“The A-Team”: Foreign Spies Target Australia

In Australia, the threat of espionage and foreign interference has escalated to unprecedented levels, warns Mike Burgess, the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). He expressed his concern that an increasing number of Australians are becoming targets for such threats.

Burgess emphasized that the danger is real and far more extensive than it may initially appear. He disclosed, “There is a particular team in a particular foreign intelligence service with a particular focus on Australia – we are its priority target. Many of the people here tonight are almost certainly high value targets.

We call them ‘the A-team’ – the Australia team.

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Burgess revealed that this group has in the past successfully recruited a former Australian politician who betrayed the interests of his country, party, and colleagues by promoting the agenda of a foreign regime.

Furthermore, Burgess shared instances where leading Australian academics and political figures were invited to paid conferences abroad, which turned out to be mere facades for recruitment by foreign spies. In some instances, agents overtly inquired about participants’ access to governmental documents.

Burgess voiced concerns about threats emanating from cyberspace, highlighting the activities of a foreign state engaged in spying on Australia’s critical infrastructure, including water supply, transport, and energy networks.

The head of Australian intelligence urged both government employees and ordinary citizens to cultivate a culture of security, underscoring the importance of the country’s population collaborating with law enforcement agencies to ensure national security.

While Burgess did not directly name the state posing the threat, his description suggests China, with the “A-team” likely referring to the hacker group Volt Typhoon, which has caused considerable alarm in recent months.

This group has been a source of concern at the highest levels of government over the past year. Burgess stressed that the primary goal of such actions is not espionage per se but rather to gain undetected access that could be used for sabotage in the future.

Burgess called on Australians to take security matters more seriously and to report any suspicious contacts, emphasizing that countering this threat requires a collective effort from the entire nation.