The Secret Cold War: The Official History of ASIO 1975-1989


The Secret Cold War
The Official History of ASIO 1975-1989

By John Blaxland and Rhys Crawley

Published by Allen & Unwin
RRP $49.99 in hard cover * ISBN 9781760293215

I know this book has been out a while but I’m still in catch up mode so I thought it is definitely worth airing on my blog. – Peter

This book is an inside account of Australia’s national security intelligence organisation as it grappled with continuing espionage and the rise of terrorist attacks during the years of the Fraser and Hawke governments.

This is the third volume of the Official History of ASIO – the first being The Spy Catchers and the second The Protest Years.

The basis of the work was that the authors were given full access to government records, with no censorship, which does not of course mean that full disclosure of ASIO information and techniques was permitted.

The expected topics of terrorism, subversion and espionage are covered in detail, as is the transition of the organisation under, first, the Fraser government and then the Hawke government.

The table of terrorist incidents on pp.336-337, including the assassination of the Turkish Consul-General in Sydney in December 1980, remind us that acts of terrorism are not recent innovations.

The admission in Chapter 19 that the Russian Intelligence Service succeeded in penetrating ASIO merely confirms decades of suspicion. Australian intelligence agencies were seen as a conduit to US and British operations.

Reading this book, I can’t help but agree with the authors in that the challenges of old “bear an uncanny resemblance to those of today”.

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