Did you know that pyjamas, toothbrushes and combs have an important place in ASIO’s history?
During the Cold War, some of the foreign defectors ASIO managed only had the clothes on their backs – they didn’t have the time or opportunity to pack belongings, or perhaps did not want to draw attention to their plans.
Hardly the way to start a new life.
So ASIO developed the ‘Operational Emergency Kit’ or ‘Defector Kit’ full of useful emergency supplies for people going into hiding.
As documented in correspondence from 1964, the kit contained the following:
1 pair pyjamas (large), 1 razor, razor blades, brush, shaving soap, tooth brush and toothpaste, hair brush and comb, notebooks, pen and pencils, torch and batteries.
The kit would also contain appropriate blank forms for application for asylum in a range of languages, and supporting technical items such as a concealable Minifon wire audio recorder.
The ASIO officer tasked with managing a defection had a kit too. It contained essentials such as cash, travel requisitions to purchase domestic air tickets, and pro-forma interview questions to be raised with the applicant. These items were contained in a leather briefcase along with instructions regarding legal and financial obligations for ASIO and the defector.
Volume 2 of ASIO’s official history notes that the successful management of defectors helped cement important international relationships at the time:
“…ASIO established a growing reputation for expertise and professionalism among international security services, in large part as a result of the successful defection of Canberra-based Soviet intelligence officials Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov in 1954. The Petrovs provided a substantial volume of material based on their knowledge and experience, which was drawn on not just by ASIO but by other security intelligence agencies overseas. As a result of their significant achievement, ASIO had come to be recognised by the Government as a vital contributor to the defence of the nation in the fields of counterespionage and counter-subversion.”
John Blaxland, The Protest Years: The Official History of ASIO, Pg 3.