Australian Security Intelligence Organisation

Coordinates: 35°17′33.6″S 149°8′40.1″E / 35.292667°S 149.144472°E

ASIO crest
Agency overview
Formed16 March 1949
JurisdictionCommonwealth of Australia
HeadquartersCanberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Employees1,812 (average staffing level 2016–17)[1]
Annual budgetA$518.6 million (2016–17)[1]
Minister responsible
Agency executive
Parent agencyDepartment of Home Affairs

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO /ˈeɪzioʊ/) is Australia's national security agency responsible for the protection of the country and its citizens from espionage, sabotage, acts of foreign interference, politically motivated violence, attacks on the Australian defence system, and terrorism.[2][3] ASIO is comparable to the British Security Service (MI5) and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).[4] ASIO is part of the Australian Intelligence Community.

ASIO has a wide range of surveillance powers to collect human and signals intelligence. Generally, ASIO operations requiring police powers of arrest and detention under warrant are co-ordinated with the Australian Federal Police and/or with state and territory police forces.[4]

ASIO Central Office is in Canberra, with a local office being located in each mainland state and territory capital.[5] A new A$630 million Central Office, Ben Chifley Building, named after Ben Chifley, prime minister when ASIO was created, was officially opened by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on 23 July 2013.[6]

Command, control and organisation

Ben Chifley Building viewed from Mount Ainslie June 2014
ASIO's New Central Office building in the Parliamentary Triangle, Canberra
Asio australian security intelligence
The ASIO's old Central Office

ASIO is a statutory body under the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 responsible to the Parliament of Australia through the Department of Home Affairs. ASIO also reports to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee and is subject to independent review by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. The head of ASIO is the Director-General of Security, who oversees the strategic management of ASIO within guidelines issued by the Attorney-General. The current Director-General of Security is Duncan Lewis, who assumed office on 15 September 2014.[7] There are also two Deputy Directors-General.

In 2013, ASIO had a staff of around 1,740.[8] The identity of ASIO officers, apart from the Director-General, remains an official secret.[2] While ASIO is an equal opportunity employer, there has been some media comment of its apparent difficulty in attracting people from a Muslim or Middle Eastern background.[9][10] Furthermore, ASIO has undergone a period of rapid growth with some 70% of its officers having joined since 2002, leading to what Paul O'Sullivan, Director-General of Security from 2005 to 2009, called 'an experience gap'.[11]

Powers and accountability

Special investigative powers

The special investigative powers available to ASIO officers under warrant signed by the Attorney-General include:[2]

  • interception of telecommunications,
  • examination of postal and delivery articles,
  • use of clandestine surveillance and tracking devices,
  • remote access to computers, including alteration of data to conceal that access,
  • covert entry to and search of premises, including the removal or copying of any record or thing found therein, and
  • conduct of an ordinary or frisk search of a person if they are at or near a premises specified in the warrant.

The Director-General also has the power to independently issue a warrant should a serious security situation arise and a warrant requested of the Attorney-General has not yet been granted.[2]

An ASIO officer may, without warrant, ask an operator of an aircraft or vessel questions about the aircraft or vessel, its cargo, crew, passengers, stores or voyage; and to produce supporting documents relating to these questions.[2]

Special terrorism investigative powers

When investigating terrorism, the Director-General may also seek a warrant from an independent judicial authority to allow:[2]

  • the compulsory questioning of suspects,
  • the detention of suspects by the Australian Federal Police, and their subsequent interrogation by ASIO officers,
  • ordinary, frisk or strip search of suspects by AFP officers upon their detainment,
  • the seizure of passports, and
  • the prevention of suspects leaving Australia.

The Director-General is not empowered to independently issue a warrant in relation to the investigation of terrorism.

Immunity from prosecution

While the Act does not define any activities specifically to be legal, that is, to grant immunity for any specific crime, it does provide exceptions that will not be granted immunity. Section 35k (1)[2] defines these activities as not being immune from liability for special intelligence conduct during special intelligence operations. That is to say, an ASIO operative would be deemed to have committed a crime if they were to participate in any of the following activities under any circumstances:

  • an activity that causes death or serious injury,
  • torture,
  • if the activity involves the commission of a sexual offence against any person, or
  • if the activity causes significant loss of, or serious damage to property.

Collection of foreign intelligence

ASIO also has the power to collect foreign intelligence within Australia at the request of the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Minister for Defence.[12] Known as Joint Intelligence Operations, and usually conducted in concert with the Australian Secret Intelligence Service the purpose of these operations is the gathering of security intelligence on and from foreign officials, organisations or companies.


Because of the nature of its work, ASIO does not make details of its activities public and law prevents the identities of ASIO officers from being disclosed. ASIO and the Australian Government say that operational measures ensuring the legality of ASIO operations have been established.

ASIO briefs the Attorney-General on all major issues affecting security and he/she is also informed of operations when considering granting warrants enabling the special investigative powers of ASIO. Furthermore, the Attorney-General issues guidelines with respect to the conduct of ASIO investigations relating to politically motivated violence and its functions of obtaining intelligence relevant to security.[2]

ASIO reports to several governmental and parliamentary committees dealing with security, legislative and financial matters. This includes the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.[13][14] A classified annual report is provided to the government, an unclassified edited version of which is tabled in federal Parliament.[15]

The Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security was established in 1986 to provide additional oversight of Australia’s security and intelligence agencies. The Inspector-General has complete access to all ASIO records and has a range of inquisitorial powers.

