hitz-hero-national-news.jpg

Spy chief sounds warning over media leaks

One of Australia's top intelligence chiefs has warned leaks of classified information could cause grave damage to the national interest and global partnerships.

Director-General of National Intelligence Nick Warner has made a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into press freedom, which was established after high-profile raids on journalists.

Mr Warner told parliament's powerful intelligence and security committee that secrecy is sometimes crucial to operations.

"In many cases, the likely damage resulting from the unauthorised disclosure or publication of intelligence information is serious," or cause exceptionally grave damage to Australia's national interest, organisations or individuals, he said.

"This harm can occur even when the information may appear innocuous or historical."

The inquiry was sparked by two controversial police raids earlier this year, one on the Canberra home of a News Corp journalist and the other on the ABC's Sydney headquarters.

Mr Warner said Australia's national security depended on international partnerships to share vital intelligence.

He said sharing advice was crucial to disrupting a plot to bomb an Etihad flight leaving Sydney in 2017 and foiling a potential plan to use toxic gas in a terrorist attack.

"The unauthorised disclosure or publication of foreign partner information could have serious ramifications, including putting at risk Australia's relationship with those partners and that country," he said.

Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick said Mr Warner's comments showed the balance between national security and press freedom was out of whack.

"This is typical alarmist statements from security people whenever they get criticised or people want to question what it is that they are doing," he told ABC News on Wednesday.

Senator Patrick has obtained documents under freedom of information laws revealing a government agency was working with the Australian Federal Police on the ABC raids.

He believes it could be the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation or the Australian Signals Directorate.

Labor's home affairs spokeswoman Senator Kristina Keneally said Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton should rule out involvement from ASD, which isn't supposed to spy on Australian citizens.

"I am alarmed by developments that continue to unfold out of the AFP raids," she told ABC Radio National.

© AAP 2019