Fri, Nov 30, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Australian agents might get broader license to kill

Reuters, SYDNEY

The Australian government yesterday proposed allowing its foreign spies to use lethal force against anyone who could jeopardize an intelligence operation, giving the spy agency more autonomy on overseas missions.

Australian law currently allows agents posted abroad to use lethal force in self-defense, to protect the lives of other agents or to safeguard those working with Canberra.


“The changes will mean officers are able to protect a broader range of people and use reasonable force if someone poses a risk to an operation,” Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said in a statement.

For example, the amended law would allow Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) agents to use lethal force to protect individuals, such as hostages, during overseas missions, she said.

The amendment introduced in parliament yesterday was necessary because of the increased dangers faced by ASIS agents, Payne said.


“Our ASIS officers often work in dangerous locations, including under warlike conditions, to protect Australia and our interests,” she said.

Australia, a staunch US ally that sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, has been on heightened alert for attacks by militants at home and at its foreign embassies.

A government source said that Australian agents operating under the new law would have similar powers to those available to intelligence officers working for other Western spy agencies.

The amendment requires the support of the Australian parliament, where the government does not have a majority.

A spokeswoman for the Labor Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment, although the party has broadly supported similar security reforms previously.


A parliamentary committee and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security would retain their oversight of ASIS’ rules for use of weapons and force, Payne said.

Warren Reed, a former ASIS officer who is now a writer and commentator, said that such oversight was critical.

“While I support it ... it throws up the age-old question about who guards the guardians,” Reed said.

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