ASIO : Persons of Interest : Interview with director Haydn Keenan

PERSONS OF INTEREST – Trailer from Smart Street Films on Vimeo.

Tonight on ‘The SUWA Show’ (5.30pm, 855AM, streaming at, Dr Cam & I have a chat with Haydn Keenan, the director of ‘Persons of Interest’, a new documentary about ASIO currently screening on SBS on Tuesdays at 8.30pm. (Episode 1 broadcast on January 7; episodes 2, 3 and 4 will be broadcast on January 14, 21 and 28.) It’s a really interesting attempt to document the development of the agency as told through the experiences of four ‘persons of interest’: Roger Milliss, Albert Langer Michael Hyde, Gary Foley and Frank Hardy.

As Haydn notes, ASIO has undergone a massive expansion in its size and ambitions since the period under examination (ASIO’s founding in 1949 through to the late 1960s and early 1970s). Also remarkable is an expansion in the size and number of private companies engaged in the monitoring of individuals and/or infiltration of groups with ‘subversive’ political agendas. In January 2012, Philip Dorling reported that the federal government had outsourced some of the former tasks to the National Open Source Intelligence Centre (Australia). In October 2008, Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie wrote that “The owners of Australia’s biggest uranium mines paid a former undercover Victoria Police officer to infiltrate environment and Aboriginal groups in Melbourne” (see also : Revealed: spying on Anarchists, October 3, 2006). In Aotearoa/New Zealand, Rob Gilchrist performed a similar role. Such activities are undoubtedly continuing and as the climate heats so too will political conflict and repression (see also : Anarchy ~versus~ State Terror, November 30, 2012). The legal landscape in Australia has also changed in significant ways, both in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the willingness of state governments to implement laws attacking basic civil rights.

I blame everything on refugees.

Of related interest : Democracy in the Age of Google, Facebook and WikiLeaks (John Keane).

ASIO is really interesting to this person too …

Persons of Interest is a three-part documentary on ASIO which commences screening on SBS on Tuesday, January 7 at 8.30pm. I haven’t seen it yet but Dr Cam and I interviewed filmmaker Haydn Keenan (and academic Victoria Stead about PNG and refugees) back in July for the SUWA Show — you can listen to that interview here (13:30). As Haydn points out, it’s less a history of ASIO than an account of its activities as told through the personal histories of four ‘persons of interest’: Gary Foley, Frank Hardy, Albert Langer (Arthur Dent) Michael Hyde and Roger Milliss. (Of related interest: East Timor institutes proceedings against Australia in relation to documents seized from office of Australian lawyer, December 24, 2103, re ASIO raid of December 3 on the office of Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery.)

See also : ASIO’s all-seeing eye, Rick Feneley, The Age, January 3, 2014 | Film buff David Stratton’s starring role on ASIO spy cam, The Age, January 4, 2013 | Persons of interest caught in ASIO’s net, The Australian, January 4, 2013.

Otherwise : Your rights with ASIO – advice for activists (Dale Mills) (May 16, 2013) | ASIO &/Or Anarchy (November 14, 2012) | Nicola Roxon, ASIO, and a growing number of links across some sort of groups who are anarchist, others who meld into some religious, sometimes… (April 17, 2012) | ASIO, fascism and anti-fascism (cont.) (on October 18, 2011) | ASIO, fascism and anti-fascism (October 12, 2011) | ASIO ~versus~ WikiLeaks : The WikiLeaks Amendment (July 7, 2011) | Three cheers and a loud huzzah for The WikiLeaks Amendment! (July 5, 2011) …

For a broader historical view, see Jenny Hocking, Beyond Terrorism (Allen & Unwin, 1993) and Frank Cain, The Origins of Political Surveillance in Australia (Angus & Robertson, 1993).

They’ll never know
They’ll never know

The WMDs aren’t in Bahgdad
They’re still under my bed
ASIO they’ll never know
Andrew Bolt runs a sleeper cell
And Costello used to be a woman
Claimed it all on Medicare
Johnny Howard is running JI
And I helped write The Flood Report that said


Why our intelligence agency would get it wrong
On such enormous scale
Legitimise a war for oil
And keep the ones they want in jail
But don’t try to fight it
No right to remain silent
Don’t speak your mind
Cause you’re not alone
They’ve bugged your house
And tapped your phone


How to silence thought
Keep opinions near
Fake security
Controlled by the fear of being jailed for shit
Then being told to deal with it
No rights, no calls, no lawyers
Can’t you see that things have changed?
Is this what it means to be free?


