January 29, 2012

Australia - Review justifies huge changes for spy agencies

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PUBLIC findings of the first independent review of the intelligence community in eight years are to be released today, with its authors deciding the huge legislative and funding changes wrought to agencies since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have been justified.
The review acknowledges the unprecedented growth since September 11, with some agencies increasing their funding by almost 500 per cent in a decade.
The 2011 Independent Review of the Intelligence Community was undertaken by a former senior public servant, Robert Cornall, and the Melbourne University ethicist and management consultant Rufus Black.
The report, a requirement of the 2004 Flood Inquiry into the intelligence community, examined six issues. They include how well the intelligence agencies serve the national interest, how they have been reformed since 2001 and issues around collaboration and funding.
The summary of findings - provided to the Herald by the government yesterday evening - says that the ''substantial'' growth of the six intelligence agencies had led to increased capability and performance.
''The investment made in the intelligence agencies has resulted in improved capability and performance in Australia but it also gains Australia access to intelligence from international partners (through its contribution to common intelligence objectives) which Australia could never acquire by itself,'' the summary states.
The six agencies are the domestic security service ASIO, the foreign intelligence service ASIS, the electronic intelligence agency DSD, the Office of National Assessments, the Defence Intelligence Organisation and its geospatial partner, DIGO.
The report is only an ''overview'' of the findings of Cornall and Black. The actual final report remains heavily classified.
The only hint of negativity in the summary is when its authors discuss the relationship of the intelligence agencies with other groups now involved in national security work.
It says the agencies are only ''beginning'' to work more effectively with those groups, which would primarily include the federal police and Customs.

David Irvine
The report found that this new relationship should focus on ''those areas of common activity where closer co-operation can produce better results''.
The report's release comes the morning after the head of ASIO - which has had a 471 per cent rise in funding in the past decade and is soon to occupy a $590 million new Canberra headquarters - delivered a speech in Sydney.
The Director-General of Security, David Irvine, told the think tank Sydney Institute: ''ASIO continues to conduct several hundred counter-terrorism investigations and inquiries ranging from Australians in contact with terrorists offshore, including al-Qaeda, to possible threats to Australian interests or Australian lives from extremist activity.''
He also referred to the ''extraordinary modernisation and development'' of the past decade in the intelligence community.
''Despite the fact some elements of the counter-terrorism legislation introduced over the decade have prompted considerable debate about individual human rights and the entitlement of the community to live in safety, governments have been getting the balance more or less right,'' he said.
Dylan Welch January 25, 2012
Read more:
http://m.smh.com.au/national/review-justifies-huge-changes-for-spy-agencies-20120124-1qfta.html
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