To ensure the protection of classified information in NSI Act proceedings, secure equipment is issued on a loan basis to courts on a case-by-case basis and can include secure laptops, briefcases, printers, stenograph machines, photocopiers, USB memory devices and B cabinets. Secure equipment is also issued on loan to all defence legal representatives for the duration of proceedings. This equipment can include laptops, briefcases, B Class cabinets and on occasion, printers.
The loan process is managed by Policy and Services Branch (PSB), PSCC, Attorney-General’s Department, and is undertaken in accordance with the section 22 or section 38B court orders. The secure equipment remains the property of the Attorney-General’s Department. At the conclusion of the proceedings, arrangements will be made for the return of equipment. Lawyers in the Australian Government Solicitor’s Office in each jurisdiction facilitate the liaison with defence lawyers
Court Risk Assessment
With matters that handle NSI, the court may need to make arrangements to locate facilities with appropriate security measures in place to accommodate the storage or classified information in accordance with the requirements of the NSI Act.
Whilst the physical security of the court is wholly the responsibility of the court’s officials, it must be of a standard appropriate for the security requirements of the particular proceedings. To assist in determining this, a risk assessment of the court can be undertaken by the Commonwealth. This assessment considers vulnerabilities to people and information which may result from an NSI Act-related case being held in the court. The assessment is currently paid for by the Attorney-General’s Department as part of its support for the NSI Act-related cases.
The risk assessment is provided for information only and court staff may utilise its recommendations in part, in full, or not at all. Dependent on the circumstances, a case may be made for the Commonwealth to pay for certain improvements or changes deemed essential as a result of such an assessment.
Document Management and Storage
The court is responsible for ensuring appropriate security measures are put in place for the storage and handling of classified information in accordance with the requirements of the NSI Act. Or, if s22 or s 38B orders have been made, in accordance with those orders as the orders will usually apply to those persons who have access to classified documents and/or witness appearances, which will include judges and court staff.
Depending on the case and the nature of the information involved, the content in the s22 or s38B orders may differ. However, there are some consistently agreed orders, which are as follows:
Document Management – Handling
Classified information cannot be copied.
If copies are required, the agency which owns the information (or usually CDPP or AGS if they are acting for that agency) should be contacted in writing specifying the number of copies requested, and the persons to whom copies will be provided. Any copies provided should be copy numbered.
A record of classified documents held should be maintained. Classified documents must be signed for and a receipt obtained.
A regular audit of the classified information is recommended.
Document Management – Transportation
Classified information must be transported to and from court in a secure briefcase.
The briefcase must be in the custody of the authorised person at all times and the information must be returned to the place where the documents can be securely stored at the end of the day.
The PSB, PSCC issues secure briefcases to defence legal representatives and other relevant personnel on loan for transportation of national security information outside the workplace.
The briefcase should be locked and the keys removed when the briefcase is not in use. Please note that any additional keys for the briefcase must be authorised by the Attorney-General’s Department.
Document Management – Storage
All national security information not being used must be stored in the B Class secure cabinet provided by the Attorney General’s Department. The cabinet must be located in a lockable room and the room secured when not occupied.
A B Class container is constructed to certain specifications, and has a combination lock. The combination to the container must only be known by those persons who are authorised with a genuine-need-to-know to access the classified documents.
The combination should be changed every 6 months.
Document Management – ICT
Classified information cannot be placed on an unclassified computer system that is connected to, or can be connected to the internet (whether by physical or wireless means) or to any local area network.
If classified information is stored on a ‘standalone’ laptop, that laptop must also be stored in a B class container when not in use.
This is important in the court context in terms of the equipment used to produce court transcripts where classified information is discussed. The Australian Government can loan the court secure laptops, stenograph machines, if required, and USB memory keys for these transcription purposes. Secure printers and photocopiers may also provided for this purpose as such devices usually have a memory function and could therefore inappropriately store NSI from printed or photocopied classified documents.
Classified information cannot be transmitted on any other unclassified communications system (eg fax, mobile phone or email).
Document Management – Notes
Any notes prepared from a document with a national security classification must be marked with the same classification as the most highly classified of those documents.
Any notes taken (written or electronic) during any period in which a court is closed must be classified. These notes cannot be placed on an unclassified computer system that is connected to, or can be connected to the Internet (whether by physical or wireless means) or to any local area network, nor can they be transmitted on any other unclassified communications system (eg fax, mobile phone or email).
All notes, and ‘standalone’ laptops containing the notes, must be stored with the classified documents in the B Class container.