Secret state, transparent subject: The Australian security intelligence organisation in the age of terror

Judith McCulloch, Joo-Cheong Tham

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19 Citations (Scopus)


This article describes the secrecy provisions embodied in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Legislation Amendment Act 2003 (Cwlth). The article explains how these provisions curb freedom of speech and remove ASIO's activities from the domain of public scrutiny. It argues that by effectively criminalising open discussion of ASIO's activities the provisions insulate much of the domestic 'war on terror' from the public gaze. It also argues that the provisions implicitly sanction lawlessness by ASIO in open breach of the rule of law. By undermining free speech and the rule of law, this legislation increases the risk of torture of persons detained by ASIO. The legislation also exacerbates the punitiveness of such detention. Moreover, the secrecy offences will distort Australian politics by enabling the government to control and manipulate 'security' information. The article concludes that the increase in state secrecy and its impact are part of a continuing shift in the relative distribution of power between state and subject in liberal democracies; a shift that signals a move to more repressive or authoritarian forms of rule.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-415
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005

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