13 April 2023
Factually incorrect information about Defence Protected Identity status and its application, in relation to the Afghanistan Inquiry, has recently circulated on social media.
Following the charge, and subsequent naming, of a former ADF member it has been claimed that it is Defence policy that individuals afforded Defence Protected Identity status will have their identity made public if they appear in court accused of a crime. This is incorrect.
Defence Protected Identity status, also known as PID status, is a Defence policy afforded to some current serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members. This is to protect current sensitive Defence capabilities and effects, our operations, the partners we operate with, as well as to safeguard the security of individuals and their families.
In practice, Defence Protected Identity status applies to current serving members of Special Operations Command and Special Forces qualified members who are likely to return to a position within Special Operations Command. Once these personnel fall outside these categories, they no longer hold Defence Protected Identity status.
Personnel within Special Operations Command who hold public facing positions are not afforded Defence Protected Identity status. Similarly, former ADF members are not covered by Defence Protected Identity status policy.
Importantly, Defence will take steps to protect from public disclosure the identity of its members who do have Protected Identity status.
It is not Defence’s position, nor has it ever been, to publish details of individuals with an active Protected Identity status. In the context of civil and criminal court cases this includes the Commonwealth, on behalf of Defence, applying for suppression orders to prohibit the disclosure of information in certain circumstances. However, decisions regarding disclosure will be a matter for the courts.
If Defence Protected Identity status is not applicable, but another national security requirement to protect an individual’s information is identified, Defence will make an application to the court to protect such information. The final decision on such an application is a matter for the courts.
Irrespective of a person’s identity status, protected or not, it is Defence policy and practice to only release official content, or make public comment, that will not compromise an individual’s privacy in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988.
Defence continues to provide welfare support and legal assistance to ADF personnel who participated in the Afghanistan Inquiry and/or are now participating in criminal investigations or proceedings relating to matters arising from the Afghanistan Inquiry. Welfare and other support services, along with information on legal assistance, is available.