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The ASIO Year in Review 2005/2006
Australia and Australians remained at threat from a range of sources in 2005–06. While the threat of terrorism from Islamic extremists posed the most immediate danger, other sources of threat – including from espionage; violent protest, nationalist and racist violence; and acts of foreign interference – also persisted.

The security environment remained complex and dangerous with no sign that the range of security threats to Australians at home or abroad is abating.

An Australian died as a result of the London bombings on 7 July 2005.

Terrorists struck again in Bali on 1 October 2005, killing themselves and 20 others, including four Australians. Extremists in South East Asia continue to see Australians as a target and more attacks are likely.

Frequent terrorist attacks in Iraq resulted in the death or injury of many Iraqi citizens. An Australian security guard was killed in a bomb attack on 8 June 2006.

Australians were also injured in the attacks in London and Bali and in an attack in Egypt.

We saw the threat from previously unknown or unexpected sources – including the emergence of so-called home-grown extremists – come to prominence in London in July 2005 and Canada in May 2006.

Two individuals in Australia were the subject of litigation on terrorism-related charges: Joseph Thomas in connection with his links to al-Qa’ida; and Faheem Lodhi in connection with planning for a terrorist attack in Australia.

Other individuals in Australia are facing terrorism-related charges, including those arrested following the joint operational activity by ASIO and police in Sydney and Melbourne in November 2005 and March 2006.

In response to the continuing threat to Australian interests and the heavy demands placed on ASIO’s resources, the Prime Minister appointed Mr Allan Taylor, AM to undertake a Review of ASIO Resourcing.

On 16 October 2005 the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General announced the Government’s commitment of additional resources to ASIO that will see the Organisation grow to 1860 staff by 2010–11. This commitment gives ASIO the certainty it needs to plan for the future and to grow in a planned manner.

OUR ROLE

ASIO’s focus in 2005–06 remained the prevention of harm to Australians and Australian interests from threats to security, particularly the threat of terrorism from Islamic extremists.

ASIO continued to grow and build its capabilities. However, even with additional resources, there can be no guarantees that intelligence always will be available that will allow us to prevent those who would do us harm from achieving their objectives.

OUR STRATEGIES

In 2005–06 ASIO continued to work with other Australian agencies and with international liaison partners to maximise our effectiveness in protecting Australians from security threats.

ASIO continued to provide advice to other Australian agencies in the form of:

2 216 threat assessments for Australian interests here and abroad, including for special events of national significance and for foreign interests in Australia

compared to 2 003 in 2004–05.

53 147 visa security assessments

with 12 people denied entry to Australia based on ASIO advice (one applicant applied on two occasions and was the subject of two separate assessments);

compared to 52 417 visa assessments and 12 people denied entry in 2004–05.

Counter-terrorism checking

62 285 for the aviation sector (Aviation Security Identification Cards and pilot/trainee pilot checks);

9 448 for Maritime Security Identification Cards;

7 428 for access to ammonium nitrate; and

56 149 for the Commonwealth Games.

17 908 assessments for access to national security information resulting in no adverse or qualified assessments

up from 17 017 assessments resulting in 1 qualified assessment last year.

Other adverse security assessments

resulting in the refusal to issue or cancellation of eight Australian passports by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Protective security advice

valued at just over $1million, an increase of 11 percent over last year.

Support for litigation

ASIO was involved in 48 separate litigations (prosecutions, appeals, civil proceedings and administrative appeals proceedings) compared to 20 last year.

Closer engagement with the business community

the Business Liaison Unit was established in October 2005;

the Director-General delivered four speeches to business forums.

ASIO’s operating environment has become increasingly challenging.

To remain effective ASIO has needed to develop new and innovative investigative and analytical techniques as well as sophisticated technological solutions. ASIO’s effectiveness was enhanced further by:

joint operations with Australian law enforcement agencies, including in Sydney and Melbourne in November 2005 and March 2006 which resulted in 22 individuals facing terrorism-related charges;

building links with community groups;

the improved use of technology;

appropriate use of special powers for the highest priority investigations, including one questioning warrant;

continuing our lead house role in connection with telecommunications interception policy and capabilities to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of this method of intelligence collection;

working with Australian and international partners to develop leading-edge technologies;

expanding our covert surveillance capacity and making greater use of technology; and

expanding and strengthening our network of international liaison offices.

In addition, ASIO has boosted its complex analysis capabilities by:

establishing a new branch that brings together work units with a strategic analytical focus; and

working with international liaison partners to leverage off their knowledge and expertise.

ASIO also continued to make a valuable contribution to:

the investigation of covert activity conducted by foreign entities, including espionage and attempts to interfere in the lives of people in Australia or in political processes here or overseas;

the collection of foreign intelligence in Australia at the request of the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Minister for Defence;

countering the efforts of state and non-state actors to acquire materials or technology in Australia that could be used in the production or use of weapons of mass destruction; and

countering the efforts of foreign states that seek to intimidate people in Australia who they see as dissidents.

OUR BUDGET AND PEOPLE

ASIO’s budget for 2005–06 was $181.099m compared to $142.449m in 2004–05. It is set to grow to $233.059m in 2006–07.

As at 30 June 2006 ASIO had 1110 staff. ASIO has continued to attract high calibre applicants across a range of ‘job families’. In order to ensure we recruit, train and integrate the right staff at the right time ASIO developed a strategy based on:

increased resources in our recruitment, staffing and training areas, including the use of task forces in periods of peak activity;

innovative advertising campaigns aimed at attracting high calibre applicants from various backgrounds to fill a range of vacancies, including Intelligence Officers, Intelligence Analysts, Surveillance Officers and a range of technical, information technology, legal and administrative staff; and

training programs to build skills in leadership and management, analysis, intelligence operations, languages and a range of corporate functions.

ASIO will continue to invest heavily in developing the range of skills and knowledge needed across all the functions of the Organisation.

Posted: November 14, 2006