The CIA and Whitlam's dismissal

November 6, 2015
Former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

The Central Intelligence Agency was set up in 1947 as the key agency for US Cold War operations. From its inception, it intervened in the trade union movement and workers' political parties throughout much of the world, including Australia.

One of the first post-World War II US policy objectives was to counter the newly-formed World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) to which the Australian union movement was affiliated through the ACTU.

In 1949, the ACTU Congress narrowly voted to disaffiliate from the WFTU and joined the US-sponsored and financed International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). Present for the vote was Herbert Weiner, the first known CIA agent in Australia. Despite protests from militant delegates, Weiner attended the 1949 Congress as US labor attaché, a position he held at the US Melbourne consulate from 1949 to 1953.

Ahead of the December 1949 federal election, Liberal leader Robert Menzies and Country Party leader Arthur Fadden both accused Labor of having communist policies.

After the defeat of the Ben Chifley Labor government in the election, the CIA did not have to deal with a Labor government until Gough Whitlam was elected in 1972.

Australian spy agencies

From 1949, CIA operatives established a close working relationship with Brigadier Sir Charles Spry who, from 1950 to 1970 was Director-General of ASIO, the Australian spy organisation established by the Chifley government under pressure from Britain and the US.

This relationship continued under Spry's successor, Peter Barbour, who ran ASIO from 1970 until Whitlam dispatched him to New York in 1975 to take up the position of Consul-General.

Another Australian spy agency, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), was established by Menzies in the early 1950s. As its name implies, it was a shadowy organisation which, according to the Campaign Against Political Police (CAPP), was located at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne.

ASIS operated overseas, usually under diplomatic cover, effectively as a subsidiary of the CIA. After the US government broke off diplomatic relations with the leftist Salvador Allende government in Chile, prior to the CIA-sponsored coup in 1973, the then-Prime Minister Billy McMahon admitted on television that ASIS had carried on the CIA's work in Santiago.

In August 1975, when the reactionary Timorese Democratic Union (UDT) attempted a coup on the advice of Australian intelligence, ASIS recruited an Australian plantation owner in Dili to act as their agent without the knowledge of the Whitlam government. When Whitlam found out he instantly dismissed ASIS chief WT Robinson.

From the outset in 1972, the CIA were less than impressed with Whitlam and his ministers. James Angleton, CIA Chief of Counter-Intelligence from 1954 to 1974, said so in an interview with the ABC's Correspondant's Report in 1977. In the same interview, Angleton discussed how CIA funding in Australian politics and unions was handled.

Just after Whitlam was elected in December 1972, US President Richard Nixon ordered a bombing raid on Hanoi on New Year's Day 1973. It was condemned by several Labor government ministers including Jim Cairns, Clyde Cameron and Tom Uren. The US complained about their behaviour through diplomatic channels.

Barely two months later, in March 1973, the Attorney-General Lionel Murphy ordered Commonwealth police to search ASIO headquarters in Melbourne. Murphy had concluded that ASIO was being uncooperative with the government and himself, the minister in charge of the organisation.

He was not satisfied that ASIO was doing its job with the Croatian Ustasha terrorist group, founded by Nazi puppet Ante Pavelic, which was believed responsible for bomb attacks in Australia.

When asked in the 1977 interview whether Murphy's search of ASIO's offices led to a crisis in the CIA, James Angleton said: “What I'm trying to identify here is that our attitude towards Whitlam was at two levels: number one, he was elected by Australians for better or worse, in my own view for worse, but it did not affect our relationship until his Attorney-General Murphy barged in and tried to destroy the delicate mechanism of internal security.”

CIA agent Richard Stallings

A few days before Whitlam was dismissed he made a statement to the effect that at least the ALP was not financed by the CIA, unlike the National Country Party led by Doug Anthony.

Anthony had a close relationship with Richard Stallings who had been in Australia for several years registered as a US defence department employee. Stallings leased Anthony's Canberra home and Anthony carelessly let slip that Stallings was a CIA agent.

Whitlam then asked the Foreign Affairs Department for a list of “declared” CIA employees in Australia. These lists were a mandatory requirement pursuant to an agreement between the US and Australian governments.