Relationships with foreign agencies and services

Australia’s intelligence and security agencies maintain close working relationships with the foreign and domestic intelligence and security agencies of other nations. As of 22 October 2008, ASIO has established liaison relationships with 311 authorities in 120 countries.[15]



The Australian Government assumed responsibility for national security and intelligence on Federation in 1901, and took over various state agencies and had to rationalise their functions. There was considerable overlap between the civil and military authorities. Similarly, there was also no Commonwealth agency responsible for enforcing federal laws. At the outbreak of World War I, no Australian government agency was dedicated to security, intelligence or law enforcement.[16] The organisation of security intelligence in Australia took on more urgency with a perceived threat posed by agents provocateurs, fifth columnists and saboteurs within Australia.

In 1915, the British government arranged for the establishment of a Commonwealth branch of the Imperial Counter Espionage Bureau in Australia. The branch came to be known as the Australian Special Intelligence Bureau (SIB) in January 1916, and maintained a close relationship with state police forces, and later with the Commonwealth Police Force, created in 1917, to conduct investigations independent of state police forces. After the war, on 1 November 1919, the SIB and Commonwealth Police were merged to form the Investigation Branch within the Attorney General's Department.[16]

During World War II, Commonwealth Security Service was formed in 1941 to investigate organisations and individuals considered likely to be subversive or actively opposed to national interests; to investigate espionage and sabotage; to vet defence force personnel and workers in defence-related industries; to control the issue of passports and visas; and was responsible for the security of airports and wharves, and factories engaged in manufacture of munitions and other items necessary for Australia’s war effort. It was also responsible for radio security. In June 1945 it produced a report warning of the danger of the Communist Party of Australia.[17]

One of the foundation directors of ASIO, Robert Frederick Bird Wake, in his son's biography No Ribbons or Medals about his father's work as a counter espionage officer, is credited with getting "the show" started in 1949. Wake worked closely with Director-General Reed. During World War II, Reed conducted an inquiry into Wake's performance as a security officer and found that he was competent and innocent of the charges laid by the Army's commander-in-chief, General Thomas Blamey. This was the start of a relationship between Reed and Wake that lasted for more than 10 years. Wake was seen as the operational head of ASIO.

Establishment and 'The Case'

Following the end of World War II, the joint United States-UK Venona project uncovered sensitive British and Australian government data was being transmitted through Soviet diplomatic channels. Officers from MI5 were dispatched to Australia to assist local investigations. The leak was eventually tracked to a spy ring operating from the Soviet Embassy in Canberra. Allied Western governments expressed disaffection with the state of security in Australia.[18]

On 9 March 1949, Prime Minister Ben Chifley created the post of Director-General of Security and appointed South Australian Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Reed to the post. On 16 March 1949, Chifley issued a Directive for the Establishment and Maintenance of a Security Service.[19] The Security Service's first authorised telephone interceptions were in June 1949, followed in July by a raid on the Sydney office of the Communist Party of Australia. In August 1949, Reed advised the Prime Minister that he had decided to name the service the 'Australian Security Intelligence Organization' [sic].

The new service was to be modelled on the Security Service of the United Kingdom MI5 and an MI5 liaison team (including probable Soviet double agent Sir Roger Hollis) was attached to the fledgling ASIO during the early 1950s. Historian Robert Manne describes this early relationship as "special, almost filial" and continues "ASIO's trust in the British counter-intelligence service appears to have been near-perfect".[18]

The Labor Government was defeated at the December 1949 federal election, and in March 1950 the new prime minister, Robert Menzies, appointed the Deputy Director of Military Intelligence, Charles Spry, as the second Director-General of Security, commencing on 9 July 1950. Wake resigned shortly after Spry's appointment. On 6 July 1950, a Directive of Prime Minister Menzies set out the Charter of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, which expanded on Chifley's 1949 Directive. ASIO was converted to a statutory body on 13 December 1956 by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1956 (repealed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, the current legislation as amended to 2007). Spry would continue to hold the post until January 1970. The spelling of the organisation was amended by legislation in 1999 to bring it into line with the Australian standard form 'organisation'.

The operation to crack the Soviet spy ring in Canberra consumed much of the resources of ASIO during the 1950s. This operation became internally known as "The Case".[20] Among the prime suspects of the investigations were Wally Clayton, a prominent member of the Australian Communist Party, and two diplomats with the Department of External Affairs, Jim Hill and Ian Milner. However, no charges resulted from the investigations, because Australia did not have any laws against peacetime espionage at the time.

The Petrov Affair

5 February 1951 saw the arrival in Sydney of Vladimir Mikhaylovich Petrov, Third Secretary of the Soviet Embassy. An ASIO field officer identified Petrov as a possible 'legal', an agent of the Soviet Ministry of State Security (MGB, a forerunner to the KGB) operating under diplomatic immunity. The Organisation began gently cultivating Petrov through another agent, Dr. Michael Bialoguski, with the eventual goal of orchestrating his defection. Ultimately, Petrov was accused by the Soviet Ambassador of several lapses in judgement that would have led to his imprisonment and probable execution upon his return to the Soviet Union. Petrov feared for his life and accepted the defection life-line provided by ASIO.

