Key mission 2: Counter-terrorism and foreign interference - Counter
ASIO successfully identified new high-harm espionage and foreign interference (EFI) activities, and directly supported disruption activities and other mitigations. We leveraged our expertise on foreign intelligence activities in Australia, and used our extensive suite of investigative tools, to work with partners in countering EFI threats against Australian interests.
Our efforts towards achieving this measure included:
conducting discovery work leading to the identification of previously undeclared FIS personnel and activities in Australia. This has enhanced our understanding of the current EFI threat, allowing for more targeted investigative and operational activity and informing mitigation and disruption planning;
identifying cyber espionage activities directed against Australian interests, enabling responses and countermeasures to be put in place by the appropriate Australian Government authorities;
working closely with key partners, taking proactive and direct action to disrupt harmful EFI threats to Australian interests, against the backdrop of the global uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This included responding to threats to the integrity of Australia’s political democratic systems, institutions and processes; Australia’s tertiary sector; and social cohesion across Australian communities; and
providing targeted, actionable advice which enhanced the Australian Government’s defensive posture and preparedness, helping to protect against emerging EFI threats.
The ASIO-led, multi-agency Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce (CFITF) has built its capacity to identify and respond to possible acts of foreign interference and espionage. Established in early 2020, the CFITF works to disrupt and deter hostile actors attempting to undermine Australia’s national interests through foreign interference and espionage.
Personnel security assessments
Our personnel security assessments continued to play a pivotal role in assisting the Australian Government to identify and mitigate violent, clandestine or deceptive efforts to compromise Australia’s national security.
In 2019–20, we completed 34 035 personnel security assessments, comprising 30 383 assessments for Baseline, Negative Vetting (NV) 1 and 2 clearances and 3652 Positive Vetting (PV) clearances. This is an increase of over 1140 completed assessments compared with the previous year. Feedback from key stakeholders acknowledged our responsiveness, our level of engagement, and the relevance of advice provided.
The Australian Government Security Vetting Agency (AGSVA) continued to provide favourable feedback, and stated that—with ASIO’s assistance—its progress towards the key performance benchmark set by government was a significant achievement.
We also completed a number of adverse and qualified personnel security assessments, containing information and recommendations about an individual’s suitability to be granted or continue to hold a clearance. Key stakeholder feedback noted that, as a result of these assessments, agencies were able to issue security clearances to staff in a timely manner and, where needed, mitigate security risks.