The principal legislation governing the Australian Signals Directorate’s (ASD) activities is the Intelligence Services Act 2001, which covers the operations of the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (AGO), Australian Secret Intelligence Service and ASD.
ASD’s functions, as set out in the Intelligence Services Act, are to:
- obtain signals intelligence about the capabilities, intentions or activities of people or organisations outside of Australia
- communicate such intelligence in accordance with the Australian Government’s requirements
- provide material, advice and other assistance to Commonwealth and State authorities on matters relating to the security and integrity of information that is processed, stored or communicated by electronic or similar means
- provide assistance to the Australian Defence Force in support of military operations and to cooperate with the Australian Defence Force on intelligence matters
- provide assistance to Commonwealth and State authorities in relation to cryptography, computer and communications technologies, other specialised technologies acquired in connection with the performance of its functions, and the performance of search and rescue functions by Commonwealth and State authorities.
The Act requires the minister responsible for ASD to issue written directions to Director ASD, which must require the agency to seek authorisation from the minister before undertaking certain activities.
The minister responsible for ASD is also required to make written privacy rules on how ASD is to protect the privacy of Australians.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is responsible for overseeing ASD’s operations, including compliance with legislation. If you suspect wrongdoing, you can make a public interest disclosure to the Inspector-General.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security functions, as described under the Intelligence Services Act, are to review the administration and expenditure of the intelligence agencies and review matters related to the intelligence agencies referred by the responsible minister or the Parliament.
There are a range of other Commonwealth Acts that impact on ASD’s operations. As part of the Department of Defence, ASD also complies with the Public Service Act 1999, Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and all other legislation regulating the Australian Public Service.