Saturday 4th of December 2021

a new boss to spy on your privates...


Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) boss Mike Burgess will replace spy chief Duncan Lewis following his retirement from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Key points:
  • Australia's foreign surveillance boss Mike Burgess will become the nation's spy chief
  • He replaces outgoing director-general Duncan Lewis after five years leading ASIO
  • Mr Burgess said he comes to the job as Australia continues to face "serious threats"


Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced the appointment and dubbed Mr Burgess the ideal replacement for Mr Lewis.

He said Mr Burgess was one of the most respected people in the intelligence community.

"His private sector experience puts him in good stead to take up this position," Mr Dutton said.

Mr Burgess returned to the ASD, the organisation tasked with surveilling international threats to Australia, in 2017 after a stint in charge of IT security for Telstra.

It is the second major security appointment within weeks for the Federal Government, following the retirement of Australian Federal Police boss Andrew Colvin.

Like Commissioner Colvin, Mr Lewis opted against seeking another five-year term to continue to lead ASIO.


Read more:

after the debacle and bullshit of the war on saddam...


From Margaret Swieringa

Former prime minister John Howard's justification this week [April 12, 2013] on why we went to war against Iraq in 2003 obfuscates some issues.

I was the secretary to the Intelligence Committee from 2002 until 2007. It was then called the ASIO, ASIS and Defence Signals Directorate Committee, which drafted the report on the Intelligence on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Howard refers to this committee in his speech justifying our involvement in the war.

The reason there was so much argument about the existence of weapons of mass destruction prior to the war in Iraq 10 years ago was that to go to war on any other pretext would have been a breach of international law. As Howard said at the time: ''I couldn't justify on its own a military invasion of Iraq to change the regime. I've never advocated that. Central to the threat is Iraq's possession of chemical and biological weapons and its pursuit of nuclear capability.''

So the question is what the government knew or was told about that capability and whether it ''lied'' about the danger that Iraq posed.

At the time, Howard and his ministers asserted the threat to the world from Iraq's WMD was both great and immediate.

On February 4, 2003, Howard said Saddam Hussein had an ''arsenal'' and a ''stockpile'', and the ''illegal importation of proscribed goods has increased dramatically in the past few years … Iraq had a massive program for developing offensive biological weapons - one of the largest and most advanced in the world''.

On March 18, 2003, Alexander Downer told the House of Representatives that ''the strategy of containment [UN sanctions] simply has not worked and now poses an unacceptable risk''.

In his speeches at the time, Howard said: ''Iraq has a usable chemical and biological weapons capability which has included recent production of chemical and biological agents; Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons. All key aspects - research and development, production and weaponisation - of Iraq's offensive biological weapons program are active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War in 1991.''

None of the government's arguments were supported by the intelligence presented to it by its own agencies. None of these arguments were true.

Howard this week quoted the findings of the parliamentary inquiry, but, as with the original claims about WMD, his quotation is selective to the point of being misleading.

What was the nature of the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction provided to the government at the time? The parliamentary inquiry, Intelligence on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, reported on the intelligence in detail. It gathered information from Australia's two analytical intelligence organisations - the Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Office of National Assessment - from March 2001 until March 2003.

The inquiry found:

1. The scale of threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was less than it had been a decade earlier.

2. Under sanctions that prevailed at the time, Iraq's military capability remained limited and the country's infrastructure was still in decline.

3. The nuclear program was unlikely to be far advanced. Iraq was unlikely to have obtained fissile material.

4. Iraq had no ballistic missiles that could reach the US. Most if not all of the few SCUDS that were hidden away were likely to be in poor condition.

5. There was no known chemical weapons production.

6. There was no specific evidence of resumed biological weapons production.

7. There was no known biological weapons testing or evaluation since 1991.

8. There was no known Iraq offensive research since 1991.

9. Iraq did not have nuclear weapons.

10. There was no evidence that chemical weapon warheads for Al Samoud or other ballistic missiles had been developed.

11. No intelligence had accurately pointed to the location of weapans of mass destruction.

There were minor qualifications to this somewhat emphatic picture. It found there was a limited stockpile of chemical weapon agents, possibly stored in dual-use or industrial facilities.

