Australian Signals Directorate

Australian Signals Directorate (ASD; until 2013: Defence Signals Directorate, DSD) is the Australian government agency responsible for foreign signals intelligence, support to military operations, cyber warfare, and information security. ASD is part of the Australian Intelligence Community. ASD's role within UKUSA Agreement (Five Eyes) is to monitor SIGINT in South and East Asia. The ASD also houses the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

The unit was established in 1947 by executive order as the Defence Signals Bureau within the Department of Defence, and underwent several name changes until its current name ASD was adopted in 2013. ASD was converted to a statutory body by the Intelligence Services Act 2001. ASD is based in Canberra, at the Defence Department Headquarters at Russell Offices.[2] As of December 2017, Mike Burgess is the Director-General of ASD, replacing Director Dr Paul Taloni, who moves to a senior position within the Office of National Assessments.[3] ASD became an independent statutory body on 1 July 2018.[4]

In April 2018, a proposal to empower ASD to collect intelligence on Australians was backed by Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, but is strongly opposed by some in Cabinet who argue it is not necessary.[4] Under legislation, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) are already allowed to seek assistance from ASD in conducting investigations on Australian citizens and businesses.[4]

Australian Signals Directorate
Agency overview
Formed12 November 1947
JurisdictionCommonwealth of Australia
HeadquartersCanberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
35°17′43″S 149°08′55″E / 35.2952°S 149.1487°ECoordinates: 35°17′43″S 149°08′55″E / 35.2952°S 149.1487°E
Employees1,900 (14 September 2017)[1]
Minister responsible
Agency executive
  • Mike Burgess, Director-General
    (As of December 2017)
Parent agencyDepartment of Defence


The Directorate has operated under a number of different names since its founding:

  • 1947 – Defence Signals Bureau established within the Department of Defence
  • 1949 – name changed to Defence Signals Branch
  • 1964 – name changed to Defence Signals Division
  • 1978 – name changed to Defence Signals Directorate on recommendation of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security (Hope Commission)
  • 2013 – name changed to Australian Signals Directorate[5]

Roles and responsibilities

The principal functions of ASD are to collect and disseminate foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT) and to provide information security products and services to the Australian Government and Australian Defence Force (ADF), its foreign partners and militaries.[6]

ASD operates at least three receiving stations:

ASD also maintains a workforce at Pine Gap in central Australia.[8]

ADSCS and Shoal Bay are part of the United States signals intelligence and ECHELON analysis network.[9][10] These stations also contribute signals intelligence for many Australian Government bodies, as well as the other UKUSA partners.

Electronic warfare operators in the Royal Australian Corps of Signals work closely with ASD. 7 Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare) at Borneo Barracks, Cabarlah, Queensland is also associated with ASD..

In addition, it has been reported that many Australian embassies and overseas missions also house small facilities which provide a flow of signals intelligence to ASD.[11]

UKUSA Agreement (Five Eyes)

Australia joined the UKUSA Agreement in 1948,[12][13] a multilateral agreement for cooperation in signals intelligence between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The alliance is also known as the Five Eyes.[14] Other countries, known as "third parties", such as West Germany, the Philippines, and several Nordic countries also joined the UKUSA community.[15][16] As the Agreement was a secret treaty, its existence was not even disclosed to the Australian Prime Minister until 1973, when Gough Whitlam insisted on seeing it.[17] The existence of the UKUSA Agreement was discovered by the Australian government during the 1973 Murphy raids on the headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). After learning about the agreement, Whitlam discovered that Pine Gap, a secret surveillance station close to Alice Springs, Australia, had been operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[18][19][20][21] Pine Gap is now operated jointly by both Australia and the United States.

The existence of the Agreement was not disclosed to the public until 2005.[22] On 25 June 2010, for the first time, the full text of the agreement was publicly released by the United Kingdom and the United States, and can now be viewed online.[15][23] Under the agreement, ASD's intelligence is shared with UKUSA signals intelligence partner agencies:

Organisational structure

The Australian Signals Directorate is led by a Director-General and a Principal Deputy Director-General who oversee strategy. The ASD also comprises the Australian Cyber Security Centre, a Signals Intelligence and Network Operations Group, and a Corporate and Capability Group.

