Bosses deny secret spy plan
OFFICIALS from Defence and Home Affairs spent weeks investigating scenarios where Australia’s cyber spy agency could thwart onshore threats.
Department bosses have claimed there was “no proposal to increase the ASD’s (Australian Signals Directorate’s) powers to collect intelligence on Australians” after the Sunday Herald Sun last week revealed the secret plan.
But letters between the Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo and Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty reveal the departments of Home Affairs and Defence allocated staff to war game a raft of scenarios where the ASD would need legislative changes to investigate Australians.
The list of scenarios was compiled in two attachments and sent to the heads of both departments under the headline “scenarios proposed by Home Affairs”. The document explains how ASD could be used to disrupt “onshore and offshore online threats” such as “disrupting child exploitation networks and terrorist networks” and “illicit drug importation, money laundering and serious crimes”.
Last week’s revelations that senior department bosses discussed a plan to expand the powers of Australia’s cyber spies agency has prompted calls for MPs to have a greater oversight of Australia’s intelligence agencies.
Senator Rex Patrick will move amendments to Australia’s national security laws in the Senate this week so that the operational activities and the methods used by spy agencies can be reviewed by a parliamentary committee.
Senator Patrick said allowing members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) — of which he is not a member — to examine proposed operations would bring Australia in to line with the US and Canada.
“Greater parliamentary scrutiny is long overdue,” Senator Patrick said.