Defence intelligence agencies gather, analyse and retain a wide range of information which supports Government decision making.
Australian intelligence agencies are legally bound by the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (ISA).
Intelligence Services Act
ISA provides the legal framework for the activities of the foreign intelligence collection agencies, including the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation. ISA regulates the agencies via:
- rules about protecting the privacy of Australians
- special directions from their respective Ministers
- provision of oversight and accountability measures
- protection of classified materials
- protocols for the use of open source information
- other general limitations.
The Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) is governed by the DIO Mandate, which describes its role, operating context, functions, organisational character, analytical independence, tradecraft, analytics standards and governance, and assurance arrangements.
Privacy protection for Australian residents
During intelligence collection activities, protecting the privacy of Australian residents needs to be observed.
Under section 15 of ISA, the Minister responsible for Defence is required to make written rules regulating the communication and retention of intelligence information collected by intelligence agencies that concerns Australians.
Analytical independence is a key tenet of intelligence assessment function. Assessments must be independent, clear and concise, timely, insightful, based on all available sources, accountable and rigorous.
Intelligence agencies are not to be subject to government direction in regards to the independence of intelligence assessments and judgements.
Oversight and accountability
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) is concerned with the administration and expenditure of intelligence agencies.
ISA establishes the PJCIS to allow members of Parliament to directly oversee some intelligence collection activities. The committee is made up of members of the government and the opposition, drawn from both the House of Representatives and Senate.
The ISA contains rules about how the committee conducts its business. In particular, the committee cannot review the intelligence operations or priorities; rather, it reviews the administration and expenditure, including financial statements.
Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) oversees the way intelligence collection activities are conducted.
IGIS is empowered by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986(IGIS Act) to provide independent assurance to the Australian Government, the Parliament and the Australian public that intelligence agencies conduct their activities legally, behave with propriety, comply with any directions from the Minister for Defence, and has regard for human rights.
To guarantee the independence of IGIS, the IGIS Act provides that the position is appointed by the Governor-General and cannot be dismissed by the Government.
Disclosing suspected wrongdoing
Public Interest Disclosure encourages and facilitates the disclosure of information by both current and former public officials about suspected wrongdoing in the public sector.
Disclosures about suspected wrongdoing in an intelligence agency, which involve intelligence information must only be made directly to an authorised officer in the relevant agency or an authorised officer in IGIS. If the disclosure includes any classified material, the authorised officer needs to be informed before disclosing it.