FORGET mock outrage about Aussie spies in South-East Asia: if our spooks werent 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
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
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 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
For allies without the technological
might of Uncle Sam this access is vital for their national security and
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
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
* 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.