Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS)

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) is an independent statutory office holder responsible for reviewing the activities of six Australian intelligence agencies, to ensure that they act legally and respect human rights while upholding national security.

The Inspector-General, who heads the IGIS office, is appointed by the Governor-General for a period of five years. IGIS maintains independence due to not being subject to general direction from the Attorney-General, or other Ministers, on how its responsibilities are carried out under the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986 (IGIS Act).

Further information is provided on the IGIS website.


Which Australian intelligence agencies are under IGIS jurisdiction?

The Inspector-General has jurisdiction over the following agencies:

  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) – ASIO is responsible for the protection of Australia from security threats.
  • Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO) – AGO is Australia’s national geospatial and imagery intelligence agency.
  • Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) – ASIS is Australia’s overseas secret human intelligence collection agency.
  • Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) – DIO is an intelligence assessment agency that supports Defence and Government decision-making.
  • Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) – ASD is responsible for the collection, analysis and distribution of foreign signals intelligence.
  • Office of National Intelligence (ONI) – ONI produces assessments on international political, strategic and economic developments for the government.


What powers does IGIS have?

The functions and powers of the Inspector-General are prescribed under sections 8, 9 and 9A of the IGIS Act.

The Inspector-General has the power to:

  • Undertake a formal inquiry into the activities of an Australian intelligence agency in response to a complaint or a reference from a minister.
  • Independently initiate inquiries.
  • Conduct regular inspections and monitor agency activities.
  • Conduct preliminary inquiries into matters to decide whether to initiate a full inquiry.
  • In conducting an inquiry, to require the attendance of witnesses, take sworn evidence, copy and retain documents, and enter into an Australian intelligence agency’s premises.


Can I make a complaint to IGIS?

You can make a complaint to IGIS if you feel you have been unfairly affected by the actions of an intelligence agency within the Inspector-General’s jurisdiction, or if you feel that such an agency has acted unlawfully or not respected human rights, whether this relates to you or to someone else.

You will not be targeted by an Australian intelligence agency because you have made a complaint to IGIS.


What happens if ASIO wants to interview me?

While IGIS is not part of the ASIO or any other intelligence agency, in its frequently asked questions, IGIS discusses key considerations relating to interviews with the ASIO.

ASIO may ask to interview you to obtain information relevant to national security or on occasions as part of a security assessment, such as for visa or citizenship applications. These interviews are voluntary, and you cannot be made to participate in an interview unless ASIO has sought a particular Questioning Warrant, which is rarely used in practice.

If you agree to participate in an ASIO interview you can ask to have a lawyer present.


Key takeaways

While Australia’s intelligence agencies strive to protect the security of all Australians, oversight is needed to ensure that they act within the law and respect human rights in carrying out investigations. The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) provides this independent oversight and can provide a path to remediation if you feel that you have been treated unfairly by an intelligence agency.

Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in complex cases involving Australia’s intelligence agencies.

Contact us if you require assistance.