Changes are being made to better integrate the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s (ASIO) operations with Australia's two overseas spy agencies, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD).
The amendments, now before a Senate committee, aim to broaden ASIO’s role to collecting “foreign intelligence” for ASIS and DSD, which could include spying on groups such as WikiLeaks and any people in Australia associated with it on behalf of the two spy organisations.
“Currently there is no basis under which ASIO could, say, take letters between Julian Assange and his [Queensland-based] mother out of her letter box,” an anti-terrorism law expert from Monash University, Dr Patrick Emerton, said.
“Under the amendments it seems plausible that they could, because it is intelligence relevant to Australia's foreign relations connected to a person overseas.”
Attorney-General Robert McClelland’s Department has defended the amendments in its submission to the Senate committee, saying that they take into account that modern national security threats come from both state and non-state sponsored sources.
The amendments are expected to pass Parliament in June.