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1999 05 * New Dawn * Australian Intelligence Organisations: Spying, Prying and Lying * Susan Bryce

New Dawn No. 54 (May-June 1999)

As the Sydney 2000 Olympics draw closer, the Australian intelligence community is preparing to go the extra mile with a marathon security crackdown. The Olympic Games will be used as an opportunity to strengthen political surveillance measures in Australia, and enhance the national grid of intelligence networks. The different levels of the police, even elements of the military, will forge closer working relationships and procure new powers that will remain in force long after the Olympic flame is extinguished.



The Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) has recently received briefings on the security precautions and counter-terrorism arrangements being planned in preparation for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, as well as proposed amendments to the ASIO Act.
The amendments, recently introduced to Federal Parliament, are expected to greatly extend the powers of ASIO, in preparation for the Olympic Games1. The bill, known as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment Bill, will give ASIO sweeping new authority to tap phones, search premises, access computers and use personal tracking devices.
Amendments to the ASIO Act were first mooted in 1996, and revealed in a leaked police force document2. The Bill currently before Federal Parliament will extend the powers of the ASIO Director General or his delegated officers. New powers involving the issue of search and entry warrants in "exceptional circumstances" will give the spy agency a legal carte blanche to conduct operations against political activists and organisations. The formal requirement of obtaining approval for search and entry from a judge or magistrate will be dispensed with, and instead, the government minister responsible for ASIO (the Attorney General) will authorise warrants and "the use of force necessary and reasonable to do the things specified in the warrant".
The amendments, the first to the ASIO Act in more than a decade, will extend ASIO's operations into monitoring discussions on the Internet and enable spooks to legally break into computer files and databases, permitting access and copying of data in any computer under warrant.
Further proposals would:

- Remove restrictions on ASIO's ability to collect foreign intelligence in Australia (whereas the agency was previously restricted to domestic targets);

- Increase the flexibility of warrants by extending the period they remain in force or allow them to come into effect after a specific period or event;

- Allow limited access to the central official AUSTRAC database of reportable financial transactions (permitting the agency to monitor the banking and purchasing activity of those under surveillance).

- Allow access to the files of the Australian Taxation Office.

Civil libertarians have described the proposals as "emergency-style powers, characteristic of wartime conditions, on an ongoing basis".3 The online privacy group Electronic Frontiers Australia has drawn attention to flaws in the Bill and has warned that loose definitions allowing alteration of data might open the door to manufactured evidence.
The ASIO Legislation Amendment Bill implements several key recommendations from the Walsh Report, a review of national security policies conducted by former ASIO deputy director, Gerard Walsh.
The Walsh Report was distributed in 1997 by the former Australian Government Publishing service, but was recalled by the Attorney Generals Department and removed from library catalogues after its controversial recommendations - including PC bugging, software booby-traps and legalised hacking by law enforcement agencies - were aired.
Ausinfo, the Australian Government Information Service (Motto: Government Information for Australians) sent out a recall notice to Australian libraries on 10th February 1999, requesting that all copies of the report "Review of Policy Relating to Encryption Technologies" (the Walsh Report), be returned to Ausinfo in Canberra, presumably for a book-burning ceremony.
The recall notice stated: "The Attorney General's Department wants all copies recalled." Despite this, both Ausinfo and the Attorney Generals Department were each claiming that the other agency was responsible for the recall. The recalling of the Walsh Report seems at odds with its foreword that invited public comment to the security division of the Attorney General's Department.



On 2nd May 1998, the Attorney General, Daryl Williams issued a News Release commenting on speculation that there would be amendments to the ASIO Act. According to Williams, "The government has been giving consideration to possible amendments to the ASIO Act but draft legislation is not yet available." In a thinly veiled attempt to guillotine public debate about the proposed amendments, Williams stated: "Until any such Bill is introduced I will have no comment as to any changes that may or may not be deemed necessary".4
In the same News Release, Attor-ney General Williams said: "I reject speculation that the Government is using the Olympics to expand police or security agency powers." (Despite the fact that the Sydney Olympic Games are specifically mentioned in the ASIO Legislation Amendment Bill now before Parliament).



