34.1 The Australian intelligence community comprises six Australian Government agencies: the intelligence agencies—the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Office of National Assessments (ONA); and the defence intelligence agencies—the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO), the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) and the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (DIGO). Collectively, these agencies work together to meet Australia’s intelligence needs.[1]

34.2 Three of these agencies are responsible for collecting intelligence outside Australia: ASIS is responsible for human intelligence obtained through interaction with people; the DSD for signals intelligence obtained by intercepting electronic communications—such as telephones, faxes and emails; and the DIGO for imagery and geospatial intelligence obtained from imaging satellites and other sources.[2]

34.3 The ONA and the DIO are responsible for foreign intelligence assessment. Their functions are to analyse and assess intelligence as well as information from other sources—such as the media, the internet and diplomatic reporting—to form a picture of an issue or occurrence.[3] In this chapter, ASIS, the DIGO, the DSD, the DIO and the ONA—that is, all the intelligence and defence intelligence agencies except ASIO—are collectively referred to as the ‘foreign intelligence agencies’.

34.4 ASIO, as a security intelligence agency, focuses mainly on the domestic security of Australia. Unlike the foreign intelligence agencies—which have either an intelligence collection or assessment role but not both—ASIO has both an intelligence collection and an assessment role.[4]

34.5 Currently, the intelligence and defence intelligence agencies are either partially or completely exempt from the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). This chapter examines whether they should continue to be exempt.

[1] Australian Government Office of National Assessments, The Australian Intelligence Community: Agencies, Functions, Accountability and Oversight (2006), 4.

[2] Ibid, 3.

[3] Ibid, 3.

[4] Ibid, 3–4.