Page 40 - Australian Defence Magazine - July 2018
P. 40

Some columns back your correspondent discussed corruption in defence procurement on the principal that the vast sums being spent on new equipment will surely attract the chancers and the outright crooked.
“There are various means by which foreign intelligence services can acquire our secrets – by physical theft, by compromising computer systems or by way of insiders.”
Spy vs Spy
AS THAT famous American Willie Sut- ton (1901-1980) supposedly said, he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.”
With billions of taxpayer dollars to be spent on new kit and without rigorous au- dit systems, there’s great potential for some to go astray, certainly much more than the US$2 million Sutton made in a lifetime of sticking up financial institutions.
An imaginative reporter may actually have created Sutton’s famous quote, which has come to indicate the bleeding obvious.
Whether he said it or not, this has evolved into Sutton’s Law which applies to the field of medicine and especially to junior doctors – when diagnosing, first consider the most obvious cause.
to penetrate government, foreign intelligence services are targeting a range of Australian interests, including clandestine acquisition of intellectual property, science and technology and commercially sensitive information.”
ASIO says espionage against the Austra- lian defence industry is an enduring threat. “The Australian Government’s decades-
long military modernisation program - which includes niche research and devel- opment capabilities within the sector – is of interest to a wide range of foreign intelli- gence services seeking to obtain or compro- mise sensitive technologies.”
In May, ASIO head Duncan Lewis told a Senate Estimates hearing the espionage threat was now greater than at any time
Australia hasn’t experienced a good for- eign spying scandal for some time. In March Australia booted a pair of Russian diplomats, described as “undeclared intelligence agents”. That wasn’t for anything they’d done – Aus- tralia was joining much of the rest of the world in slapping Russia over the poisoning of a for- mer Soviet agent and his daughter in the UK.
More scandals have related to us getting caught spying on other people, such as East Timor and Indonesia.
There are various means by which foreign intelligence services can acquire our secrets – by physical theft, by compromising com- puter systems or by way of insiders.
US private sector intelligence firm Strat- for notes that as cyber defences improve and targets become more difficult to penetrate, those with access to computer systems will increasingly be seen as the weakest link.
No firm does business with defence with- out a certain level of security, the more sen- sitive the technology, the more rigorous the security, whether of premises or IT systems. That leaves human beings who for various reasons – whether money, ideology, being compromised or whose ego can be stroked (known as MICE) – can be recruited.
Stratfor says this methodology didn’t go out of vogue with the Cold War. Agents recruited in this way can remain in place for decades, rising through the ranks of an organisation and causing incredible damage along the way.
The case of American Glenn Shriver is instructive. Studying in China, he answered an ad to write a paper on US-China rela- tions, for which he received US$120. Shriver was ultimately paid US$70,000 by Chinese intelligence, for among much else, trying to join the CIA.
Last year US journalist Nate Thayer wrote of a Chinese approach to him to write research papers, for which he would be paid US$500-1,500. Clearly Chinese in- telligence casts a broad net and it’s hard to think that isn’t happening in Australia.
A corollary called the Willie Sutton Rule applies to management – where the greatest costs occur is where the greatest savings can be achieved.
So, where there’s money, crooks will fol- low. And just as obviously, acquiring lots of new high-tech equipment will surely attract the attention of spies intent on acquiring our secrets.
This all sounds a bit Cold War but as the Australian Security Intelligence Service (ASIO) has routinely stated, espionage nev- er went away and has actually intensified. Here’s what the ASIO annual report for 2016-17 has to say:
“The threat from espionage and foreign in- terference to Australian interests is extensive, unrelenting and increasingly sophisticated. In addition to traditional espionage efforts
since the Cold War. The government, pre- sumably acting on advice from ASIO and others, is well aware that existing legislation is pretty much obsolete.
Some potential espionage offences aren’t covered and there’s a very high bar for a suc- cessful prosecution, requiring the prosecutor to actual intent to prejudice the security or defence of Australia or to advantage the secu- rity or defence of another country.
The proposed new legislation, which also includes measures against foreign – read Chinese – interference, is now before par- liament and it may be that there will be a blizzard of prosecutions immediately it be- comes law.
This debate has a fair way to go – some of the provisions could just as easily apply to journalists.
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