Category Archives: NATIONAL SECURITY

Government’s plan to spy on all Australians exposed in leaked letters

It may shortly be far easier for government spies to access your private data. Photo source: Pixabay

We’re constantly being advised to protect our data and information online, but it turns out there may be even a greater threat & cause for concern.

An exclusive report by The Sunday Telegraph reveals our online data may not even be safe from the Australian Government. Australian citizens may soon be subjected to secret digital monitoring by the top cyber spy agency in the country with no warrant rerquired for accessing all your info when they feel like it.

This means everything from text messages to emails and even bank statements could be accessed in secret under the radical new proposed plan. The Sunday Telegraph viewed the secret letters between the heads of Department of Home Affairs and Defence. The letters detail possible new powers for the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).

As the current rules stand, intelligence is not to be produced on Australian citizens. Having said that, the Australian Federal Police and domestic spy agency ASIO can investigate people with a warrant and also seek help from the ASD if needed in what are deemed to be extreme cases.

If the proposal is passed, it would be up to Defence Minister Marise Payne and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to allow spying to occur. Furthermore, they could approve cases without Australia’s top law officers being aware of it.

The Sunday Telegraph believes Dutton hasn’t yet presented Payne with any formal proposals for changes to the legislation. If passed though, spies would be given permission to secretly access information relating to an Australian citizens’ financial data, health information and phone records. A change in law would mean it’s also illegal for government agencies and private businesses to hold back any information that could hinder the security measures.

The Sunday Telegraph believes the reason for the data crackdown would be to stop terrorism, child exploitation and other serious crimes being conducted both here in Australia and overseas.

Several times in recent months online data and its safety has made headlines. Earlier this year, Facebook came under fire for breaching privacy data rules. As it stands, anything you share or access online remains there, even if you delete it.

This means any photos, emails, website history, online comments and videos you upload or view are stored away somewhere in cyberspace. Worryingly, any information shared on a social media platform such as Facebook will remain with the company, even if your profile is deleted.

What are your thoughts? Have you concerns that your private information could be secretly accessed by spies and the government? Do you think it’s really to protect Australians, or just another feeble excuse for the government to gain more information about us? Big brother is going too far this time one would think. Write to your MP.

Henry Sapiecha

Five Eyes, Nine Eyes & 14-Eyes Countries and VPNs Important to know when using (or planning to use) a VPN

The content herein is part of an article published in a VPN site where at the end of this short introduction there will be a link to take you to a lot more viewpoints & info. ENJOY.

This article will discuss available VPNs in relation to the 5 Eyes, the 9 Eyes and the 14 Eyes government surveillance alliances.

Encryption is the only way to protect private communications. While there are encrypted messaging systems that can be used for direct correspondence, virtual private networks (VPNs, also based on encryption) are the best tools for hiding internet activity, such as which websites are visited. Again, there are valid reasons to do so: to protect the privacy of religion, sexual orientation and sensitive medical conditions; all of which can be inferred from visited websites.


During the second world war, US and UK intelligence agencies worked closely on code-breaking. After the war, the UK center at Bletchley Park evolved into the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The American service evolved into the National Security Agency (NSA). In 1946, the working relationship between the two countries was formalized in the UKUSA agreement. It worked on signals intelligence (SIGINT); that is, the interception and analysis of adversarial telecommunications.

In order to provide global coverage for communications interception, Australia, New Zealand and Australia joined the UK and the USA – and became known as the Five Eyes.

However, such is the NSA’s global dominance of intelligence gathering, other countries have sought to cooperate in return for specific ‘threat’ information from the NSA. This has led to other SIGINT groupings: the 9 Eyes and the 14 Eyes.

The operation of these intelligence agencies was long kept secret. As global communications have increased – and as perceived threats have grown (first in the Cold War between east and west and more recently in the ‘war on terror’), the 5 Eyes in particular began to secretly use technology to gather everything for later analysis. GCHQ, for example, had a secret project called Mastering the Internet. None of this was publicly known.