SIGINT and Network Operations Group

The Signals Intelligence and Network Operations Group is responsible for signals intelligence collection, analysis and production, and ASD’s network based access and effects operations. The Group comprises an Intelligence Division and a Network Operations and Access Division responsible for foreign signals intelligence and offensive cyber operations.



Title Name Postnominal(s) Term began Term ended Time in Appointment
Ian McKenzie November 2013
Dr Paul Taloni PSM November 2013 Incumbent 5 years, 169 days


Principal Deputy Director

Title Name Postnominal(s) Term began Term ended Time in Appointment
Lieutenant General John Frewen DSC, AM 1 March 2018 Incumbent 1 year, 49 days

See also


  1. ^ Canberra Times. Australian Signals Directorate $75 million Canberra upgrade gets go ahead.
  2. ^ "History: DSD Defence Signals Directorate". 2011. Archived from the original on 1 November 2011.
  3. ^ Mike Burgess returns to ASD
  4. ^ a b c Peter Dutton confirms push to expand powers of cyber spy agency to monitor domestic threats
  5. ^ "2013 Defence White Paper: Renaming the Defence Signals Directorate and the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation" (Press release). Minister for Defence. 3 May 2013. Archived from the original on 28 August 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  6. ^ "About DSD: DSD Defence Signals Directorate". 2011. Archived from the original on 1 December 2011.
  7. ^ a b Dorling, Philip (1 November 2013). "Listening post revealed on Cocos Islands". Canberra Times.
  8. ^ Leslie, Tim; Corcoran, Mark (19 November 2013). "Explained: Australia's involvement with the NSA, the US spy agency at heart of global scandal". ABC. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Tracking down the masters of terror". The Age. 17 March 2003. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
  10. ^ Adshead, Gary (10 June 2001). "Secret WA spy base". The Sunday Times (Perth). p. 20.
  11. ^ Dorling, Philip (31 October 2013). "Exposed: Australia's Asia spy network". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  12. ^ "Declassified UKUSA Signals Intelligence Agreement Documents Available" (Press release). National Security Agency. 24 June 2010. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
  13. ^ Also known as the Quadripartite Agreement or Quadripartite Pact (EPIC, Privacy International (2002), Privacy and Human Rights 2002: An International Survey of Privacy Rights and Developments, Epic, 2002, p. 100, ISBN 1-893044-16-5)
  14. ^ Cox, James (December 2012). "Canada and the Five Eyes Intelligence Community" (PDF). Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-04.
  15. ^ a b Norton-Taylor, Richard (25 June 2010). "Not so secret: deal at the heart of UK-US intelligence". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
  16. ^ Gallagher, Ryan (2014-06-19). "How Secret Partners Expand NSA's Surveillance Dragnet". The Intercept. Retrieved 2014-09-27.
  17. ^ Jordan Chittley & Kevin Newman. "Canada's role in secret intelligence alliance Five Eyes". CTV News. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  18. ^ Ley, Jenny (1 February 2003). "Australia and America: a 50-year affair". The Age. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  19. ^ Gill, Peter (1994). Policing Politics: Security Intelligence and the Liberal Democratic State (1. publ. ed.). London u.a.: Cass. p. 198. ISBN 0-7146-3490-5.
  20. ^ Leslie, Tim. "Explained: Australia's involvement with the NSA, the US spy agency at heart of global scandal". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 30 January 2014. Its existence was allegedly so secret that prime ministers were unaware of the agreement until 1973 – the same year the Commonwealth raided ASIO
  21. ^ Pugh, Michael C. (1989). The ANZUS Crisis, Nuclear Visiting and Deterrence (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 46. ISBN 0-521-34355-0.
  22. ^ Adam White (29 June 2010). "How a Secret Spy Pact Helped Win the Cold War". Time.
  23. ^ "Newly released GCHQ files: UKUSA Agreement". The National Archives. June 2010. The files contain details of the recently avowed UKUSA Agreement – the top secret, post-war arrangement for sharing intelligence between the United States and the UK. Signed by representatives of the London Signals Intelligence Board and its American counterpart in March 1946, the UKUSA Agreement is without parallel in the Western intelligence world and formed the basis for co-operation between the two countries throughout the Cold War.
  24. ^ "News". Retrieved 2018-01-31.
  25. ^ Coyne, Allie (24 October 2013). "Defence appoints new infosec chief". iTnews. nextmedia Pty Ltd. Retrieved 28 October 2017.

