May 5, 2015

Intelligence oversight is better — but still broken

The way we oversee security agencies has improved in recent months, but big reforms are still needed.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

With the dust settling on the most recent extensions of security agency powers, how we oversee agencies like the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Federal Police remains problematic.

Apart from extensions to the agencies’ already-draconian powers over the past 10 months, the oversight model for national security, intelligence and counter-terrorism in Australia has also undergone a significant change. Like other Westminster countries and the United States, we have a mixed system of oversight of security agencies composed of parliamentary committees, independent officeholders and judicial oversight. But the respective powers of each varies between countries. In Australia, the relevant parliamentary committee, the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, has had a very limited role, in essence confined to operating as an estimates committee for spooks who (they insist) shouldn’t be subjected to the same kind of public grilling about their finances as other public servants. JCIS’ other role has been to review the listing of terror groups plus whatever matters the government referred to it.

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7 thoughts on “Intelligence oversight is better — but still broken

  1. bushby jane

    I’m interested why you consider Andrew Nicolic to be an embarrassment as he considers himself king dick.

  2. Neutral

    The polls don’t like politicians who don’t play the national security card so it won’t happen.

    Operational matters about “terrists” are a big secret. Screts require silos to keep the secrets safe and snug. The only effective way to run a silo is via a fiefdom.

    In return the fiefdom will perpetuate L1 and L2. Hence the new whistleblower laws.

  3. AR

    Spooks spread woofle dust to protect the community from dangers of which only they are allowed to know – the mere fact that we, the tax payers see little/read no evidence of the dragons they’ve slain or deterred in merely proof of efficacy and a reason to increase budgets for new, improved woofle dust for een bigger monsters.
    Anyone recall spooks ever saying that previous powers were no longer required and could be removed from the books?
    No, nor do I.

  4. AR

    Jane – I would have thought that his self assessment were reason enough but, if you can stand the horror, have a look at his website. Makes Ozymandias seem like a shrinking violet.

  5. Norman Hanscombe

    Bernard, if more influential people such as yourself made a serious effort to work for positive improvements rather than harping away on flaws, many of which seem to be insignificant, we might find Security & Intelligence Services were better prepared to deal with the growing threats we face.

  6. Neutral

    And the first target under the new data retention laws are whistleblowers. What a surprise. Not.

    If only the “Security & Intelligence Services were better prepared to deal with the growing threats we face” in the form of our treasonous government and it’s amoebic opposition.


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