Spy watchdog to hire more staff to manage ASIO oversight

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Spy watchdog to hire more staff to manage ASIO oversight

Would bring headcount to 16.

Australia's intelligence services watchdog has kicked off a recruitment effort to help it to monitor the broad new powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Vivenne Thom, warned at the time the legislation was introduced that her office did not have the resources to effectively monitor how the powers would be used.

In August, Thom said the office would struggle to maintain proper oversight over ASIO given the impact the powers would have on the scope and complexity of oversight arrangements, especially when considering ASIO's expanded ability to search computers and computer networks.

"The increasing complexity of computer related operations means that the IGIS office requires increased access to technical expertise to oversight these operations effectively," she said at the time.

The OIGIS currently employs 11 staff,  tasked with oversight of ASIO, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, and the Office of National Assessments.  

The office is currently advertising for an additional five staff members to "strengthen the current work of the office and to provide oversight of proposed new powers for intelligence and security agencies", according to a posting on its website.

The new OIGIS employees will be responsible for conducting inspections of the operational activities of Australia's intelligence and security agencies, with a focus on the use of intrusive powers - including ASIO's use of search warrants and telecommunications interception powers.

The job ad states that the team's "inspection activities seek to provide assurance that agencies comply with the relevant legislative and policy frameworks and to identify issues before there is a need for major remedial action."

OIGIS staff also manage complaints from members of the public and current or former intelligence and security agency employees.

Applications are open until October 24 and all positions will be located at the OIGIG headquarters in the Canberra suburb of Barton.

The OIGIS is offering positions in the APS5, APS6, EL1 and EL2 levels.

The Government's National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 passed both houses of Parliament early this month, after Labor and the Palmer United Party voted with the Coalition to give the bill majority support.

It was voted through without a number of amendments that aimed to limit the number of devices ASIO can access under one warrant.

The bill, among other things, expands the breadth of computers ASIO can access under a single warrant to what legal experts have argued encapsulates the entire internet.

The legislation allow ASIO to access all computers at one location related to a relevant person under one warrant; amends the definition of “computer” to include all computers operating in a network; and allows just one warrant to be required for a series of surveillance techniques as part of an investigation.

It also removes the need for ASIS to gain ministerial approval to collect and share with ASIO information on Australians located outside the country - powers Thom said would also likely result in an increased workload for her agency.

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