External links

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 Defence Organisation

The Australian Defence Organisation (abbreviated as ADO) is an Australian Government organisation that consists of both the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the civilian Department of Defence personnel supporting the ADF.

Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station

The Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station (ADSCS), an Earth station in Australia is located at Kojarena, 30 km (19 mi) east of Geraldton, Western Australia. The ADSCS is part of the US signals intelligence and analysis network ECHELON.The station has four satellite tracking dishes which intercept communications from Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Pakistani regional satellites and international communications satellites (INTELSATs and COMSATs), throughout the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian regions. Staff are drawn from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), and the site is operated under the UKUSA Agreement.In 2007, after signing an agreement it was announced that an additional but separate US military communications facility would be built within the grounds of the ADSCGS. It will consist of three 19 m (62 ft) antennas and two smaller antennas making up a joint US-Australian ground station for the US Department of Defense Mobile User Objective System, a narrow-band networked satellite constellation for Ultra-High-Frequency satellite communications enabling secure all-weather and all-terrain 3-G mobile telecommunications.

Australian High Tech Crime Centre

The Australian High Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC) is an Australia-wide policing initiative to coordinate the efforts of Australian law enforcement in combating serious, complex and multi-jurisdictional Internet-based crimes, particularly those beyond the capability of individual police agencies in Australia. Other roles include protecting the information infrastructure of Australia, and providing information to other law enforcement to help combat online crime.

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.

The Australian Government 2008 National Security Strategy defined the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC) as the six core intelligence agencies (Office of National Assessments (ONA), Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO), Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO)) and the National Intelligence Community (NIC) as policy departments and other government agencies such as the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Australian Federal Police. The Office of National Assessments further classifies the six agencies of the Australian Intelligence Community as collection (ASIO, ASIS, ASD, AGO) or assessment agencies (ONA, DIO). The Office of National Assessments itself plays a unique all-source intelligence assessment and intergovernmental co-ordination role.As a middle power and G20 economy in the international community and a regional power in the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific, Australia has played a major role in international security. The Australian Government is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence community, the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty, the Five Power Defence Arrangements, and the Commonwealth of Nations. The foreign policy of Australia is guided by its commitment to multilateralism and the United Nations and regionalism with the Pacific Islands Forum and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations alongside strong bilateral relations particularly in Oceania, Southeast Asia, the alliance with the United States, and Australia–China relations.

The Australian Defence Force has also deployed around the world for United Nations peacekeeping, regional peacekeeping operations including with the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands and the International Force for East Timor, humanitarian relief, counterterrorism and special operations, border security in Operation Resolute, airborne surveillance operations and maritime monitoring operations in the South China Sea and South West Pacific, counterinsurgency and security assistance such as with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan with Operation Slipper and Operation Highroad, and the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant with Operation Okra.

Domestically, the rise of violent extremism and threats of both Islamic and right-wing terrorism are key concerns of the Australian Government. Crime in Australia, including cybercrime and transnational crime such as human trafficking, arms trafficking, and the illegal drug trade, are ongoing risks to the security and safety of Australia.

Australia–Indonesia spying scandal

The Australia–Indonesia spying scandal concerns allegations made in 2013 by The Guardian and Australian Broadcasting Corporation, based on documents leaked to The Guardian and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, that the Australian Signals Directorate attempted to monitor the mobile phone calls of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife Kristiani Herawati, and senior officials.

Defence Intelligence Organisation

The Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) is an Australian government military intelligence agency responsible for strategic intelligence and technical intelligence assessments, advising defence and government decision-making on national security and international security issues, and the planning and conduct of Australian Defence Force operations. The DIO does not collect intelligence or conduct covert action, but works on defence economics, transnational terrorism, and WMD.

The DIO is an agency of the Australian Intelligence Community and is part of the Defence Strategic Policy and Intelligence Group with the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO) and the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD). The head of DIO is the Director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, currently Major General Matthew Hall.

Defence Strategic Policy and Intelligence Group

The Defence Strategic Policy and Intelligence Group (SP&I) of the Australian Government Department of Defence is responsible for defence diplomacy, strategic policy, international security, and military intelligence co-ordination and advice to the Prime Minister of Australia, Minister for Defence, Secretary of the Department of Defence, and Chief of the Defence Force. The Defence Strategic Policy and Intelligence Group is led by the Deputy Secretary for Strategic Policy and Intelligence and comprises four policy divisions and three intelligence agencies, which are the Australian Defence Organisation members of the Australian Intelligence Community.