Just ten days after these comments, Attorney General Williams, and Justice Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone, announced a $43.6 million budget bonus for Australia's spy agencies to "enhance security arrangements for the Sydney 2000 Olympics."5
In their Joint News Release, Williams and Vanstone described the fist full of dollars dished out to the Australian intelligence community as part of a special commitment to "strengthen law and justice for all Australians."
The Williams/Vanstone joint News Release details the $43.6 million to be provided over the three years 1998-1999 to 2000-2001 for the Olympic security crackdown that doles out $22.6 million to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), a $17.1 million bonus to ASIO and $3.9 million to the Protective Security Coordination Centre. This funding is in addition to the $1 million provided in total to the AFP and ASIO in the 1997-98 Budget. Funding of $1.6 million over two years will also be provided to the Technical Support Unit in ASIO, to enhance its effectiveness, particularly in the period leading up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
In a media report in The Australian on 24th March 1999, a spokesperson for Daryl Williams said the ASIO amendments were aimed at "modernising" ASIO's powers and were not especially for the Olympics.



ASIO is the political police force of the Australian government. It was established by the Chifley Labor Government in 1949 and is now part of an extensive security and intelligence network that also incorporates the external Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Prime Minister's Office of National Assessments (ONA), the state police Special Branches, the military's Joint Intelligence Office (JIO), and an electronic eavesdropping agency, the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD).
For decades, ASIO has conducted surveillance, harassment and dirty tricks operations against organisations and individuals regarded as opponents of the political establishment. In recent years records have been released showing that during the 1950s and 1960s ASIO drew up plans to round up and imprison up to 11,000 political opponents in military camps in the event of a war or emergency, and this internment plan was still active up until 1971.6
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, almost any activity that was non-conformist or radical was regarded by ASIO as subversive, particularly if it was associated with the Communist Party, the anti-bomb movement, women's rights and Aboriginal issues. While the majority of the groups monitored were only interested in social issues rather than subversion, an attitude soon developed where ASIO spied on almost any group that sought to challenge the status quo.
The 1981 Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence identified the US facilities, Nurrungar, Pine Gap and North West Cape, as likely first strike targets in the event of a nuclear war. These findings sparked a public outcry over the bases, and a decade of direct actions by the Australian peace movement.7
In the 1980s, both ASIO and the CIA monitored Australian political activists and journalists involved with the anti bases campaign and the protests against the ID Card. The presence of ASIO and the CIA at direct actions during the late 1980s was so apparent that protesters laughingly identified the agents as "Matlocks", after the television series. These tax payer funded ASIO spies, frequently photographed protesters, turned up at public meetings, workplaces and private homes and routinely 'de-briefed' activists returning to Australia from international peace conferences.
The grubby operations of US and Australian intelligence agencies are detailed in Jeffrey Richelson's forthcoming book America's Space Sentinels: DSP (Defence Support Program Satellites and National Security).8 The book reveals that US and Australian intelligence agencies cooperated to spy on protesters at the 1989 direct actions at Nurrungar. A US Air Force document "Australian Anti-Base Groups", classified CONFIDENTIAL NOFORN (Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals), was ordered by the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Australian Defence analyst, Professor Desmond Ball, says the investigations would have involved extensive co-operation with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
The Nurrungar actions in early October 1989 saw the then Australian Defence Minister and now Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beasley, call in troops to back-up the South Australian police officers in charge of enforcing the law against demonstrators at the Nurrungar joint defence facility.
The use of troops against civilian demonstrators at Nurrungar was unprecedented. Four-hundred-and-ninety-two people were arrested during the course of the five-day protest, including Australian journalists who were arrested in their line of duty. According to eye witness accounts, people at the protest were well aware of the presence of armed troops. But in a case of history re-writing itself, official parliamentary papers benignly comment: "As events transpired, ADF personnel did not come into contact with the protesters who, it seems, were unaware of the presence of the troops."9



