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Attorney-General's Guidelines

ASIO falls within the Attorney-General's portfolio.

ASIO keeps the Attorney-General informed on operations, investigations and relevant matters through written submissions, the presentation of warrant requests and oral briefings.

Under section 8A(1)(a) of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, the Attorney-General may give the Director-General of Security written guidelines to be observed by ASIO in the performance of its functions. The Attorney-General's Guidelines (the Guidelines):

  • set out the Attorney-General’s expectations of ASIO in the collection and handling of personal information;
  • provide guidance on when information obtained in an investigation is relevant to security;
  • clarify when ASIO can communicate information in its possession, which, although not relevant to its security function, should nevertheless be communicated because there are public interest reasons for communicating the information;
  • set out relevant principles that govern ASIO’s work; and
  • incorporate the current definition of politically motivated violence and provide additional guidance relating to investigation of violent protest activities relating to threats to various specified persons.

The Guidelines require investigations to be conducted with as little intrusion into privacy as possible, consistent with the national interest. ASIO’s methods are determined by the gravity and immediacy of the threat to security posed by the subject. Where the threat is assessed as serious, or could emerge quickly, a greater degree of intrusion may be necessary. Use of more intrusive powers — which are governed by strict warrant procedures — requires that the subject’s activities are, or are reasonably suspected to be, prejudicial to security.

Proposals to collect intelligence are subject to rigorous internal consideration and approvals at a senior level. Documentation for warrants is reviewed by ASIO’s Legal Division and the Attorney-General’s Department before the Director-General agrees to request a warrant from the Attorney-General. Warrants are issued for limited periods. At the expiry of each warrant ASIO must report to the Attorney-General on the extent to which the operation helped ASIO carry out its functions.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) has access to all warrant material and regularly monitors the process. The IGIS also examines and audits all ASIO warrant documentation. The Director-General of Security may issue warrants for up to 48 hours in emergency situations. The Attorney-General must be advised of any such warrant.