Although there was no evidence that it had done so, Iraq had the capacity to restart its chemical weapons program in weeks and to manufacture in months.

The committee concluded the ''case made by the government was that Iraq possessed WMD in large quantities and posed a grave and unacceptable threat to the region and the world, particularly as there was a danger that Iraq's WMD might be passed to terrorist organisations.

''This is not the picture that emerges from an examination of all the assessments provided to the committee by Australia's two analytical agencies.''

Howard would claim, no doubt, that he took his views from overseas dossiers. However, all that intelligence was considered by Australian agencies when forming their views. They knew, too, of the disputes and arguments within British and American agencies. Moreover, Australian agencies, as well as the British and American intelligence agencies, also knew at that time that the so-called ''surge of new intelligence'' after September 2002 relied almost exclusively on one or two entirely unreliable and self-serving individuals. They knew, too, that Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel Hassan al-Majid, who had defected in 1995, had told Western agencies that the nuclear program in Iraq had failed, that chemical and biological programs had been dismantled and weapons destroyed, largely as a result of the UNSCOM weapons inspections.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Margaret Swieringa is a retired public servant living in Canberra


Read more:


It was WELL-KNOWN THAT SADDAM DID NOT HAVE ANY WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. Bush, Blair and Howard bullshitted about it, with giant ladles... ASIO, ASIS and the Defence Signals Directorate Committee was a bit too wishy-washy about the bullshit... Labor should have been briefed about this bullshit from Howard... but Labor might have been in cahoot with Howard then...



hastie goes pasty on the chinese...

Chinese officials have forcefully condemned a Liberal MP for comments he made linking the West's handling of China's rise to a failure to contain the advance of Nazi Germany. 

Key points:
  • Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie used a newspaper opinion piece to raise his concerns about China
  • He linked the rise of China with the West's failure to contain the advance of Nazi Germany
  • Chinese officials said the comments demonstrated a "Cold War mentality and ideological bias"


Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier in the day shrugged off a warning by West Australian backbencher Andrew Hastie that Beijing posed a threat to Australia's freedoms.

Mr Hastie used an opinion piece in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald to warn against underestimating China's influence, saying Australia would face its biggest democratic, economic and security test over the next decade.

"Right now our greatest vulnerability lies not in our infrastructure, but in our thinking," he wrote.

"That intellectual failure makes us institutionally weak. If we don't understand the challenge ahead for our civil society, in our parliaments, in our universities, in our private enterprises, in our charities — our little platoons — then choices will be made for us. Our sovereignty, our freedoms, will be diminished."

He compared the situation faced by Australia to that faced by French strategists tasked with defending their country against Nazi Germany.

"The West once believed that economic liberalisation would naturally lead to democratisation in China," he wrote.

"This was our Maginot Line. It would keep us safe, just as the French believed their series of steel and concrete forts would guard them against the German advance in 1940. But their thinking failed catastrophically. The French had failed to appreciate the evolution of mobile warfare.


Read more:


So, what does this nazi hasty idiot want us to do? Stop selling coal and iron ore to the Chinese? Drop an atom bomb on Hong Kong as a warning? Bomb Darwin — the port that is "owned" by the Chinese? House US nukes in Newcastle? Show them Chinese how we have treated the Aborigines with compassion since 1788? Tell them that Christian capitalism is best and that's why the Chinese are our "best trading partner"? Take a cold shower?

In army parlance, Hastie is still a Neanderthal. Tanks and mobility has been replaced with nukes delivered by hyper-missiles... We still are working towards having elastic-band-propelled submarine by 2030...

Read from top.

meanwhile in texas...

Texas cracks down on dick pics

Big news out of Texas this week: sending unsolicited penis pictures is now against the law, punishable by a $500 fine.

You might be wondering why Texas, of all places, is leading the charge when it comes to legislation like this. The Lone Star state, after all, is normally more focused on loosening restrictions on guns than tightening protections for women. Well, it’s largely because the female-focused dating app Bumble is based in Austin and lobbied local politicians to make it happen.

