Blaxland, John & Rhys Crawley: The Secret Cold War: The Official History of ASIO, 1975-1989

John Blaxland & Rhys Crawley

The Secret Cold War: The Official History of ASIO, 1975-1989, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2016

The blurb reveals that the book deals with espionage by foreign agents, terrorist attacks, the underground Cold War of tensions between the superpowers, and violent local extremist groups. ‘Meanwhile, prompted by probing royal commissions and reviews, ASIO was being systematically transformed into a modern intelligence organisation.’ Nevertheless, ‘KGB officers were able to recruit and run agents in Australia for many years [and ASIO had to investigate] persistent allegations of penetration by Soviet moles’.

The book is reviewed by Cameron Stewart in The Australian, Brian Toohey in Inside Story, Aaron Patrick in the Financial Review, and David McKnight in The Monthly. (Toohey is sceptical that there is evidence of Soviet moles in ASIO.) Attorney-General Brandis launches the book. Blaxland talks about the book on the ABC and The Conversation and is interviewed for Fairfax.

Brian Toohey in his review contrasts examples of 1970s official reluctance to undertake action against Australian citizens with the situation today.

Federal police no longer hesitate to raid Parliament House, access its IT system and seize thousands of documents, as they did in their current investigation into a leak of commercial information from NBN Co. Draconian legislation, passed with bipartisan support in recent years, provides stiff jail sentences for anyone who leaks or receives classified information.

This is Volume 3 in the official history of ASIO: Volume 1 reviewed; Volume 2. Related material on the Honest History website: Meredith Burgmann’s Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files; unsubstantiated allegations that Foreign Affairs head, John Burton, was a Russian spy; Alison Broinowski reviews Rachel Landers’ Who Bombed the Hilton?; John Moses reviews Red Professor: The Cold War Life of Fred Rose, by Monteath and Munt; Richard Ackland’s PEN Lecture on the implications of mass surveillance by the state; a large collection of resources on anti-terrorism laws, hanging off a book review by Jeff Sparrow; Alison Broinowski reviews the movie Citizenfour, about Edward Snowden; Alison Broinowski reviews Australia Under Surveillance by Frank Moorhouse; Alison Broinowski on the Hilton bombing.

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