The Group has existed in various forms since the Cold War within the Department of Defence with responsibilities for defence policy, strategy, intelligence, and international policy. It has been known as the Defence Strategy and Intelligence Group, the Defence Strategy Executive, the Defence Intelligence and Security Group, the Defence Intelligence, Security and International Policy Group, and the Defence Intelligence Group. The current SP&I Group was established on 8 February 2016 as a key recommendation of the First Principles Review of the Australian Defence Organisation, integrating all policy, strategy and intelligence functions of the Australian Government Department of Defence.The Deputy Secretary for Strategic Policy and Intelligence can be seen as the Australian combined equivalent of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy of the United States Department of Defense.

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).

John Frewen (general)

Lieutenant General John James Frewen, is a senior officer in the Australian Army and the current Principal Deputy Director of the Australian Signals Directorate since 1 March 2018. He commanded the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment from January 2003 to December 2004, and later the 1st Brigade. He was the initial international force commander for the Solomon Islands crisis in 2003.

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.

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).

Secret City (TV series)

Secret City is an Australian political thriller set in a world of secrets, lies, murder and betrayal, based on the best-selling novels The Marmalade Files and The Mandarin Code by Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis. It premiered on Foxtel's Showcase in June 5, 2016 and on Netflix, internationally, on June 26, 2018. The series is produced by Matchbox Pictures and Foxtel.A sequel to the series called Secret City: Under the Eagle was green-lit in February 2018. It aired on March 4, 2019, in Australia and launched worldwide on Netflix on March 6, 2019. It is unknown if there will be a season 3.

The sequel storyline is a departure from the books written by Uhlmann and Lewis, who joined the series as story consultants.

Senior Australian Defence Organisation Positions

The Australian Defence Organisation (ADO) is composed of the armed forces of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Australian Defence Force (ADF), and the Australian Public Service government department, the Department of Defence which is composed of a range of civilian support organisations.

The Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) leads the Australian Defence Force and the Secretary of Defence leads the Department of Defence though both jointly manage the Australian Defence Organisation under a diarchy, and both report directly to the Minister for Defence.

The highest active rank in the Australian Defence Force is reserved for the Chief of the Defence Force. This is a four-star rank and the CDF is the only Australian military officer at that level. As a result of the diarchy, the Secretary of the Department of Defence is of the equivalent civilian four-starlevel in the Senior Executive Service of the Australian Public Service.

Shoal Bay Receiving Station

Shoal Bay Receiving Station is a signals intelligence-gathering facility, located on the shores of Shoal Bay, 17 kilometres (11 mi) from Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory. The site is managed by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).

West Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands

West Island (Malay: Pulau Panjang, Cocos Malay: Pulu Panjang) is the capital of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The population is roughly 120 and consists mainly of Europeans. It is the less populous of the two inhabited islands (the other is Home Island). It was part of the Clunies-Ross plantation and an airstrip was built here during World War II. As well as all the government buildings, it contains the airport, a general store and tourist accommodation. In November 2013 it was revealed that the Australian Signals Directorate operates a listening station on West Island. Wullenweber and Adcock antenna systems as well as two satellite dish antennae are clearly visible via Google satellite view.


XKeyscore (XKEYSCORE or XKS) is a formerly secret computer system first used by the United States National Security Agency for searching and analyzing global Internet data, which it collects on a daily basis. The program has been shared with other spy agencies including the Australian Signals Directorate, Canada's Communications Security Establishment, New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau, Britain's Government Communications Headquarters, Japan's Defense Intelligence Headquarters and the German Bundesnachrichtendienst.The program's purpose was publicly revealed in July 2013, by Edward Snowden in The Sydney Morning Herald and O Globo newspapers. The code name was already public knowledge because it is mentioned in earlier articles, and like many other code names can also be seen in job postings, and in the online resumes of employees.On July 3, 2014, excerpts of XKeyscore's source code were first published by German public broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk, a member of ARD. A team of experts analyzed the source code.

AIC Agencies
NIC Agencies
& Training

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.