About ASIO

FAQs

Answers to your frequently asked questions.

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What is ASIO's role?

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is Australia’s security service. It is a critical component of Australia’s national security community and deals with threats to Australia’s security. ASIO’s roles and responsibilities are set out in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act. ASIO’s primary function is to collect, analyse and disseminate security intelligence. For this, the ASIO Act defines ‘security’ as the protection of Australia, its people and interests against:

  • espionage;
  • sabotage;
  • politically motivated violence;
  • the promotion of communal violence;
  • attacks on Australia’s defence system; or
  • acts of foreign interference;

and the protection of Australia’s territorial and border integrity from serious threats.

The ASIO Act extends ASIO’s responsibility for security intelligence beyond Australia’s borders and includes, in the definition of security, Australia’s ‘security’ obligations to other countries. The ASIO Act also specifically authorises ASIO to communicate and cooperate with relevant authorities of foreign countries.

In fulfilling its obligations to protect Australia, its people and its interests, ASIO:

  • collects security intelligence through a wide range of means including human sources and technical operations, using the least intrusive means possible in accordance with the Attorney-General’s Guidelines;
  • assesses security intelligence and provides advice to Government on security matters;
  • investigates and responds to threats to security;
  • maintains a national counter-terrorism intelligence capability;
  • provides protective security advice; and
  • provides security assessments, including for visa entry checks, access to classified material and designated security controlled areas.

As ASIO is the only agency in the Australian Intelligence Community authorised in the course of its normal duties to undertake security investigations into, and collect intelligence on, the activities of Australian persons, it operates within a particularly stringent oversight and accountability framework. The foundation of this framework is the ASIO Act, which has been created to recognise the importance of individual rights, while also endeavouring to safeguard the public’s collective right to be secure. The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security - an independent statutory authority - also plays an important role in overseeing ASIO’s activities.

ASIO works closely with state and federal law enforcement agencies, the Australian Intelligence Community, foreign partners, other government departments and agencies and industry.

Does ASIO have a Twitter account or Facebook page?

The ASIO website is ASIO's official internet presence. Accounts purporting to represent ASIO on social media or networking sites do not reflect the views of ASIO.

Is ASIO the 'domestic' security service?

No. ASIO operates wherever threats to Australia and Australian interests occur, and its mandate is not limited geographically. The Organisation works collaboratively with international intelligence and security agencies to protect Australians and Australian interests and to enhance its capabilities.

The international dimension of ASIO’s work is particularly important because most security threats have links to other parts of the world — indeed, one of the important common characteristics of the activities defined as ‘security’ in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act is that they may well be directed by, influenced or otherwise linked to factors outside Australia. Globalisation, and particularly the transnational nature of terrorism and espionage, means that security matters with links to Australia may be uncovered anywhere in the world.

ASIO’s international liaison network encompasses arrangements with over 300 authorities in more than 120 countries, most of which are foreign security and intelligence services. This network is a force multiplier and provides Australia with an intelligence capability that it could not replicate on its own. ASIO’s overseas offices manage relationships with a number of services, both in their host country and more broadly in the local region. Office location is reviewed regularly against changes to the Organisation’s responsibilities, the global security environment and whole-of-government engagement and priorities.

What is the history of the ASIO Act?

ASIO was established by Prime Minister Ben Chifley on 16 March 1949 in pursuance of a directive given by him to the first Director-General of Security, Justice G.S. Reed. From March 1949 to October 1956, ASIO operated on the basis of this charter. It was a deliberate decision that ASIO would operate outside of the framework of the public service, and this rationale still applies today. At that time, the requirement was identified for an agency that would be an additional component in the defensive suite available to the Commonwealth, but performing a role distinct from the police and military. The need for such an agency stemmed directly from concerns within and outside Australia about the Australian Government’s ability to protect sensitive information.

