SpyCast 6.7.22
Ep 542 | 6.7.22

SPY CHIEFS: Director-General of Security Mike Burgess - ASIO, Australia & America

Show Notes


Mike Burgess (Website; Twitter) joins Andrew (Twitter; LinkedIn) to discuss his agency and the enduring strength of Australia’s alliances. ASIO is the second intelligence agency he has directed.

What You’ll Learn


  • The Australian idea of “mateship” in the intelligence context
  • The Australian intelligence landscape 
  • The United States as its most important strategic alliance
  • The enduring value and historical uniqueness of the FIVE EYES alliance


  • How Man. Utd. might help us understand leadership
  • The frustrations of watching spy fiction on TV as a practitioner 

And much, much more…

Episode Notes

The top job: what is it like? what are the joys and pains of leadership? This is not like leading a business, though, or a soccer team, this is protecting the country and its citizens from terrorism, espionage, sabotage, and external interference. Such is the charge of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO).

To address these questions, Andrew sat down with Mike Burgess, who was formerly the Director-General of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), comparable to GCHQ and the NSA – an agency would serve in for over 20 years. They also discussed the Australian intelligence landscape and its most important alliances, such as the U.S. and FIVE EYES and some of its important regional relationships. 


Mike and Andrew hit it off, especially when discussing Alex Ferguson and how soccer can help us understand management and leadership. Ferguson won more titles in soccer than any other manager, at 49, and he is generally considered the GOAT or a strong contender. Of course, trophies are extremely important, but they do not capture everything. If you are looking for an example of transformational change of an entire organization and its subsequent culture, HBS could do a lot worse than draft a case study on the legendary leadership of Liverpool F.C. by Bill Shankly. He made people believe.

Quote of the Week

Talking about FIVE EYES, that's one of those foundational partnerships in our relationships…It's unique because…it was born through WWII. It's an interesting phenomenon because it started its life as a signals intelligence relationship…at its core, it's an intelligence relationship that really has made a difference to each of those five nations’ respective national security…And we do trust each other, and we share our most intimate secrets.



Beginner Resources

Virtual Exhibition


  • Spies & Sparrows: ASIO & the Cold War, P. Deery (2022)
  • Between Five Eyes, A. Wells (2020)
  • Intelligence & the Function of Government, D. Baldino & E. Crawley (2018)
  • The Official History of ASIO – 3 Volumes, D. Horner, J. Blaxland, R. Crawley (2014/2015/2016)


Primary Sources

*Wildcard Resource*

  • Sydney vs. Melbourne: The Real Canberra Story
  • If you’ve ever wondered why Canberra is the capital…