One time defence minister, Kim Beazley, revealed today that back in the 1980s, Australian defence intelligence spied on the American air force to crack and "extract" top secret combat aircraft codes for use in the Hornet jet fighters the US had sold to Australia.
The Australian air force needed the codes to make full use of the Hornet's radar capabilities. But the Americans, paranoid as ever, refused to hand over the top secret information, despite years of requests from their closest world ally.
Beazley announced the stunning revelation, little known outside of Australian defence circles, during his final speech to the federal parliament before retiring.
"We spied on them and we extracted the codes," Mr Beazley (said).
Mr Beazley, who was defence minister from 1984 to 1990, said that when he took over the job he soon learned that the radar on Australia's Hornets could not identify most potentially hostile aircraft in the region.
In other words, Australia's frontline fighter could not shoot down enemies in the region.
"I went to the US and for five years, up hill and down dale, with one knock-down, drag-out after another, with Cap Weinberger, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, I tried to get the codes of that blasted radar out of them.
"In the end we spied on them and we extracted the codes ourselves and we got another radar that could identify (enemy planes)."
Beazley spoke of how difficult it was to deal with American government defence and Pentagon personnel, like Mr Cheney and Mr Wolfowitz :
"...they are a bunch of people you have to have a fight with every now and then to get what you actually need out of them," he said.Mr Beazley also revealed that the Americans found out what the Australian intelligence agencies were doing and were "intrigued" by how much progress they had made in accessing and cracking the heavily encrypted codes.
Come on, what's a little spying and espionage between close allies every now and then?