Historically, the US has acted quickly and decisively when its Australian interests, and particularly the spy bases, have come under threat. No discussion on Australian/US intelligence organisations would be complete without mention of the 1975 crisis. In a tin pot regime, the termination of the Whitlam government would be called a coup d'etat. But in democratic Australia, it was eloquently termed the 'dismissal'.
The 'sacking' of the Whitlam Labor government has all the hallmarks of a CIA covert operation. Matters started to come to a head in 1975 when Whitlam stood down the heads of both ASIS and ASIO. The former because he had been secretly assisting the CIA in covert activities in East Timor during the civil war there. Ray Aitchison in the 1974 book, Looking at the Liberals, claimed that the CIA had offered the opposition unlimited funds in their unsuccessful attempt to defeat the ALP government in the 1974 election. Victor Marchetti, a former CIA officer, confirmed that the CIA had indeed funded both opposition parties, and a Sydney newspaper stated that the Liberals had been on the receiving end for funds ever since the late 1960's.
At the beginning of November 1975, it was revealed in the press that a former CIA officer, Richard Lee Stallings, had been channelling funds to Doug Anthony, leader of the Country Party, then in opposition. It was reported that Stallings was a close friend and former tenant of Anthonys, that the secret bases were indeed CIA creations, and that Stallings had been the first head of operations at Pine Gap.
Whitlam repeated the charges against Stallings and demanded an investigation of the US bases to identify once and for all their true purpose. At the same time, he also demanded a list of CIA operatives in Australia. This was all too much for the US intelligence community.
Senior Australian military and intelligence officials in Canberra briefed the governor-general, Sir John Kerr (who had a personal background in military intelligence during World War II) and advised him of the CIA's grave apprehension that public discussion of the facilities could be disastrous.
Meanwhile, members of the Labor Party were increasingly raising public inquiries and making pointed comments about the bases. In early November 1975, the Prime Minister said in a speech that he had confirmed details reported in the press that the CIA had indeed built the facilities. This official acknowledgement of the CIA's role in Australia intensified the crisis atmosphere within the CIA, where it was feared the political brouhaha could explode and force closing the bases.10
The threat was perceived as anything but a minor matter. Within the National Security Council the bases were considered vital to America's survivability in an era of nuclear warfare. The message from Washington concluded with a warning that if public discussion of the CIA operations and facilities in Australia continued, the US might see fit to stop sharing its intelligence information with Australia.
On November 11, Prime Minister Whitlam was scheduled to make another speech in which he was to discuss the CIA and the US bases. But he never got a chance to deliver it. On that day, governor-general Sir John Kerr removed him from office. (For more on the Whitlam sacking, see New Dawn Nos. 39 & 40.)



Recent Australian political history is replete with further evidence of US-Australian security intelligence cooperation. The Gulf War provided the opportunity for ASIO to spy and pry into the activities of peace and anti-war groups in Australia. During the 1990-91 Gulf War, Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke and his senior ministers personally supervised and received reports on the undercover work of ASIO, such as phone-tapping, mail interception, bugging, infiltration of meetings and organisations. The Hawke government activated a national network of Crisis Policy Centres, controlled by the police, ASIO and the military, with the power to establish martial law over areas of the country in so-called emergencies.
The Australian government's unequivocal support for US actions against Iraq recently surfaced again with confirmation that Australian military intelligence officers working as United Nations (UNSCOM) weapons inspectors in Iraq supplied intelligence directly to the US in the lead up to the most recent bombing raids.



Australian intelligence organisations are inextr-icably linked with their US counterparts through the 'secret' UKUSA agree-ment, signed into exist-ence shortly after World War II. Central to this agreement is the Echelon surveillance network, unearthed in Nicky Hager's 1997 book, Secret Power.11
According to Hager, strategic alliances and powerful technology allow the US to tap into the world's telephones, faxes and electronic mail as a matter of routine. United States' trump card is the cooperation it receives from the police and armed forces of other states who are more concerned with surveillance than with protecting individual liberties.
The Echelon system has been in operation since the 1980s and is designed to interconnect all the US listening stations and allow them to function as components of an integrated whole. These listening stations are located at low latitudes to pick up every beam from the Intelsat satellites. There is one at Waihopai in New Zealand, two in the US at Yakima on the west coast and Sugar Grove on the east coast, one in the UK at Morwenstow, Cornwall, and one at Geraldton in Western Australia. There is probably also a sixth station in the South Atlantic, as well as eavesdropping systems designed for other types of telecommunications infrastructure.
Echelon is a world wide network of powerful computers that search through the masses of messages and for pre-programmed addresses and key words. The intelligence services of each of the UKUSA countries pass these addresses and key words on to each other in the form of "dictionaries" reflecting concerns of the day.
A telephone conversation, fax or email need only contain such words as "terrorism", "drugs" or "guerrillas", or names like "Saddam Hussein", for the communication to be identified, recorded and analysed. These 'giant ears' work like search engines on the Internet, equipped with the best possible automated systems for voice recognition, optical reading and content evaluation.



