“Keeping Secrets/Disclosing Secrets” – with Spy Chief turned DG of Australia’s National Archives David Fricker


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David Fricker (Website; LinkedIn) had the No.2 job at Australia’s security and intelligence agency ASIO. He sat down with Andrew (Twitter; LinkedIn) to discuss the relationship between this role and his most recent one as Director-General of the National Archives of Australia.

What You’ll Learn…


o ASIO, the Australian intelligence landscape and the region

o His role as CIO and then Deputy-Director General of ASIO

o The role major allies & partners play including the US and Five Eyes (FVEY)

o David’s views on intelligence and public trust


o David’s abiding interest in the power of information

o The importance of museums and archives in a knowledge society

And much more…

Episode Notes

Ever wondered what it would be like to go from gamekeeper to poacher, spy chief to chief archivist and - as this week's guest said tongue-in-cheek - the “biggest blabber-mouth in the country”?

If the answer is yes, you’ll appreciate this week’s guest David Fricker, who has had all manner of interesting jobs, including a ten-year stint with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), akin to the FBI and MI5, followed by ten years with the National Archives of Australia.

By way of information, the “Australian Intelligence Community” is also comprised of: the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), similar to the CIA; Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO), similar to the DIA; the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), similar to the NSA; and Australian Geo-spatial Intelligence Organization (AGO), similar to the NGA; and Office of National Intelligence (ONI), similar to the ODNI.


David was a pretty mean COBOL programmer back in the day, a computer language that grew out of a Department of Defence sponsored program to find a common business language. You can learn it here. It is a legacy software system across the U.S. government and you can command six-figure salaries if you can program in it: any retirement plans David?

Quote of the Week

"I think what the SPY museum does and what I hope we do at the National Archives in Australia, gets back to the public...some of it can be quite entertaining. It can be quite engaging and fun, but the work we do has got a serious message as well. And I think it's to make sure the public in a liberal democracy, the public should know. What espionage, what spycraft is all about." – David Fricker

Further Resources


o “Desperately, Madly in Love” – Brett Peppler and the Australian IC

o “I was a Presidential Daily Briefer on 9/11” – Mike Morell & President Bush

Virtual Exhibition

o Spy: Espionage in Australia (NAA)


o Spies & Sparrows: ASIO & the Cold War, P. Deery (2022)

o Between Five Eyes, A. Wells (2020)

o Intelligence & the Function of Government, D. Baldino & E. Crawley (2018)

o The Official History of ASIO – 3 Volumes, D. Horner, J. Blaxland, R. Crawley (2014/2015/2016)


o “Strategic Intelligence Practice in the Australian IC,” P. Walsh & M. Harrison, INS, 2021)

o “The Post-9/11 Evolution of an Australian National Security Community,” D. Jones, INS (2016)

o “ASIO Debate”, L. Clohesy, The Conversation (2014)


o Spymasters & Secret Agents: the Birth of ASIO (ABC, 2022)

o ASIO’s Official History, J. Blaxland (The Conversation, 2015)


o Final Rendezvous (ABC, 2020)




Primary Sources

o Letter to Petrov from Prime Minister Menzies (1954)

o Royal Commission on Espionage Report (1955)

o ASIO Report on Ric Throssell (1971-74, NAA)

o Report on ASIO (NLA, 1977)

o Australian Intelligence, 1900-1950 (NAA, 1977)

o Soviet Embassy Contact with Members of Parliament (1971-86)

o ASIO Annual Report 2020-21 (2021, ASIO)

Further Research

o History of Intelligence & Security (NAA)

o US-Australia Diplomatic Oral Histories (ADST)

Wildcard Resource

Pine Gap

o A fictional portrayal of a real-world AUS-US spy site in Central Australia (Netflix, 2018)

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