I’ve been sent a very interesting piece from The Australian on Soviet penetration of the Australian intelligence services.
The author Paul Monk, a former intelligence officer with the Austraian Defence Intelligence Organisation claims that this is not of historical interest alone.
Monk points out that information on Soviet espionage in Austrlaia, smuggled out Soviet intelligence files-the Mitrokhin Files, in the early ’90s, was suppressed.
The promised Mitrokhin information on New Zealand has also yet to see the light of day.
Paul Monk writes;
JOHN Faulkner’s appointment as Defence Minister, in place of Joel Fitzgibbon, is a statement of intent on the part of Kevin Rudd. He wants to sort out Defence.
In his new job, Faulkner will find his stated commitment to freedom of information and transparent government tested, especially with regard to security and intelligence.
He could make a bold and long-overdue contribution to openness in the public interest by – with the Prime Minister and Attorney-General Robert McClelland – releasing crucial materials on Soviet penetration of our intelligence system during the Cold War.
He should start with the Mitrokhin archive. Voluminous KGB files were smuggled West in 1992 and published in two hefty volumes, totalling 1700 pages, by Allen Lane Penguin in 1999 and 2005. They deal with KGB operations in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as those behind the Iron Curtain. But there is a notable omission in these books: material dealing with KGB operations in Australia. Such material exists. It was sent by the British intelligence authorities to Canberra in September 1992 but has been suppressed.
That should never have happened and should be remedied. What reason can there be for suppressing the entire file on Australia when so much was published about the rest of the world? Were the materials on Australia so bland and uninformative that they were deemed of no interest and consigned to the wastepaper bin? That would have been an absurd reason for suppressing them, but it plainly was not the case. Something quite substantial and unsettling is in the Australia file. That something must see the light of day.
The Mitrokhin materials so alarmed Canberra that two inquiries were set in train. The Australian Federal Police was asked to conduct a check on ASIO. This inquiry was called Operation LIVER. It was halted in 1995 by then attorney-general Michael Lavarch on the disturbing grounds that there was no knowing where it would end. Indeed.
Separately, then prime minister Paul Keating asked senior diplomat Michael Cook to conduct an inquiry into Soviet penetration of ASIO. He did so in 1993-94 and is reported to have found such a counter-intelligence mess that the whole organisation was compromised. But his report was classified and remains tightly guarded. We need to know, at long last, what he found.
What Cook found in 1994 had long been suspected. The 1977 Hope Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security made damning judgments about ASIO’s counter-intelligence ineptitude. “Many of the more thoughtful and responsible ASIO officers who gave evidence before me sought the opportunity to voice their fears of a penetration,” Justice Hope wrote. Cook is reported to have concluded that there had been four Soviet moles inside ASIO right through to the end of the Cold War. All four were quietly retired on full pension. George Sadil was arrested and charged, but he was at best small fry whose prosecution was bungled.
In short, while Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen were being prosecuted and jailed in the US, their Australian counterparts were being retired on full pensions. Why? Because the AFP and Cook suspected but could not deduce who the guilty parties were? What confidence does that inspire in our capacity to ensure the integrity of our counter-intelligence and security services? Or was it all too embarrassing, especially to the Labor Party, so many of whose members and supporters had spent the Cold War denouncing the “reds under the bed” mentality and the “witch hunts” of McCarthyism? What a parlous defence that would be for suppressing the truth.
This is of more than merely historical significance. Russian and Chinese espionage has been resurgent in Australia in recent years. ASIO set up a new counter-espionage and interference division a few years ago to deal with it. But how can we have confidence in such a division as long as the truth about what happened in the Cold War remains suppressed? And the Mitrokhin archive itself only deals with KGB operations. Those of the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) remain a disturbingly closed book. Yet we know the GRU was active in Australia and have reason to believe it successfully recruited agents here.
KGB and GRU moles in Australia may have been recruited as early as the 1960s, but we still do not even know their codenames because the Mitrokhin archive on Australia has been withheld under what used to be called a D-Notice. The KGB recruited British spy rings in the 30s, not only at Cambridge but also at Oxford and London universities. The head of the Oxford ring was codenamed “Scott“, we learned in 1992; but for many years no one could find out who Scott had been. It turns out he was Arthur Wynn, who served his KGB masters for decades while a prominent British civil servant.
His recruiters reported to Moscow Centre that they considered him a second “Sohnchen” (Kim Philby’s codename) with “even greater possibilities than the first“. Did the Mitrokhin archives point to an Australian Sohnchen and Scott? It is high time we learned, Senator Faulkner.