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Inquiries conducted during 2016–17
During the 2016–17 reporting period one inquiry, with a duration of 133 days, was concluded. This duration is considered reasonable taking into account IGIS staffing levels, and the fact that this period encompassed the Christmas holiday period. There were no formal recommendations arising from the inquiry. The inquiry was conducted in accordance with s 8(3)(c) of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1987 (IGIS Act), that is, an own motion inquiry into the statutory independence of ONA.
Two inquiries were in progress at the end of the reporting period. A short summary of these is provided below, and further details will be provided in the next annual report.
During the reporting period no inquiries were conducted pursuant to a ministerial direction; see s 8(1)(d) of the IGIS Act.
Inquiry into the analytic independence of the Office of National Assessments
In January 2017, the IGIS completed the fourth inquiry into the analytic independence of the ONA. The inquiry was not prompted by any particular concern, but was intended to update previous inquiries. As with the previous inquiries, this inquiry found no evidence of interference with the independence of ONA assessments. It made no formal recommendations.
The assessments and other documents examined indicated that ONA observes appropriate procedures. Reports reviewed contained comprehensive endnotes that captured information from both formal and informal sources. Lengthy commentary revealing the analyst's consideration of the referenced material was often included. ONA policies and practices encourage contestability, and ONA has an appropriate structure for critically reviewing key judgments made in assessments.
Inquiry into the analytic independence and integrity of the defence intelligence organisation
In November 2016 this office initiated an inquiry into the analytic independence and integrity of the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO). This was the third such inquiry in respect of DIO, with similar inquiries completed in 2008 and 2013. It was a routine inquiry, not prompted by any particular concern. The inquiry included a review of DIO policy, meetings with various staff and a detailed review of a sample of DIO reports produced in a twelve month period. Like the previous DIO inquiry, the current inquiry critically examined elements of the report production process directed to ensuring that the reports meet the required standards of independence and integrity.
As at 30 June 2017, a draft of the inquiry was close to finalisation, but DIO had yet to be provided the opportunity to comment on the findings. The outcome of this inquiry will be reported in the next annual report. An unclassified summary of the report will be available on the IGIS website when the inquiry is completed.
Inquiry into an Australian Signals Directorate matter
In February 2017 this office initiated an inquiry into an Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) matter pursuant to s 8(2) of the IGIS Act. The final report was provided to ASD in July 2017. The Inspector-General found that ASD relied on incorrect legal advice in determining the parameters governing its interception of certain telecommunications. The inquiry also found inadequacies in ASD's reporting of the problem to the IGIS and to Ministers. The details of the incorrect legal advice and relevant contextual information are classified. The report included five (classified) recommendations designed to ensure that the situation would not arise in the future and to streamline communications with Ministers and with the IGIS.
ASD has accepted all the recommendations and has agreed to report to the Inspector-General on its progress in implementing the recommendations within 6 months. The Inspector-General is satisfied with ASD's corrective measures to date and with the revised reporting arrangements between ASD and this office.
A full account of the inquiry is contained in the classified report which has been provided to the Director of ASD, the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister and copied to appropriate Australian Government recipients for information. Given the highly classified nature and details of the inquiry, no further information will be released publicly.