On 24 October 1956, Prime Minister Menzies presented to Parliament a Bill for an Act to put ASIO on a statutory basis rather than the executive basis on which it had been operating. The Bill set out ASIO’s role in obtaining intelligence relating to espionage, sabotage and subversion and advising other Commonwealth departments on the measures for security which ought to be adopted. Importantly, the Act emphasised the independence of the Director-General and the need for the Organisation to remain apolitical. The Act was given royal assent on 15 November 1956 and came into force on 13 December 1956. Since then, the Act has been subject to a number of inquiries and independent reviews, including two Royal Commissions conducted by the late Hon. Justice Robert Hope in 1974 and 1983 and the 2004 Philip Flood Report Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies.

In 2010, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act was amended to expand ASIO’s security intelligence functions to use its capabilities to respond to people smuggling and other serious threats to Australia’s territorial and border integrity. The amendment was made through the Anti-People Smuggling and Other Measures Act 2010, which commenced on 1 June 2010. ASIO’s work in this area focuses its capabilities on assisting the broader government efforts against people smuggling.

How does the ASIO Act define security?

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act sets out the definition of security as the protection of Australia and its people and interests from:

  • espionage
  • sabotage
  • politically motivated violence
  • promotion of communal violence
  • attacks on Australia’s defence system
  • acts of foreign interference and
  • and the protection of Australia’s territorial and border integrity from serious threats

ASIO’s responsibility for security extends geographically beyond Australia, and includes Australia’s security obligations to other countries. ASIO is also responsible for collecting foreign intelligence within Australia at the request of the relevant Australian Government Minister.

Is ASIO a government department?

ASIO was established by Prime Minister Ben Chifley on 16 March 1949. On 24 October 1956, Prime Minister Menzies presented to Parliament a Bill for an Act to put ASIO on a statutory basis rather than the executive basis on which it had been operating. ASIO is a government agency established as a Statutory Authority through an Act of Parliament. The Director-General of ASIO is responsible directly to the Attorney-General. ASIO officers are employed under the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act, providing similar conditions as Commonwealth public servants employed under the Public Service Act 1999.

What does ASIO do?

In accordance with ASIO’s role, the Organisation collects and analyses intelligence on threats to Australia’s national security for the purpose of providing advice to government agencies. ASIO is only able to investigate and report on matters that fall under the definition of security, with the exception of collecting foreign intelligence within Australia on behalf of the Australian Security Intelligence Service and the Australian Signals Directorate.

ASIO is authorised to undertake investigations into the activities of Australian persons, and ASIO’s specific legislative operating parameters are intended to take into account the protection of individual rights, whilst endeavouring to safeguard the public’s collective right to be secure.

ASIO obtains or develops thousands of intelligence leads each year from the public, its overseas liaison officers and partners, open sources and its own operational and analytical activities. Each lead is assessed to identify its relevance to security as defined in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act and its relative significance in terms of priorities. ASIO has the discretion to refer matters to other agencies, for example the police if the matter relates to serious criminal offences.

ASIO has a responsibility to respond where individuals or groups promote or use violence to try to achieve a political objective or to influence the policy or actions of a government. That said, ASIO observes strictly the provisions of section 17A of the ASIO Act which states that:

"This Act shall not limit the right of persons to engage in lawful advocacy, protest or dissent and the exercise of that right shall not, by itself, be regarded as prejudicial to security, and the functions of the Organisation shall be construed accordingly."

ASIO does not collect intelligence on particular groups or individuals unless there is a security related reason to do so. It is behaviour and activity that determines ASIO’s interest.

How is ASIO different from the police?

ASIO investigations are focussed on collecting and analysing intelligence about threats to Australia’s national security, including from terrorism, and providing advice to mitigate against them from eventuating. In this sense, ASIO’s work differs from law enforcement which, while having a preventative element, mostly looks to an evidentiary investigative process leading to prosecution and punishment under the law. ASIO officers cannot arrest people. The focus of ASIO’s intelligence operations is the prevention of harm to Australians and Australian interests through the collection, analysis and communication of security intelligence. ASIO officers do not carry firearms.

What are ASIO's special powers?

ASIO’s warranted intelligence collection capabilities are referred to as 'special powers' in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act.