In 2013, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked thousands of top secret NSA and GCHQ documents showing, for the first time, the extent to which national governments spy on everybody. It is always done in the name of ‘national security’, and both the relevant agencies and their governments insist on their right to do so.


Henry Sapiecha

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube up the ante on curbing terrorist propaganda

The companies have furthered their commitment to curb online terrorist content, pumping funds into research and pledging to work with 50 smaller tech players to keep the content away from their platforms.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, comprised of Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube, has made a “multimillion-dollar” commitment it said will support research on terrorist abuse of the internet.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Google’s SVP and general counsel Kent Walker said the new commitment focuses on conducting and sharing research about how terrorists use the internet to influence their audiences so the forum can stay one step ahead.

In a bid to better tackle terrorist content on the companies’ respective platforms, Walker told the United Nations in New York on Wednesday that the forum, which formed earlier this year, has now set a goal of working with 50 smaller tech companies to help them curb online terrorist propaganda.

“On Monday, we hosted dozens of companies for a workshop with our partners under the UN Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate,” he said. “There will be a workshop in Brussels in December and another in Indonesia in the coming months. And we are also working to expand the hash-sharing database to smaller companies.”

The forum also hopes to determine how governments, tech companies, and civil society can fight back against online radicalisation. Walker revealed that the third and final pillar of the consortium’s plan is to work together to find “powerful messages and avenues to reach out to those at greatest risk of radicalisation”.

The group of companies announced they would be joining forces last year at the EU Internet Forum to curb terrorist content, specifically promising at the time to build a shared database of unique digital fingerprints — or hashes — for violent terrorist imagery, or terrorist recruitment videos and images, which have been removed from their services.

On Wednesday, Walker said the companies are putting their best talent and technology against the task of removing terrorist content and are “doing a better job of sharing breakthroughs with each other”, pointing to the forum’s hash-sharing database as being an early success.

“We have to deal with these problems at tremendous scale. The haystacks are unimaginably large and the needles are both very small and constantly changing,” he explained.

“In recent months we have more than doubled the number of videos we’ve removed for violent extremism and have located these videos twice as fast.”

Between August 2015 and June 2017, Twitter suspended more than 935,000 accounts for the promotion of terrorism. According to a company blog post, during the first half of 2017, over 95 percent of the accounts it removed were detected using its in-house technology.

Facebook, Walker said, is also leveraging artificial intelligence to root out “terrorist clusters” by mapping out pages, posts, and profiles with terrorist material before shutting them down.

“There is no magic computer program that will eliminate online terrorist content, but we are committed to working with everyone in this room [during his UN address] as we continue to ramp up our own efforts to stop terrorists’ abuse of our services,” Walker added.

Also addressing the UN in New York on Wednesday was Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who said Australia is keen to work with communications companies to crack encrypted messages used by terrorists, and congratulated Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Google, and YouTube for joining with governments to combat terrorists online.

While Australia supports an open, free, and secure internet, Bishop said encrypted messaging apps used by extremist groups are in the Australian government’s sights.

“Australia is very keen to work constructively with communications service providers to prevent terrorists from using encryption to hide online,” said Bishop, who was expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates following the UN proceedings.

“This is a significant challenge as encryption is vital for the protection of many legitimate activities including national security ecommerce and personal privacy.”


Google: Here’s how we’re going to crack down on terrorist propaganda

Google responds to criticism that it and other platforms aren’t doing enough to prevent online indoctrination.

Facebook outlines its AI-driven efforts to fight terrorism

After facing criticism from EU leaders following the string of terrorist attacks in the UK, Facebook is stepping up its efforts to curb extremist content online.

The laws of Australia will trump the laws of mathematics: Turnbull

Despite calling the laws of mathematics “commendable”, the prime minister of Australia told ZDNet the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia when it comes to legislating decryption.

Henry Sapiecha

Roundtable discussions on Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories

oz-fed-gov-logo image

The Parliament’s External Territories Committee will host a roundtable discussion tomorrow from 9 am to 12:30 pm on the enduring strategic importance of the Indian Ocean Territories.

Committee Chair, Mr Ben Morton MP, said he is looking forward to holding our first hearing for the inquiry and gathering together departmental officials, subject area experts and academics.

“Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands may be small dots in the Indian Ocean, but the territories’ proximity to Asia and major shipping lines means they remain vital to Australia’s defence, trade and security interests,” Mr Morton said.

The Committee will examine different angles including maritime surveillance, military contingencies and regional cooperation, investment in government infrastructure, and implications for the territories’ residents.

Further information about the inquiry, including the submissions received and the hearing program can be accessed via the Committee’s inquiry website.

Media enquiries:
Please contact the Committee Chair, Mr Ben Morton MP on 08 9354 9633

For background:
Please contact the committee secretariat on (02) 6277 4355 or email

Interested members of the public may wish to track the committee via the website. Click on the blue ‘Track Committee’ button in the bottom right hand corner and use the forms to login to My Parliament or to register for a My Parliament account.


Henry Sapiecha

New Trump national security adviser shared classified information with Australia

General Michael Flynn image

US president-elect Donald Trump’s recently-appointed national security adviser was investigated for inappropriately sharing highly-classified intelligence with Australian forces.

Retired US three-star lieutenant general Michael Flynn, a maverick who spent more than 33 years in US Army intelligence, worked alongside Australian forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

An outspoken believer in assisting allies on the battleground despite red tape preventing the flow of information, Lt Gen Flynn said the sharing of intelligence with Australian and British forces that left him in hot water was done “with the right permissions”.

“I’m proud of that one,” Lt Gen Flynn told The Washington Post. “Accuse me of sharing intelligence in combat with our closest allies, please.” His unconventional style and strong resume – he was tapped by US commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal to be his top intelligence officer and promoted by President Barack Obama as Defence Intelligence Agency director – was obviously attractive to fellow maverick Mr Trump.
Lt Gen Flynn was pushed out of the DIA job after two years in the role and has labelled Mr Obama a “liar”.

His views on the Middle-East are aligned with Mr Trump and both men are prolific users of Twitter.

During the recent presidential campaign Lt Gen Flynn, a registered Democrat, called Mr Trump’s chief opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, “the enemy camp” and joined the call to “lock her up” in jail.

He also raised eyebrows when he sat alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a lavish party in Moscow last year.

Offering insight into his more open, untraditional philosophy of sharing information, in 2010 he co-wrote the report Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan.

It concluded the US intelligence community “must open their doors to anyone who is willing to exchange information, including Afghans and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) as well as the US military and its allies”.

Lt Gen Flynn has confidently defended the incident that involved passing sensitive information to Australia and Britain.

“The investigation on me was for sharing intelligence with the Brits and Australians in combat, and I’m proud of that one,” Lt Gen Flynn said. “That was substantiated because actually I did it.

“But I did it with the right permissions when you dig into the investigation.” Lt Gen Flynn said he met with Mr Trump mid-2015 and described the real estate billionaire as a “very serious guy”, “good listener” and possessing similar views.

“I found him to be in line with what I believed,” he told the Washington Post.

Originally published as Trump’s new adviser is seriously scary
Henry Sapiecha

IBM to set up cyber centre in Canberra

Led by a former federal police assistant commissioner, the new centre is intended to bring together business and government to tackle security issues.

IBM-Logo-in-blue image

IBM has announced that it will create a National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in Canberra, to be headed by Kevin Zuccato, a former Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner and head of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre.

The company said the NCSC would allow access to IBM’s threat-sharing platform used by more than 2,000 businesses around the world, provide emergency response teams for security incidents, and would be partnering with its Australian Security Development Lab on the Gold Coast.

“With the establishment of the IBM National Cyber Security Centre in Canberra, we will provide a destination for government and organisations to proactively collaborate on strategy and policy,” said Kerry Purcell, IBM ANZ managing director. “The NCSC will drive a culture of innovation and openness, essential if we are to tackle this growing issue for every organisation.”

IBM did not specify the timing of the centre’s opening, nor the number of employees it would have.

The new centre will align with the federal government’s cyber strategy, IBM said, and will look to support both government and business in improving information security capabilities.

