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Senior ASIS spies quietly step out of the shadows, shedding light on secret agency

For decades the existence of Australia’s overseas spy agency was kept officially secret and no employee of the covert organisation was allowed to be identified publicly except for its director-general.Key points:A former senior NSW police officer and a veteran diplomat have been unveiled as senior spy officialsFor decades, people in these roles have remained in the shadowsASIS is responsible for covert overseasThat was until late on Wednesday evening when, after more than 50 years of secrecy, the names of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service’s (ASIS) two deputies were quietly brought out from the shadows for the first time.Former NSW deputy police commissioner Catherine Burn is now officially acknowledged as ASIS deputy director-general capability and corporate management.Former lawyer and veteran diplomat Fabio Meloni is now publicly listed by ASIS as its deputy director-general operations.Formed in 1952, ASIS is responsible for the collection of covert intelligence overseas and is the Australian equivalent of Britain’s MI6 or the CIA in the United States.The organisation, led by former deputy army chief Paul Symon, has its headquarters inside the Department of and Trade, and had remained officially hidden until 1972. Very few would have paid any attention to a “Reviews of Administration and Expenditure report” tabled overnight by parliament’s (PJCIS), but inside a brief explanation was given as to why the ASIS deputies were now identified.”For the purposes of the Review, the ASIS Director-General advised the Committee of his decision pursuant to the Intelligence Services Act to publicly declare the identities of the two Deputy Directors-General of ASIS,” the report states.On the professional networking site LinkedIn, Ms Burn, who was overlooked for the top NSW police job in 2017, has hinted at her new role by listing her job as “Special Advisor at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade”. In 2018, the ABC revealed ASIS Director-General Mr Symon was also an active user who has a Twitter account that follows the Carlton Football Club and singer Adele. The PJCIS report tabled overnight notes that ASIS “continues to be engaged in a number of litigation matters, the most high-profile of which is the case relating to the former staff member known as ”.