

In what appears to have been a scoop story, The Australian's foreign affairs editor, Greg Sheridan, wrote that US President George W. Bush "has issued a decree upgrading Australia to the highest rank of intelligence partner that the US has in the world", equalled only by the United Kingdom.

Mr Sheridan added: "Australia has never before enjoyed this level of access to American intelligence. The agreement ranges from tactical and operational military information through to comprehensive national assessments."

It is claimed that the Prime Minister and President Bush had discussed the new arrangements at several meetings in recent years. The rather coy Defence Minister, Senator Robert Hill, would not comment on the US's national disclosure policy, but did confirm that Canberra "had a higher intelligence-sharing status with the US than ever before".

Mr Sheridan made a very telling point in the following words: "While Mr Bush and Mr Rumsfeld and US service chiefs have strongly backed the new arrangements, the natural inertia and caution of the vast US intelligence and military bureaucracies have meant a lot of operational resistance to their implementation.

"Put simply, US spooks are not used to sharing the crown jewels."

Mr Sheridan implied that our security and intelligence services now have a closer relationship with the US than in any previous era.

Reference was made to the highly secret UKUSA intelligence agreement, signed in 1947 between the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand (the latter nation being included with Australia).

It was primarily a SIGINT (signals intelligence) pact - that is, it related to the collection and dissemination of information gained from electronic sources, supplemented by overhead material from spy aircraft. It expanded greatly in the 1990s when a new generation of satellites was launched into orbit.

However, it is apparent that the new expanded agreement about which he writes relates to the so-called war on terror, and is aimed at electronically blanketing areas that are not easily covered by more conventional intelligence means.

Cause concern

Far be it for this writer to criticise Mr Sheridan. However, his argument contains one phrase which could cause a great deal of concern, namely the phrase: "US spooks are not used to sharing the crown jewels". This is an indisputable, nay irrefutable, statement.

The failure of all allied intelligence prior to 9/11, and the need for more sophisticated operations against Islamo-fascists, has meant that, in an intelligent sense, the covered wagons have to be drawn into a circle for protection against the savages. Hopefully, the new agreement will assist in cracking down on terror.

When former British MI5 officer Peter Wright wrote his book Spycatcher - which became famous for all the wrong reasons - he was one of the first authoritative figures to verify the existence of a very high-level intelligence alliance known as CAZAB (a sort of shorthand acronym for its participants, Canada, Australia, [New] Zealand, "America" and Britain).

Basically, this was an above-top-secret counter-intelligence arrangement whereby senior intelligence officers of the countries concerned held regular meetings, designed to counter attempts by Soviet and satellite services to penetrate Western security and intelligence services. In some respects, this was a legacy of the years when the controversial James Jesus Angleton was the CIA's counter-intelligence chief, but with worthy objectives.

The information exchanges contained strict embargoes on further dissemination, and these were probably adhered to, although the effects of the Soviet KGB's recruitment of Aldrich Ames (CIA) and Robert Hanssen (FBI) cannot be accurately assessed without reference to the appropriate files.

The strength and discipline of the organisation of CAZAB was clearly demonstrated when the New Zealand Labour Government of David Lange, after coming to power in 1984, decided to refuse port entry to US nuclear-armed or powered warships. This culminated in the New Zealand delegation being frozen out of a CAZAB conference.

It was particularly humiliating for the Kiwi delegation, because the ultimate effect would be their country's loss of any further intelligence cooperation.

It also demonstrated that the Big Two - the US and the UK - were by far the most powerful and influential members of this gathering.

Australia was trusted at that time - or at least that is the way it appeared. However, it was noted that the provision of defector reports - a staple diet of security and intelligence services in analysis of the modus operandi of the opposition, started to dry up. By 1986, the trickle virtually stopped, despite a plethora of KGB and GRU defectors overseas.

The new leadership of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), under Alan K. Wrigley, installed by the Hawke Labor Government, devoted inordinate efforts to destroy a great number of old records (in order to minimise paper storage because of age), but in so doing destroyed much of ASIO's knowledge base.

