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A regrettable necessity: the future of Australian covert action

Intelligence organisations National security Australia

In this occasional paper, Dr William A. Stoltz deeply analyses the most unexamined component of Australia’s international statecraft - covert action. Such activity by intelligence agencies has become an increased focus of academic research internationally, and Dr Stoltz’s paper introduces an Australian perspective to the debate, in this the 70th anniversary year of the establishment of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

The paper provides a resource to understand Australia’s approach to covert action historically, how it needs to change, and what policy measures could achieve this evolution. It comprises three parts:

  • Part One leverages recently declassified material to provide the most comprehensive explanation of Australia’s approach to covert action yet published. It also outlines the strengths and limitations of covert action as a tool of Australian power, with insights from recent British and American scholarship.
  • Part Two reflects on Australia’s approach to covert action in light of the great power competition defining Australia’s future strategic environment.
  • Part Three provides policy options for bolstering Australia’s relevant capability and instituting an approach to using covert action that is coherent with the government’s wider international objectives.
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