Her un­der­cover life

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

It’s been nearly 35 years since Alexan­dra Stowasser turned on the tele­vi­sion to see mem­bers of her covert oper­a­tions team be­ing ar­rested. She had just re­turned home from her un­der­cover job as an ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive for the Canberra Times and was wan­der­ing through the lounge, wait­ing to catch the 6pm news. Stowasser was in limbo.

Her boss at the Canberra Times hadn’t granted her leave to head off to the Air­force Re­serve – a cover for her top se­cret train­ing – as it was com­ing up to Christ­mas.

Be­cause of that, Stowasser wasn’t able to at­tend her team’s last train­ing ex­er­cise of the year.

The in­ten­sive ex­er­cises were used to train a top-se­cret covert oper­a­tions team run by the Aus­tralian Se­cret In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice (ASIS), the lo­cal equiv­a­lent of the CIA.

The team was com­prised of highly-trained civil­ians who un­der­stood that their ac­tions, should they be caught, would be de­nied by gov­ern­ment.

‘‘We were not se­cret agents as such, but we were there to sup­port Se­cret Ser­vice agents over­seas and other things, which was never to­tally de­fined,’’ Stowasser said.

‘‘[Covert oper­a­tion teams] have been around for a long time, but this is the first time Aus­tralia put to­gether a team like this.’’

Stowasser was re­cruited be­cause of her Royal Aus­tralian Air Force (RAAF) in­tel­li­gence work.

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