by Philip Dorling
The news that Australia’s electronic spy agency, the Defence Signals Directorate, has targeted Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s mobile phone won’t come as a surprise to the many hundreds, indeed thousands, of Australian intelligence officers, diplomats, bureaucrats and politicians who are well aware of the extent of our espionage against our neighbours.
Why do we do it? Behind all the declarations of friendship and good neighbourliness by successive Australian governments, Canberra just doesn’t trust Jakarta. We work closely with Indonesia, including in the fields of security and intelligence, but we don’t trust them. We never have, and probably never will.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono address the media during a joint press conference at Istana Merdeka, in Jakarta in September.
We find Indonesia’s political system opaque, riddled with corruption and prone to nationalist outbursts. We don’t regard Indonesia as a true friend (certainly not in the way, for example, we view New Zealand or our other “Five Eyes” partners) and we don’t rule out the possibility that some day, perhaps in the distant future, it may be a threat.
Our industrial-scale spying probably says a lot about Australia’s deep-seated sense of separateness from Asia, and our continuing closeness to our English-speaking partners – Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s beloved “Anglosphere”.
After all, more people read Australian intelligence reports in the United States and elsewhere in the “Five Eyes” intelligence community than in Australia.
These latest revelations of Australian espionage activity will no doubt cause some further diplomatic difficulty, but that will probably pass before too long.
It may not be cricket as Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa recently complained, but then we don’t play cricket with Indonesia.
Instead, we’ve spied on Jakarta for a very long time. Australia’s embassy in Jakarta was the location of the first overseas station of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, established in 1954, and ASIS has always made Indonesia its top priority.
The unpublished diaries of one of Australia’s early ambassador’s to Indonesia, Sir Walter Crocker, also show the Defence Signals Directorate was routinely breaking Indonesia’s diplomatic cyphers from the mid-1950s onward.
In the 1960s, GCHQ helped Defence Signals crack the Swedish manufactured Hagelin cypher machines used by the Indonesian embassy in Canberra.
In the 1970s, the Defence Signals radio facility at Shoal Bay outside Darwin monitored Indonesian military communications and provided ample warning of Indonesia’s intentions to invade East Timor.
In 1999, leaks of top secret Defence Intelligence reports on Indonesia and East Timor showed Australian intelligence still had extensive access to Indonesian military and civilian communications. The burning of East Timor’s capital Dili by the Indonesian military and militias in September 1999 came as no surprise to Australian intelligence.
Every Australian prime minister since Robert Menzies has been thoroughly briefed on the extent of the Defence Signals Directorate’s continuous penetration of Indonesian diplomatic, military and increasingly civilian communications.
A key to prime minister Paul Keating’s diplomatic embrace of president Suharto was his direct knowledge of Suharto’s thinking on regional diplomacy and relations with Australia.
Indeed, Keating was able to consolidate his amicable relationship with the dictator by sharing with him what Australian intelligence had learnt about the Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. (ASIS had apparently successfully bugged the Malaysian cabinet room.)
It is now clear that the Defence Signals Directorate has more recently provided Australian intelligence analysts and policy makers with an intimate picture of Yudhoyono’s political and personal relationships.
These intercept operations, part of a wider “Five Eyes” program codenamed “STATEROOM” appear to be conducted from a secret facility located at Australia’s embassy in Indonesia’s capital.
These intelligence operations have reportedly contributed to the collection of information relating to terrorist threats, but, as one former Australian intelligence officer recently told Fairfax Media, “the main focus is political, diplomatic and economic intelligence”.
“The huge growth of mobile phone networks has been a great boon and Jakarta’s political elite are a loquacious bunch. Even when they think their own intelligence services are listening, they just keep talking,” he said.
The latest revelations will cause further diplomatic embarrassment, but Australia isn’t going to stop spying.
Sumber: Sydney Morning Herald 19/11/13