The actual defection occurred on 3 April 1954. Petrov was spirited to a safe house by ASIO officers, but his disappearance and the seeming reluctance of Australian authorities to search for him made the Soviets increasingly suspicious. Fearing a defection by Petrov, MVD officers dramatically escorted his wife Evdokia to a waiting aeroplane in Sydney. There was doubt as to whether she was leaving by choice or through coercion and so Australian authorities initially did not act to prevent her being bundled into the plane. However, ASIO was in communication with the pilot and learned through relayed conversations with a flight attendant that if Evdokia spoke to her husband she might consider seeking asylum in Australia.

An opportunity to allow her to speak with her husband came when the Director-General of Security, Charles Spry, was informed that the MVD agents had broken Australian law by carrying firearms on an airliner in Australian airspace and so could be detained. When the aeroplane landed in Darwin for refuelling, the Soviet party and other passengers were asked to leave the plane. Police, acting on ASIO orders, quickly disarmed and restrained the two MVD officers and Evdokia was taken into the terminal to speak to her husband via telephone. After speaking to him, she became convinced he was alive and speaking freely and asked the Administrator of the Northern Territory for political asylum.

The affair sparked controversy in Australia when circumstantial links were noted between the leader of the Australian Labor Party and the Communist Party of Australia (and hence to the Soviet spy ring). H.V. Evatt, the leader of the Labor Party at the time, accused Prime Minister Robert Menzies of arranging the Petrov defection to discredit him. The accusations lead to a disastrous split in the Labor party.[18]

Petrov was able to provide information on the structure of the Soviet intelligence apparatus in the mid-1950s, information that was highly valuable to the United States. It was by obtaining this information that the Organisation's reputation in the eyes of the United States was greatly enhanced.[18]

In fact, when Brigadier Spry retired, the Deputy Director of the CIA sent the following tribute:

“The relationship between the CIA and ASIO started as a very personal one. The real substantive relationship started with Sir Charles’ visit in 1955... Since Sir Charles’ first visit, the relationships with ASIO have continued to become closer and closer until today we have no secrets, regardless of classification or sensitivity, that are not made available to ASIO if it is pertinent to Australia’s internal security... I feel, as does the Director, a type of mutual trust in dealing with ASIO that is exceeded by no other service in the world today.”[18]

The Cold War

ASIO's counter-intelligence successes continued throughout the Cold War. Following an elaborate investigation between 1961 and 1963, ASIO recommended the ejection of the First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy, Ivan Skripov, and his declaration as persona non grata. Skripov had been refining an Australian woman as an agent for Soviet intelligence; however, she was in fact an agent of ASIO.

In April 1983, ASIO uncovered more Soviet attempts at espionage and Valery Ivanov, who also held the post of First Secretary at the Soviet Embassy, was declared persona non grata. He was ejected from Australia on the grounds that he had performed duties in violation of his diplomatic status.

Penetration by the KGB

These successes were marred, however, by the penetration of ASIO by a KGB mole in the 1970s.[21] Due to the close defence and intelligence ties between Australia and the United States, ASIO became a backdoor to American intelligence. Upon realising ASIO was compromised, the United States pulled back on the information it shared with Australia.[22]

Following a strenuous internal audit and a joint Federal Police investigation, George Sadil was accused of being the mole. Sadil had been a Russian interpreter with ASIO for some 25 years and highly classified documents were discovered in his place of residence. Federal Police arrested Sadil in June 1993 and charged him under the Crimes Act 1914 with several espionage and official secrets related offences. However, parts of the case against him collapsed the following year.

Sadil was committed to trial in March 1994, but the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to proceed with the more serious espionage-related charges after reviewing the evidence against him. Sadil's profile did not match that of the mole and investigators were unable to establish any kind of money trail between him and the KGB.

Sadil pleaded guilty in December 1994 to thirteen charges of removing ASIO documents contrary to his duty, and was sentenced to three months imprisonment. He was subsequently released on a 12 month good behaviour bond. It is believed that another ASIO officer, now retired, is suspected of being the mole but no prosecution attempts have been made.

In November 2004, former KGB Major-General Oleg Kalugin confirmed to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Four Corners programme that the KGB had in fact infiltrated ASIO in the late 1970s and early 1980s.[23]

ASIO acknowledged in October 2016 that it had been infiltrated.[24]

Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

ASIO began planning for the 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games, held in Sydney, as early as 1995.[20] A specific Olympics Coordination Branch was created in 1997, and began recruiting staff with “specialised skills" the following year. In 1998, ASIO “strengthened information collection and analytical systems, monitored changes in the security environment more broadly, improved its communications technology and provided other agencies with strategic security intelligence assessments to assist their Olympics security planning.”

The Olympics Coordination Branch also began planning for the Federal Olympic Security Intelligence Centre (FOSIC) in 1998. FOSIC was to “provide security intelligence advice and threat assessments to State and Commonwealth authorities during the Sydney 2000 Games.”

