Australia’s national security agency has warned of a spike in extremist online activity during the coronavirus lockdown.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) revealed that it has monitored a rise in suspicious activity online while Australians have been largely confined to their homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
It warned that the spike could have given extremists more opportunities to target and radicalize young Australians.
The warning comes after Peter Dutton, the minister for Home Affairs, introduced legislation to Parliament that would give ASIO the power to question terrorism suspects as young as 14 and place tracking devices in the cars of suspects without a warrant.
ASIO has repeatedly warned that extremists in Australia are being radicalized at younger ages.
According to the agency there have been three planned terrorist attacks involving minors thwarted by authorities since 2014.
“The extension of the existing questioning power to those as young as 14 who are the target of a politically motivated violence investigation – with appropriate safeguards – reflects a shift in the security environment since 2003 that has seen younger and younger people involved in extremist activities,” ASIO said in a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.
It said that allowing tracing devices to be used without a warrant would help in “balancing the need to maintain physical surveillance of investigative targets with the need to protect our surveillance officers from physical threats.”
“This is particularly the case in the current security environment, in which threats can manifest extremely quickly,” the submission said.
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