Australia faces ‘unprecedented challenge’ against espionage: spy chief

Sydney, Australia, Feb 22 (EFE).- Australia is facing an “unprecedented challenge” from espionage and foreign interference, its intelligence service said Wednesday.

Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) director general Mike Burgess said in a speech Tuesday night that “multiple nations” and “sophisticated foreign adversaries” are behind these activities.

“More Australians are being targeted for espionage and foreign interference than at any time in Australia’s history – more hostile foreign intelligence services, more spies, more targeting, more harm, more ASIO investigations, more ASIO disruptions,” Burgess said, adding that veterans, defense contractors, academics, judicial figures and journalists are some of the targets.

In the past year, ASIO “detected and disrupted a major spy network” and identified “multiple spies from multiple countries developing and trying to leverage relationships with government officials, bank workers, doctors, police employees and other professions to obtain the personal details of perceived dissidents,” he added.

The spy chief also claimed that ASIO thwarted attempts by the intelligence services of two countries, which he did not identify, to physically harm Australian residents who were critical of their foreign regimes.

Last week, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil publicly accused Iran of spying on a dual Iranian-Australian citizen living in the Oceanian country who had joined protests against the Tehran regime.

In recent years, the Australian government has passed several laws to block alleged foreign interference in the country’s politics and economy, and accused China of being behind computer attacks against universities and government entities, and suspected it of financing some politicians.

Since coming to power in May 2022, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has sought to draw closer to Beijing, the country’s main trading partner, and iron out the tension between the two nations, while Canberra seeks to maintain its influence among Pacific island nations, historical allies of the country, as Beijing seeks expansion in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.

With the aim of countering the influence of China, Australia signed the AUKUS defense pact together with the United States and the United Kingdom in September 2021, which includes nuclear-powered submarines for Canberra. EFE


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