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Frequently Asked Questions

Does ASIO have a Twitter account or Facebook page?

The ASIO website is ASIO's official internet presence. Accounts purporting to represent ASIO on social media or networking do not reflect the views of ASIO.

How is ASIO different from the Police?

ASIO investigations are focussed on collecting and analysing intelligence about threats to Australia’s national security, including from terrorism, and providing advice to mitigate against them from eventuating. In this sense, ASIO’s work differs from law enforcement which, while having a preventative element, mostly looks to an evidentiary investigative process leading to prosecution and punishment under the law. ASIO officers cannot arrest people. The focus of ASIO’s intelligence operations is the prevention of harm to Australians and Australian interests through the collection, analysis and communication of security intelligence.

Do ASIO officers carry firearms?

ASIO officers do not carry firearms.

Does ASIO share information with foreign intelligence agencies?

In accordance with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, ASIO may cooperate with the agencies of other countries in order to carry out its functions. In this context, and with the approval of the Attorney-General, ASIO may communicate with the security and intelligence authorities of a range of countries. Developments in the regional and global security environment have implications for Australia's national security, so these international relationships form an important part in ASIO's counter-terrorism efforts.

What is ASIO's role in Border Protection/People Smuggling?

Amendments to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 in 2010 introduced a new area of focus for the organisation, namely the investigation of people smuggling activities and other serious threats to Australia's territorial and border integrity.  ASIO is now able to use its capabilities to support the whole-of-government effort in combating these threats.

Are my interactions with ASIO in confidence?

To remain an effective security service, ASIO officers must be discreet and be able to protect the identities of their sources and the provenance of their intelligence information. This is so that those who provide information to ASIO can be assured of confidentiality. While many of ASIO’s activities must remain classified, everything ASIO does is subject to a stringent oversight and accountability framework. All aspects of ASIO’s investigations are regulated by Guidelines issued by the Attorney-General to ensure the methods used are appropriate. ASIO encourages people who interact with the Organisation to maintain the confidence of the relationship for the ongoing effectiveness and safety of all concerned.

On what basis can ASIO approach me for information?

ASIO officers rely on the cooperation and goodwill of members of the public and may approach anyone in the community for assistance in the course of carrying out the security intelligence functions of the Organisation. With the exception of a questioning warrant, information is provided to ASIO on a voluntary basis. The conduct of investigations by ASIO, including meeting with members of the public to obtain information about national security matters, is authorised as a function of ASIO under section 17 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979. Information provided by members of the public may be of enormous intelligence value, and such assistance is always appreciated.

Can members of the public access ASIO files?

ASIO is an exempt agency under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act), but it is subject to release of its records under the Archives Act 1983 which, until recently, allowed for public access, known as the 'open' period, to Commonwealth records over 30 years old - the ‘open’ period. Amendments to the FOI Act and subsequently to the Archives Act were passed in Parliament in May 2010 resulting in the change in the 'closed' period for access from 30 years to 20 years. The change has beenwas implemented from 1 January 2011 with a transition period resulting in the full implementation of the change by 2020.

Requests to access ASIO archives not already publicly released can be made to the National Archives of Australia (NAA). Subject to the request meeting eligibility criteria (available on the NAA website), the NAA passes the application to ASIO where relevant records are located and assessed. ASIO determines whether any information should be exempt from public release on national security grounds, balancing between the need for protection of sensitive information and public access. ASIO gives greater priority to requests from those seeking records on themselves or family members. All requests for ASIO archival records should be directed to the NAA.