The identification of four diplomats attached to the U.S. embassy in Canberra as alleged CIA agents has posed unplanned problems for Philip Alston, an Atlanta lawyer and close friend of President Carter.
Alston is the new U.S. ambassador to Australia. He arrived here this week, after being delayed in Honolulu by a strike of Australian air traffic controllers that closed Australian airports to all incoming international traffic.
The new ambassador arrived the day former CIA agent Philip Agee named the four American diplomats in an interview in London with the government-owned Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Agee said that M.C. Wonus is the CIA station chief in Canberra, and that Gerald L. Jacoby and Burton L. Hutchings are CIA agents. Agee also said that Peter Himmelberger is a possible agent and that another diplomat, C. E. Allen, who recently left Australia, is a CIA agent.All five men are formally listed with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs as "attaches" working in the United States embassy in Canberra.
(In a news conference in London today, Agee alleged that three additional diplomats serving in Australia are CIA agents, Reuter reported. He named them as William Headrick, a communications officer in the embassy; John Hedley, listed as an attache; and Warren S. West Jr., a political economics officer at the U.S. consulate in Sydney. In Canberra, Headrick denied Agee's allegation. The others could not be reached for comment.)
(Agee also said that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian labor movement and had funneled $11,900 into an Australian Catholic studies movement in the 1950s.)
Agee is under a deportation order to leave Britain by the end of next week. A leading left-wing official in the Australian Labor Party and member of the party's national executive, Bill Hartley, said today he had invited Agee to come to Australia.
The Agee allegations follows a series of other recent allegations concerning United States intelligence activity in Australia.
hey were given added credence today when Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Andrews Peacock appeared to confirm that the Australian government knew that the five men named by Agee are CIA employees. Peacock has a U.S. list of intelligence agents working in Australia under diplomatic cover.
At a news conference, Peacock was asked: "The people named by Mr. Agee - you already were aware that they were CIA?" Peacock answered, "Yes".
Later, Peacock's private secretary claimed that the foreign Minister was not confirming the names of the agents but merely trying to convey the information that Australia maintians liasion with intelligence agencies throughout the world.
Peacock's original statement was major news in the Australian press. Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser continued to reject a proposal by the opposition and former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam that he call a Royal Commission (the Australian equivalent of a full-scale U.S. congressional inquiry) into foreign intelligence activity in Australia.
Ambassador Alston, meanwhile, has been in touch several times with both the White House and Fraser over the issue and is preparing a detailed report for Washington.
All four American diplomats named earlier by Agee are sill working at the U.S. embassy here, but diplomatic sources said it is now inevitable that the men would be returned to Washington, their effectiveness here over regardless of whether their work is diplomatic or intelligence.
Earlier this month, Whitlam told the Australian Parliament that two American intelligence activities involving Australia had not been revealed to him when he was Prime Minister from 1972-75.
Whitlam said that he discovered as Prime Minister that Australian intelligence agents in Chile were acting as "proxies" for the CIA during the American agency's attempts to undermine the Allende government there.
Whitlam also alleged that Richard Stallings, now retired in Hawaii, was not on a list supplied by the United States of American intelligence agents working under diplomatic or defense cover in Australia.
Whitlam said he discovered that Stallings was in fact an American intelligence official supervising the construction of an American space research and satellite receiving station at Pine Gap inCentral Australia in the late 1960's.
The new ambassador has been so busy preparing a report on a CIA activities in Australia that he has had to postpone until next week presenting his credentials to the government.