Senior official reveals existence of foreign spy network in Australia

Senior official reveals existence of foreign spy network in Australia

The head of Australia's main intelligence agency revealed on Wednesday the existence of a foreign spy network that has been active in Australia for several years and has notably recruited a former politician, academic and businessman.

• Also read: Australia: Russia suffers legal setback in building its new embassy

• Also read: Blocked construction of the Russian embassy in Australia: Moscow files a complaint

“This politician sold out his country, his party and his former colleagues to serve the interests of a foreign regime,” Mike Burgess, the director-general of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization (ASIO), said in a speech in Canberra on Wednesday.

Mr. Burgess did not disclose the identity of this elected official nor the name of the country on whose behalf these spies were acting.

This politician was recruited “several years ago,” he said, and even proposed integrating a member of the prime minister’s family into the “circle of spies,” a project that was not successful. not successful.

These extremely rare public revelations related to counterintelligence operations immediately sparked strong reactions and voices calling for the politician's identity to be revealed.

“The problem is that if he doesn't say his name, there's a cloud hanging over everyone else,” Peter Dutton, leader of the Conservative opposition, said on Sydney radio 2GB, urging Mr Burgess to provide “more clues” about his identity .

Former Conservative Australian finance minister Joe Hockey said all parliamentarians were affected by the affair.

“This former politician is a traitor,” he told national broadcaster ABC, deeming it “inconceivable” that he could not be “concerned.”

Defense Minister Richard Marles said he did not know his identity, adding that “there could be many reasons for this.”

This spy team worked for the unit nicknamed A-Team, for the Australia Team, stated the director general of ASIO.

He explained that he made these revelations to disrupt his operations, let his superiors know his cover was blown and warn Australians about this “aggressive and experienced team”.

It targets Australians who have access to “insider information” through social media, using English-language “fake personas” and promising cash rewards.

The spies pose as consultants, headhunters, local officials, academics and think tank researchers.

“If a target takes the bait, spies try to move the conversation to an encrypted messaging app. Another step could be to suggest a trip abroad to meet in person,” the senior official said.

Australia is a member of the Group of 5 – the “Five Eyes” – an intelligence alliance that also includes the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, making it an attractive target for agents from countries such as China and Russia.