Like other investigative agencies, legislation grants ASIO powers to collect intelligence under warrant. The criteria for warrants are strictly prescribed and complemented by the Attorney-General’s Guidelines. Warrants are available, for a limited duration, to use listening and tracking devices, access computers remotely, enter and search premises and examine postal articles. There are also questioning and detention warrants, subject to very stringent criteria, for use in serious counter-terrorism matters. ASIO must seek agreement from the Attorney-General satisfying tests set out in the relevant legislation before a warrant will be issued. The Attorney-General’s approval is also sought before warrants can be renewed. ASIO’s warranted activities are regularly scrutinised by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

Does ASIO share information with foreign intelligence agencies?

In accordance with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act, ASIO may cooperate with the agencies of other countries in order to carry out its functions. In this context, and with the approval of the Attorney-General, ASIO may communicate with the security and intelligence authorities of a range of countries. Developments in the regional and global security environment have implications for Australia's national security, so these international relationships form an important part in ASIO's counter-terrorism efforts.

What is ASIO's role in Border Protection/People Smuggling?

Amendments to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act in 2010 introduced a new area of focus for the organisation, namely the investigation of people smuggling activities and other serious threats to Australia's territorial and border integrity.  ASIO is now able to use its capabilities to support the whole-of-government effort in combating these threats.

What is an ASIO security assessment?

ASIO provides a range of advice to Ministers and government departments and agencies pursuant to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act. This includes advice on protective security, proscription of terrorist organisations in Australia and the production of Threat Assessments. One type of advice in particular is ASIO’s security assessment function, which is an important component of Australia’s national security processes. It provides a mechanism for security to be considered in certain regular government decision-making processes (described as ‘prescribed administrative actions’ in the ASIO Act). Security assessments are conducted in a variety of areas, for example in the granting of visas, granting of access to sensitive government information (security clearances) and access to restricted areas such as ports and airports and to sensitive goods such as ammonium nitrate.

Consistent with ASIO’s role as an intelligence agency, they are a means by which ASIO provides advice to relevant decision makers. Security assessments only consider factors related to security as defined in the ASIO Act, which in practice is usually terrorism, other forms of politically motivated violence, espionage and foreign interference and threats to Australia’s territorial and border integrity. ASIO Security Assessments are not the same as police criminal or character checks, and factors such as criminal history, dishonesty or deceit are only relevant to ASIO’s advice if they have a bearing on national security considerations.

Upon making an assessment ASIO may provide:

  • non-prejudicial advice, which means that ASIO has no security-related concerns about the proposed ‘prescribed administrative action’
  • a qualified assessment, which generally means that ASIO provides to the agency concerned information about the subject relevant to security, but is not making a prejudicial recommendation in relation to the ‘prescribed administration action’ or
  • an adverse assessment in which ASIO recommends that a ‘prescribed administrative action’ be taken (cancellation of a passport, for example) or not taken (declining access to a security controlled area, for example).

Additional information regarding ASIO’s Security Assessment function can be found in the Information Brief titled "ASIO’s security assessment function".

Do ASIO officers carry firearms?

ASIO officers do not carry firearms.

Does ASIO produce an Annual Report?

ASIO produces a classified Annual Report and an unclassified annual Report to Parliament. ASIO is unique in Australia’s Intelligence Community in that it is the only organisation to publish an unclassified annual Report to Parliament. The unclassified Report is a key accountability mechanism that provides Parliament and the Australian people with an insight into ASIO’s work. It provides a detailed analysis of the year in review, including financial and other administrative details. It also contains a snapshot of the volume of work and engagement undertaken by the Organisation over the year.

What is the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security?

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) was established on 2 December 2005 following recommendations made by the 2004 Philip Flood Report of the Inquiry into Australian Intelligence Agencies. The PJCIS performs an oversight function to ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), the Australian Geospatial–Imagery Organisation (AGO), the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) and the Office of National Assessments (ONA). The Committee is appointed under section 28 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (IS Act). Section 29 of the IS Act states that the functions of the Committee are:

What are the Attorney-General's Guidelines?

Under section 8A(1)(a) of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, the Attorney-General may give the Director-General of Security written guidelines to be observed by ASIO in the performance of its functions. The Attorney-General's Guidelines (the Guidelines):

  • set out the Attorney-General’s expectations of ASIO in the collection and handling of personal information
  • provide guidance on when information obtained in an investigation is relevant to security
  • clarify when ASIO can communicate information in its possession, which, although not relevant to its security function, should nevertheless be communicated because there are public interest reasons for communicating the information
  • set out relevant principles that govern ASIO’s work and
  • incorporate the current definition of politically motivated violence and provide additional guidance relating to investigation of violent protest activities relating to threats to various specified persons.

