Thursday, August 5, 2010


Created in March 1949 under the leadership of Sir Geoffrey Reed to act on  counterintelligence information  supplied by MI5, ASIO was given statutory authority in November 1979. In 1986 it became the subject of  parliamentary oversight.
During the Cold War, ASIO was responsible for exploiting the evidence of Soviet espionage contained in the  Canberra VENONA traffic, which served to identify members of the rezidentura at the local embassy and a  network of agents recruited largely from the Australian Communist party. ASIO also skillfully maneuvered an  agent, Dr. Michael Bialoguski, into a position close to the rezident, Vladimir Petrov. In 1954 Petrov was  persuaded to  defect when recalled to Moscow. Quickly followed by his wife, Evdokia, who was also an experienced intelligence officer, Petrov supplied valuable information about Soviet operations and tactics in Australia and provided a convenient pretext for the issue to be explored by a royal commission, which took the opportunity to exploit  VENONA material while attributing it to Petrov.
ASIO scored another significant success in February 1963 with the expulsion of a KGB officer, Ivan Skripov,  who had worked under diplomatic  cover and had been  cultivated by a British-born  agent provocateur, Kay Marshall. Information disclosed by Vasili Mitrokhin in 1992 revealed that ASIO had been  penetrated by a senior analyst who volunteered to sell ASIO’s secrets to the Soviets, but he was never  caught. Although he was identified long after his retirement, no admissible evidence was ever found to launch a prosecution.
The present ASIO director is Dennis Richardson, who replaced David Sadhleir in October 1999.