The Secret History of the Five Eyes
The untold story of the international spy network
by Richard Kerbaj
Published by Blink; Dist. by Allen & Unwin | RRP $39.99 in paperback
Richard Kerbaj has a long list of journalistic credits to his name, including ten years as the security correspondent for The Sunday Times, having earlier worked for The Australian. He has used this experience to gain access to interviews with former prime ministers including David Cameron and Theresa May (UK) and Malcolm Turnbull and Julia Gillard.
He secured a particularly unguarded comment from Turnbull on then High Commissioner Alexander Downer, describing him as ‘blundering into the American Embassy in London blurting out political gossip of the most intense political sensitivity …’ in his reporting of a meeting, months earlier, with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
Asked why he had not been sacked, Turnbull gave the predictable answer, citing their friendship and his seniority in the Liberal Party. It should, said Turnbull, have been dealt with through the discreet intelligence channels in both countries.
Interviews with more than one hundred intelligence officials are also central to the story he tells of the Western world’s most powerful intelligence alliance made up of the US, Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
It is not the ‘untold story’ the marketing blurb claims but the insights are interesting nonetheless, including the holy grail for intelligence analysts: understanding the Russian leader’s motives would be, according to former UK Ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, ‘gold dust’.
Kerbaj’s final observation points to the continuing relevance of the arrangement: ‘… the alliance remains vital in attempting to foresee and combat future threats.’