VANGUARD - Expressing the viewpoint of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)
For National Independence and Socialism •


ADSTAR: Info-wars and the military, Canberra, 2024

The organisers of the Australian Defence Science, Technology and Research (ADSTAR) summit in Canberra in September have already publicised their provisional agenda. Representatives of key US allies and defence and security partners are already registered to attend. One of the listed items has far-reaching implications for Cold War Australia; it is doubtful, however, that conference delegates will be discussing the item in the context of a recent US legal decision about non-legitimate intelligence-gathering techniques.

The main agenda for the forthcoming ADSTAR summit has six listed items: hypersonic missiles, directed energy, trusted autonomy, quantum technologies, information warfare, long-range fires. (1) Organisers of the summit are expecting in excess of 1,700 delegates, 'including a line-up of international luminaries' to attend the event, which will provide the military-industrial complex with bigger defence budgets and increased likelihood of 'real-war scenarios', more likely than not, in the Indo-Pacific region.

It has already been publicised the summit will include defence leaders being part of panel-led discussions to prioritise what they regard as 'opportunities across the military realm', from India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, the UK and US together with Australia. (2) It has been noted that Heidi Shyu, US Under-Secretary of research and engineering at the Department of Defence will deliver the keynote speech, while no Australian figures have so far been named as participating at that level.

War, and the preparations for war, are, quite clearly, big business. And ADSTAR figures are, no doubt, rubbing their hands with glee. With western defence budgets set to increase over the next decade, the ADSTAR summit would appear a central consideration for the pushing of military agendas.

It is, however, the fifth listed agenda item which is the most revealing for contemporary Australia; information warfare and countering disinformation campaigns have become a major problem in recent years and has become a major pre-occupation with law enforcement agencies. (3) While it has generally been accepted that social media has enabled disgruntled and disaffected users to gravitate toward conspiratorial far-right political organisations, which then espouse anti-science disinformation and distrust in government, it is also the ability of the state to harvest vast troves of personal information with intelligence-gathering techniques which raise alarm.

A recent legal decision in the US has revealed how Google had tracked users without their knowledge. The outcome of a class-action lodged in a San Francisco federal court, has led Google to plan to destroy a vast trove of data collected from millions of people about their web-browsing histories. (4) It was noted by a lawyer who represented consumers that, 'the settlement required Google to delete and remediate in unprecedented scope and scale the data it improperly collected'. (5)

The legal decision did not, however, note how Google was party to the improper methods of intelligence-gathering from its earliest beginnings. Revelations emerging about US-led intelligence-gathering during the previous Cold War by using Crypton AG equipment also provided information about their later use of the internet; it was noted, for example, that the US National Security Agency's attention eventually 'shifted to finding ways to exploit the global reach of Google, Microsoft, Verizon and other US technical powers'. (6) Such state-controlled intelligence-gathering techniques remain outside usual legal jurisdiction; there is little, if any, accountability.

As attendees of the forthcoming ADSTAR summit participate in the part of the conference dealing with information warfare and countering disinformation, it is extremely unlikely any consideration will be given to the role of their intelligence services trawling daily through confidential communications between internet users. The fact the information accessed by the state is frequently used for profiling purposes was also not addressed in the recent US legal decision; or whether Google had already passed such information onto interested third parties for a whole variety of motives.

1.     Strategic advantage key to ADSTAR conference, Defence Science and Technology supplement, Australian, 3 April 2024.
2.     Ibid.
3.     See: Australia's far right gets COVID anti-lockdown protest booster, Aljazeera, 5 October 2021.
4.     Google to destroy its 'Incognito' data, Australian, 3 April 2024.
5.     Ibid.
6.     The intelligence coup of the century, The Washington Post, 11 February 2020; and, Compromised encryption machines, The Washington Post, 17 February 2020; and, Operation Condor: The CIA is not innocent, The Guardian (U.K.), 23 February 2020.