Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Coup in Australia and the CIA

Many Australians, predominantly of the baby boomer generation, believe that a US-backed coup occurred in Australia on the 11th of November 1975. Thirty years after the downfall of the Whitlam Government, archival work established "the ready complicity of the Australian press and a role for the US National Security Council in Whitlam's demise" according to Associate Professor Stephen Stockwell from Griffith University in Queensland.
The Whitlam Government was the first Labor (and Social Democratic) government to be in power in Australia for 23 long years. There has not been a Social Democratic government here since. It was elected by the Australian people on 2nd December 1972 and again on 18th May 1974. But it was dismissed by the Governor General, Sir John Kerr, on 11th November 1975; one day after ASIO (Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation) received a a cable from the CIA's Theodore Shackley "which was a virtual ultimatum to the head of ASIO to do something about the Whitlam Government."
This document reached its target a month or so after George Bush Senior became Director of the CIA.


Anonymous said...

What a load of crap by implication.

In 1975 the Labor (Social Democrat) government controlled The House of Representatives while the Liberals (Conservative) controlled the senate. The conservatives wanted to force and election because politically the Labor party was on the nose. Essentially there was a standoff between the two parties and the business of government was going to stop. Our constitution provided for the Governor General to dissolve parliament and essentially call an election to settle the manner.

The sequence of events were as follows.
1) The Government of the day was dismissed by the Governor General.
2) A caretaker government was instituted which did not introduce any new policies.
3) A general election was then held which resulted in which the Labor party was thoroughly rejected by the Australian people.

Everything that happened was completely constitutional. The problem however is that Left in Australia cannot accept the fact that their policies at the time were repulsive to the Australian community:there must have been some plot.

The CIA did not like the Australian Labor party because its Attorney General had authorised the raiding of ASIO, equivalent to the justice department raiding the CIA. They were fearful that our Attorney General at the time would compromise secrets that Australia was privy to through its agreements with the U.S.

The fantasy of a CIA coup is something the paranoid minds of the Left keep entertaining. The very thought that the Australian "workers" found the Chairman Whitlam's policies repulsive are too painful for them to accept: there must have been a plot.

Slumlord. said...

Interesting opening post, to which I shall add.

Well, based on what I know of this, Brenda's account misses some of what was really going on, but your account is also a bit pollyannaish. The irony is that while there was very probably US involvement in the peculiar (if "perfectly constitutional") conduct of Governor General Kerr, it was at a much higher and more serious and more classified level than the CIA, who were almost certainly at most a sideshow.

So, some additional tidbits.

1) First we need to start with what is probably not known by most US readers: Australia is still a monarchy whose Head of State is the Queene of the United Kingdom, her Royal Majesty, Elizabeth II. Her representative is the Governor General, who therefore has the power, on her orders, to dissolve governments, which Kerr did, perfectly constitutionally. There was a move in 1990s to change this and make Australia a republic, with this mid-70s incident over Pine Gap in the background, but it failed by what I remember was prettty narrow vote. OZ is still a subject of Her Royal Majesty.

2) Therefore, the order to dissolve the Australian government ultimately involved the British government giving it, in the name of the queen, of course. It did so (even though it was a Labour government at the time) largely on the urging of Henry Kissinger, who carried over from Nixon to Ford as Secretary of State, and has been identified as the main heavy in this particular drama. He was mentioned in the first of Brenda's links, but sort of got lost in the shuffle with all the mumbling about the much less powerful Jack Marsh. This was Kissinger acting with President Ford's approval to make a demand on the British government.

3) The basis of this is as Slumlord realizes, an agreement with the US, but not just any agreement. It is an agreement made in 1845 between the English speaking powers: US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. I forget its name. It dealt with cooperation in deeply secret signals intelligence and decrypting. The key body today in the US for this is the NSA, mentioned in some materials cited by Brenda, which is much larger and much more secret than the CIA. Its British equivalent is GCHQ. In 1945 NSA did not yet exist, but its predecessor, Army Signal Agency, was the relevant one for the US.
BTW, French leader de Gaulle knew of this agreement and greatly resented it. It has served as the basis of British cooperation in NSA spying in Europe in more recent decades, which has been resented by more than just de Gaulle.