Surveillance of anti-coal activists

In 2012 it was reported that ASIO had been monitoring the actions of Australians protesting against the coal industry, and was increasing its efforts from previous years. Minister Martin Ferguson said that he was particularly concerned about protests relating to the Hazelwood power station in Victoria. An unnamed security source told The Age newspaper that "providing advice and intelligence to safeguard [critical infrastructure] is clearly within ASIO's responsibilities... ASIO has a clear role, including protection against sabotage. And it's clear [environmental] activists pose a greater threat to energy facilities than terrorists." A spokesperson for Attorney General Nicola Roxon described ASIO's responsibility in monitoring political action groups as "limited to activity that is, or has the potential to be, violent for the purposes of achieving a political objective".[25] Australian Greens party leader Bob Brown described ASIO monitoring environmentalists as a "political weapon" used by the Government for the benefit of "foreign-owned mining corporations".[26][27]

Royal commissions, inquiries and reviews

Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security, 1974–77

On 21 August 1974, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam announced the establishment of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security to inquire into Australia’s intelligence agencies.[20] Justice Robert Hope of the Supreme Court of New South Wales was appointed as Royal Commissioner. In 1977 the First Hope Commission made many findings about, and recommendations on, ASIO in the Fourth Report, some of which had been preempted by the Whitlam and Fraser governments. The commission marked the first review of the organisation and was fundamental to securing it as part of Australia's state defensive apparatus. In a secret supplementary report, much of which remains classified, Hope indicated his belief that ASIO's past conduct was the result of its infiltration by a hostile foreign intelligence agency. In a 1998 interview Hope stated that saw some of his major recommendations as having been wrong.

Protective Security Review, 1978–79

Following the Sydney Hilton bombing of 1978, the government commissioned Justice Hope with conducting a review into national protective security arrangements and into co-operation between Federal and State authorities in regards to security. In the report concluded in 1979, Justice Hope designated ASIO as the agency responsible for national threat assessments in terrorism and politically motivated violence.[20] He also recommended that relations between ASIO and State and Territory police forces be regulated by arrangements between governments.

Royal Commission on Australian Security and Intelligence Agencies, 1983–84

Following the publicity surrounding the expulsion of Valery Ivanov, First Secretary at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra, the Government established a Royal Commission to review the activities of Australian Security and Intelligence Agencies.[20] Justice Hope was again Royal Commissioner.

Justice Hope completed his report in December 1984. His recommendations included that:

  • the security related activities which ASIO should investigate be redefined. References to subversion and terrorism be removed and replaced with politically motivated violence, attacks on Australia’s defence system and promoting communal violence;
  • ASIO be given additional functions of collecting foreign intelligence and providing protective security advice; and that
  • a separate office of Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security be established.

Justice Hope also recommended that amendments to the ASIO Act provide that “it is not the purpose of the Act that the right of lawful advocacy, protest or dissent should be affected or that exercising those rights should, by themselves, constitute activity prejudicial to security”.

Post-Cold War review, 1992

In early 1992, Prime Minister Paul Keating commissioned a review “of the overall impact of changes in international circumstances on the roles and priorities of the Australian intelligence agencies”. In the Prime Minister’s statement of 21 July 1992, Mr Keating said:

Consistent with the philosophy of a separation of the assessment, policy and foreign intelligence collection functions, the Government considers that the existing roles of the individual agencies remain valid in the 1990s. The rationale outlined by Mr Justice Hope for ASIO as a freestanding, non-executive, advisory intelligence security agency remains relevant in the 1990s and the Government has therefore decided that ASIO should continue to have the roles and responsibilities laid down in existing legislation.
The Soviet threat certainly formed an important component of ASIO’s activities, but threats from other sources of foreign interference and politically motivated violence have been important to ASIO for some time, and will remain so. However, the implications for ASIO of the changes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are more far-reaching than for the other agencies. The Government has therefore decided that while ASIO’s capacity to meet its responsibilities must be maintained, there is scope for resource reductions.[20]

The resource reductions mentioned were a cut of 60 staff and a $3.81 million budget decrease.

Inquiry into National Security, 1993

Following the trial of George Sadil over the ASIO mole scandal and from concern about the implications of material having been removed from ASIO without authority, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of Mr Michael Cook AO (former head of the Office of National Assessments) to inquire into various aspects of national security. The review was completed in 1994.[20]

Parliamentary Joint Committee inquiries

The Parliamentary Joint Committee completed several reviews and inquiries into ASIO during the 1990s.[20] The first concerned the security assessment process. Another was held in September into “The nature, scope and appropriateness of the way in which ASIO reports to the Australian public on its activities.” The Committee concluded that “the total package of information available to the Australian community about ASIO's operations exceeds that available to citizens in other countries about their domestic intelligence agencies.” Pursuant to this, recommendations were made regarding the ASIO website and other publicly accessible information.

