Officials from the secret intelligence service of Australia may soon be allowed to shoot at enemies who run the risk of performing covert foreign operations.
- Foreign Secretary Maris Payne says staff "often work in dangerous places … to protect Australia",
- The government claims that the laws governing the use of force by officers have not changed significantly since 2004.
- There is a permanent ban on the use of violence by intelligence officers.
In accordance with current legal procedures, ASIS employees can use their weapons only for self-defense or to protect those who work with a spy agency.
On Thursday, the Morrison government will introduce new laws to parliament that allow ASIS staff to use "reasonable force" during their overseas missions.
Foreign Minister Maris Payne said new powers are needed because ASIS employees "often work in dangerous places, including in wartime conditions, to protect Australia and our interests."
“As the world becomes more complex, the external operating environment for ASIS is also becoming more complex,” said Senator Payne in a statement.
The government claims that the provisions of the Intelligence Services Act regarding the use of ASIS force have not changed significantly since 2004, despite the fact that the overseas spy agency was asked to conduct more dangerous missions in new places and circumstances unforeseen 14 years ago.
“The changes will mean that officers can protect a wider circle of people and use reasonable force if someone risks performing the operation,” said Senator Payne.
The Foreign Minister insisted that the ASIS watchdog group would continue to play an important supervisory role in the use of weapons and the use of force by the intelligence services.
“Like the existing ability to use weapons for self-defense, these amendments will be an exception to the permanent bans on the use of violence or the use of ASIS weapons,” she said.
In 2014, ABC discovered that an Australian special forces soldier pulled out an ASIS spy gun during a drinking session in Afghanistan a year earlier.
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