The principal legislation governing the Defence Signals Directorate’s (DSD) activities is the Intelligence Services Act 2001, which covers the operations of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation and DSD.
DSD’s functions, as set out in the Intelligence Services Act, are to:
- obtain signals intelligence about the capabilities, intentions or activities of people or organisations outside of Australia
- communicate such intelligence in accordance with the Australian Government’s requirements
- provide material, advice and other assistance to Commonwealth and State authorities on matters relating to the security and integrity of information that is processed, stored or communicated by electronic or similar means
- provide assistance to the Australian Defence Force in support of military operations and to cooperate with the Australian Defence Force on intelligence matters
- provide assistance to Commonwealth and State authorities in relation to cryptography, computer and communications technologies, other specialised technologies acquired in connection with the performance of its functions, and the performance of search and rescue functions by Commonwealth and State authorities.
The Act requires the minister responsible for DSD to issue written directions to Director DSD, which must require the agency to seek authorisation from the minister before undertaking certain activities.
The minister responsible for DSD is also required to make written privacy rules on how DSD is to protect the privacy of Australians.
There are a range of other Commonwealth Acts that impact on DSD’s operations. As part of the Department of Defence, DSD also complies with the Public Service Act 1999, Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and all other legislation regulating the Australian Public Service.
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is responsible for overseeing DSD’s operations, including compliance with legislation. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security functions, as described under the Intelligence Services Act, are to review the administration and expenditure of the intelligence agencies and review matters related to the intelligence agencies referred by the responsible minister or the Parliament.