Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), Mike Burgess, has revealed that Australia’s terrorism threat level has lowered from “probable” to “possible” for the first time since 2014.
In 2014, the government announced that Australia’s terrorism threat level would be raised to “probable” following the rapid emergence of the violent extremist Islamic State group in the Middle East.
Mike Burgess declared the move while acknowledging that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was increasingly focused on the rising threat posed by foreign interference and espionage.
“After careful consideration and consultation, ASIO is lowering Australia’s national terrorism threat level to possible,” Mr Burgess announced inside ASIO headquarters in Canberra.
The defeat of the Islamic State group in battle in the Middle East and an ineffective al-Qaida propaganda machine failing to connect with Western youth has resulted in fewer extremists in Australia.
“This does not mean the threat is extinguished. It remains plausible that someone will die at the hands of a terrorist in Australia within the next 12 months,” Burgess noted.
However, there have been upsurges in radical nationalism and right-wing extremist ideology in Australia in the past couple of years.
Burgess remarked that individuals are still fantasizing about killing other Australians, still spewing their hateful ideologies in chat rooms, still honing their capabilities by researching bomb-making and training with weapons.
There have been eleven terrorist attacks since 2011 and twenty-one plots have been disrupted since the threat assessment was elevated from “possible” to “probable” in 2014.
Half of the foiled plots were in the first two years of the upgraded risk when the Islamic State group was more prominent.
There have also been a hundred and fifty-three terrorism-related charges from seventy-nine counterterrorism operations in Australia since 2014.
Burgess cautioned that it was almost certain that the threat level will increase again.
Nevertheless, this would not necessarily be the result of a terrorist attack, with the overall security assessment taking individuals’ solo acts into consideration.
People are being radicalized online at an extreme pace, sometimes in as short as weeks or months but there are fewer groups that plan months or years-long sophisticated terrorist attacks with the aim of maximum destruction.
More than 50 people convicted of terrorist offenses are also due for release in the future, but only a small number will be freed by 2025, Burgess said.
Prime Minister Supports ASIO’s Decision
Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese intimated that he is in support of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization’s decision to downgrade the terrorism threat level.
“I have absolute confidence in our security agencies … I won’t second-guess them and I won’t comment on their behalf,” Mr Albanese iterated.
The Coalition has welcomed the development and is taking some credit for ASIO’s decision to lower Australia’s national terrorism alert level from “probable” to “possible”.
Liberal senator and deputy chair of parliament’s Intelligence Committee, James Paterson, said ASIO had acknowledged that the previous government’s work helped to reduce the terrorist threat.
“This is a result of the investments and the powers that the parliament has previously given ASIO, most of which happened over the last nine years under our government but also under prior governments as well. ASIO has the tools and the powers and the resources they need to tackle this threat and there’s also some wider structural changes with the fall of ISIL (Islamic State) and other issues.”James Paterson, Liberal senator and deputy chair of parliament’s Intelligence Committee