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Inspection of AGO activities
During 2016-17 there were regular inspections of a number of AGO activities, including:
- ministerial authorisations to produce intelligence on Australian persons
- Director's approvals and post activity reporting
- AGO's compliance with the privacy rules
- AGO's access to sensitive financial information (discussed later in the report)
Throughout the year, these inspection activities were supplemented by briefings on various matters that either this office requests, or were provided proactively by AGO. Such briefings and investigations allows this office to stay abreast of emerging issues, or followup on trends observed during inspection activities.
Based on inspection and review activities, the IGIS is satisfied that AGO takes its statutory obligations under the ISA seriously and that it has in place systems to encourage compliance. Legislative breaches and other serious issues are brought to the attention of the Director of AGO and this office in a timely manner.
Ministerial authorisations to produce intelligence on Australian persons
AGO is required to seek authorisation from the Minister for Defence to produce intelligence on an Australian person. This authorisation is ordinarily requested in conjunction with ASD. During 2016-17, our inspections of AGO's ministerial authorisations did not identify any concerns relating to AGO's ministerial authorisations, their renewals, cancellations or non-renewals. AGO did not seek any emergency ministerial authorisations.
Director's approvals and post activity reporting
The Minister for Defence requires the Director of AGO personally to approve AGO activities intended to obtain or communicate geospatial or imagery intelligence of Australian territory. The Director of AGO provides the Minister with quarterly reports on the approved intelligence activities. The accuracy of these and other reports provided to the Minister for Defence were also reviewed by this office. No concerns were identified.
The Director's approval is often subject to conditions. During 2016-17, AGO identified only minor issues of non-compliance in relation to these conditions and this office is satisfied that AGO has taken appropriate remedial action and steps to monitor and respond to issues. At the conclusion of approved activities, AGO staff prepare a post activity compliance report for the Director and this office regularly examines them. No concerns were identified in the current reporting period.
AGO compliance with privacy rules
The Minister for Defence makes written rules, the Rules to Protect the Privacy of Australians, to regulate how AGO communicates and retains intelligence information concerning Australian persons. During the 2016-17 reporting period, this office did not identify any issues relating to AGO's compliance with the privacy rules.
Breaches of the Intelligence Services Act 2001
AGO proactively reports issues of legality and propriety to the IGIS. While working on a task in support of another intelligence agency, AGO, in breach of section 8(2) of the ISA, produced imagery intelligence of Australian territory without the Director's approval. In July 2016, AGO provided this office with a clear account of what occurred and the remedial action it had taken to avoid any similar breaches in the future.
In November 2016, AGO reported a breach of sections 8(3) and 12(a) of the ISA. The breach involved AGO collecting intelligence that was not of a geospatial or imagery nature and therefore was outside AGO's functions under the Act. This office was satisfied with the remedial actions taken by AGO to address the specific issue as well as to prevent any future recurrence, which included changes to AGO's training that incorporated lessons learned from this breach.
AGO has continued to keep this office informed about organisational changes resulting from the Defence First Principles Review. Among these changes is the growth in the organisation which has required restructuring its ISA training. This office intends to attend AGO's amended ISA training during the 2017-18 period as well as AGO's internal capability and awareness briefings. These initiatives will provide this office with greater insight into AGO's operations and will enable the office to keep abreast of developments.