Friday, November 8, 2013

Aussie Spooks always busy in South-East Asia

FORGET mock outrage about Aussie spies in South-East Asia: if our spooks weren’t spying on Indonesia, China, Papua New Guinea or East Timor, then we'd really have something to worry about. 

Of course the Australian Government’s network of spooks and its large stocks of hi-tech eavesdropping equipment are used against our neighbours and friends around the globe.

That’s why taxpayers outlay billions of dollars each year to fund intelligence agencies such as the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), Office of National Assessments (ONA) Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO), Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and Australian Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (AIGO).
These shadowy government bodies have a combined workforce in excess of 6,000 people with annual budgets exceeding $5 billion or $217 for every man, woman and child in the land.

This collection of spying and analytical horsepower exists only to protect Australia’s national interests (security and economic) and the interests of our closest allies and friends, namely the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand under an agreement known as the UKUSA or the “five eyes” alliance.

Those interests extend from national security to national wealth and the targets of those who spy in our name are as varied as political leaders, criminals, terrorists, corporations, top generals, government officials and high and low level diplomats.

For some bizarre reason the revelations from American whistleblower (some would say traitor) Edward Snowden that

Australian platforms are used by Washington’s National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on third countries, under an operation codenamed Stateroom, came as a terrible shock to some.

Anyone who has heard of Pine Gap or North West Cape or Geraldton or Shoal Bay near Darwin should understand that when it comes to intelligence gathering Australia truly is the 51st state of the Union.

This has been the case since the UKUSA agreement came into existence in 1946.Casual observers should also be aware that the reason why intelligence agencies collect vast amounts of information, such as the 60 million messages a month monitored by the NSA in Spain, is to search for a speck of gold that might save hundreds of lives or thousands of jobs.

Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and others have publicly expressed outrage that Australia not only spies on them, but also supports Uncle Sam’s espionage efforts.

The East Timorese have even accused Australian agencies of bugging cabinet meetings during sensitive negotiations over the Timor Gap oil and gas treaty when Australia played hard ball with the poor, new nation regarding the wealth from precious oil and gas reserves.

The bottom line is that if our government wasn’t doing these things it would be derelict in its duty. Knowing what our partners as well as our enemies are thinking is vital in the heady world of security, diplomacy and trade.

One of the main reasons for having diplomatic missions in foreign capitals is to spy.

If the Indonesian embassy in Canberra did not house a top-secret spy cell with agents and electronic eavesdropping equipment cultivating contacts and hoovering up secrets around Canberra then it would not be performing one of its core duties.

Everybody spies on everybody else under the cover of diplomatic relations and the cocktail circuit. Nations such as France are rapacious as they gather security and economic intelligence from numerous quarters at every opportunity.

China’s Canberra embassy is a ground station for a massive cyber spying effort that makes anything that Australia or most other countries are doing in cyberspace look like child’s play.
Australia’s missions in Jakarta, Beijing, Port Moresby, Kuala Lumpur, Dili, Tokyo, Bangkok, Hanoi, New Delhi, Islamabad, Cairo and elsewhere are major centres for the activities of ASIS, the government’s overseas spying agency.

It employs more than 600 agents at its headquarters on level five of the RG Casey Building in Canberra and around the globe at diplomatic posts under the cover of the “Second Secretary Cultural” or some other mundane official position.

Since before the East Timor crisis in 1999 Jakarta has been the biggest ASIS station in the world.
Meanwhile the Australian Signals Directorate (formerly DSD) runs listening posts in locations as diverse as the Australian embassies in Jakarta, Beijing, Tokyo and Hanoi and the remote Cocos and Keeling Islands deep in the Indian Ocean. These posts sweep up electronic signals from phones, radios, computers, ships at sea and aircraft.

To keep everyone honest the navy’s Collins Class submarines are capable of conducting mobile eavesdropping operations using powerful equipment that enables them to park off a foreign coastline or follow a ship and deploy listening devices to collect signals that can be delivered directly to the directorate’s underground bunker in Canberra for analysis.

For former spooks such as ex-ASIS operative Warren Reed the public outrage expressed by some Australians and foreign officials, such as Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natelagawa, is as confected as it is ridiculous.

Natelagawa was educated in Australia and he understands better than most the need for governments to spy.

His anger at the Snowden revelations is designed to appease his local constituents rather than threaten Australia.

Warren Reed regards Snowden’s activities as an act of bastardry by a misguided figure who sees himself as theMother Teresa of the espionage world.

“What people don’t understand is that the US has the most powerful eavesdropping capability on earth and that a lot

of the material gleaned by the NSA and others is shared with her allies and target countries including Indonesia,” he said.

“A significant portion of the 60 million messages picked up in Spain would be shared with the Spanish government.”

For allies without the technological might of Uncle Sam this access is vital for their national security and economic well-being.

China is rapidly catching up with the US and it is unlikely that its intelligence product is shared with anyone.

For men such as Warren Reed the rapidly expanding world of human, signals and cyber spying places enormous pressure on the moral fibre of those engaged in this important national endeavour.

While there are legal and administrative checks and balances built into the system it is ultimately the moral compass of the men and women spying for their country that provides the ultimate protection for their fellow citizens.

“It is up to them to toe the moral line of the community so they can be the ultimate guardians of the system.”


* Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) — The overseas spy network run by Department of Foreign Affairs

and Trade. More than 600 spooks using diplomatic cover to work closely with American Central Intelligence Agency and Britain’s MI6.

* Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) — Domestic spy agency with more than 1500 spooks posted in Australia and overseas to liaise with other agencies such as Britain’s MI5 and FBI.

* Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) — The nations hi-tech signals intelligence collection and analysis agency housed underground at Defence Headquarters Russell Offices in Canberra.
* Office of National Assessments (ONA) — The prime minister’s own dedicated peak intelligence analysis body.

* Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) — The military’s intelligence analysis organisation.
* Australian Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (AIGO) — Uses satellite technology to pin point enemies.

1 comment:

  1. Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said it was difficult to verify the existence of wiretapping operations allegedly conducted by Australia in the country.

    “Evidence of wiretapping can be obtained from only two sources: the national intelligence agency and from confessions of countries involved in wiretapping,” said Purnomo, after receiving Australian Defense Minister David Johnston at the Defense Ministry's office in Jakarta, on Friday, as quoted by Antara news agency.

    The minister said Johnston’s explanations had yet to answer Indonesia’s questions on Australia’s alleged wiretapping operations in the country.

    “It was said: ‘Wiretapping is a macro-issue and the Australian foreign minister is responsible in the matter,” said Purnomo, citing Johnston’s answers.

    According to the Australian defense minister, the wiretapping issue has already been discussed by the Indonesian and Australian foreign ministers. However, Australia was committed to strong relations between the two countries.

    Purnomo said his meeting with Johnston was to discuss partnerships in the field of defense.

    The minister also said he had asked the National Encryption Body (Lemsaneg) whether his ministry’s communication network was safe from wiretapping.

    “Lemsaneg has carried out a tight encryption operation on vital communication lanes in the Defense Ministry. The ministry uses a closed communication system,” said Purnomo.