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Australian intelligence chief Mike Burgess: "The A-Team should know that their cover has been blown"


Mick Tsikas/AAP/IMAGO

The Australian domestic secret service Asio has warned of “espionage by a foreign power” in the country.

During the annual threat analysis, head of the authority Mike Burgess made allegations against, among other things, a former Australian politician.

He "betrayed his country, his party and his former colleagues" after being recruited by spies from a foreign regime.

According to reports from the Reuters news agency and the Guardian, Burgess did not mention the name of the politician or the country allegedly spying.

Instead, he spoke of the “A-Team” – which stands for the “Australia team” of a foreign secret service.

They were confronted with the spy network last year and have now decided to make their knowledge about it public.

"The A-Team should know that his cover has been blown."

Burgess outlined the approach of the “A-Team” as follows: Its members would search career networks for contacts of Australians who had access to privileged information.

These could include academics, politicians, business people, researchers, law enforcement officers and officials at all levels of government.

The agents disguised themselves as researchers or consultants, for example.

"Most commonly, they offer their targets advice and promise to pay thousands of dollars for reports on Australian trade, politics, economics, foreign policy, defense and security," Burgess continued.

The A-Team offered money to employees of the Australian defense industry in return for reports on the Aukus military alliance, submarine technology, missile systems and many other sensitive topics.

Not all of those recruited were aware that they were working for a secret service.

"We helped the ignorant to free themselves and cut the connections between the others and the foreign secret service."

The network recruited a former Australian politician several years ago.

"This politician sold out his country, his party and his former colleagues to advance the interests of the foreign regime." He even tried to drive a family member of the prime minister into the arms of the spies - but this attempt failed.

Burgess had a reason for not naming the country in question: numerous countries were engaging in espionage and he wanted Australians to pay attention to warning signs, regardless of the possible source.

Recently, the rivalries between Australia and China have become increasingly intense.

After the Aukus military alliance was founded by Australia, the USA and Great Britain in 2021, it announced last year that Canberra would have nuclear-powered submarines in the future.

This would strengthen the military deterrence of countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

Beijing then accused the three countries of taking a “wrong and dangerous path.”