Minister for Defence Stephen Smith today released the Inquiry by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security into allegations of inappropriate vetting practices in the Defence Security Authority (DSA) and related matters.
In May 2011, three contractors formerly employed at the DSA’s vetting centre in Brisbanemade allegations on the ABC Lateline program concerning inappropriate security vetting practices.
The vetting centre is part of the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency which has provided security vetting for the majority of Commonwealth agencies since October 2010.
As foreshadowed in the Minister’s update on the DSA vetting process on 21 September 2011, evidence provided to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s inquiry confirmed that the substance of the allegations made by the former contractors was true.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security found that incorrect data had been inserted into the security clearance process which was then provided to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and was used in completing security assessments.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s report is critical of Defence’s management of the security vetting process in a number of areas, including:
- inadequate management oversight, contributing to inadequate and inconsistent documentation, poor record keeping, poor management and inadequate quality assurance;
- inadequate training for contractors and staff, poor maintenance of training records, and the use of staff in roles for which they had not completed their formal qualification;
- delayed and inadequate systems upgrades and poor IT systems user controls; and
- sustained pressure on staff for greater output.
The Inquiry was unable to determine whether any particular ASIO security assessment had been compromised.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security does however note that ASIO security assessment is only one element of a broader assessment of a person’s suitability to hold a security clearance.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security found no evidence that staff had improper motives when modifying data or had attempted to subvert or mislead the security clearance process.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s report includes 13 recommendations, which provide a sound framework for addressing identified shortcomings.
The Government has accepted all these recommendations.
Defence has already commenced remediation measures to ensure the integrity of the security clearance process.
These remediation efforts are focussed in two areas; remediation of vetting processes, and validation of data affected by the inappropriate work practices.
Specific remediation actions now underway include:
- stopping all inappropriate data entry practices;
- strengthening management oversight, centralising the control and change management of vetting documentation, improved conduct and management of training, and improving quality control processes;
- implementing upgrades to the information technology support to the vetting process; and
- checking all affected security clearances to identify information which has been changed without justification, and to then correct that information, both in the ASIO and in Defence.
To date, approximately 3100 high-level security clearances have been validated of around 5300 applications made during the period of the inappropriate work practices.
The Government has also agreed to an annual audit of remediation actions to be conducted by the Defence Chief Audit Executive. The first audit will be completed by 30 June 2012. The results of this audit will be published in the Defence Annual Report.
The Secretary of Defence has written to the three former contractors involved and has acknowledged their allegations in respect of data-entry were true. A letter from the Secretary of Defence to me outlining implementation of the Inspector-General’s recommendations is available at http://www.defence.gov.au/coi/index.htm.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s Executive Summary and Recommendations are available at http://www.defence.gov.au/coi/index.htm.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s report can be found at www.igis.gov.au
Mr Smith’s Office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528
Department of Defence: (02) 6127 1999