4) And the focus was the Pine Gap facility, which was a major NSA listening post (and I suppose still is), which Whitlam was perceived as threatening the security of. So, that was it. Kissinger went to the Brits, invoked the 1945 agreement about signal intelligence, and got them to order Kerr to dissolve the Australian government, which he was perfectly able to do legally and constitutionally, as Slumlord notes. No need for the CIA to be involved at all, and it was a minor player in this affair anyway, small potatoes.

Sorry I do not have any links for all this. Read about it years ago and had it verified by friends when I visited Australia in the past, or at least their end of it and the link to the republican movement in OZ, which ulitmately failed (not ready to give up that link with Olde Mother England, that lot of pommies and all).

Barkley said...

The agreement was in 1945, but I am not sure if it was before or after the various surrenders that year.

Barkley said...

I just did some googling, and unusrprisingly this stuff does not come up much. But the agreement was originally between US and UK in 1943 with the others added on informally during the war. The more formal agreement was later, 1947, with some special amendments between the US and UK in 1948 that allowed for the Echelon spying on Europe by the relevant US agencies. said...

Well, having shot off my mouth here with some fairly hairy stuff, I have done some further googling, and some both backing off but further speculation is in order.

I have not been able to find the original source for this story, which I think was in some alternative press location. But some pieces of it are backed up by credible sources; others I am less sure of.

So, the one I am the most backing off from is any involvement of the UK government. While Governor General Kerr did what he did under the official authority of the Queen, he may well have acted on his own with at most some minimal informing of Her Majesty's Government in London. They probably played at most a very passive role, if any at all. Kerr seems to have been quite headstrong, conservative, and Slumlord is correct that these other elements of governmental deadlock and so forth were going on.

Also, it would appear that the CIA had some involvement, at least with Pine Gap, although that does not mean it was involved particularly in Kerr's actions. Again, the key player was Kissinger, who had been National Security Adviser under Nixon before becoming Secretary of State and achieving enormous power under President Ford. Most likely there was simply direct communication between Kissinger and Kerr, with nobody else, CIA or Brits, needing to be involved, although perhaps the CIA played some kind of messenger boy role.

So, two further points. One is that the commander of Pine Gap, Richard Stallings was CIA. But the reason for that was more of a surface cover. Pine Gap was not just NSA but also the even more secret NRO, the former handling signal intercepts and decryption while the latter handles the spy satellites themselves. Pine Gap was, and almost certainly still is, one of a handful of absolutely crucial joint NSA-NRO facilities on the planet, essentially the one anchoring the global communications and sigint setup for that entire section of the globe, a pretty substantial chunk of it. The source for this is James Bamford's authoritative The Puzzle Palace. In such a case having a CIA person nominally in charge makes sense. In 1976 the very existence of both the NSA and NRO was classified. The CIA was virtually a wide-open organization by comparison.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind the timing, not long after the final collapse of the US-backed government in Vietnam, a bitter blow for Kissinger in particular. Now, Vietnam was not a center of any major such facilities, too unreliable, but it probably had some support facilities and its loss raised the threat of other losses, especially if Whitlam was perceived as putting limits on Pine Gap, which he was. The US had an NSA facility in Xinjiang to listen to the Soviets, but it did not come close to covering the functions carried out at Pine Gap, and even if it did could not cover all this south of the Equator areas. Pine Gap was perceived as being absolutely crucial, and with the final fall of Vietnam and the Soviets having surrogates coming to power in Angola and Mozambique, there was a major freakout in Washington going on at that time. Kerr may have acted mostly on his own, but there is little doubt that he was given some very strong support and push from Kissinger, if not the UK government in dissolving the Whitlam government.

Brenda Rosser said...

Thanks for this interesting information. I'm staying in Launceston (Tasmania) at present. Will read over this carefully when I get home and respond later in the week.
Thanks again.
Brenda said...

Some more fine points after some further googling. So, the agreement is called the UKUSA agreement, and the countries involved are the "UKUSA Community." For the first decade Australia represented New Zealand as the kiwis did not have their own signals intel agency. In Canada it is the CSE, in Australia it is the DSD (Defence Signals Directorate), and now in NZ it is the GCSB. Apparently it is just these five that run the global Echelon listening system, and interestingly it was the Australian DSD chief in 1999, Martin Brady, who was the first in the world to admit that such an entity existed and that Australia was part of it.

There is a set of "third party" countries that have participated partially in the system, obvious frontline countries in the Cold War: Germany, Japan, South Korea, Norway, and Turkey. Also, China did host some facilities for awhile. But the Anglophone 5 are the core.

