This page outlines the history of the various Australian intelligence and security services from Federation until the present day.
It also includes links to some of our records about these agencies.
Before World War I
The Australian Government assumed responsibility for national security and intelligence at Federation in 1901. However, there was no single agency responsible for these areas and considerable overlap between civilian and military authorities.
During World War I, the government created security and intelligence agencies to deal with perceived threats within Australia.
The British Government established an Australian branch of the Imperial Counter Espionage Bureau in January 1916. Known as the Australian Special Intelligence Bureau (SIB), it maintained a close relationship with the police forces.
The Commonwealth Police Force was created in 1917. In 1919, the Commonwealth Police Force and the Special Intelligence Bureau merged to form the Investigation Branch (IB).
The Investigation Branch was responsible for wartime security until 1941. These functions were then taken over by a wartime organisation: the Commonwealth Security Service (CSS).
The army was also responsible for some aspects of wartime security, including:
- the internment of enemy aliens
- internal security in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia.