Australia warns of far-right, espionage threats

Canberra: Threat from the far right was real and growing in Australia, which also faces the danger of unprecedented foreign espionage and interference, a top intelligence official said here.

During this annual threat assessment here on Monday night, the head of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization (ASIO), Mike Burgess said that in addition to the danger posed to the country by Islamic extremism, was the threat of violence by neo-Nazi and supremacist groups, reports Efe news.

Burgess said that while far-right organisations had been under the ASIO’s radar for some time, the threat they posed came into focus after the white supremacist attack on two mosques by an Australian in March 2018 in New Zealand, which left 51 people dead.

“In Australia, the extreme right wing threat is real and it is growing. In suburbs around Australia, small cells regularly meet to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train in combat and share their hateful ideology,” he said.

“These groups are more organised and security conscious than they were in previous years.”

The intelligency chief said that these extremists use online forums to connect with like-minded individuals around the world and added that the ASIO expected “such groups will remain an enduring threat, making more use of online propaganda to spread their messages of hate”.

In his address, Burgess also warned of the danger of foreign espionage in Australia, which has already taken various legal and preventive measures against foreign interference and attacks on its computer systems, suspected to be coming from China.

Burgess mentioned the case of a “sleeper” agent sent by foreign intelligence services to Australia, who he said, remained “dormant for many years, quietly building community and business links, all the while secretly maintaining contact with his offshore handlers”.

The agent then started providing information about Australia-based expatriate dissidents, which led to harassment of the dissidents and their relatives overseas.

He also provided on-the-ground logistical support for spies who travelled to Australia to conduct intelligence activities, Burgess added.