One tentacle of the Australian intelligence community that deserves particular mention in the lead up to the Olympic security crack down are the so-called Special Branches of the State police forces, which themselves have become small paramilitary units.
For decades, the Special Branches of State police forces have functioned as pervasive agencies for spying on, mounting provocations and frame-ups against, and keeping records on, government opponents. They are likely to be the first agencies called upon to provide 'local' information pertaining to a situation, person or event.
Last October, reports surfaced in Victoria showing that in 1983 the then state Labor government supposedly disbanded its Special Branch and set up an Operations Intelligence Unit (OIU), but in reality, Special Branch's files were retained and extended. OIU officers infiltrated a wide range of political, community and ethnic organisations, illegally bugged premises and maintained files on hundreds of people (see New Dawn No. 45, page 49).
In NSW, the Labor Party government commissioned a report revealing that the now disbanded Special Branch had nearly 60,000 secret index cards on organisations and individuals. According to the government's Police Integrity Commission (PIC), the Special Branch records room contained 26,800 cards related to individuals, 6,930 on "terrorists", 6,000 on organisations, 866 on bomb threats and 228 on a "particular religious group". In addition, between 1939 and 1997, Special Branch established 10,324 in-depth "dirt" files. All but 1,079 had been destroyed or removed, possibly illegally before the PIC investigation.
The disbanding of police "special branches" across the country doesn't mean they have disappeared all together, they have just taken on a new identity. The disgraced Special Branches are being replaced with new powerful units. It's out with the keystone cops and in with the paramilitary forces! The establishment of special "crack force" police squads has occurred together with the introduction of new methods of policing. These changes are reflected in new training methods, reallocation of forces, and more sophisticated command and control structures embodied in new high-tech police 'centres'.
The militarisation of special police units is further reflected in the use of 'non lethal weapons' such as capsicum spray, the use of the American designed "Stop Stick" that can be deployed instantly in any weather conditions to deflate tyres of offending vehicles (currently on trial through the NSW police), and the use of high powered weapons such as Glock automatic and semi automatic hand guns.
Because of the absence of incidents of terrorism in Australia, the controversial use of these special units in a broader range of policing matters has arisen. The question must be asked whether the mere fact of establishing and training the special task force groups, and providing it with its special equipment, has encouraged its use in situations where it may be unnecessary or dangerous.
In the paper, 'Beyond Terrorism - The Development of the Australian Security State', Dr. Jenny Hocking describes the "fundamental problems ... created by transferring the training and ethos of a specialised 'counter-terrorist' unit to a domestic policing organisation." Dr. Hocking says the main ethical distinction lies in the training of the military according to a doctrine of 'maximum force', and of policing according to 'minimum force' - a critical distinction that reflects the civilian, peacetime activities of policing.
"Yet it is precisely this distinction which has been blurred in the normalisation of the operations of 'specialist' squads. This process has enabled the development of a pre-emptive military-based approach to policing which has not been part of Australia's peacetime traditions," Dr. Hocking says.



The recent visit to Australia by FBI director Louis Freeh is just another step towards increased cooperation and consultation between US and Australian security agencies and will be one of the long standing legacies of the 'games'. While in Australia Freeh talked up the possibility of terrorist attacks at the Olympics, APEC and the America's Cup. And after his visit, the Olympic Security Command Centre was reported as saying that Australian 'extremist cells' linked with the man believed to be responsible for the bombing of US embassies in east Africa were concentrated in NSW.12
The Australian intelligence community is entering a costly and dangerous new phase in the almost total absence of public debate. Taking advantage of short term opportunism, excessive secrecy and threat exaggeration, new powers will be bestowed upon our political police. Once given the legitimacy of law, the new powers will not be easily rescinded, and that they will be used is a Fait Accompli.



1. And some would argue, also for the impending Y2K emergency.

2. Head, Mike, "2000 Olympics used to boost political police". Available at, May 13, 1998.

3. President of NSW Council on Civil Liberties, Kevin O'Rourke, commenting on the 1996 leaked document detailing proposed new powers for ASIO.

4. News Release "National Security Planning", made by Attorney General, Hon. Daryl Williams AM QC MP, made on 2nd May 1998. Available at:

5. Joint News Release "Law and Justice 1998/99 Budget", made by Attorney General, Hon. Daryl Williams AM QC MP and Senator the Hon. Amanda Vanstone 12th May 1998. Available at:

6. Further information on this issue can be found in the book Australia's Spies and their Secrets, by David McKnight, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1994.

7. Ball, D., and Mathams, R., (1983) The Nuclear Threat to Australia in Denborough, M., ed, "Australia and Nuclear War", Croom Helm, Australia

8. In Jeffrey Richelson's forthcoming book America's Space Sentinels: DSP (Defence Support Program Satellites and National Security).

9. Ward, E., Laws & Bills Digest Group, Parliamentary Research Paper 8 1997-98

10. Lindsey, R., (1979) The Falcon and the Snowman, Simon & Schuster, USA.

11. Hager, Nicky, (1996) Secret Power: New Zealand's Role in the International Spy Network, Nelson, New Zealand, Craig Potton.

12. Safe, Georgina., "Terrorist Target Olympics", The Australian, 2nd March 1999.

Susan Bryce is an investigative journalist and researcher whose interests include issues which affect individual freedom, environmental health, surveillance technology and global politics. Susan Bryce, PO Box 66, Kenilworth, QLD 4574, email