Announced in April, the AU$240 million Cyber Security Strategy had as its centrepiece the sharing of threat information between business and government, using the existing Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) and new portals in capital cities.

As part of the package, the government said it would create two new roles: Minister assisting the prime minister on cyber security, and special adviser on cyber security within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet — the latter of which was filled by former e-safety commissioner Alastair MacGibbon.

In its Defence White Paper, launched in February, the Australian government said it would spend between AU$300 million and AU$400 million over the decade to the 2025-26 financial year on its Cyber Security Capability Improvement program


Henry Sapiecha


ASIO, Crime Commission granted access to photographs of NSW citizens to aid terrorism fight

The release of photographs must abide by any protocol approved by the Privacy Commissioner image

The release of photographs must abide by “any protocol approved by the Privacy Commissioner”. Photo: Andrew Sheargold

Australia’s peak security agency and the NSW Crime Commission have been granted virtually unfettered access to hundreds of thousands of photographs of NSW citizens to bolster their ability to investigate planned and actual terrorism acts.

The NSW government has authorised the release of photographs taken of people who are granted an extensive range of licences and permits to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the state crime commission without a warrant or court order.

They include photographs for licences and permits for firearms, to work in the security, private investigation and debt collection industries and applications to operate tattoo parlours.

But the change also applies to photographs taken for licences for tradespeople, real estate agents, contractors, pawn brokers, second hand dealers, motor dealers and repairers, strata managers and importers and exporters.


It also allows release of photographs taken for the issuing a Photo Card – a voluntary proof of age card available to NSW residents over the age of 16 who don’t hold a driver’s licence.

The photographs are stored by the state government agency Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) but, until now, RMS has only been permitted to release drivers licence photographs to ASIO and the crime commission.

The extra access was granted by the NSW government on Friday, almost three weeks after the killing of police accountant Curtis Cheng at Parramatta by radicalised teenager Farhad Khalil Mohammad Jabar.

The regulation says that the photographs “or any photographic image or other matter contained in any database of such photographs” may be released to ASIO or the crime commission for “investigation of a terrorist act, or a threat of a terrorist act”.

The release of photographs must abide by “any protocol approved by the Privacy Commissioner”.

But the president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said there was no need for the change.

Mr Blanks said people expected their personal information only to be used for the purposes which they agree to hand it over to the government.

“With a single stroke of a pen the government says it doesn’t matter you gave you information on that basis, we’re going to make it available on some other basis,” he said.

“The security agencies needing data in order to foil potential attacks can be done quite properly and adequately through the existing warrant system,” he said.

“That gives an independent oversight of the process and makes sure the access process is not abused.”

An RMS spokeswoman said the change was “designed to assist security agencies and law enforcement carry out their investigations” and the request “was not made in relation to any specific incident”.

“This is one of the measures the government has taken to improve security and co-operation between its agencies,” she said.

“Roads and Maritime respects and values the privacy of NSW citizens and will give access solely for the lawful purpose of assisting security agencies and law enforcement with their investigations.

“In addition, this access is not made available for commercial or marketing purposes.”


Henry Sapiecha

ASIO on the brink: the story behind the dismissal, told by its own documents

Members of the executive council met with the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, at Government House. From left, Gough Whitlam, Sir John Kerr, Tom Uren, Kep Enderby and Jim Cairns image

Members of the executive council met with the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, at Government House. From left, Gough Whitlam, Sir John Kerr, Tom Uren, Kep Enderby and Jim Cairns. Photo: Fairfax Library

The last year of the Whitlam government was one of turmoil and controversy, culminating in its dismissal by the governor-general, Sir John Kerr, on November 11, 1975. It was also a tumultuous year for ASIO, with the Whitlam government directing that relations with US intelligence were to cease, and with the sudden resignation of Peter Barbour as director-general of security. Meanwhile, the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security, headed by Justice Hope, had begun its inquiries. ASIO knew that its outcome would have a fundamental effect on its structure, operations and perhaps even existence.

