Spies and Sparrows: ASIO and the Cold War

The untold stories of espionage in Australia

In the wake of the Second World War and the realisation that the Soviet Union had set up extensive espionage networks around the world, Australia responded by establishing its own spy-hunting agency: ASIO. By the 1950s its counterespionage activities were increasingly supplemented by attempts at countersubversion – identifying individuals and organisations suspected of activities that threatened national security. In doing so, it crossed the boundary from being a professional agency that collected, evaluated and transmitted intelligence, to a sometimes politicised but always shadowy presence, monitoring not just communists but also peace activists, scientists, academics, journalists and writers. The human cost of ASIO’s monitoring of domestic dissenters is difficult to measure. It is only through recovering the hidden histories of personal damage inflicted by ASIO on both lawful protesters and, in some cases, its own agents, that the extent can be revealed. By interrogating the roles of eight individuals intimately involved in the conduct of the Cold War, and drawing on many years of research, Phillip Deery’s Spies and Sparrows: ASIO and the Cold War shines a powerful new light on the history of ASIO and raises important and enduring questions about the nature and impact of a state’s surveillance of its citizens.

PHILLIP DEERY is Emeritus Professor of History at Victoria University, Melbourne. He has written over one hundred publications in the fields of communism, espionage, the Cold War and the labour movement. Spies and Sparrows: ASIO and the Cold War is his seventh book. His previous books include Red Apple: Communism and McCarthyism in Cold War New York and The Age of McCarthyismA Brief History With Documents, Third Edition (with Ellen Schrecker).