Mick Armstrong on Melbourne G20 protests, November 2006 [A Blast From The Past]

Yo Gabba Gabba wrote me to say he couldn’t find Socialist Alternative leader Mick Armstrong’s statement in response to a disturbance at an anti-G20 rally in Melbourne in November 2006. Given also the recent stoopid regarding the G20 meeting in Brisbane next year, I thought I may as well throw it up again here. There’s quite a few posts on the subject of the G20 elsewhere on the blog, especially in the aftermath of the Melbourne G20 protests and the police and media campaign against troublemakers which followed. It’s especially noteworthy that, over seven years later, The Age still publishes a series of photos given it by police of ‘Persons of Interest’ under the title ‘G20 riot suspects unmasked’ (Persons of Interest is also the title of a new documentary on ASIO which I’m yet to see).

Anyway, over to Mick:

Source: leftwrites blog.

See also : The left must take a stand against the elitist violence of the ‘Arterial
, SAlt, November 21, 2006 | G20 and ‘revolutionary Marxism’ [a collection of statements by local Marxists — Bob Gould, International Socialist Organisation, Socialist Action Group/Solidarity, Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative, Socialist Party — on the Melbourne G20 protests], November 21, 2006.

Anarchy ~versus~ State Terror

Back in May, five guys in Ohio who thought it would be a Good idea to blow up a bridge got arrested. The government said the plot “was meant to convey a message to the civilian population, the corporate world, the financial system, and all levels of government.” In reality, the Famous Five — Joshua S. Stafford, Anthony Hayne, Brandon L. Baxter, Connor Stevens, and Douglas L. Wright — were actually being set-up by an FBI agent who’d infiltrated their circles (apparently centred on the Occupy movement in Ohio). Now (November 20) the five are being sentenced for their stoopid. Connor Stevens’ Pop complained to the judge that his son had been entrapped. “My son is guilty,” James Stevens said, “and so is the government”, but in sentencing Connor to eight years’ jail and the government to none the judge obviously failed to agree.

Though a strategy with a long history, FBI infiltration and (especially) entrapment appears to becoming more commonplace in recent years (at least as far as this particular milieu is concerned) and seemingly as a result of both (er) difficulties associated with the search + destroy of animal rights and ecological industrial saboteurs and the opportunities provided by radical involvement in Occupy movements in the US.

And ’cause it’s what the state do.

In Melbourne the fact that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has recently expressed an interest in teh anarchy has provoked a good deal of disco among local anarks, some serious, some slightly silly. In terms of state shenanigans, probably the most immediately relevant case* is that of Operation 8 in Aotearoa/New Zealand, in which a number of anarchists and indigenous radicals were targeted as part of a state conspiracy to construct a terrorist organisation and to destroy radical activist networks. Well, Operation 8 and the monkey business insurrectionary anarchists on various islands are undertaking…

Some relevant texts made in response to the reportage re ASIO include:

Rebecca Winter’s response to today’s Fairfax article, Anarchistaffinitymelbourne, November 13, 2012;
Press Statement, Melbourne Anarchist Club, November 15, 2012;
An open letter to anarchists (and others) in Melbourne (and other places) who feel under attention from the state; or, “Please Don’t Talk To The Cops”, goldenbarleyschool, November 17, 2012;
Melbourne: Solidarity with grand jury resisters and response to coffee with ASIO, disaccords, November 17, 2012.

The last time I can recall a hullabaloo over similarly spooky goings-on was back in 2007 when another student was approached and invited to spy on activists in Sydney (see Tricksy ASIO wants the nasssty anarchisssts, June 26, 2007). Oddly, the APEC summit which ASIO was one of several agencies responsible for ensuring went smoothly witnessed the first time extreme right-wing activists posing as anarchists went public; the same, slightly smaller mob were at it again last weekend (Saturday, November 24), this time disrupting a ‘pro-Palestinian’ rally (but more on that later).

On November 16 a rally in solidarity with anarchists imprisoned in the US for refusing to cooperate with a Grand Jury took place outside the US consulate on St Kilda Rd. I estimate that somewhere between 50–70 people took part during the course of the afternoon (AA reckons 40–50), and the photographer from the Australian Federal Police (?) obtained a good number of images to add to their files.

In terms of active infiltration, ‘Operation 8’ apparently relied in part on infos provided by a Kiwi fella by the name of Rob Gilchrist; in the UK, police employed Mark Kennedy. (Most recently, Mark has been identified as responsible for infos which brought about French state prosecution of the Tarnac 9.) The massive expansion in mineral resource exploitation, especially coal and uranium, will undoubtedly bring with it a proportional increase in state repression and corporate surveillance and infiltration. Of note in this context is the curious case of Mehmet Ersoy, exposed several years ago in the pages of The Age and, of course, working class stalwart Nicola Roxon’s publicly-expressed fears of Bad people subverting campaigns against the coal and gas industries.

For an historical account of anarchist terror, state violence and public hysteria see The International Campaign Against Anarchist Terrorism, 1880-1930s (Richard Bach Jensen), December 31, 2009.

*Note that ASIO is engaged in some very tricksy business inre refugees, part of a much wider panoply of state powers employed to keep keeping the subhuman tide at bay — to popular applause.