Inquiry into the use of weapons by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)

Parliament house flag post

Inquiry into the use of weapons by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)

Posted 6/12/2013 by Nigel Brew

On 29 November 2013, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) provided to the Minister for Foreign Affairs the final report of her recent inquiry into the provision of weapons and the training in and use of weapons and self-defence techniques in ASIS. While the IGIS reported that overall ASIS ‘has managed the training in and use of weapons and self-defence techniques well’, she did identify two breaches of the Intelligence Services Act 2001 (ISA) involving firearms training, and a number of other breaches of the ASIS Guidelines for the use of weapons and self-defence techniques.


Amendments made in 2004 to the ISA, which sets out the role and functions of ASIS, enable particular ASIS officers to be trained in and equipped with weapons and self-defence techniques for the purposes of self-defence and the defence of fellow officers and others ‘cooperating with ASIS’. Schedule 2 of the ISA requires that ASIS provides the IGIS with copies of all approvals issued by the Minister authorising the provision of weapons and training in the use of weapons or self-defence techniques, and a written report detailing the circumstances in which an ASIS officer discharges a firearm other than during training. Each year, the IGIS inspects these approvals and despite never disclosing the number of authorisations granted, ever since the use of these provisions was first reported by the IGIS (in the 2004–05 annual report), the IGIS has consistently reported each year (up until 2010–11 after which the reporting became less explicit) that authorisations have been small in number and considered by the IGIS to be necessary and appropriate.

According to the IGIS, the inquiry was initiated in April 2013 and ‘not prompted by any particular concern’, but rather was intended as a routine review of compliance by ASIS with the legislation—almost ten years after its introduction. The 2012–13 IGIS annual report states that the inquiry specifically examined authorisations; training; procurement, issuing, storage, transportation and carriage of weapons; and reportable incidents.
 
The unclassified executive summary of the inquiry report states that ‘ASIS now have staff members and agents issued with weapons in a number of countries’. The IGIS notes her satisfaction in the latest annual report that ‘the need for limited numbers of ASIS staff to have access to weapons for self-defence in order to perform their duties is genuine’ and that ‘appropriate controls are in place to limit the circumstances in which weapons may be used’ (p. 21).
 
However, the annual report also notes that a routine review in September 2012 of ASIS records relating to the provision of training in weapons and self-defence techniques identified ‘a number of instances of non-compliance with the relevant guidelines’ which largely related to ‘the lack of formal approval for exemptions of mandatory training pre-requisites and a small number of occasions where qualifications lapsed’ (pp. 21–22). In response, ASIS improved its administrative processes and issued updated guidelines in December 2012 to ‘provide greater clarity about the requirement for obtaining and maintaining weapons qualifications’ (p. 22).
 
The IGIS inquiry noted that both of the two breaches involving firearms occurred ‘within controlled weapons training environments’ and ‘were not indicative of systemic issues’. It also identified two other ‘main concerns’, the first of which related to the ‘lack of central governance of weapons policy and procedures in ASIS’ which led to delays in capsicum spray and batons being issued to some overseas-based staff for their own protection after the provision of such equipment had been authorised by the Minister. The second concern related to the finding that ASIS ‘did not have adequate controls in place to provide assurance that there was compliance’ with the internal requirement that a person with a blood alcohol content above zero must not be issued with a weapon:
While there was no direct evidence that any ASIS staff member had retrieved a weapon with a blood alcohol level greater than 0.00, the Inspector-General considered it was possible it had occurred. (This does not necessarily mean that any person had been issued with a weapon while actually impaired by alcohol.)
As a result of the inquiry, the IGIS made six recommendations overall, related mostly to the ‘governance of weapons policy and procedures’, although they are not outlined in the unclassified executive summary. The report notes that ASIS is already in the process of implementing a number of them.
 
To date, the Minister for Foreign Affairs does not appear to have publicly mentioned the IGIS inquiry or discussed the unclassified report of its findings, despite the fact that in close to a decade of operation, the provisions enabling the use by ASIS of weapons and self-defence techniques appear to have operated relatively smoothly.


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print

FlagPost

Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament


Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

refugees asylum immigration Parliament Australian foreign policy elections climate change social security women welfare reform taxation Indigenous Australians Australian Defence Force welfare policy school education higher education private health insurance health financing emissions trading Senate Australian Bureau of Statistics employment people trafficking Asia statistics Middle East illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 income management Medicare disability Sport United Nations industrial relations constitution transport Australian Public Service politics criminal law Afghanistan health forced labour environment aged care aid Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Carbon Pricing Mechanism dental health regulation food Fair Work Act voting law enforcement electoral reform public service reform OECD Australian Electoral Commission WADA child protection poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention 43rd Parliament slavery health system domestic violence parliamentary procedure International Women's Day accountability defence capability multiculturalism ASADA Australian Federal Police governance labour force people smuggling debt international relations New Zealand Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme Human rights crime China leadership Census election results UK Parliament Papua New Guinea banking corruption pensions children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment Youth Allowance sea farers Australian economy violence against women vocational education and training military history by-election political parties High Court skilled migration mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations youth paid parental leave same sex relationships coal seam gas customs planning doping health risks Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy Rural and regional trade unions Foreign affairs election timetable Indigenous royal commission Productivity United Kingdom firearms public policy Population ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing European Union family assistance United Nations Security Council forestry food labelling Drugs welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report energy social inclusion paternalism nutrition ODA Defence sitting days electoral divisions Southeast Asia administrative law universities TAFE Ireland citizenship asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing water health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran ANZUS regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution marine pollution sustainability prisons police deaths in custody electoral margins electoral pendulum electoral redistribution redistribution NSW redistribution WA redistribution ACT electoral boundaries ASEAN Sustainable Development Goals Double dissolution Senators safety vehicles MYEFO Pathology tertiary education Taiwan Xi Ma meeting family violence government financial advisers financial planners Financial System Inquiry Murray Inquiry China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers First speech defence budget submarines workers Somalia GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra environmental law federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top