ASIO can’t keep up with terror, espionage spying demands

Australia’s domestic intelligence agency is struggling to meet demand for advice on spying and foreign interference.

Oct 17, 2019, updated Oct 17, 2019
ASIO says it's being stretched by counter-terrorism and espionage investigations. Photo: AAP/Victoria Police

ASIO says it's being stretched by counter-terrorism and espionage investigations. Photo: AAP/Victoria Police

Heightened levels of espionage and interference – combined with greater awareness of the twin threats – are stretching resources at the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation.

“Our capacity to provide our partners with advice is being outstripped by demand,” the spy agency said in its annual report.

“The significant growth in demand for our advice will continue to present a challenge for ASIO, necessitating a continued focus on the most valuable activities in collaboration with our strategic partners.”

Duncan Lewis, who authored the agency’s annual report but has since retired, said ASIO could not easily adjust to keep up with demand.

“With the terrorist threat showing no signs of significantly decreasing, ASIO has limited scope to redirect internal resources to address the increasing gap between demand for our counter-espionage and foreign interference advice and our ability to furnish this assistance,” he said.

Lewis expects demand to grow.

“ASIO will need to build new capability and capacity to meet current and future demand for our trusted advice and expertise,” he said.

“We will necessarily prioritise our finite resources – across our counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and foreign interference, border integrity and protective security advice programs – towards addressing activities of the greatest potential harm to Australians and Australian interests.”

ASIO measures its performance against eight criteria, but fell short in two areas.

The first was in providing advice to national security partners, helping them disrupt and defend against “harmful espionage, foreign interference, sabotage and malicious insiders”.

The second area ASIO only “partially achieved” its target was in collecting foreign intelligence in Australia that advances the nation’s security interests.

The spy agency said the collections operations it conducted in the past year yielded valuable and unique intelligence.

“The ‘partially achieved’ result acknowledges that we were unable to progress other collection operations requested by partners,” it said.

The annual report also laid out ASIO’s activities for the past financial year:

* Counter-terrorism leads resolved or investigated: 12,478

* Disruptions of planned terror attacks: 3

* Visa security assessments: 11,669

* Personal security assessments: 32,887

InDaily in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

* Foreign Investment Review Board assessments: 275

* Security assessments for access to sensitive sites and materials: 145,114

* Security products evaluated: 87

* Published counter-terror intelligence and security reports: 983

* Published counter-terror and foreign interference intelligence and security products: 269

* (Security) Zone 5 site inspections and reports: 81

* Total employees: 1961

* Budget: $547.4 million

(Source: Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation)


Want to comment?

Send us an email, making it clear which story you’re commenting on and including your full name (required for publication) and phone number (only for verification purposes). Please put “Reader views” in the subject.

We’ll publish the best comments in a regular “Reader Views” post. Your comments can be brief, or we can accept up to 350 words, or thereabouts.

InDaily has changed the way we receive comments. Go here for an explanation.

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InDaily.
All rights reserved.