You are here

Inspector-General's review

This year marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. This is an auspicious moment, both for what has been achieved and for what the future holds for this office.

Over several decades this office has earned a strong reputation for the quality of its oversight of the six intelligence agencies within its jurisdiction. Details of the past year's activities are documented in this report, in particular, in the performance statement in Section 2. Looking ahead, our future work and responsibilities will be shaped by factors recognised in the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review discussed below.

Consultation and education are important aspects of our work in monitoring and supporting compliance. My officers and I give presentations to the agencies both in Australia and overseas explaining our approach to oversight and how we can assist with compliance. Appearances before Senate Estimates committees and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), as well as presentations to the general public help us to assure the Parliament and the public that intelligence and security matters are subject to rigorous scrutiny.

We continue to develop links with counterpart bodies overseas. To that end, in the last twelve months we have had discussions with representatives from Japan and from the Five Eyes countries (USA, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom). In September 2016 at a meeting in Washington, the oversight bodies of the Five Eyes countries agreed to establish the Five Eyes Intelligence Oversight and Review Council to facilitate the sharing of experiences and best practice in oversight and review. The Council will meet in person annually and by means of secure electronic communication on a quarterly basis.

During the reporting period three inquiries were initiated by this office. Two examined the analytic independence of ONA and DIO. The third concerned ASD's interception of certain telecommunications. Inquiries such as these are inevitably intrusive for the agencies concerned and require the allocation of their valuable resources to the issues raised in the inquiries; nevertheless, my officers received the complete cooperation of the agencies concerned. Briefings and documentation were provided without delay and all queries were addressed in a timely manner. The ONA inquiry was finalised during the reporting period; the ASD and DIO inquiries were finalised, respectively, in July and September 2017 and will be reported on in next year's report.

The co-operation received during these inquiries reflects the general approach of all six agencies. They have been unstinting in their responses to our briefing requests, helping us to understand the complexities and challenges of their work and the impact of compliance requirements. Increasingly there is a culture of self-reporting compliance breaches and prospectively briefing this office about proposed operations, thus enabling us to make useful comments about compliance aspects. We have frequent meetings with each agency in which we discuss issues of compliance (both legality and propriety) relevant to their current activities.

An important facet of our work is responding to and resolving complaints from the public or from members of the intelligence agencies. This includes complaints falling within the Public Interest Disclosure Scheme which is designed to encourage public officials to report suspected wrongdoing in the public sector and protect them from reprisals.

The office has a regular program of inspections and, with one exception (see page 14) we have met our goal of inspecting 75% of an agency's activity categories. We have continued the development of our inspection program to target high risk areas, focusing on in-depth investigations rather than on the breadth of the inspection program. In addition we have paid considerable attention to compliance with privacy rules applicable to ASIS, ASD and AGO and, in this time of interest in dual citizenship, the difficulty of determining who is an "Australian person" as defined in section 3 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001.

The 2017 Independent Intelligence Review recommended far-reaching changes for Australia's intelligence bodies. In relation to this office it recommended that the jurisdiction of the IGIS be expanded to include all ten agencies in the National Intelligence Community and that the resources of the office be increased accordingly. This proposal would bring under my jurisdiction the Australian Transactions Reporting and Analysis Centre, as well as the intelligence functions of the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. The Review also recommended enabling the PJCIS to request the IGIS to inquire into the legality and propriety of particular operational activities of the ten agencies. These recommendations would, if accepted, require a major expansion of this office and increased scrutiny of intelligence activities in Australia. In any event, it is clear that the future of this office and its oversight responsibilities will be shaped in response to "the contemporary and future challenges that our intelligence agencies face as a result of transforming geopolitical economic, societal and technological changes" recognised by the 2017 Independent Intelligence Review.

HTML version of this annual report converted and prepared by XiNG Digital Pty Ltd.