ASIO's Special Powers

When investigating threats to Australia’s security, the ASIO Act and Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 allow us to do certain things which would otherwise be unlawful. Use of these special powers is strictly limited by legislation and is available to us only when authorised by a warrant. Special powers provided for by these Acts can allow the Organisation to enter and search premises, intercept and examine items in the mail, install and monitor surveillance devices, monitor telecommunications, and remotely access computers.

ASIO can, in exceptional circumstances, obtain warrants to question people as a part of investigations into espionage, acts of foreign interference, or acts of politically motivated violence. Our questioning powers are governed by the ASIO Act, as well as a publicly-available statement of procedures approved by the Attorney-General.

Warrants authorising our use of special powers must be approved by the Attorney-General.

The Minister’s Guidelines for ASIO require that, wherever possible, ASIO uses the least intrusive method available to collect security intelligence. All of ASIO’s activity, including the use of special powers, is subject to rigorous oversight and accountability through a range of mechanisms.