The Guidelines require investigations to be conducted with as little intrusion into privacy as possible, consistent with the national interest. ASIO’s methods are determined by the gravity and immediacy of the threat to security posed by the subject. Where the threat is assessed as serious, or could emerge quickly, a greater degree of intrusion may be necessary. Use of more intrusive powers — which are governed by strict warrant procedures — requires that the subject’s activities are, or are reasonably suspected to be, prejudicial to security.

Proposals to collect intelligence are subject to rigorous internal consideration and approvals at a senior level. Documentation for warrants is reviewed by ASIO’s Legal Division and the Attorney-General’s Department before the Director-General agrees to request a warrant from the Attorney-General. Warrants are issued for limited periods. At the expiry of each warrant ASIO must report to the Attorney-General on the extent to which the operation helped ASIO carry out its functions.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) has access to all warrant material and regularly monitors the process. The IGIS also examines and audits all ASIO warrant documentation. The Director-General of Security may issue warrants for up to 48 hours in emergency situations. The Attorney-General must be advised of any such warrant.

Who is the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and what is their role?

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) is an independent statutory office holder who reviews the activities of the six intelligence agencies known as the ‘Australian Intelligence Community’, namely the:

  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • Australian Secret Intelligence Service
  • Australian Signals Directorate
  • Australian Geospatial-Imagery Organisation
  • Defence Intelligence Organisation and
  • Office of National Assessments.

The purpose of the review is to ensure that the agencies act legally and with propriety, comply with ministerial guidelines and directives and respect human rights. The IGIS can undertake a formal inquiry into the activities of an Australian intelligence agency in response to a complaint or a reference from a minister. The IGIS can also act independently to initiate inquiries and conducts regular inspections and monitoring of agency activities.

In conducting an inquiry, the IGIS has significant powers which include requiring the attendance of witnesses, taking sworn evidence, copying and retaining documents and entry into the premises of an Australian intelligence agency.

The current IGIS, Dr. Vivienne Thom, was appointed on 19 July 2010 for a five year term.

What is the current terrorism threat level?

The current level of alert for Australia is Medium - terrorist attack could occur. Further information about the National Terrorist Public Alert System is available on the National Security Website.

What are the current threats to Australia's national security?

The current international threat environment is complex and dynamic. The impact of globalisation on Australian security is not a new development, but it is one that, with each technological advance, lends increasing complexity, proximity and pace to ASIO’s operating environment. While ASIO collects intelligence on a range of issues defined as security under the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, terrorism and espionage and foreign interference continue to be enduring threats and are a particular focus for the Organisation.

Terrorism

ASIO’s investigative and operational activity has shown consistently that overseas drivers and links remain central to the threat to Australia. Australians travel and live in all corners of the globe, and Australian interests — government and industry — are also scattered widely. This provides opportunity for those seeking to target Australia. At the same time, concerns are growing at the rise of ‘home-grown’ potential terrorists and an increase in the number of Australians seeking to travel overseas for terrorism-related purposes.

While in recent times the terrorism threat in South-East Asia has been overshadowed by the more volatile security environments in South Asia, the Middle East, East Africa and elsewhere, it was a suicide bombing in a Jakarta hotel in July 2009 that last claimed Australian lives re-affirming that the Islamist terrorism threat in South-East Asia remains a priority for ASIO.

South Asia remains a key region for Islamist terrorist activity, and Australians have undertaken militant training and engaged in fighting in Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Concern is also growing about the entrenched terrorism threat emanating from Yemen. Australians resident in Yemen have participated in terrorism-related activity. Al-Shabaab, the Somali Islamist terrorist group engaged in violent opposition to the Somali Transitional Government forces, has been linked to al-Qa'ida and has supporters in Australia. With the collapse of law and order in parts of Somalia, the terrorism threat from the East Africa region is likely to remain a threat to international security for the foreseeable future.

