Australia spy agency denies terror maps used in media briefing were classified

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's domestic spy agency on Thursday played down concerns that maps shown in a media briefing revealing the source of homegrown fighters travelling to the Middle East were classified, after fears that their publication was a security breach.

The maps, which revealed the Sydney and Melbourne suburbs where the fighters came from, were photographed and filmed by journalists during a meeting on Wednesday between Prime Minister Tony Abbott and spy chief Duncan Lewis.

The Labor opposition attempted to move a motion in parliament on Thursday condemning Abbott and the government.

"The House condemns the prime minister and the government for putting politics before the security of Australians by revealing sensitive information of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) for the sake of a media opportunity," read the motion, which was defeated.

But ASIO said the maps were not classified.

"The director-general of security (Lewis) confirms the documents used in the briefing were not the subject of a national security classification," the spy organisation said in a statement about the briefing at ASIO headquarters in Canberra.

"The documents were carefully edited and were unclassified. The content of the documents did not compromise national security."

The statement contrasted with earlier comments by ASIO to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, when it reportedly said the maps were for "official use only" following the open media briefing.

The ABC said it was also told ASIO would "appreciate if you do not publish" the documents. However, the ABC and other media did publish photos and video footage of the briefing, including the maps.

Lewis told Abbott during the briefing that the colour-coded maps were being used by the agency for counter-radicalisation efforts.

The government has been increasingly concerned about the flow of fighters to Iraq and Syria to join extremist groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), with some 120 Australians already in the region.

Canberra on Wednesday proposed a bill to strip citizenship from dual nationals with links to terrorism. The new laws, if passed, could even apply to Australians who have never stepped foot out of the country.

About half of the Australian fighters overseas are believed by the government to be dual nationals.