Criticisms, controversies and conspiracies

Opposition to the political left

ASIO has been accused of executing an agenda against the Left of politics since its inception. In the 1960s, ASIO was also accused of neglecting its proper duties because of this supposed preoccupation with targeting the Left. Like other Western domestic security agencies, ASIO actively monitored protesters against the Vietnam War, Labor politicians and various writers, artists and actors who tended towards the Left. Other claims go further, alleging that the Organisation compiled a list of some 10,000 suspected Communist sympathisers who would be interned should the Cold War escalate.[28]

Raids on ASIO Central Office, 1973

Further accusations against ASIO were raised by the Attorney-General following a series of bombings from 1963 to 1970 on the consulate of Communist Yugoslavia in Australia by Croatian far-right militia. Attorney-General Lionel Murphy alleged that ASIO had withheld information on the group which could have led to preventative measures taken against further bomb attacks (however, Murphy was a member of the recently sworn-in Labor government, which still held a deep-seated suspicion of ASIO).

On 15 March 1973, Murphy and the Commonwealth Police raided the ASIO offices in Melbourne. While some claim the raid was disastrous, serving little purpose other than to shake-up both ASIO and the Whitlam government, the findings of such investigations were not published.

The Sydney Hilton bombing allegations of conspiracy, 1978

On 13 February 1978, the Sydney Hilton Hotel was bombed, one of the few domestic terrorist incidents on Australian soil. The Hotel was the location for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Three people in the street were killed – two council workers and a policeman – and several others injured. Former police officer Terry Griffiths, who was injured in the explosion, provided some evidence that suggested ASIO might have orchestrated the bombing or been aware of the possibility and allowed it to proceed. In 1985, the Director-General of Security issued a specific denial of the allegation. In 1991 the New South Wales parliament unanimously called for a joint State-Federal inquiry into the bombing.[29] However, the Federal government vetoed any inquiry.

Anti-terrorism bungle, 2001

A few weeks after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, mistakes led ASIO to incorrectly raid the home of Bilal Daye and his wife. It has been revealed that the search warrant was for a different address. The couple subsequently sought damages and the embarrassing incident was settled out of court in late 2005, with all material relating to the case being declared strictly confidential.[30]

Kim Beazley-Ratih Hardjono investigation, 2004

In June 2004, Kim Beazley[31] was accused of having a "special relationship" with Ratih Hardjono[32] when he was defence minister.[33] Hardjono was allegedly accused of "inappropriately" photographing a secure Australian Defence facility, working with the embassy ID, and having a close working relationship with her uncle, a senior officer in BAKIN (Indonesian Intelligence).[31] In July, journalist Greg Sheridan contacted the then head of ASIO, Dennis Richardson, and discussed a classified operational investigation.[34] Later in July members of the Attorney General's department were still investigating the original allegation, making Richardson's comments premature and inaccurate. The whole episode was a salient reminder to politicians in Canberra of the British experience of 'agents of influence' and honeypots. Ratih Hardjono was married to Bruce Grant in the 1990s.[35]

Detention and removal of Scott Parkin, 2005

In September 2005, the visa of American citizen, Scott Parkin, was cancelled after Director-General of Security, Paul O'Sullivan, issued an adverse security assessment of the visiting peace activist. Parkin was detained in Melbourne and held in custody for five days before being escorted under guard to Los Angeles, where he was informed that he was required to pay the Australian Government A$11,700 for the cost of his detention and removal.[36] Parkin challenged the adverse security assessment in the Federal Court in a joint civil action with two Iraqi refugees, Mohammed Sagar and Muhammad Faisal, who faced indefinite detention on the island of Nauru after also receiving adverse security assessments in 2005.[37]

Prior to his removal, Parkin had given talks on the role of U.S. military contractor Halliburton in the Iraq war and led a small protest outside the Sydney headquarters of Halliburton subsidiary KBR. The Attorney-General at that time, Philip Ruddock, refused to explain the reasons for Parkin's removal,[38] leading to speculation that ASIO had acted under pressure from the United States.[39] This was denied by O'Sullivan before a Senate committee, where he gave evidence that ASIO based its assessment only on Parkin's activities in Australia.[40] O'Sullivan refused to answer questions before a later Senate committee hearing[41] after his legal counsel told the Federal Court that ASIO did not necessarily base its assessment solely on Parkin's activities in Australia.[42][43]

Kidnap and false imprisonment of Izhar ul-Haque, 2007

On 12 November 2007, the Supreme Court of New South Wales dismissed charges brought against a young medical student, Izhar ul-Haque.[44] ASIO and the Australian Federal Police had investigated ul-Haque for allegedly training with Lashkar-e-Toiba in Pakistan, a declared terrorist organisation under the Security Legislation Amendment (Terrorism) Act 2002.[44][45] However, the case against the medical student collapsed when it was revealed that ASIO officers had engaged in improper conduct during the investigation. Justice Michael Adams determined that because ul-Haque was falsely led to believe that he was legally compelled to comply with the ASIO officers, the conduct of at least one of the investigating ASIO officers constituted false imprisonment and kidnap at common law, and therefore key evidence against ul-Haque was inadmissible.[46]

