This session will shed some light on the dark world of intelligence agency powers and functions.

The work of Australia’s intelligence and security agencies largely occurs in secret. Yet, in a democracy underpinned by the rule of law, it is essential that the workings of government are transparent and accountable. A key part of balancing this apparent conflict is to place the powers and functions of intelligence and security agencies on a statutory footing.

In Australia this began in 1956 with the first Act governing the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). That Act was 5 pages long. Today the laws governing the powers and functions of Australia’s six main intelligence and security agencies runs to around 1500 pages. The law in this area is complex and at times almost impenetrable. Moreover, changes in technology change the way these laws work in practice.

This presentation will provide a brief overview of the key powers and functions of Australia’s main intelligence agencies and will explore the way changing technology can affect statutory powers by looking at the history of ASIO’s power to intercept telephone services.

About the speaker

Jake Blight has been working in the field of National Security Law for over 20 years. This includes roles in the Australian Government Solicitor, as a General Counsel and as the Deputy and Acting Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. He is currently an Associate Professor at the ANU National Security College. Jake has recently been appointed as Australia’s 5th Independent National Security Legislation Monitor – a role he will commence on 27 November 2023.

COVID protocols

The ANU strongly encourages you to keep a mask with you at all times (for use when COVID-19 safe behaviours are not practicable) and to be respectful of colleagues, students and visitors who may wish to continue to wear one. Please continue to practice good hygiene. If you are unwell, please stay home. The ANU’s COVID Safety advice can be accessed here.

This seminar presentation will be dual-delivery.

If you require accessibility accommodations or a visitor Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan please email

Image credit: Image of ‘top secret’ stamp by TayebMEZAHDIA on pixabay, free to use under pixabay licence

Event details

Event date

Tue, 21 Nov 2023, 12:30 - 1:30pm

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