Legacy of Ashes author Tim Weiner has a new book out: Enemies: A History of the FBI (New York: Penguin USA, 2012). Weiner’s research fits a critical tradition of intelligence studies, and also the ‘journalists as investigators’ model that Barry Saunders and I wrote about in a 2009 conference paper. For me, the academic challenge is: when do I get the time to immerse myself in Weiner’s reportage?
During a 2006 Monash postgraduate class on intelligence analysis our adviser made several observations on how the Australian Security Intelligence Agency (ASIO) is misrepresented and misunderstood. The ‘S’ stood for domestic security not secrecy. ASIO had an accountability and audit regime at multiple levels: legislative limits, the Treasury budget process, appeals processes, external audits and supply contract review, and reporting to the public and to bipartisan government committees. Australia’s intelligence resources were mo stly deployed in military agencies for signals intelligence. Finally, media coverage of ASIO rarely evolves to the sophistication seen in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Bernard Keane’s Crikey article ‘The Answer is ASIO‘ (24th February 2010) risks continuing this trend in media coverage of intelligence issues. I want to illustrate below how Keane’s own arguments can be interpreted as having their own “deeply-flawed logic” in his accusations of Labor’s “security propaganda.”