Archival material

Non-current ASIO files are stored at the National Archives of Australia, and can be released to the public under the Archives Act 1983 after 30 years, unless if they fall into any of 16 exemption categories itemised in section 33 of the Archives Act.[47]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Portfolio Budget Statements ASIO 2016–17" (PDF). Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979". Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing. 2 April 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2007.
  3. ^ "About ASIO". Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Archived from the original on 27 February 2016.
  4. ^ a b "ASIO Frequently Asked Questions". Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Archived from the original on 28 October 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2007.
  5. ^ "ASIO Contact Information Page". Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Archived from the original on 24 October 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2007.
  6. ^ "Rudd opens new ASIO headquarters in Canberra". ABC News. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  7. ^ Stuart, Nicholas. "Duncan Lewis' appointment as ASIO head casts the spotlight on Defence". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  8. ^ "ASIO Report to Parliament 2012–13" (PDF). Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. 31 October 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  9. ^ "ASIO Careers". Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Archived from the original on 26 October 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  10. ^ "Why it's "really cool" to be a spy". The Age. 28 October 2002. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  11. ^ "Director-General's Address to the Foreign Liaison Officers Conference". Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. 30 April 2007. Archived from the original on 5 October 2007. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  12. ^ "What We Do". Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation. Retrieved 8 October 2016.
  13. ^ "Intelligence Services Act 2001". Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing. Retrieved 30 October 2007.
  14. ^ lindsayh (21 June 2017). "Ministerial and Parliamentary Oversight". Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  15. ^ a b "ASIO Annual Report to Parliament 2008–2009". Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. 27 October 2009. Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 2 July 2010.
  16. ^ a b National Archives of Australia, Records of Australia's security, intelligence and law enforcement CC-BY icon.svg This article contains quotations from this source, which is available under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia license.
  17. ^ Horner, Jolyon, Simpson, William Ballantyne (1896 - 1966) Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 2011-10-08
  18. ^ a b c d e Manne, Robert. The Petrov Affair. Pergamon Press, Sydney, 1987. ISBN 0-08-034425-9.
  19. ^ "National Archives of Australia". Australian Government. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h "Significant Events in ASIO's History". Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  21. ^ ASIO mole sold secrets to KGB Archived 8 December 2004 at the Wayback Machine, ABC News Online, 2 November 2004
  22. ^ ASIO targeted as back door to US intelligence, PM (ABC Radio National), 1 November 2004
  23. ^ ASIO Four Corners episode Trust And Betrayal Archived 13 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine 02/11/2004
  24. ^ Greene, Andrew (26 October 2016). "ASIO penetrated by Soviet spies during Cold War, official publication states". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  25. ^ "ASIO eyes green groups". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  26. ^ "Green groups are worse than terrorists: Government". Australian Mining. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  27. ^ "Report claims ASIO spying on coal protesters". ABC News. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  28. ^ War on Dissent Archived 8 December 2005 at the Wayback Machine, TimeFrame (ABC TV), 27 March 1997
  29. ^ "Parliament Hansard: Hilton Hotel Bombing". Government of New South Wales. 9 December 1991. Archived from the original on 23 September 2009. Retrieved 13 March 2008. (First motion for an enquiry)
  30. ^ Couple wins payout over ASIO, AFP raid Archived 3 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine, ABC News Online, 1 November 2005
  31. ^ a b Toohey, Brian (7 July 2002) Security proves a complicated affair., Sydney Morning Herald.
  32. ^ Sim, Susan (19 February 2000). All the President's whisperers, Straits Times (Singapore).
  33. ^ AAP (30 June 2004) Spy claims Beazley a 'security risk', The Age.
  34. ^ Sheridan, Greg (1 July 2004). Artificial intelligence, The Australian.
  35. ^ Evans, Gareth and Bruce Grant, (1992) Australia's Foreign Relations: In the World of the 1990s
  36. ^ "Parkin's jail cost more than a top hotel". Sydney Morning Herald. 16 September 2005. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  37. ^ "How ASIO is eroding the rule of law". The Age. 25 August 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2008.
  38. ^ "Protesters decry US peace activist's arrest". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 11 September 2005. Archived from the original on 28 March 2008. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  39. ^ "Orders from Washington behind deportation: Brown". Sydney Morning Herald. 11 September 2005. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  40. ^ "LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL LEGISLATION COMMITTEE: Australian Security Intelligence Organisation: Discussion". Parliament of Australia. 31 October 2005. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  41. ^ "STANDING COMMITTEE ON LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS: Australian Security Intelligence Organisation: Discussion". Parliament of Australia. 23 May 2007. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  42. ^ "ASIO admits foreign influence in Parkin case". Friends of Scott Parkin. 22 May 2007. Archived from the original on 6 December 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  43. ^ "ASIO REFUSES TO ANSWER GREENS QUESTIONS ABOUT SCOTT PARKIN". Australian Greens. 23 May 2007. Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  44. ^ a b "Terror case thrown out". Sydney Morning Herald. 12 November 2007. Archived from the original on 14 November 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  45. ^ "Australian National Security – Listing of Terrorist Organisations". The Department of the Attorney-General of Australia. 27 September 2007. Archived from the original on 30 July 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  46. ^ "R v Ul-Haque (2007) – Ruling of the New South Wales Supreme Court". The Department of the Attorney-General of New South Wales. 5 November 2007. Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
  47. ^ Access to records under the Archives Act, fact sheet 10

Further reading

  • No Ribbons or Medals: The story of "Hereward", an Australian counter espionage officer, published by Jacobyte Books, South Australia, 2004 ISBN 1-74100-165-X available from Digital Print, South Australia.
  • McKnight, David. Australia's Spies and Their Secrets. Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1994. ISBN 1-86373-661-1.
  • Fowler, Andrew: "Trust and Betrayal" (transcripts), Four Corners (ABC TV), 1 November 2004.