“If indecent exposure is a crime on the streets, then why is it not on your phone or computer?” Bumble’s founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, asked Texas lawmakers at a hearing earlier this year. “We have to call on you because as tech companies, we can only do so much.” Legislators agreed and the bill got bipartisan support.

The cyber-flashing act, which went into effect last Saturday, doesn’t just apply to men sending dick pics; it bans the electronic transmission of unwanted visual material depicting any person’s “intimate parts” as well as the “covered genitals of a male person that are in a discernibly turgid state”.

Despite its inclusive wording, however, the law clearly wasn’t passed to prevent women sending unsolicited pictures of their vaginas to men – because that just isn’t a thing. Although, back in 2015, a woman called Kerry Quin decided to send 40 unexpected pictures of a vagina (sourced from Google) to men on Bumble. She hoped that turning the tables like this would make men see how invasive unwanted dick pics are. As it turned out, however, most of the men were desperate to meet her after the graphic introduction.

Unsolicited dick pics have become a ubiquitous part of modern life. A 2017 Pew Research poll, for example, found that 53% of young women say they’ve been sent unwanted explicit images and 70% of women consider online harassment to be a “major problem”. Despite this, however, dick pics are often treated as an amusing cultural phenomenon rather than a serious issue. “Lately, it feels like men and women are being told that this increasingly common problem is really no big deal,” Wolfe Herd noted to Texas lawmakers during hearings about the bill. “Women in particular are expected to laugh this sort of thing off. But there’s nothing funny about it.”

Wolfe Herde is right: the extent to which women are sexually harassed online is no joke. While experts agree that the new Texas law will be hard to enforce, the simple act of passing a law like this sends an important message; it’s a reminder that unsolicited dick pics should not be considered normal or acceptable. Encouragingly, the UK is also taking steps to criminalize “online flashing. The law has a long way to go when it comes to tackling digital harassment, but at least some small steps are being taken.


Read more:


See toon at top.

a curious guy...


In 1995, a young Mike Burgess saw a "weird, geeky-sounding" advertisement in the newspaper. It was short on details about the identity of the recruiter, but Burgess thought he would give it a go "being a curious guy".

"When I rang the number listed, all I got was a 'hello'," he told reporters last year. "I responded with my 'hello', and after a short pause, all I got was a 'hello' back."

This was the young man's introduction to the world of intelligence and security.  The agency Burgess was applying for was the old Defence Signals Directorate, where he would spend most of the next 18 years working in the cyber security space.

As Burgess described it, the directorate was a "highly secretive organisation". "My own family didn't really know what I did. In fact, at that point in time, few people had even heard of the directorate," he said.

Burgess was joining the agency after becoming the first person in his family to go to university, receiving a degree in electrical engineering from the South Australian Institute of Technology in 1988.

After five years as deputy director for cyber and information security at the directorate, he joined Telstra in 2013 as the company's chief information security officer. In 2017, he was appointed the inaugural director-general of the rebadged Australian Signals Directorate. His position was created as part of a major transformation of the agency, which became an independent statutory agency. Burgess vowed to bring the organisation "out of the shadows", and made a series of public speeches and statements about the evolving role of the directorate and the increased threat of cyber attacks.

What does he do?

Burgess's appointment as ASIO boss was announced by the Morrison government in August. It marked more than just a simple change in leadership for the organisation: while his predecessor Duncan Lewis had a career in defence and diplomacy, Burgess had spent almost all of his career in the intelligence and security space.

Historically, there had been a view within many governments that a career intelligence operative was not the best person to lead ASIO; someone with a broader perspective was preferred. The appointment of Burgess was representative of the unique threats facing the country, and the need to convey these challenges to the Australian public.

Burgess, a protege of former ASIO director-general David Irvine, has spent most of his career working in the cyber security space - an ever-increasing threat to governments all around the world. And he is arguably unrivalled in his connections within the national intelligence community.

Previous ASIO bosses have vowed to bring the organisation "out of the shadows", but it may take one of their own to make it happen.

What did he do this week?

Burgess delivered his first national threat assessment at ASIO's headquarters in Canberra on Monday, He outlined Australia's four key national security threats: espionage, foreign interference, Islamic terrorism and far-right extremists.


