John Blaxland on The Secret Cold War - The Official History of ASIO

October 25, 2016

In the third volume of The Official History of ASIO series, historians Dr John Blaxland and Dr Rhys Crawley examine the organisation’s role in the years leading to the end of the Cold War.

Blaxland tells Michelle Grattan that this is a story about looking at Australia in the ‘70s and '80s “through the glasses of an ASIO officer or an ASIO agent”.

During the period covered in the book, Blaxland says the Soviet Union was so active in Australia the work of ASIO was not sufficient to cover their activity.

“Effectively, ASIO found itself dealing with a grown Soviet presence and a proliferation of Soviet Bloc consulates and diplomatic presences that were simply beyond it. They weren’t resourced to monitor them all. And so we now know that while ASIO was doing what it could, it was in a position where it was simply outpaced. They did not have the number of officers and agents in place to monitor the incredible growth in the number of diplomats-cum-spies operating in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere,” he says.

In this final volume, which was preceded by The Protest Years and The Spy Catchers, Blaxland and Crawley draw upon ASIO archives and interviews with former spies to piece together a history of one of Australia’s most secretive institutions.


Music credit: “The Spirit of Russian Love” by Zinaida Troika, covered by Kosta on the Free Music Archive.

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