A KGB officer ran two Australian federal parliamentarians as Soviet agents in the 1970s, a confidential account of Cold War counter-espionage operations by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation says.
ASIO also tried to get a Russian military intelligence officer to defect by offering him treatment for stomach cancer.
In an unusually candid document, obtained by Fairfax Media, a former senior ASIO officer lists known Soviet intelligence officers in Australia and reveals numerous details of ASIO's counter-espionage efforts. Much of the information is still security classified.
The former counter-espionage specialist's account confirms Soviet intelligence was very active in Australia during the Cold War and that ASIO's counter-espionage efforts had only limited success.
Among the more sordid aspects of espionage disclosed is ASIO's abortive effort in the 1970s to induce a senior military intelligence (GRU) officer, Yuriy Ivanovich Stepanenko, to defect.
ASIO offered the Russian, who had stomach cancer, ''the best facilities in the world at John Hopkins Hospital [in Baltimore, Maryland] being available if he wanted to jump''. Stepanenko was ''tempted but didn't live much longer'', the former ASIO officer says.
The document also details how ASIO bugging operations revealed in the late 1960s and early 1970s that KGB officer Vladimir Aleksandrovich Aleksyev was ''running two Australian politicians as agents, using tradecraft of a fairly high order''.
Aleksyev was followed by Vladimir Yevgenyevich Tulayev, ''a hard-eyed, well-dressed thug,'' who was also ''aggressively involved in intelligence operations in Australia'', declassified ASIO documents show.
Another ''definite agent runner'' Geronty Lazovik developed a wide range of contacts in Federal Parliament, targeting Labor parliamentarians, staff and lobbyists.
However, then ASIO director-general Peter Barbour delayed recommending Tulayev and Lazovik be expelled before the 1972 federal election for fear of triggering political controversy.
Declassified documents show new Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam was more concerned with potential diplomatic embarrassment arising from ASIO's investigations. Neither KGB officer was expelled and the government suspended ASIO's telephone taps on the Soviet embassy.