Review - DIRTY SECRETS: OUR ASIO FILES, Meredith Burgmann

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Less of a review / more of a comment but I cannot tell you how "relieved" we should all be to know that regardless of the potential (or lack thereof) of threat to Australia, we have organisations like ASIO. Who in most examples of the files discussed in this book seems to have spent an inordinate amount of time obsessed with what women were wearing or how they styled their hair, and who was going out with whom.

A variety of reactions from a variety of people who, for the first time mostly, were able to read their own ASIO files, it's astounding how sanguine many of them are. And not surprising that many more were offended, annoyed, offended, astounded or simply flabbergasted by the contents of those files. When you consider the long-term, wide-reaching ramifications of the existence of these files, you can't help but wonder about the damage to people's lives. Which leaves you with the very real question of current day activities of the security services. Highly recommended read for anybody who thinks that those in "power" are to be blindly trusted, believed and never scrutinised.

Year of Publication

In this moving, funny and sometimes chilling book, leading Australians open their ASIO files and read what the state's security apparatus said about them. Writers from across the political spectrum including Mark Aarons, Phillip Adams, Nadia Wheatley, Michael Kirby, Peter Cundall, Gary Foley and Anne Summers confront – and in some cases reclaim – their pasts. 

Reflecting on the interpretations, observations and proclamations that anonymous officials make about your personal life is not easy. Yet we see outrage mixed with humour, not least as ASIO officers got basic information wrong a lot of the time, though many writers have to contend with personal betrayal. Some reflect on the way their political views have – or haven’t – changed. 

Meredith Burgmann and all those who were spied on have produced an extraordinary book where those being watched look right back.

Review Review - DIRTY SECRETS: OUR ASIO FILES, Meredith Burgmann
Karen Chisholm
Monday, March 2, 2015
Blog Currently Reading - Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, Meredith Burgmann
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