Espionage and foreign interference

Espionage and foreign interference in, and against, Australia is also a constant feature of the security environment where Australian intelligence, military, diplomatic, scientific and commercial information will continue to be targeted. Investigation into cyber espionage activity, which impacts on important national interests in both private and government sectors and threatens Australia’s critical infrastructure, is an increasingly important part of ASIO’s counter-espionage effort. Raising awareness within both the public and private sector of the threat posed by foreign espionage or attempts by foreign interests to influence covertly the legitimate political processes in Australia remains an important element of ASIO’s work.

What is the National Security Community?

Each organisation in the National Security Community (NSC) has distinct roles and functions but collectively these organisations work together to meet Australia’s broad-ranging intelligence needs. The NSC comprises the following Australian Government organisations:

  • Attorney-General’s Department
  • Australian Crime Commission
  • Australian Federal Police
  • Australian Geospatial-Imagery Organisation
  • Australian Secret Intelligence Service
  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • Australian Signals Directorate
  • Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Defence Intelligence Organisation
  • Department of Defence
  • Department of Immigration and Citizenship
  • Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Office of National Assessments.

What is the Australian Intelligence Community?

The Australian Intelligence Community (AIC) comprises six government agencies with their own focus areas, operating in a community of interest where thematic issues often intersect. The AIC consists of the following collection and analysis agencies:

  • Australian Geospatial-Imagery Organisation
  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • Australian Secret Intelligence Service
  • Australian Signals Directorate
  • Defence Intelligence Organisation
  • Office of National Assessments.

What is the Counter Terrorism Control Centre?

The Counter-Terrorism White Paper, released in February 2010, announced the creation of the Counter Terrorism Control Centre (CTCC). The CTCC was established to set and manage counter-terrorism priorities, identify intelligence requirements, and ensure that the processes of collecting and distributing counter-terrorism information are fully harmonised and effective across the spectrum of Australia’s counter-terrorism activity.

The multi-agency CTCC is located within ASIO and is headed by a senior ASIO officer. It has senior level representation from the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Australian Federal Police, Australian Signals Directorate and Australian Geospatial-Imagery Organisation.

What is the National Threat Assessment Centre?

The National Threat Assessment Centre (NTAC) was established in 2004 bringing together Australian government agencies with a role in collecting, monitoring, collating and analysing all threat intelligence available to the Australian Government. It is located in ASIO and includes attached officers from the:

  • Australian Federal Police
  • Australian Secret Intelligence Service
  • Australian Signals Directorate
  • Defence Intelligence Organisation
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Department of Transport and Regional Services
  • Office of National Assessments.

Attached officers have access to their own agency’s communication systems and databases. This allows for connectivity and coordination between agencies and provides greater assurance that all relevant information available to the Australian Government is assessed and reflected in threat assessment advice. The NTAC’s 24/7 threat assessment capability has enhanced ASIO’s capacity to disseminate advice in response to developments in the security environment in Australia and internationally.

What is the ASIO Business Liaison Unit?

ASIO launched its Business Liaison Unit (BLU) in 2006 to provide a conduit between the private sector and the Australian Intelligence Community. It seeks to provide industry security and risk managers with credible, intelligence-backed reporting that enables them to brief executive management and staff authoritatively, and to use this knowledge for their risk management and continuity planning. The service is free of charge.

The BLU maintains a secure website focussed on supporting the information needs of security and risk managers in the private sector. The website has over 750 subscribers covering nearly 250 corporations and a range of government agencies. You can access the site at www.blu.asio.gov.au if you are interested in subscribing.

In December 2008 the BLU, in conjunction with the National Threat Assessment Centre, launched the Register of Australian Interests Overseas in response to the growing security challenges Australian companies face doing business overseas. The register is a web interface which allows Australian Government and business entities to voluntarily register the locations of their overseas staff, facilities and emergency contact details. The register has over 150 participating companies with over 1,200 facilities registered in 81 countries. Using information from the register, ASIO is able to develop a detailed understanding of Australian business operations overseas and provide more targeted security advice and reporting to corporate security managers.

How does ASIO engage with the community?

