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Nicholas Grono In the difficult fight against the new menace of international terrorism, there is nothing more crucial than timely and accurate intelligence. With this new comprehension has come the realization that significantly improved collection and use of intelligence will be required to prevent catastrophic terrorist attacks in the future.
Accordingly, in the United States, the role of the intelligence community has been scrutinized like never before. US intelligence agencies have received increased resources and powers, and important modifications have been made to the rules governing intelligence collection and dissemination.
In Australia, equally significant changes have taken place.
Canberra's process of adjusting its intelligence to meet the challenges of global terrorism, however, started more than two years before the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, in preparation for the Sydney Olympic Games. After September 11, the Australian government further strengthened its intelligence capabilities through legislative and funding adjustments.
If many Australians thought that their relative isolation distanced them from the immediate threat of large-scale terrorism, any such complacency was shattered by the Bali bombings on 12 Octoberwhich claimed the lives of 89 Australian citizens.
This article examines how the Australian government and intelligence community have responded to the challenges posed by the Olympic Games, the September 11 attacks, and the Bali bombings, and analyzes some of the key differences between Australia's intelligence response to terrorism and that of the United States.
Australia's Intelligence Agencies The Australian Security Intelligence Organization ASIO is the country's oldest existing intelligence organization and its most important when it comes to preventing terrorism against Australia. As Australia's main counter-terrorism and counter-espionage intelligence agency, ASIO collects information and produces intelligence that will enable it to warn the government about activities or situations that might endanger Australia's security or its interests abroad.
It also collects foreign intelligence within Australia. This structure of separate domestic intelligence collection and law enforcement agencies is one of the more significant differences between the US and Australian approaches, and will be considered further below. ASIS collects foreign intelligence, relying primarily on human resources to obtain information.
It produces and disseminates intelligence reports to key government decisionmakers. Australia's equivalent to the US National Security Agency is the Defence Signals Directorate DSDwhich collects foreign signals intelligence and produces and disseminates reports based on the information it collects.
Similar to the US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Australia's Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organization DIGO is responsible for acquiring and interpreting satellite and other imagery, and for the acquisition and exploitation of data on natural or constructed features and boundaries of the earth.
It also reports to the Minister for Defence.
Australia has two intelligence assessment agencies. One is the Office of National Assessments ONAwhich is responsible for producing analytical assessments of international developments.
In doing so, it draws on secret intelligence collected by other agencies, as well as diplomatic reporting and open source material.
DIO's role is to provide intelligence to inform defense and government policy and planning, and to support the planning and conduct of Australian Defence Force operations. The United States does not have the direct equivalents of Australia's assessment agencies.
Instead, the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency carry out assessments of intelligence in addition to their collection roles. In Washington, the National Intelligence Council is also responsible for mid-term and long-term strategic thinking and analysis.
Australia does not have a formally appointed head of its intelligence community. Policy Framework Each Australian intelligence agency reports to its respective minister.
Ministers are responsible for policy proposals relevant to their agency. The Attorney General has general portfolio responsibility for domestic national security policy. Coordination of intelligence policy across the government takes place through two mechanisms: The NSC is the senior policymaking body in the Australian government on national security matters.
It comprises the senior federal ministers with national security responsibilities: Official documents specify that: The National Security Committee [shall] be the focus for discussion and decision on major issues, including strategic developments, of relevance to Australia's national security interests: The NSC [shall] also consider policy issues in relation to: In Australia, secretaries of departments are generally career bureaucrats, and not political appointees.
With respect to intelligence matters, its terms of reference are:Chilcot Report on Iraq War Offers Devastating Critique of Tony Blair. By STEVEN ERLANGER and DAVID E. SANGER. The million-word inquiry, seven years in the making, is a verdict on the former.
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