Australian spies given expanded power to use weapons in overseas operations

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-29 13:30:31|Editor: Liangyu
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CANBERRA, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Australian spies will be granted additional power to use weapons and "reasonable force" during overseas operations.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Thursday introduced amendments to the Intelligence Services Act to give Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), which conducts clandestine international operations, agents stronger legal cover.

ASIS officers have been allowed to use weapons to protect themselves, colleagues and people cooperating with their investigation since 2004.

In a statement, Payne said the update would empower officers to use weapons to protect a broader range of people if granted specific approval by the foreign minister.

Officers will also be able to use "reasonable force" to deal with an individual where there was "significant risk to the safety of a person" or a "significant risk to the operational security of ASIS."

"Our ASIS officers often work in dangerous locations, including under warlike conditions, to protect Australia and our interests. As the world becomes more complex, the overseas operating environment for ASIS also becomes more complex," Payne said.

"The Intelligence Services Act provisions relating to the use of force by ASIS have not undergone significant amendment since 2004, while successive governments have asked ASIS to do more in response to national security priorities, in new places and in new circumstances unforeseen 14 years ago."

ASIS was established in 1952 but was not officially acknowledged until 1977. It remains the most secretive of Australia's six intelligence agencies.

In 1985 the government banned ASIS officers from carrying weapons but that decision was reversed by PM John Howard in 2004.