ASIO relies on strong and positive relationships with the community. These are vital alliances, as community members are often the first to become aware of issues or events related to security, from instances of communal violence to interference by foreign governments in expatriate communities.

What is the ASIO Community Contact Program?

ASIO utilises its Community Contact Program to enhance community leaders’ understanding of ASIO’s roles and functions. ASIO maintains a dialogue with representatives of community, ethnic and religious groups to ensure issues of concern to ASIO and the relevant community groups can be aired and discussed directly and discreetly.

Are my interactions with ASIO in confidence?

To remain an effective security service, ASIO officers must be discreet and be able to protect the identities of their sources and the provenance of their intelligence information. This is so that those who provide information to ASIO can be assured of confidentiality. While many of ASIO’s activities must remain classified, everything ASIO does is subject to a stringent oversight and accountability framework. All aspects of ASIO’s investigations are regulated by Guidelines issued by the Attorney-General to ensure the methods used are appropriate. ASIO encourages people who interact with the Organisation to maintain the confidence of the relationship for the ongoing effectiveness and safety of all concerned.

On what basis can ASIO approach me for information?

ASIO officers rely on the cooperation and goodwill of members of the public and may approach anyone in the community for assistance in the course of carrying out the security intelligence functions of the Organisation. With the exception of a questioning warrant, information is provided to ASIO on a voluntary basis. The conduct of investigations by ASIO, including meeting with members of the public to obtain information about national security matters, is authorised as a function of ASIO under section 17 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979. Information provided by members of the public may be of enormous intelligence value, and such assistance is always appreciated.

The ASIO Act provides the basis for questioning warrants which includes the provision that a person must not fail to give any information requested in accordance with the warrant.

ASIO is committed to respecting the rights of individuals and anyone concerned with the nature of an approach by an ASIO officer is able to submit a complaint to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security who has the authority to conduct an independent review. In the event a member of the public is concerned about someone purporting to be an ASIO officer, they can raise these concerns directly with ASIO via the publicly listed numbers on this website.

What is a questioning warrant?

A questioning warrant can be obtained under ASIO’s special powers relating to terrorism offences (Part 3 Division III, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979). It obliges a person to appear before a prescribed authority for questioning under the warrant immediately after the person is notified of the issue of the warrant, or at a time specified in the warrant. A person served with a warrant will be provided with a detailed explanation of the basis for questioning and their rights.

When can ASIO obtain a questioning warrant or a questioning and detention warrant?

Questioning and detention warrants can only be sought by ASIO for the purpose of investigating a terrorism offence where other means of investigation would be ineffective. To date, ASIO has not used the power to detain.

Who can be present during questioning?

Questioning is supervised by a prescribed authority (a former or serving Judge of a superior court or the President or Deputy President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal). The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) or an Australian Public Service employee assisting the IGIS may also be present. All interviews are video-recorded. Ordinarily, a lawyer may attend to represent the person being questioned.

For how long can a person be questioned?

ASIO questioning is conducted for the minimum amount of time necessary in order to fulfil the objectives outlined in the warrant. ASIO is able to question people under warrant for a maximum of 24 hours in eight-hour blocks. Where an interpreter is required, a person can be questioned for a maximum of 48 hours, subject to review by a prescribed authority.

In what circumstances can a person be detained?

In some limited circumstances, a person can be detained for the purpose of questioning. Detention can be for no longer than necessary, up to a maximum of seven days, if the Attorney-General and external Issuing Authority (Federal Magistrate or Judge) are satisfied of the need for the person to be brought into custody. ASIO does not have the power to arrest people – this can only be done by a police officer. A person who is detained is not charged with a crime, but is subject to questioning and investigation during that time. To date, ASIO has not used the power to detain.

Do these powers apply to persons under 16 years?

These powers do not apply to people under the age of 16. Those who are over 16, but under 18, can be questioned in the presence of a parent, guardian or appropriate other person. To date, ASIO has not used the power to detain.

Do people have to answer ASIO’s questions?

Under a questioning warrant persons are obliged to answer questions and can be charged if they refuse to answer or provide misleading answers.

Who can authorise a detention warrant?

