The country’s chief spymaster has delivered a series of ominous warnings about a traitorous politician who “sold out Australia”.
ASIO CEO Mike Burgess gave an interview to 60 Minutes to discuss the results of its annual threat assessment.
Burgess revealed that there was at least one nation state that was laying the groundwork to potentially sabotage Australia’s key infrastructure in the future.
He said the “A-team” – a team operating within a “particular foreign intelligence service” – had become one of the agency’s biggest threats.
It was also revealed that a former politician had been “successfully cultivated and recruited” by the A-team and that they were knowingly helping them.
Burgess said the A-team scours professional networking sites for Australians with access to high-level security, defense and risk information.
ASIO chief Mike Burgess (pictured) has shot down a former politician who is said to have betrayed Australia while working for a “particular foreign intelligence service”.
On Wednesday, Burgess revealed the traitor politician “sold out” the country during his annual threat assessment speech in the Australian Parliament (pictured).
In an explosive interview with 60 Minutes to air on Sunday, Burgess spoke about the former politician who had been recruited by the A-team.
‘They’ll know who I’m talking about. I have no doubt they knew what they were doing. “They absolutely let their country down,” the spy chief enthused.
Burgess added that malicious countries attacking Australian intelligence “is a threat to our way of life”.
‘(The situation) is unprecedented in the history of humanity. Foreign interference against the political system occurs at all levels of government and targets all parties in this country.’
On Wednesday, Burgess said that while a terrorist attack was “possible,” the risk of espionage and foreign interference was “certain.”
‘The threat is real. The threat is now. And the threat is deeper and broader than you might think,” he said.
He said the A-team used “fake English characters,” posing as consultants, headhunters, civil servants, academics and researchers from fictitious companies to get close to targets.
Speaking of the former politician who had worked with the A-team, Burgess said they had ““They sold their country, their party and their former colleagues to promote the interests of the foreign regime.”
“At one point, the former politician even proposed including a relative of the prime minister in the spy orbit,” he said.
“Fortunately, that plot did not come to fruition, but other plans did.”
Burgess did not make clear who the former politician was, or whether he had unknowingly committed himself to the A team or had done so deliberately.
In an explosive interview with 60 Minutes, Burgess revealed that rogue countries were targeting Australian intelligence, but did not reveal which countries specifically.
Burgess shared on Wednesday what was carried out by the ‘A-team,’ a team that operates within a ‘particular foreign intelligence service.’
In another scheme, prominent Australian political and academic figures traveled overseas to attend an all-expenses-paid conference attended by a large number of A-team spies.
The members of the A-team pretended to be bureaucrats, who established relationships with the Australians and “aggressively attacked them.”
“A few weeks after the conference concluded, one of the academics began providing the A-team with information about Australia’s defense and national security priorities,” Mr Burgess said.
‘Another Australian, an aspiring politician, provided information on his party’s factional dynamics, an analysis of a recent election and the names of up-and-comers, presumably so the A-team could target them too.
‘ASIO thwarted this plan and confronted the Australians involved. While some didn’t know it, others knew they were working for a foreign intelligence service.’
Burgess said ASIO had helped extract those who were not in the know, cut ties between the others and foreign actors, adding: “A number of people should be grateful that the espionage and foreign interference laws are not retrospective.”
Burgess said ASIO took on the A team directly online last year.
‘The spy was being spied on. The player was being played,’ he claimed.
He said many Australians were overlooking the warning signs or making the A team’s job “too easy”.
‘On one professional networking site alone, there are 14,000 Australians publicly boasting about having a security clearance or working in the intelligence community. “Some even present themselves as intelligence agents, even though they show that they are not particularly good,” he stated.
“I understand that people need to promote themselves, but please be smart and discreet; don’t make yourself an easy target.”
Burgess said the A-team was Australia’s most significant security threat.
Burgess also issued a chilling warning that he feared sabotage – major security concerns in the 1950s – could re-emerge, particularly in relation to critical infrastructure.
“There are not many things that terrorists and spies have in common, but sabotage is one of them,” he said.
“ASIO is seeing both cohorts talking about sabotage, investigating sabotage, sometimes carrying out reconnaissance for sabotage, but, I stress, they are not planning to carry out sabotage at this time.”
He said ASIO was aware that a nation state was making “multiple attempts to scan critical infrastructure” in Australia and elsewhere, targeting water, power and energy transport networks.
Describing reconnaissance as “highly sophisticated” and a means of mapping networks and testing digital locks, Burgess said there was a possibility the nation could carry out sabotage in the future.
Citing the impact on Australia of last year’s Optus network outage, unrelated to the sabotage, Mr Burgess questioned what it would mean for the country if a foreign state “knocked out all networks or cut power during a wave of heat”.
“I assure you that these are not hypotheses,” he said.
“Foreign governments have frontline cyber teams investigating these possibilities at this time, although they are only likely to materialize during or near conflict.”