Ever since coming to office, Whitlam’s apparent challenging of the future of US facilities at Pine Gap, his condemnation of the American bombing of North Vietnam and his perceived soft stance on Eastern bloc issues was reported to have rankled American officials deeply. Whitlam was known to have a deep antipathy to the widely alleged US involvement in destabilising left-wing governments, and their apparent involvement in the overthrow of the elected Salvador Allende government in Chile in September 1973 was a case in point.

Whitlam was so unhappy with the closeness of ASIO’s ties with its US partners that he gave instructions to Barbour to sever them. But Barbour felt this would be harmful to the nation, causing damage to critical intelligence links with the United States. Barbour decided, therefore, to maintain informal contacts with the United States government. His striking stance revealed a surprising level of courage and inner strength – something detractors accused him of lacking.

Another broken window at the ASIO headquarters in Canberra image

Another broken window at the ASIO headquarters in Canberra. Photo: Jamila Toderas

The US intelligence community had been uneasy about the Whitlam government since its election in December 1972 and had expressed concern about the incoming government’s policies. Indeed Nixon and Kissinger’s national security study of mid-1974 was instigated as a result of these concerns, yet did not trigger any attempt at underhanded interference in Australia’s political process. By early 1975, however, US concerns had become more intense.

While much of the following story is about the US intelligence community and the Australian government, it needs to be told in some detail because of false allegations that ASIO was working in response to US intelligence direction and not on behalf of the Australian government, and that US intelligence was implicated in the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

With the resignation of Barbour [in September, 1975], Whitlam was eager for change within Australia’s intelligence and security agencies. Whitlam had lost faith in his intelligence chiefs and was eager to review their organisations methodically and rigorously. In the meantime, Whitlam took further steps that unsettled ASIO officers.

Spies come in from the cold. An aerial view of the ASIO building image

Spies come in from the cold: An aerial view of the ASIO building. Photo: Jay Cronan

On October 22, ASIO was asked to provide a list to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet of all CIA officers in Australia over the previous 10 years. The reply from ASIO did not include Richard Stallings, thought by Whitlam and [journalist Brian] Toohey to be a former CIA officer, who apparently contacted Toohey with allegations of CIA activities in Australia in the 1960s.

Without seeking official confirmation Whitlam declared that Stallings was a CIA operative and that he had been in charge of establishing the Pine Gap installation in the 1960s – a facility managed, on the Australian side, through the Department of Defence, not by ASIO. This may have in part explained Stallings not being known to ASIO. Stallings happened to have rented a house for a short while in 1967 from then minister for the interior and National Country Party leader Doug Anthony. Whitlam played on this, accusing the CIA of having made politically motivated financial contributions. Whitlam provided no evidence to substantiate his accusations. In the meantime, stories about CIA links and conspiracy theories abounded, with more than 16 articles on the topic appearing in the week leading up to Kerr’s dismissal of the Whitlam government on November 11.

On November 4 the US ambassador approached Whitlam and categorically denied that the CIA had passed funds to any organisation or candidate for political office in Australia, nor, he claimed, had any other US government agency done so.

the asio building parkes way image

Filling up: The ASIO building on Parkes Way. Photo: Graham Tidy

Strong public denials that the CIA had taken any part in Australian politics were sent out from the director of the CIA, William Colby, as well. Still, Whitlam repeated the allegation that he knew of two instances in which CIA money had been used to influence domestic Australian politics.

Records maintained by ASIO’s senior liaison officer in Washington reveal that he was called to see the East Asia Division chief, Theodore “Ted” Shackley, on November 8 and given a message to pass to ASIO’s interim Director-General, Frank Mahony​. The senior liaison officer recounted to ASIO the essence of Shackley’s remarks in a cable. In it he relayed Shackley’s concerns that with several people publicised “it is not possible for the Americans to continue to deal with the matter on a no comment basis”. He further reported they were “perplexed at the point as to what all this means”. Did this signify some change in the bi-lateral intelligence security related fields? They could not see how this dialogue with continued reference to them could “do other than blow the lid off those installations in Australia where the persons concerned have been working and which are vital to both of our services and countries particularly the installation at Alice Springs”.