The first step in the authorisation process is the consent of the Attorney-General allowing ASIO to request such a warrant. Once this is obtained, an Issuing Authority (Federal Magistrate or Federal Judge) is responsible for issuing a warrant to detain a person. The police would be responsible for managing the detention under warrant, not ASIO.

What is the difference between the power of arrest and questioning and detention under an ASIO warrant?

The power of arrest is an executive power conferred on police officers to take individuals into custody in certain circumstances and does not always require the existence of a warrant. For example, police usually arrest a person for committing an offence, such as burglary, and the purpose of the arrest is to put the person before a court to have the charges heard.

The special power to detain someone under the ASIO Act is only authorised under a warrant signed by an issuing authority. An issuing authority is a judge or magistrate who has been appointed in writing by the Attorney-General. The purpose of a questioning and detention warrant is not to prosecute the person detained, but to obtain intelligence. ASIO officers do not have the power of arrest.

Can members of the public access ASIO files?

ASIO is an exempt agency under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act), but it is subject to release of its records under the Archives Act 1983 which, until recently, allowed for public access, known as the 'open' period, to Commonwealth records over 30 years old - the ‘open’ period. Amendments to the FOI Act and subsequently to the Archives Act were passed in Parliament in May 2010 resulting in the change in the 'closed' period for access from 30 years to 20 years. The change has beenwas implemented from 1 January 2011 with a transition period resulting in the full implementation of the change by 2020.

Requests to access ASIO archives not already publicly released can be made to the National Archives of Australia (NAA). Subject to the request meeting eligibility criteria (available on the NAA website), the NAA passes the application to ASIO where relevant records are located and assessed. ASIO determines whether any information should be exempt from public release on national security grounds, balancing between the need for protection of sensitive information and public access. ASIO gives greater priority to requests from those seeking records on themselves or family members. All requests for ASIO archival records should be directed to the NAA.

Do the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act apply to ASIO?

ASIO is not subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 1982. The Privacy Act 1988 does not apply to the disclosure of personal information to ASIO by other agencies.

How do I provide information to ASIO?

If you wish to provide information concerning threats to Australia’s security, you should contact the National Security Hotline on 1800 1234 00 in the first instance. Trained operators will assess which government agencies are best placed to receive any relevant leads.

To speak directly with ASIO call 1800 020 648.

What is the National Security Hotline?

ASIO relies on information that is passed to it by people within the local community, overseas liaison services, the police, other government agencies, and the public – particularly through the National Security Hotline (NSH).

The NSH is the single point of contact for the public to report possible signs of terrorism. Information submitted to the NSH is passed on to Australia’s police and security agencies, including ASIO, for analysis and further investigation.

The National Security Hotline number is 1800 1234 00. You can also provide information via email: hotline@nationalsecurity.gov.au.

If you are travelling overseas you can call the Hotline on (+61) 1300 123 401.

How do I seek employment with ASIO?

ASIO is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes applications from all people, regardless of race, religion, age, gender, marital status or sexual orientation. Selection is on merit and applications must address the relevant selection criteria.

The Careers section of the website contains descriptions of the varied roles required by ASIO and includes a list of current vacancies.

How do I contact ASIO by phone or mail?

ASIO has offices in all Australian States and Territories, with its head office located in Canberra.

National: 1800 020 648    
Canberra: 02 6249 6299 Melbourne: 03 9654 8985  Adelaide: 08 8223 2727 
Sydney: 02 8904 0251 Darwin: 08 8981 2374  Hobart: 1800 020 648 
Brisbane: 07 3831 5980 Perth: 08 9221 5066   

Written inquiries can be addressed to:

ASIO Central Office
GPO Box 2176
ACT 2601

Details on how to contact ASIO by phone and mail are also contained in the contacts section of this website and in the ASIO Report to Parliament.

How do I contact ASIO Media Liaison?

ASIO Media Liaison is contactable on 02 6249 8381.

How do I contact ASIO Recruitment?

The Careers section on ASIO’s website provides detailed information on the various job families within the Organisation. If you are interested in a career with ASIO you should check regularly the vacancies listed here as recruitment campaigns are conducted throughout the year.

ASIO Recruitment is contactable on 02 6257 4916.