Note: This piece is written with a slightly sardonic tone; it should be read in this light.
The Australian Security and Intelligence Agency (ASIO) released its annual report to federal Parliament last week. Considering we live in a period of “unprecedented heightened terrorism”, this report should be on everybody’s must read list. But rest assured, we’ve already done the homework for you. Here is a list of the top 10 things we all need to learn from ASIO’s latest report.

1. The biggest threat to Australia is the reduction of ASIO’s budget

Unashamedly, this is ASIO’s opening paragraph in the report:
“Never before has terrorism been such a direct and immediate threat to our nation and our people. ASIO’s counter-terrorist efforts are operating at a high tempo. The resourcing required to manage this ever-increasing workload is significant.”

2. The terror threat in Australia has risen precisely because the threshold for ‘terrorist activity’ has fallen

“The initial raising of the general terrorism threat level was not in response to any intelligence of specific terrorist attack planning. Rather, it took into account a range of factors, including an increasing number of individuals adopting a violent extremist ideology; more profound and specific discussion among violent extremists of attack planning; encouragement from and direction by violent extremists in Syria and Iraq to conduct terrorist attacks in Australia; and a recognition that the capability required to conduct such attacks was negligible.”
In case you missed it, here is the last point again:
“a recognition that the capability required to conduct such attacks was negligible.”
Smartphone, anyone?

3. Being shot in the back of the head by Victorian Police is regarded as terrorism

“Two terrorist attacks occurred in Australia during the reporting period. The first attack, which took place in Melbourne on 23 September 2014 (the Endeavour Hills police station attack) resulted in the injury of two police officers and the death of the attacker.”
We are all still waiting for the release of CCTV footage of the event in question.

4. Not all terrorism is equal, of course

“Lebanese Hizballah retains a support base in Australia. While Australians have been associated with the group, Hizballah remains focused on supporting the Assad regime in Syria, and there was little security-relevant activity in Australia during the reporting period.”
Perpetual interests, not perpetual friends.

5. For all the self-inflicted fear mongering, your public activism will not attract the interest of ASIO

“Section 17A of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 states: ‘This Act shall not limit the right of persons to engage in lawful advocacy, protest or dissent and the exercise of that right shall not, by itself, be regarded as prejudicial to security, and the functions of the organisation shall be construed accordingly.’ ASIO investigates protest activity only when it includes, or has the potential to include, premeditated violence; where it has the potential to impinge on the security of designated people and places; or where ASIO suspects there is a link between the protest and conduct otherwise coming within the definition of ‘security’.”
This was the only concern for ASIO in the last reporting period:
“Small-scale violence occurred between opposing protesters at the Reclaim Australia rallies in Melbourne in April 2015. Reclaim Australia rallies will continue to be held throughout the next financial year and, due to their potential for violence, will remain of concern.”

6. You are right to be cynical of ASIO’s massively increased budget and powers

“In 2014–15 ASIO completed 171 203 counter-terrorism security assessments; this compares to 159 288 counter-terrorism security assessments in 2013–14. One adverse assessment and no qualified assessments were issued during the 2014–15 reporting period.
171,203 assessments and only one adverse finding! If you don’t believe the numbers, check out page 24 of the report yourself.

7. What about the supposed threat posed by Hizb ut-Tahrir?

Of all the political posturing over Hizb ut-Tahrir – with allegations of advocating genocide, rampant anti-semitism, being a conveyor belt to terrorism and seeking the destruction of the Australian way of life amongst many other charges – this is ASIO’s (sole) damning mentioning of Hizb ut-Tahrir:
“In January 2015, members of Sydney’s Muslim community and their supporters gathered in a peaceful ‘We will not abandon our Prophet’ rally organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir, at Sydney’s Lakemba train station. The event was held in response to perceptions of anti-Islam sentiment following the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris. While the event was vocal, it passed without major incident.”
Ironically, Hizb ut-Tahrir has organised a multitude of public activities over the last year, yet the only activity of concern was the one event attended by members the ADL (all 3 of them!).

8. ASIO (begrudgingly) acknowledges the (obvious) link between terrorism and Western foreign policy

“ASIO assessments informed policymakers of the implications of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq for Australia’s security”

9. Every Australian who seeks to wrest the unrestrained hand of power will be a target of ASIO

“ASIO also significantly increased its engagement with the broader Australian Government—at executive levels and with agency security advisers—to raise awareness of the ‘malicious insider’ threat. ‘Malicious insiders’ are trusted employees and contractors who deliberately and wilfully breach their duty to maintain the security of privileged information, techniques, technology, assets or premises.”
The betrayal of Julian Assange by the Australian government is a lesson for all.

10. ASIO now occupy a new multi-million dollar state of the art complex in Canberra!

The report gloats:
“In March 2015, the headquarters of ASIO moved to the new Ben Chifley Building. This wonderful new building will serve as a launching platform for our operations for many years to come, and the positive impact it is having on both the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations is already apparent.”
Money well spent, then!

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