The senior liaison officer reported that the Americans now felt it necessary “to speak also directly to ASIO because of the complexity of the problem”. They wanted to know if Headquarters ASIO had been contacted or involved. They could “understand a statement made in political debate but constant further unravelling worries them”. They asked: “Is there a change in the Prime Minister’s attitude in Australian policy in this field?

Former controversial head of ASIO Peter Barbour.image

A key point the senior liaison officer flagged in his cable was that in his view this message should be seen “as an official demarche on a service to service link”. He went on to say: “It is a frank explanation of a problem seeking counsel on that problem.” He advised that the Americans felt that everything possible had been done on a diplomatic basis and “now on an intelligence liaison link they feel that if this problem cannot be solved they do not see how our mutually beneficial relationships are going to continue”. He went on to say the Americans felt “grave concerns as to where this type of public discussion may lead”. The Director-General “should be assured” that they “do not lightly adopt this attitude”. It would not be long before it was leaked to the press.

This cable or demarche relaying the message from Shackley​ was received at Headquarters ASIO on November 9 and a copy was sent to the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Arthur Tange. A copy of the message also was passed by Mahony to Whitlam at Tullamarine Airport on the afternoon of November 10. (The content of the Shackley cable was later confirmed in Parliament in 1977 by Whitlam who, as Opposition Leader, read it into Hansard. He declared, “in plain terms that cable revealed that the CIA had deceived the Australian government and was still seeking to continue its deception”.)

On November 10, Mahony wrote a response to the senior liaison officer in Washington that seemed to avoid directly addressing Shackley’s immediate concerns. Whitlam personally approved the cable and directed that the texts of his “relevant public statements be conveyed to Washington”. The letter states: “The Director-General draws attention to the Prime Minister’s reply on 16 April 1973 to the assurances sought by Mr Schlesinger namely that no changes are intended with regard to protecting US information and any clearance procedure and that service to service information has been and will be protected.”

The Official History of ASIO book image
The Official History of ASIO. Photo: supplied

Whitlam’s cable reached Washington on November 11 and was passed to Shackley, who stated that in view of that message and in the light of the Prime Minister’s remarks on the television interview on November 6, he was “consequently assured that no policy change vis-a-vis intelligence relationships had taken place”. This is a highly contentious view that needs to be examined in the context of the following observations. What actually transpired during this period is riddled with controversy, and journalists have taken positions that simply do not correlate with the official records reviewed by the author or of the views of those involved.

Journalists Brian Toohey, John Pilger​ and William Pinwill​ have claimed that Tange ensured that his Chief Defence Scientist, John Farrands, briefed the Governor-General by telephone on the “security crisis” over the weekend of November 8-9 and that the dismissal was a result of this information. But years later, interviewed by the press, Farrands, Tange and Kerr categorically denied the assertion. Kerr remained adamant, saying, “I did it myself. I sacked Whitlam. Nobody else did. Nobody else inspired me to do it, nobody else asked me to do it”. Tange similarly dismissed the conspiracy theorists as “false and defamatory”.

After the dismissal of the Whitlam government, the former opposition leader, Malcolm Fraser, became leader of a caretaker government in the period before the general election due to be held on December 13.

Fraser went on to win the election by a large margin, a result that removed the uncertainty hanging over the US intelligence community’s relationship with ASIO, as subsequent events would demonstrate.

In January 1976, the senior liaison officer in Washington had another meeting with Shackley, which the officer described as “primarily of a social nature only”. There, Shackley declared, “I hope they don’t think we’re as bad as we appear to be”. The senior liaison officer reported that “Although this was said lightly, I gained the impression that it was meant almost apologetically”, and that the Americans really wanted to be assured that the incident had not damaged relations with ASIO. The officer noted they were “very concerned about the publicity involving Pine Gap because it was ‘getting too close to the truth’.”

According to one assessment, the Shackley cable was probably the most serious note passed to Australian authorities in the history of bilateral relations between Australia and the United States – a virtual ultimatum to Mahony as Director-General of ASIO to do something. Tange was less worried, later describing this as a telex “fired off by a ham-fisted American intelligence official extravagantly predicting serious consequences for Australia’s relations which could follow the Prime Minister’s disclosures”.