Stallings name was not on the list, so Whitlam demanded that the permanent head of the Defence Department, Sir Arthur Tange, tell him Stallings real work. Whitlam later said in parliament that he had been informed that Stallings was a CIA agent.

Pine Gap was handed over to the US in 1966 by the Harold Holt government, supposedly for the construction of a “Joint Research Facility” which was completed in 1969.

Pine Gap was never a research facility nor was it ever operated jointly. It was a vital link in the US spy satellite system — in fact the last link in the US worldwide nuclear defence/attack system directed at the Soviet Union.

The CIA operative who set up the base and became its first commander, was none other than Richard Stallings.

The US government was so worried about what Whitlam would do with Pine Gap that shifting it to Guam was already under discussion before his dismissal on November 11, 1975. A cost estimate of more than $1 billion had been prepared, even though Guam would not be nearly as suitable to the US as Pine Gap.

Just what could the Whitlam government have done about Pine Gap? Article 13 of the Treaty that handed sovereignty to the US in 1966 provided that the agreement came into force on December 9 1966, remained in force for 10 years, and continued thereafter until terminated. It also provided that after nine years either government could notify the other government in writing that it wanted to terminate the agreement one year after such notice was given.

So the Whitlam government could have given the US a year's notice to quit on December 9 1975. The constitutional coup prevented this when Malcolm Fraser was appointed acting Prime Minister with an election to be held on December 13.

It is more than likely that Whitlam had no intention of closing down US bases in Australia, a point he made publicly more than once. But the CIA could not be sure of this, and they certainly had no trust in what he said.

Governor-General John Kerr

The CIA was entitled, though, to place some trust in Sir John Kerr, the Governor-General who dismissed him.

Kerr was a barrister who was politically attached to the far right. He established his reputation in the legal profession by becoming the advocate for the extreme right Industrial Groups. He was a close friend and advisor to the equally far right ironworkers union leader Laurie Short. In their youth they both shared Trotskyist views.

Kerr had close links with the Association for Cultural Freedom and its journal Quadrant, both of which were funded by the CIA. He became founding president of the Law Association for Asia and the Western Pacific (LAWASIA) and travelled to the US to secure funding for the organisation from the CIA.

The direct evidence that Kerr colluded with the CIA over Whitlam's dismissal comes from Christopher John Boyce, a well-connected US citizen whose father was a former FBI agent. Boyce senior used his influence with another former FBI associate, Regis Carr, director of “special projects” security for the CIA contractor TRW Systems Incorporated, to get Boyce a job at the company.

TRW decoded messages from Pine Gap and Boyce was one of only eight people who had access to TRW's “black vault” where top secret messages were received and deciphered.

Boyce and another TRW employee, Andrew Daulton Lee, became whistleblowers which led to them being charged with spying for the Soviet Union. At his trial, Boyce explained how he became involved with taking secret material following a discussion with Lee about the CIA's part in overthrowing the Allende government in Chile. He testified that he had said to Lee: “You ought to hear what the CIA is doing to the Australians''. He also said that the CIA was systematically deceiving Australia about the use of its two secret bases in Central Australia, Pine Gap and Narrungar.

Both Lee and Boyce were found guilty, with Lee sentenced to life imprisonment in July 1977. Boyce was initially given a light sentence to be reviewed after ''psychiatric observation''. Boyce's lawyer told reporters that he intended to demand that Boyce be allowed to give evidence about CIA actions in Australia which the trial judge had suppressed at the request of the CIA, but he wouldn't do so while the sentence was under review.

He never got the chance because Boyce was sentenced to 40 years in prison in September 1977.

Boyce served almost 25 years of the sentence. After his release he maintained that the CIA had infiltrated Australian political parties and trade unions, and that the CIA referred to Kerr as ''our man Kerr”.

The US government was never going to publicly acknowledge that the CIA was behind Whitlam's dismissal through “their man Kerr”. But confirmation of sorts came from Whitlam.

Why else would Warren Christopher, US Deputy Director of State, come to Australia in 1977 to tell Whitlam, on behalf of US President Jimmy Carter, of his intention to work with whatever government Australians elected; and that the US would never again interfere with Australia's democratic processes?

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