News National ASIO concerned over Snowden leaks

ASIO concerned over Snowden leaks

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Australia’s top spy agency ASIO has expressed “great concern” over material leaked by fugitive United States intelligence worker Edward Snowden and says it has carried out an audit to be sure what Australian information Snowden might have.

Top secret documents from Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate, now known as the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), show Australian spies targeted the mobile phones of Indonesia’s president, his wife and senior officials back in 2009.

The ASD powerpoint slide, published by the ABC and The Guardian, has prompted Indonesia to recall its ambassador to Australia in protest.

“Certain material that has been released by Mr Snowden that is now in the public realm is of very great concern,” ASIO Director-General David Irvine told a Senate estimates hearing on Monday.

“That material is Australian material. It is obviously of very great concern to the Australian government.”

Mr Irvine said there was “good collaboration and productive collaboration” between Australian intelligence agencies and agencies from friends and allies around the world.

But he said ASIO had conducted an audit of intelligence it has shared with foreign agencies, to assess what sort of Australian material Mr Snowden might have.

“It stands to reason that is something we would do,” Mr Irvine said, adding he would not comment on the nature or scope of the intelligence material.

“We have a good idea of what information we have shared with other allied and friendly agencies, but I won’t go into that.”

Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam used the hearings to ask Attorney-General George Brandis if the ASD could be allowed to appear before a Senate estimates hearing.

The top-secret agency currently does not appear before any Senate estimates hearings.

Senator Brandis said the ASD was an agency within the Department of Defence, but he did not expect the new government would change the current practice.