Intelligence: Australia Won’t Name Names

Intelligence: Australia Won’t Name Names, by Jim Dunnigan.

In February 2020 Australia was told that an unnamed foreign country had established an enormous intelligence operation there, and that foreign intelligence activities in Australia had reached levels surpassing anything seen during the 1947-1991 Cold War.

These revelations had some weight because they were delivered by Mike Burgess, the new head of ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organization), which is similar to the American FBI or British MI5. …

Burgess was apparently seeking permission to go public with some of what Australian intel and law enforcement already knew without the bothersome requirement of being discreet about identifying the country behind a lot of it. …

This included aggressive efforts to control public opinion and protect Chinese interests. Before [defector Liqiang Wang, an Australian resident from China] came forward, Australia had detected Chinese efforts to use economic clout, combined with clandestine media and public opinion manipulation to keep Australia compliant and cooperative with whatever China wanted, even if some of these goals were not in Australia’s best interests. …

Of more immediate interest was details of how China planned to interfere with national elections in Australia and Taiwan. Wang named some names and revealed how Chinese controlled companies acted as recruiters of Australians who might be inclined to adopt pro-Chinese attitudes or a less anti-Chinese outlook. Much of this had long been suspected by some Australian officials but without evidence, those suspicions were never a real threat to Chinese intel operations. …

Chinese espionage efforts are increasingly being detected in many Western countries. In the last few years, the United States has been indicting, prosecuting and convicting a growing number of Chinese-born men (and a few women) conspiring to commit, or who had already carried out, economic espionage in the United States. Some of these suspects are naturalized American citizens but a growing number are Chinese citizens here on legitimate visas. This is the sort of thing Wang claims has been going on in Australia.

By 2012 most American officials had come to openly admit that a whole lot of American military and commercial technical data has been stolen via Chinese Internet (and more conventional) espionage efforts as described by Wang. Details of exactly all the evidence of this are unclear, but apparently, it was pretty convincing for many American politicians and senior officials who had previously been skeptical. The Chinese efforts have resulted in most major American weapons systems having tech details obtained by the Chinese, in addition to a lot of non-defense or dual-use technology. It’s not just the United States that is being hit but most nations with anything worth stealing. Many of these nations are noticing that China is the source of most of this espionage and few are content to remain silent any longer.

It’s no secret that Chinese intelligence collecting efforts since the late 1990s have been spectacularly successful. As the rest of the world comes to realize the extent of this success, there is a growing desire for retaliation. What form that payback takes remains to be seen. At the moment more scrutiny is making it more difficult for the Chinese to operate but is not stopping them.

Too much China. Here’s a long list of Chinese spy cases in the US, that even Wikipedia knows about.