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Subject: Spy agency ASIS run down: Alexander Downer
Volkodav    9/13/2008 8:09:37 AM
John Lyons | September 09, 2008 THE nation's overseas spy agency was so run down under the previous Labor government, according to former foreign minister Alexander Downer, that Australia was not aware of "any" of the emerging problems in the region. In a remarkably rare and candid analysis of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Mr Downer claimed cutbacks began in the mid-1980s after a bungled training exercise triggered a "massive over-reaction". "I think it was a major mistake to wind back ASIS," Mr Downer told The Australian. Asked the effect of under-resourcing, he said: "The effect was not knowing enough about any of the problems of the region." The nation's longest-serving foreign minister said Australian intelligence did not give "the weight or the seriousness" it should have to the rise in Indonesia of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah, which was responsible for the Bali bombings that killed 88 Australians in 2002. Mr Downer said the Hawke government came down hard on ASIS after a botched training operation at the Sheraton Hotel in Melbourne in November 1983 - in which junior officers involved in a mock hostage scenario distressed hotel staff and guests. "When ASIS bungled that operation ... the response of the Australian government was effectively to crack down on ASIS," Mr Downer said. "There was a massive over-reaction to it. "With the end of the Cold War, there was a sense that we didn't in any case need to put so much effort into intelligence any more. "So by the time I became the minister (in 1996) - nobody's ever said this before because it's not a thing that some people talk about - I think ASIS had been substantially run down. "It was too small, I mean proportional to, say, UK SIS-MI6. "Britain is three times the size of Australia, (but) ASIS would have been about a tenth the size of UK SIS. "So ASIS became a very small operation with a very narrow remit. "It's not that the intelligence people, the people who were there, failed, but it's that they simply didn't have the resources and it's been very important to invest heavily in intelligence." But last night the foreign minister in charge of ASIS at the time of the Sheraton raid, Bill Hayden, disputed as "nonsense" Mr Downer's comments, saying ASIS - based in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra - had received a "substantial increase" when he was minister. Mr Hayden described the Sheraton raid as "a monumental stuff-up," saying the ASIS officers involved "were lucky they weren't machine-gunned by Victorian police because they ran into the armed robbery squad (during the exercise)". But Mr Hayden said that two years after the Sheraton raid, he arranged a meeting between then prime minister Bob Hawke and then ASIS chief Brigadier Jim Furner, which resulted in more funding. "Jim (Furner) turned up with diagrams and maps and God knows what," Mr Hayden said. "We got a substantial increase (in budget) and that was the beginning of ASIS's real pick-up." The agency, Australia's equivalent
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pti       9/15/2008 10:36:58 PM
Can some one explain exactly what was the "Sheraton raid"?
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Volkodav    wikipedia has its uses   9/16/2008 6:03:43 AM

Can some one explain exactly what was the "Sheraton raid"?

[edit] The Sheraton Hotel incident

On November 30, 1983, ASIS garnered unwanted negative attention when a training operation held at the Sheraton Hotel, now the Mercure (Spring Street), in Melbourne went disastrously wrong. The exercise was to be a mock surveillance and hostage rescue of foreign intelligence officers. It involved junior officers who had undergone 3 weeks prior training and who were given considerable leeway in planning and executing the operation. Ultimately, in executing the operation, the trainees were found to have used considerable force, distressed a number of the staff and guests and physically assaulting the Hotel Manager.[citation needed]

Within 2 days the Minister for Foreign Affairs announced that 'an immediate and full investigation' would be conducted under the auspices of the second Hope Royal Commission, which was still in progress. A report was prepared and tabled by February 1984. It described the exercise as being 'poorly planned, poorly supervised and poorly run'[20] and recommended that measures be taken in training to improve planning and eliminate adverse impacts on the public.

Following the incident, The Sunday Age disclosed the names, or the assumed names, of five of the officers involved. The journalist noted that 'according to legal advice taken by The Sunday Age there is no provision that prevents the naming of an ASIS agent'.[21] While not included within the public version of the report, the Hope Royal Commission did prepare an appendix which would appear to have dealt with the possible security and foreign relations consequences of disclosure of participants names by The Sunday Age. Subsequently, in A v Hayden, the High Court held that the Commonwealth owed no enforceable duty to ASIS officers to maintain confidentiality of their names or activities.[22]

At the time of the Sheraton Hotel incident, the extant Ministerial Directive permitted ASIS to undertake 'covert action', including 'special operations' which, roughly described, comprised 'unorthodox, possibly para-military activity, designed to be used in case of war or some other crisis'.[23] Following the incident and the recommendations of the Hope Royal Commission, the covert action function was apparently abolished. The Functions of ASIS can be found in section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act, as can those functions which are proscribed by the act. [24]

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