External links

Asio (disambiguation)

Asio is a genus of owls.

Asio or ASIO may also refer to:

asio C++ library, a programming library for asynchronous I/O

Audio Stream Input/Output, a protocol for low-latency digital audio

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation

"ASIO", a song by Redgum from Frontline

Attorney-General for Australia

The Attorney-General for Australia is the First Law Officer of the Crown in right of the Commonwealth of Australia, chief law officer of the Commonwealth of Australia and a minister of the Crown. The Attorney-General is usually a member of the Federal Cabinet, but need not be. Under the Constitution, they are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister, and serve at the Governor-General's pleasure. In practice, the Attorney-General is a party politician and their tenure is determined by political factors. By convention, but not constitutional requirement, the Attorney-General is a lawyer by training (either a barrister or solicitor).

Since 20 December 2017, the Attorney-General has been Christian Porter, a Liberal member of the House of Representatives from Western Australia.

Australian Cyber Security Centre

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) is an Australian Government intergovernmental and interagency hub responsible for cybersecurity including analysing, investigating and reporting cyber threats and coordinating national security capabilities and operations for incidents of cybercrime, cyberterrorism, and cyberwarfare. The ACSC is hosted by the Australian Signals Directorate but based at the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation headquarters in the Ben Chifley Building. The Centre is led by the National Cyber Coordinator, overseen by the Cyber Security Operations Board, and is the joint responsibility of the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Home Affairs.

Australian Intelligence Community

The Australian Intelligence Community (AIC) and the National Intelligence Community (NIC) or National Security Community of the Australian Government are the collectives of statutory intelligence agencies, policy departments, and other government agencies concerned with protecting and advancing the national security and national interests of the Commonwealth of Australia. The intelligence and security agencies of the Australian Government have evolved since the Second World War and the Cold War and saw transformation and expansion during the Global War on Terrorism in response to current international and domestic security issues such as terrorism, violent extremism, cybersecurity, transnational crime, counter-proliferation, support to military operations, and Pacific regional instability.The National Security Committee of Cabinet (NSC) is a Cabinet committee and the peak Australian Government decision-making body for national security, intelligence, foreign policy, and defence matters. It is chaired by the Prime Minister and is composed of the Deputy Prime Minister, Attorney-General, Treasurer, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Defence, and Minister for Home Affairs.

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (the ASIO Act) is an Act of the Parliament of Australia which replaced the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1956, which had established the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) as a statutory body. ASIO is the counter-intelligence and security agency of Australia, which had been established in 1949 by Prime Minister Ben Chifley's Directive for the Establishment and Maintenance of a Security Service under the executive power of the Constitution, under the control of the Director-General of Security and responsible to the Attorney-General.

After passage of the National Security Legislation Amendment Act 2014 by the Australian Parliament, ASIO officers are exempt from prosecution for a wide range of illegal activities in the course of conducting "operations". ASIO officers may carry arms, and the Minister responsible has the ability under certain conditions to approve the provision of any weapon or training to any specified person, even outside of ASIO officers.

Charles Spry

Brigadier Sir Charles Chambers Fowell Spry (26 June 1910 – 28 May 1994) was an Australian soldier and public servant. From 1950 to 1970 he was the second Director-General of Security, the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Charter of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization

On 6 July 1950 Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies issued a Directive titled the Charter of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization. The charter was an expanded and more specific form of the 1949 Directive for the Establishment and Maintenance of a Security Service issued by Ben Chifley.

Note the spelling 'organization' used in the Directive. The official title of ASIO was amended by legislation in 1999 to remove this spelling and apply the Australian standard spelling of 'organisation.'

Department of Home Affairs (Australia)

The Department of Home Affairs is the Australian Government interior ministry with responsibilities for national security, law enforcement, emergency management, border control, immigration, refugees, citizenship, and multicultural affairs. The portfolio also includes federal agencies such as the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. The Home Affairs portfolio reports to the Minister for Home Affairs The Hon. Peter Dutton MP and is led by Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo.

The Department was officially established on 20 December 2017 building on the former Department of Immigration and Border Protection and bringing policy responsibilities and agencies from the Attorney-General's Department, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Department of Social Services. The Department of Home Affairs is seen as the Australian version of the United Kingdom's Home Office or the United States Department of Homeland Security.

