In an effort to recover from the problems caused by its appearance before a Senate committee considering amendments to ASIO's spying powers last week, the Attorney-General's department has made a remarkable third submission to the committee in an effort to explain exactly why ASIO needs its power to spy on foreign organisations significantly expanded.

Last Thursday, an officer of the AGD appeared before the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to explain the amendments and dispute suggestions the expansion in ASIO's powers was intended to enable it to spy on WikiLeaks, or Australians engaged in activism overseas. A key issue -- just what sort of threats to Australia currently cannot be spied on by ASIO (on application to the Attorney-General) that would be brought within the organisation's remit - remained unclear after the officer struggled to produce an example that wasn't already caught by the current ASIO Act. That enables it to collect foreign intelligence regarding foreign states, those connected with foreign states and foreign political organisations, if it is "important in relation to the defence of the Commonwealth or to the conduct of the Commonwealth’s international affairs."