Australia’s spy agency downgrades terrorism threat level for the first time in eight years

Key Points
  • ASIO has dropped Australia’s terrorism threat to “possible”.
  • The Australian spy agency says lone wold attacks remain a major threat.
  • Middle school children are at risk of online radicalisation.
The domestic spy agency has dropped Australia’s terrorism threat level from “probable” to “possible”, but warns a lone actor attack using a knife or vehicle as a weapon remains the biggest threat.
The downgrade comes eight years after the former Coalition government bolstered the threat advisory as increasing numbers of Australians joined or supported Middle Eastern terrorist groups, in particular the IS militant group.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) confirmed the decision to drop the threat level today has taken into account the repatriation of Australian women and children from camps in Syria.

ASIO said face-to-face interviews were conducted in Syria with the women, who had travelled there with partners who were members of the militant group.
Asked about community concern over the repatriations, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had “absolute confidence” in Australia’s security agencies.
“This is a decision for them. I won’t second guess them, and I won’t comment on their behalf,” he said.

The terror level has been downgraded in Australia

According to ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess, there have been 11 terrorist attacks in Australia since 2014, and authorities have managed to detect and thwart 21 plots.

ASIO has now determined that while the threat of terrorist attack remains, the number of extremists intending to launch such an attack has dropped.

“Individuals are still fantasising about killing other Australians, still spouting their hateful ideologies in chat rooms, still honing their capabilities by researching bomb-making and training with weapons,” he said.
“Critically, though, there are fewer of these people than there were previously, and fewer of them are likely to conduct an actual attack in Australia.”

Mr Burgess said the terrorism threat is evolving.

“The most likely terrorist attack in Australia involves a lone actor using a basic and easily obtained weapon such as a knife or vehicle. These attacks are difficult to detect ahead of time and can occur with little or no warning,” he told reporters at a briefing in Canberra.
ASIO is acknowledging that foreign fighters coming back to Australia from the Iraq-Syria conflict pose a danger, and more than 50 terrorists who are in Australian prisons will complete their sentences in the coming years.
The intelligence gathering online has found extremist material is widely available, so the timeframe for someone to become radicalised can be fast-tracked.
There is also increasing evidence of children as young as 13 and 14 being caught up in online radicalisation.
ASIO is also monitoring the continued threat posed by ideologically-motivated, nationalist and racist extremism.
Mr Burgess said that while the threat has now dropped, he could “almost guarantee” that it would be ramped up again.

“I want all Australians to understand that a lower threat level does not mean a lower operational tempo for our security agencies,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neill said.

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