/ 29 November 2022

Terror threat lowered in Oz

Image source: Unsplash
Image source: Unsplash


The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has downgraded the country’s terrorism threat level from “probable” to “possible” after 8 years. ASIO boss Mike Burgess says the decision was “not taken lightly or made casually” but is due to a decrease in the threat posed by religious extremist groups recruiting Aussies from overseas. ASIO’s latest annual report reveals that “espionage and foreign interference” have taken over as the primary security concerns. But Burgess emphasised the downgrade doesn’t mean the terror threat has disappeared altogether, saying, “It remains plausible that someone will die at the hands of a terrorist in Australia within the next 12 months”.


The threat level was raised from “medium” to “high” in 2014 under the Abbott Government – that was at a time when the Islamic State controlled much of Iraq and Syria and used online propaganda to recruit foreigners. The categories were overhauled in 2015, but the threat level didn’t change. Australia’s terrorism alert system now has 5 levels: not expected, possible, probable, expected, and certain. Since 2014, there have been 11 terrorist attacks on Australian soil, with 21 other terrorist plots prevented. Twelve of those plots were detected between 2014 and 2016, but their frequency has decreased since then… That coincides with the decline of the Islamic State, which was ousted from its last stronghold in 2019. Experts also say COVID-related grievances about masks, lockdowns, and vaccines have lost momentum, and racist extremism isn’t increasing. ASIO hasn’t reported any attacks this year and says the most likely assault now is a lone actor using an easily obtained weapon like a knife or vehicle. 


After assessing the 4 women and 13 children repatriated from Syria last month, ASIO said they posed a low-security risk. Another 43 Aussies are yet to return, but details about if and when that might happen haven’t been released. The Coalition remains opposed to bringing them back but does support ASIO’s decision regarding the threat level. Liberal Senator and Deputy Chair of Parliament’s Intelligence Committee, James Paterson, says the former government can take some credit for the reduced threat as “a result of the investments and the powers that the Parliament has previously given ASIO”. Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil says the federal government and security agencies “remain vigilant”, and PM Anthony Albanese supports ASIO’s decision, saying, “I won’t second-guess them”.

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