Journalist Brian Toohey later reckoned that in light of wavering Liberal Party determination in mid-November to continue blocking supply in the Senate, “the only serious purpose served by the commotion created by the CIA was to help Kerr make the decision that suddenly reversed the tide that was running Whitlam’s way”. Also weighing on their minds, he argued, was “that the agreement allowing Pine Gap to operate in Australia fell due for renewal on December 10, 1975”. Whitlam later declared, however, that he saw this as a non-issue, as he had earlier made it clear that the government intended the facility to continue being operated jointly in accordance with the agreement.

The demarche was taken by public commentators to be “a sort of prima facie evidence of US interference in the Whitlam government”. Some claimed the US approach to ASIO for information on events in Australia was “an understanding that ASIO had obligations of loyalty to [them] before its obligations to the Australian government”. There is no indication to that effect in the ASIO records. Indeed, on the face of it, the cable outlined policy options and consequences that were understandable under the circumstances from the point of view of US policy makers seeking to protect US intelligence interests. The cable relayed a message that was explicit and disconcerting, but not underhanded.

Reflecting on the rumours of US destabilisation of Whitlam and the aspersions cast upon Kerr, Fraser later maintained that the stories were “crap, total crap”. Similarly, Whitlam later observed “It is not a fact, however, that Kerr needed any encouragement from the CIA”.

A meeting arranged between Whitlam as Opposition Leader in July 1977 and President Jimmy Carter’s Deputy Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, has been cited as possible evidence of the conspiracy theorists being correct. At that meeting, Christopher is reported to have relayed a message from Carter including a remark that “the US administration would never again interfere in the domestic political processes of Australia”. Christopher’s remarks are perfectly understandable in the context of the Shackley demarche – which Whitlam made a point of reading into the official records of Parliament in 1977.

In 1982, the Wall Street Journal accused the CIA of having used the Nugan Hand Bank, which had collapsed amid controversy in 1980, as a funding mechanism for covert action and narcotics trafficking, and as a conduit for funds to assist in overthrowing the Whitlam government. The report claimed that ASIO was implicated. American intelligence officials met with the Counsel to the US President’s Intelligence Oversight Board in August 1982, and strenuously denied the allegations.

During the period the Whitlam government was in power, an American contractor and cipher clerk with the American aerospace corporation TRW, Christopher Boyce, reportedly operated a sensitive and classified telex machine on a CIA network in the United States. Boyce later gained notoriety and fame in the news and in the movie The Falcon and the Snowman for his apparent role in selling secrets to the Soviet Union – a move he claims to have taken out of disgust over how the US government was deceiving Australia and undermining the Whitlam government, which he said it perceived as a threat.

Boyce claimed there were “references to your Governor-General” by the CIA officers who worked with Boyce, describing Sir John Kerr as “our man Kerr”. Boyce’s assertions have not been corroborated, and his other allegations consistently maintained a position sympathetic to the Soviet Union and highly critical of the United States. Boyce’s actions, demonstrably motivated by financial gain, cannot be taken as proof that the CIA was acting in the manner he claims.

The CIA’s apparent involvement in Australia clearly generated enormous controversy. Justice Hope recognised this and made his own inquiries to determine the veracity of many of the claims. In 1976 his top-secret special supplement to the Fourth Report on the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security was released for very limited distribution. In it he wrote that ASIO had no evidence of undeclared activity in Australia by the Americans against Australian targets.

Much of what Hope had written in the special supplement remains closed to public access. Perhaps the earlier release of his findings may have helped mitigate or dispel some of the conspiracy theories that would reverberate in the months and years after the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

This chapter presents as clear a picture of what actually transpired as possible from the ASIO records. That picture, while troubling, is not nearly as controversial as some of the deepest conspiracy theorists would like to believe.

This is an edited extract from The Protest Years 1963-1975, The Official History of ASIO (Volume II) by John Blaxland. Allen & Unwin. $49.99 (8)

Henry Sapiecha