We achieved our purpose during the reporting period through the delivery of three key services: identifying and mitigating efforts to harm Australians and Australia; providing intelligence and advice to enable better decision-making; and building our partners’ security and intelligence capabilities.
Some activities were significantly constrained by two factors: the COVID-19 pandemic, and a challenging and rapidly changing technology environment.
COVID-19 required an immediate response by ASIO across the breadth of our work.
We adapted operational practices to provide security advice to government on attempts to target Australia and its interests, including by individuals using the crisis to their advantage. Although some of our activities were significantly affected owing to the travel restrictions, we continued to analyse and identify potential threats.
We continue to be challenged by rapidly evolving technological advancements. These include the widespread adoption of new technology, including encryption and anonymising technologies, by those seeking to threaten Australia’s security. The Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018 has gone some way to address these challenges by contemporising our access to security-relevant data. We took advantage of these new powers within 10 days of the legislation coming into effect; a clear indication of its significance to our mission.
Separately, we assess that the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Act 2018 has hardened Australia’s security environment, with our adversaries adjusting their behaviour in response to its introduction. We recognise we have been entrusted with significant powers under this and existing legislation; our application of these powers will continue to be lawful, ethical and proportionate to the security threat or matter at hand.
Finally, our partnerships have contributed significantly to the achievement of our purpose. Our ability to leverage existing and new partnerships with domestic, international and industry partners enabled access to new information sources and enhanced capability.
Continuing to bolster our relationships will be critical to our future success.