During 2012-13 I commenced five full inquiries:
• an inquiry into a complaint by an ASIO employee about the loss of their security clearance
• an inquiry into the attendance of legal representatives at ASIO interviews
• an inquiry into the use of weapons and selfdefence techniques in ASIS
• an inquiry into the analytic independence of assessments by ASIO, DIO and ONA
The first inquiry is described thus -• an inquiry into the actions of Commonwealth agencies in respect of an Egyptian irregular maritime arrival who was placed in immigration detention and was the subject of an Interpol red notice.
Inquiry into a complaint by an ASIO employee about the loss of their security clearance
An ASIO employee lodged a complaint disputing the grounds upon which the Director-General of Security had issued them with a notice of intention to withdraw their security clearance. This decision would have the effect of terminating the complainant’s employment. After a preliminary review of ASIO’s records relating to this matter, I decided to inquire both specifically into the complaint made by the employee, and more broadly into matters relating to their management by ASIO.
In relation to withdrawal of the security clearance, I found that the decision to withdraw the employee’s clearance was not inappropriate.
Three recommendations were made in respect of ASIO’s staff management processes:
Two related to classified security vetting and risk management matters, which cannot be detailed in this report. ASIO has advised me that one recommendation has been fully implemented and the other is being actively progressed through the Australian Government Inter-Agency Security Forum.
The third recommendation concerned the creation and retention of performance appraisal records for ASIO staff. ASIO advised me that a new IT system was introduced in late 2012 which is intended to hold performance expectations and capability plans for every staff member. In early 2012, approximately 60 per cent of ASIO employees had documented performance expectation records. By the end of 2012-13, this figure had risen to 76 per cent.In relation to 'analytic independence' IGIS states that -
Analytic independence of ASIO, DIO and ONA
During the reporting period I conducted an inquiry into the analytic independence of ASIO, DIO and ONA.
My office has previously conducted this type of inquiry in respect of ONA and DIO. This is the first such review of ASIO’s assessment activities, providing a baseline that will inform future inquiries.
The inquiry included: • examination of relevant agency policy and procedures • a self-assessment by each agency of their performance relating to assessment activities • examination of a selection of intelligence assessments and associated records • examination of staff surveys • an open letter inviting analysts to contribute to the inquiry.
The general picture of the independence of assessment activities across the three agencies is a positive one. There was no evidence of inappropriate pressure being placed on any of the agencies to reach a particular position.
While the overall finding is positive, the inquiry found inconsistent recordkeeping and source referencing in ASIO and DIO. The inquiry recommended improvement to policies, procedures and training in ASIO and DIO so that these agencies can consistently demonstrate that their assessments are free from interference or bias. Both agencies have accepted these recommendations.
DIO is expecting to implement a new electronic intelligence production system in July 2013. Provided that the new system is consistently utilised to capture records in the way in which it has been designed, there should be a significant improvement in DIO recordkeeping.
As a result of this inquiry, ASIO is developing a new policy on referencing and has made improvements to electronic records systems to make it easier for analysts to consistently record supporting documentation. Training for analysts has also been revised to incorporate methods for documenting the material that has been considered when making assessments.
The inquiry also noted that ASIO and DIO did not conduct formal reviews of key judgements to see whether there were any lessons that could be learnt and did not have written policies relating to the management of dissent. In response to this inquiry, both agencies have taken steps to formalise their processes for taking account of dissenting views and are considering possible mechanisms for the review of key judgements.
No recommendations were made with regard to ONA.Inquiries underway at the end of the reporting period are characterised thus -
Inquiry into the attendance of legal representatives at ASIO interviews
ASIO cannot prevent an individual requiring the presence of their lawyer at a voluntary interview. Where an interviewee requires the presence of their lawyer, ASIO requests the contact details of the lawyer and their firm, as well as an undertaking of confidentiality. However, if interviewing officers assess that the presence of the lawyer is counterproductive to the conduct of the interview, they may inform the interviewee and, if appropriate, terminate the interview.
In last year’s annual report, I reported on a complaint by a state legal aid commission that a client had been denied the right to a legal representative during an ASIO visa security assessment interview. I noted that the complaint highlighted ASIO’s responsibility to clarify the role of any support person. In March 2013 I received a separate complaint alleging arbitrary decision making by ASIO officers in relation to the attendance of legal representatives at security assessment interviews. I conducted a preliminary inquiry into the new complaint, to identify if ASIO procedures had changed since my previous inquiry and to ascertain whether ASIO’s decisions were being carefully considered and documented in each instance, with sufficient notice of interview arrangements being given to interviewees. I identified some inconsistencies between ASIO records and those of the complainant, and some potential issues in relation to communication between ASIO and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and consequently decided to initiate a full inquiry. The inquiry was ongoing at the end of the reporting period and will be reported in the 2013- 14 IGIS annual report.
Inquiry into the use of weapons in ASIS
It has now been almost ten years since the Intelligence Services Amendment Act 2004 was passed permitting the Minister for Foreign Affairs to approve the provision of a weapon or training in the use of a weapon or in self-defence techniques to a specified staff member or agent of ASIS, or the holder of a specific position in ASIS.
In April 2013 I commenced an inquiry into the provision of weapons and the training in and use of weapons and self-defence techniques in ASIS. This inquiry has not been prompted by any particular concern; rather, it was always intended that this provision be subject to close oversight by my office. The inquiry will review compliance by ASIS with the legislation and relevant guidelines and will examine: • authorisations • training • procurement, issuing, storage, transportation and carriage of weapons • reportable incidents. Further details of the inquiry will be included in the 2013-14 IGIS annual report
Inquiry into the matter of an Egyptian irregular maritime arrival
On 5 June 2013, the then Prime Minister wrote to me requesting that I conduct an inquiry into the matter of an Egyptian irregular maritime arrival who arrived in Australia in May 2012, was placed in immigration detention in Australia and was the subject of an Interpol red notice. The Prime Minister also requested that I consider and make recommendations more generally on the management by Australian agencies of persons seeking asylum who present complex security issues.
I commenced the inquiry on 6 June 2013 and notified relevant ministers and agency heads of the inquiry, as required by the IGIS Act. My letters to the Director-General of Security, the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police and the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship included a notice requiring that they produce relevant documents.
The purpose of the inquiry is not to establish whether the identified individual posed a threat to security but rather to look at whether the relevant agencies had, and followed, appropriate procedures to identify, assess and manage any such threat.
At the end of the reporting period the inquiry was at an early stage.IGIS initiated five preliminary inquiries into matters raised in complaints -
• a complaint by an AIC employee in receipt of an adverse security assessment, which would have the effect of terminating their employment. I closed this preliminary inquiry after determining that there had been no unreasonable action by any AIC agency
• an allegation of detriment to a member of the public arising from an interview by ASIO
• an anonymous complaint about lack of action by ASIS management on allegations of misconduct
• a complaint about delay following an Archives Act 1983 request for access to ASIO files
• a complaint by a refugee advocacy service alleging arbitrary decision making by ASIO officers in relation to the attendance of legal representatives at security assessment interviews. I closed this preliminary inquiry after deciding that the matter could be more appropriately considered under the powers and protections of a full inquiry