Oh yes, the ultimate beginning of this goes back to the 1941 meeting between FDR and Churchill in the Atlantic, which established basic ground rules for intel sharing. This would also lead to the original establishment of the OSS under British influence, which would later become the CIA.

The ASIO in Australia is more equivalent to UK's MI5 and the US CIA and FBI. It is not the main entity involved in this UKUSA business, that being the DSD.


Brenda Rosser said...

Slumlord, your post is very misleading.

Whilst it is true that the Liberals controlled the Senate in 1975 this was achieved only with the unprecedented breaking of parliamentary and democratic convention. The NSW and Queensland Governments each filled a Labor Senate vacancy with a non-labour person. This gave the Liberal 'conservatives' the power to block supply.

In 1977 the Australian people voted in the affirmative in a Constitutional referendum to change this serious flaw - the 'Senate Casual Vacancy' provisions. Clearly they did not want such dirty tactics employed by a Federal opposition party.

It was certainly true that the Labor Government was 'on the nose' in the electorate. However, that was thanks to the incredibly powerful and concentrated Australian media and its unethical tactics. Incessant flak and careful filtering of news. I distinctly remember the Murdoch and Fairfax campaign. Blaming the Whitlam government over and over for the inflation. When most of it was actually created by the spike in world oil prices at the time.

The former Deputy Prime Minister (Jim Cairns) in the Whitlam Government doesn't beat around the bush when he writes about the actions of the Melbourne Age newspaper and other major papers at the time. ('Oil in Troubled Waters', 1976). He says that lies were published and that the so-called 'loans affair' was an incredible beatup of simple efforts of the Australian government to access a cheaper source of funding for valuable infrastructure projects. Fair enough. No crime was committed. Quoting Bill Hayden:
" It is acknowledged that the actions of the Minister for Minerals and Energy [Rex Connor] and of other Ministers in these matters were not orthodox in the sense that they did not turn to the old established finance houses of the rich industrial countries. But those very institutions are prepared to search out the new sources of funds, so why is it wrong for Australia to do so?...It is my belief that a great deal of surprise which is apparent in the community on these matters springs from the unorthodox, the unconventional. I remind the House that France, England, Japan, Italy and Denmark have already trodden that so-called unorthodox, unconventional path."

The sequence of events you've presented is also misleading. To prevent an honest chronology it must surely incorporate the meeting of the Governor General, Sir John Kerr, with Rupert Murdoch on 17th November 1974. They talk about the probability of a refusal of supply by the Senate. In Whitlam's book entitled 'The truth of the Matter' Whitlam states how strange this conversation is. After all Whitlam asks a few questions in relation to this event. Why is the Governor General being so intimate with Murdoch? He never did talk about those concerns with anyone in the Whitlam government. Nor is it appropriate for a Governor General to be talking about such matters with Murdoch or such others in the first instance. Why does Kerr raise the issue when the Senate had just 3 days prior approved supply for the following 6 months? Why even consider a Senate, sometime in the future, blocking supply when the at that time the Labor Govenrment had the numbers in that chamber? It suggests that they both knew of a scheme by the 'conservative' state governments to change this situation.

Brenda Rosser said...

Thanks for this helpful list of new acronyms, Barkley. You said: "There was a move in 1990s to change this and make Australia a republic, with this mid-70s incident over Pine Gap in the background, but it failed by what I remember was prettty narrow vote."

The referendum was held in 1999. It was a terrible scam that cost Australians $300 million.

"A “no” vote will continue an hereditary British-based monarchy with its ancient and unspecified “reserve powers” held in the hands of a Governor-General who is appointed purely by the Prime Minister of the day. A “yes” vote will simply transfer the potentially dictatorial powers of the Crown—including the right to dismiss governments and dissolve parliaments—to an unelected President...

I could say much more about the Howard Government but fear that my language may deteriorate and become unhelpful.

About Kissinger. I note that he was an adviser to the US National Security Council just as that Council began to look at Australia purely as a geostrategic asset.

[Ironically, in that same year US President Eisenhower said: "we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together..."

And, another quote, for good measure:

"I never had any thought . . . when I set up the CIA, that it would be injected into peacetime cloak-and-dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment that I think we have experienced are in a part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role . . .

I will simply note that quick googling of "Pine Gap" shows Kissinger communicating very unhappily with the Whitlam government. I also note that Kerr was at the latest Bilderberg conference, 2008, which was chaired by Kissinger, for those who take their conspiracy theories seriously.