Australian Secret Intelligence Service warns of CBRN threat

The Australian Secret Intelligence Service warned against the multifaceted dangers of the 21st century in a landmark speech this week, comparing the threats to those posed by the Cold War.

The service said that the menace of terrorists acquiring chemical, biological or nuclear-type weapons was one of the greatest threats to security, The National Times reports.

This is the first public speech by a chief of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service in its 60 year history.

Nick Warner, the head of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, described the future as "more challenging, volatile and dangerous than any time since the service's formation," The National Times reports.

ASIS was formed in May 1952 and kept a secret until 1975, when Gough Whitlam referred to the agency in Parliament. Malcolm Fraser publicly declared its existence two years later.

Since the terrorists attacks of 2001, ASIS has seen significant growth, with its annual budget increasing from $54 million in 2002 to to $246 million this year, according to The National Times.

Warner's speech explained why the intelligence ASIS gathers is needed. He also discussed the increasing joint role the service undertakes with the military's Special Operations Command, specifically its "support operations" with the Special Air Service.