The Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These countries are parties to the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.
So news that a highly active “hive” of Russian spies posing as diplomats operated in Australia for more than 18 months before it was dismantled as part of a sweeping and aggressive counter-espionage offensive by ASIO (The Australian intelligence agency), is concerning.
The spy ring’s aim was to recruit Australians with access to classified information and, according to one source with knowledge of the Russians’ activity, use sophisticated technology to steal data and communicate without being intercepted.
ASIO spent months tracking the Russian spy ring, which comprised purported embassy and consular staff and operatives using other deep cover identities, before ASIO finally moved to force the ring’s key players out of Australia, according to sources with knowledge of its operation.
ASIO director-general Mike Burgess did not immediately identify the country behind the network, but said the undercover operatives appeared to be “highly trained”. It later emerged that the country was Russia.
The group would study and “potentially seduce” targets including judges, journalists and veterans, he claimed. It shows the threat posed by foreign spies is at an all-time high, he added.
While delivering his annual threat assessment in Canberra, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (Asio) chief outlined a “concerted campaign” to infiltrate the Australian media to shape reporting and gain information on sources.