Directive for the Establishment and Maintenance of a Security Service

On 16 March 1949, the Australian prime minister, Ben Chifley, issued a Directive for the Establishment and Maintenance of a Security Service, appointing South Australian Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Reed as the first Director-General of Security. The need for an Australian security service (to be modelled on the United Kingdom Security Service, MI5) became apparent with the United States administration of the day expressing disaffection with the state of security in Australia, particularly in counter-intelligence.Justice Reed advised the Prime Minister in August 1949 that he had decided to christen the service the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Director-General of Security

The Director-General of Security is the executive officer of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Australia's national security agency. The Director-General, through ASIO, has overall responsibility for the protection of the country and its citizens from espionage, sabotage (especially sabotage of critical infrastructure), politically motivated violence, attacks on the Australian defence system, terrorism and acts of foreign interference.

The Director-General is assisted by two Deputy Directors-General, although only one of the former Deputies, David Fricker, has been publicly identified. David Fricker left ASIO in 2011. The Director-General is subject to the directions of the Attorney-General, although convention allows the Director-General direct access to the Prime Minister. The Director-General of Security is often regarded as Australia's 'top spy', even though they may not have been previously engaged in intelligence upon appointment. The incumbent Director-General is Duncan Lewis, appointed on 15 September 2014.

The Director-General is appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister and holds office under the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979. The normal term of appointment is limited to seven years, although the Director-General is eligible for reappointment.

Duncan Lewis

Major General Duncan Edward Lewis (born 3 August 1953) is the current Director-General of Security of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). Prior to that appointment, he held the post of Australian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He is a retired Australian Army officer, and formerly Special Operations Commander Australia (2002–2004), National Security Adviser, and Secretary of the Department of Defence.

Geoffrey Reed

Sir Geoffrey Sandford Reed KC (14 March 1892 – 31 December 1970) was a justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia and the first Director-General of Security and head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (Australia)

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) is an independent statutory office holder in the Commonwealth of Australia responsible for reviewing the activities of the six intelligence agencies which collectively comprise the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC). With own motion powers in addition to considering complaints or requests from ministers, IGIS is a key element of the accountability regime for Australia’s intelligence and security agencies.

The current Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, since 24 August 2015, is Justice Margaret Stone, formerly a judge of the Federal Court.There are currently six intelligence and security agencies which form the AIC, namely:

Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO)

Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)

Australian Signals Directorate (ASD)

Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO)

Office of National Assessments (ONA)

Intelligence Services Act 2001

The Intelligence Services Act 2001 (ISA) is an Act of the Parliament of Australia, which made significant changes to the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC). The bill was introduced into Parliament on 27 June 2001 by then Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer. The Act was passed by Parliament on 29 September 2001 and came into effect on 29 October 2001.

The Act introduced three main reforms:

it provided a statutory basis for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) and the Australian Signals Directorate (at the time called the Defence Signals Directorate, DSD), both of which had been previously established by and operated under executive order.

increased powers for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), ASIS and DSD.

established the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD to replace the former Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO (which was established in 1988) and the Joint Select Committee on the Intelligence Services. The Committee was appointed in March 2002. The Committee's purview was expanded from 1 July 2004 to include DIO, DIGO and ONA, following the recommendations of the Flood Inquiry. On 2 December 2005, the name of the Committee was changed to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS).

Muhammad Faisal

Muhammad Faisal is an Iraqi refugee who was detained on the island of Nauru between 2001 and 2006 under the Australian Government's "pacific solution". Faisal became the second last Iraqi refugee to leave Nauru after he was initially refused a protection visa on the basis of an adverse security assessment issued by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).


An orthotube is a capsule-like high security interlocking door allowing entry to a building or office by one authorised person at a time. Orthotubes are typically used by security and intelligence agencies, such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the United Kingdom Security Service to control access to buildings housing sensitive information. The devices appear in the BBC spy drama Spooks, in which they are referred to as pods.

Orthotubes are manufactured by Boon Edam B.V. of the Netherlands and marketed as Circlelock.

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) is a joint committee of the Parliament of Australia which oversees Australia's primary agencies of the Australian Intelligence Community: Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO), the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (DIGO), and the Office of National Assessments (ONA).

The Committee, then called the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD, was established pursuant to the Intelligence Services Act 2001 and was first appointed in March 2002.


Ranjini is a Sri Lankan refugee to Australia since 2010, who has been held in indefinite detention with her children since 2012 due to a negative assessment by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), while at the same time a recognised refugee. Ranjini's story gained increased media attention since she was detained with her small children. Her case has raised questions about the ASIO's assessment process. It also highlighted the issue of mandatory detention in Australia, and in particular the issue of children living in detention.

Russell Offices

The Russell Offices is a complex of office buildings located in the Canberra suburb of Russell. Parking in the precinct is controlled by the National Capital Authority.

Together with Campbell Park, these two complexes are home to the Australian Department of Defence and contain the administrative headquarters of the Australian Defence Force. The buildings in the complex are informally referred to as R1, R2 and so forth. R1-R4 are clustered together in the centre of the complex, R5-R7 are clustered at the north, while R8 and R9 are together at the south.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was located at Russell until their move into the Ben Chifley Building in July 2013.

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) occupies Building 5 (R5) and Building 6 (R6) and their annex. Upgrade works costing an estimated $75M were put to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in March 2017. The project is in the Department of Defence budget.

The Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO) is located in Building 4 (R4).

AIC Agencies
NIC Agencies
Police agencies
Federal agencies
State authorities
Military agencies
Defunct agencies

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.