Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)

Australia’s terrorism threat level is categorised by the Australian government as PROBABLE.

In addition to threats from terrorist organisations, Australia is under threat from foreign states seeking to obtain strategic advantage at the expense of Australia and its interests.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) protects Australia and Australians from threats to their security, claiming that “we don’t just do what is legal, we do what is right”.

Whether this means that the ASIO operates in a legal “grey area” to uphold national security may therefore be a matter of interpretation.

In its 2019-20 Annual Report, the ASIO provides an overview of its functions, key activities and organisational structure.


What powers and responsibilities do the ASIO have?

The functions of the ASIO are set out in section 17 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (the ASIO Act), which include:

  • Obtaining, evaluating and communicating security intelligence.
  • Advising government on security matters, including the provision of protective security advice.
  • Obtaining foreign intelligence in accordance with the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.


Key focus areas

In 2019–20, the ASIO focused on four key activities:


Organisational structure

The ASIO is headed by the Director-General of Security. A Deputy Director-General oversees six key teams responsible for intelligence service delivery:

  • Counter terrorism.
  • Counter Espionage & Interference.
  • Threat & Security Advice.
  • Digital & Physical Access Capability. This includes telecommunications and computer operations, and surveillance.
  • Human Intelligence Capability & Operational Assurance.
  • Analysis, Assessment & Advice Capability. This includes capability development, analysis and discovery.


Read next: How effective is the ASIO in protecting Australia’s national security?

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