8:30pm – Thursday, May 19 on ABC1
Produced by the makers of the documentaries The Prime Minister is Missing and Who Killed Dr Bogle & Mrs Chandler?, I, Spry is the story of Charles Spry, ASIO’s first master spy.
With a nuclear arms race set to escalate the Cold War, Prime Minister Menzies appoints Colonel Charles Spry to take charge of the fledgling Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, ASIO. The staunchly anti-Communist, fifth-generation soldier recruits new officers to fight a covert war against a cunning enemy. Their primary task is to investigate Australians spying for the Soviets and infiltrate Communist Party branches with undercover agents.
The sensational 1954 defections of Soviet Embassy officials, Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov, deliver Spry a great intelligence victory. But when a former ASIO officer appears in surveillance photographs and major counterespionage cases begin to fail, Spry soon finds himself in a place spies call the ‘wilderness of mirrors’. Security threats appear to be everywhere – from the highest office in the land to within ASIO itself.
Based on newly declassified information, including Spry’s secret testimony at the 1974 Royal Commission into Intelligence and Security, I, Spry features ASIO surveillance footage and candid interviews with former intelligence officers. It delivers a fresh, critical eye to the spy agency’s early history, from its first fumbling counter-espionage operations to its evolution beyond government scrutiny and infiltration by the KGB.
From Spry’s brazen attempt to influence the 1958 federal election to his controversial investigation into Liberal Prime Minister John Gorton, Spry emerges as an enigmatic master spy who ultimately subverts the very democracy he is charged with protecting.