Read more:



Read from top.

the rise of the extreme right...


By Mungo MacCallum 


ASIO boss Mike Burgess has belatedly acknowledged that rightwing extremism poses a threat to society — perhaps he might now tell us what he plans to do about it.

ASIO BOSS Mike Burgess was praised last week for his bravery in fronting the hacks of the National Press Club in Canberra – but in fact, few if any beans were spilt.

There were hints of daring deeds in the murky backwaters of espionage and intrigue, teasers of close escapes from dire threats to the safety of a complacent public, but no real revelations to curl the hair or raise the gorges of his eager listeners.

Hardly surprising, of course — when you live in the secret world, secrecy is always the default option.

But the urbane superspook did make what should have been an embarrassing admission: despite huge increases in funding and reams of legislation designed to help his constantly expanding staff, we have actually gone backwards. Australia now hosts more foreign agents than it did in the cold war years, infiltration and subversion are on the rise, and terrorism is a greater threat than ever.

However, far from displaying remorse over the evident failures, Burgess’ reflex response was the same as all of his predecessors, not to mention Oliver Twist: more, please. He confidently demands extra resources from a willing Government cowed by the fear that a refusal could be construed as being soft on security. And, of course, we can never have that.

But there was one takeout which deserved attention. Burgess noted that rightwing extremism is on the increase and needs to be watched — perhaps even countered. To most observers since the Christchurch massacre, this is a statement of the bleeding obvious, but it has taken ASIO a long time to get there.

Since its inception immediately after the second world war, the agency has almost always seen its priority – indeed, its only real task – as countering the Left in the name of preventing the spread of Communism. In fact, this was never a serious threat — it was once noted many Communist Party (CPA) branches included more undercover ASIO agents than genuine radicals. And the Left, while it often talked of revolution, seldom if ever acted on its words.

In contrast, the rightwing fringe put its detonations where its mouth was. Croatian followers of the Ustashe, the fascist party founded by Ante Pavelić, an admirer and ally of Adolf Hitler, once bombed the Yugoslav consulate in the leafy Sydney suburb of Double Bay. Their apologists excused this atrocity by explaining that the bombers were not terrorists, but freedom fighters.

The Left, understandably, felt that their supporters were being unfairly targeted while the Right was being ignored or even condoned. This was the somewhat paranoid belief that led to the notorious raid by Labor Attorney-General Lionel Murphy on ASIO headquarters in 1973.

And even now the Right makes a false equivalence, often referring to Islamic terrorism as "leftwing", where any form of religious fundamentalism is, and always has been, a manifestation of ultra-conservatism, if not reaction.

So the fact that Burgess has belatedly got his dictionary in order is to be welcomed. Perhaps he might now tell us what, if anything, he plans to do about it. Proscribing White supremacist hate groups in the way other fringe organisations are treated might be a good start.

Just naming the ones considered dangerous would be a start. Or would that be too brave and transparent?


Read more:


Read from top.

ASIO annual report...

Foreign spies are targeting migrant communities across Australia and threatening some people with physical harm, according to the chief of the nation's spy agency.

Key points:
  • ASIO's annual report was tabled in federal parliament
  • The report said foreign spies were making technological attempts to interfere in Australia's affairs
  • Director-general Mike Burgess also warned "battle-hardened foreign fighters may yet return to Australia"

ASIO director-general Mike Burgess has warned foreign agents are making "sophisticated and wide-ranging" daily attempts to interfere in the nation's affairs, aided by the use of technology while COVID-19 restrictions have been in place.

In remarks included in ASIO's annual report, tabled in federal parliament on Tuesday, Mr Burgess said it was not just one country targeting Australia and believed espionage cases would overtake the threat of terrorism in coming years.

"Foreign spies are attempting to obtain classified information about Australia's trade relationships, defence and intelligence capabilities," he said.

"They are seeking to develop targeted relationships with current and former politicians, and current and former security clearance holders.

"They are monitoring diaspora communities in Australia and, in some cases, threatening to physically harm members of these communities."


Read more:


Read from top.