Embarrassed by the Combe/Ivanov affair, the Hawke Government - and, in particular, the Attorney-General of the day, Senator Gareth Evans - decided to neuter an organisation that the Left in general and the Labor Party hated, believing it to have robbed the ALP of victory at the time of the Petrov affair and to be carrying out a systematic harassment of "progressive forces". The fact that ASIO had no executive powers appeared quite irrelevant.

ASIO penetrated

In the early 1990s, it was revealed that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) had conducted a high-level operation inside ASIO - an almost unprecedented action. The findings were hushed up, but press reports pointed to at least five, and possibly seven, ASIO officers working for hostile intelligence services (and that does not include those who reported faithfully to America's CIA and UK's Secret Intelligence Service).

The operation was terminated prematurely; the guilty were given golden handshakes and retained all their benefits on leaving ASIO; and the one prosecution conducted on the basis of the AFP operation was botched completely, either by incompetence or design.

The fact that the information leading to the exposure of a substantial number of Soviet agents serving in ASIO came from defectors to the US and UK, probably meant that Australia would have been given the New Zealand treatment - frozen out of intelligence exchanges.

Intelligence services cannot function without information. While traitors and spies were being identified and prosecuted in the US and exposed in the UK, nothing happened in Australia; and our famous media appeared disinclined to show any interest in what had been happening here.

The bureaucratisa-tion of ASIO and the permeation of its ranks by officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) may well have provided a warm fuzzy glow for both our major political parties.

However, it is an established fact that the Australian government was penetrated during World War II by the Soviet MVD (forerunner of the KGB) and the GRU (Soviet military intelligence). It was for this very reason that ASIO was established.

Very few intelligence officers in the know have been disposed to talk publicly about Soviet penetration of ASIO and the Australian government. A number, who feel very strongly that there should be a substantial public inquiry (if not a Royal Commission) into these matters, despair that treason and traitors will ever be exposed. The Australian government is extremely lucky that few real intelligence officers have decided to go public.

The new deal in intelligence relations between Australia and the US is to be applauded as a matter of necessity.

There is more than a passing interest in establishing whether the new improved ASIO, Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) and Office of National Assessments (ONA) are truly trusted by US intelligence, especially by the CIA and FBI. It would be hard to envisage DFAT being accorded any measure of trust.

The rot in Australian intelligence started with that department in World War II and has probably continued since, given that extremely sensitive intelligence operations in the 1970s and '80s showed that both DFAT and ONA leaked like sieves at the time. But this has been entirely overlooked.

Governments should have noted how most of the graduates recruited by DFAT passed through universities firmly under the control of Marxist academics and were therefore indoctrinated.

Anti-Americanism was standard fare in DFAT of the period, and even the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan failed to shake the true believers.

It is well-known in intelligence circles that much DFAT material was leaked to the ALP after its defeats in 1975 and 1977 when Gough Whitlam still held a great deal of sway and allegiance within the party. How much of that material found its way to fraternal colleagues at the Soviet Embassy is a matter of conjecture.

It is also known in some circles that SIGINT and other intelligence material were relayed to the Soviet Embassy, and no doubt certain Soviet intelligence officers were promoted or given medals for something that literally fell into their lap.

Australia mistrusted

While welcoming the new development in liaison with US intelligence, as reported by The Australian, it is probably prudent to remember that those spooks in the US who were uncontaminated by the espionage offensives of the Soviet Union, its satellites and communist China, will continue to mistrust certain Australian organisations and government departments.

From what is known, counter-intelligence within the Australian intelligence community and government has a very low priority. It is imperative that the current government ensures that intelligence agencies are run by professionals, not by bureaucrats, and that every attempt is made to ensure the confidentiality of any secret information passed to us by allies.

Failure to do so could well result in disaster.

  • John Miller is a former senior intelligence officer

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