Category: National Security

AFP accessed the metadata of journalists nearly 60 times in a year.

The Australian Federal Police used national security laws to access the metadata of journalists nearly 60 times in just one year, according to a new disclosure that will be used to pressure the Morrison government to strengthen press freedom.

“It’s yet another example of the culture that’s been created in this country of an absolute disregard for the role of journalists in an open liberal democracy, and absolute contempt for whistleblowers.”Screenshot_2019-07-09 Federal police accessed the metadata of journalists nearly 60 times.png

WHO CAN EXPLAIN IT?….. Peter Dutton of course (ODT)

via AFP accessed the metadata of journalists nearly 60 times in a year.

AFP chief insists raids on ABC and Annika Smethurst were not initiated by Federal Government – Politics – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Screenshot_2019-06-07 AFP says no-one is above the law as it defends media raids.png

Are we Turkey down under? We allowed this to escallate in the last 6 years creating laws against “public interest” laws against “whistleblowing” laws that assume the police in applying them aren’t acting with any “political interest”. Keep on dreaming Australia.  It’s a “police state” and it’s open to abuse. The greatest threat is to our ABC which has been increasingly emasculated under this government and will continue to be for asking the hard questions. (ODT)

AFP chief insists raids on ABC and Annika Smethurst were not initiated by Federal Government – Politics – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Let’s Stop The Hysteria, The Press Are Still Free! – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Well, it’s quite simple. Let’s imagine for a moment that I’m working for a highly sensitive department… Say something to do with stopping the boats. As we all know, “on water” matters are highly confidential… Or at least they became highly confidential after Scott Morrison became Immigration Monster; before that, everyone was free to publicise any information at all about boats arriving whether they were real or only imagined. Anyway, let’s imagine that I’m working in the department that’s in charge of stopping the boats and I discover that, in fact, the boats haven’t stopped and that there are boats arriving, sometimes carrying as many as twenty people. I quickly work out the realm is under threat because the government is secretly sneaking these so-called asylum seekers into the community and nobody has noticed even though we know have as many as three or four hundred happily minding their own business and enjoying their new life in Australia.

As a patriotic Australian, I’m outraged. I make copies of the necessary evidence and I smuggle it home where I… suddenly remember the AFP raids. And then it hits me. I can’t go to the media because I’ll almost certainly be exposed. No, I decide. I can’t take the personal risk.

See, it’s not the press that will have the problems. It’s the whistleblowers themselves. There’s no need for concern because in the future, the press won’t get the information so we won’t know whatever it is the we should be concerned about so we can all just keep going in blissful ignorance, happy that the government knows best and is having a go and helping me with my aspirations.

How good is Australia, eh?

*Just for clarification, AFP stands for Australian Federal Police and not Anti-Free Press.
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Let’s Stop The Hysteria, The Press Are Still Free! – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Kafka in Australia: the trial of Witness K

An artistic rendering of Kafka's The Trial, with Witness K shining a flashlight on his accusers. Chris Johnston cartoon

The Attorney-General has issued a non-disclosure certificate designed to prevent information likely to prejudice national security from being disclosed in court. So information connected to the unethical pursuit of wealth at the expense of a smaller and weaker partner is now dressed up as ‘national security’.

via Kafka in Australia: the trial of Witness K

Australia Wants All Citizens’ Driver’s License Photos, Citing Terror Fight – The New York Times


“The use of biometrics projects risk on every person involved, for the rest of their lives,” said David Vaile, the chairman of the Australian Privacy Foundation. “If they’re compromised or hacked, you’re stuck with it. It’s potentially a lifelong liability for it being misused.”

The real threat to our national security – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Three months before the 2013 election, Stuart Robert organised a dinner in his Parliament House office with Tony Abbott and Chinese business mogul Li Ruipeng at the request of his donor mate, Paul Marks, so Mr Li could meet senior Liberals including shadow resources minister Ian Macfarlane. Also present at the gathering was the then president of the Liberal National Party, Bruce McIver, a party powerbroker who was later appointed as a director of Australia Post.That was the dinner where they were all gifted Rolex watches which they thought were “fake”.

Source: The real threat to our national security – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Trump national security adviser wants to avoid term ‘radical Islamic terrorism’, sources say | US news | The Guardian

HR McMaster felt phrase castigates ‘an entire religion’ and indicated ‘he’s not on board’ – a contrast with the president and many key staff members

Source: Trump national security adviser wants to avoid term ‘radical Islamic terrorism’, sources say | US news | The Guardian

ASIO asks for detention powers without warrant from judge


ASIO head Duncan Lewis says a streamlining of the process "would be most desirable".

ASIO has proposed scrapping the need for judge-approved warrants to detain and question Australians for up to a week without charge in terrorism investigations, in a watering down of safeguards that has alarmed lawyers and rights advocates.

Source: ASIO asks for detention powers without warrant from judge

Disabled cancer patient slammed to the ground by TSA guards, lawsuit claims | US news | The Guardian

Hannah Cohen, 18, was on her way home from St Jude’s Hospital when a scanner went off and led to incident that left her ‘physically and emotionally’ injured

Source: Disabled cancer patient slammed to the ground by TSA guards, lawsuit claims | US news | The Guardian

Threats to the security of our nation – » The Australian Independent Media Network

National security has been an important topic, at least for politicians, but their focus has been all wrong. It isn’t asylum seekers breaching our borders, or people who ride motor bikes, or a bunch of thugs in Syria and Iraq, or women who choose to wear a veil or eat halal food, that are presenting…

Source: Threats to the security of our nation – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Poll finds Tony Abbott’s assumed security strength a misconception

Tony Abbott’s principal perceived strength over Malcolm Turnbull – his uncompromising approach to national security – is an illusion, according to a surprise national poll.

Source: Poll finds Tony Abbott’s assumed security strength a misconception

Parramatta shooting: three men arrested in Sydney raids were listed on terrorism control orders. Yet Farhad wasn’t known in a crowd on the security radar

NSW police face questions over lack of information on 15-year-old Farhad Jabar before the attack as investigators look into links with extremists

Source: Parramatta shooting: three men arrested in Sydney raids were listed on terrorism control orders | Australia news | The Guardian

The privacy of ordinary Australians is under serious threat :Intelligence representatives offered to share the confidential data of law-abiding Australians with international partners. In this Orwellian climate, who will guard the guardians?

Server room at data center

Canadian eavesdroppers drew the line at sharing bulk metadata. Australian ones didn’t.

The latest Snowden document, revealed by Guardian Australia today, increases concern that the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) is operating outside its legal mandate. The minutes of a policy meeting in Britain in 2008, with their US, Canadian, UK and New Zealand counterparts, reveal DSD representatives claiming that they were entitled to share the confidential data of Australians with these partners, and were even considering disclosing them to “non-intelligence agencies” without first obtaining a warrant.

This would be a breach of sections 8 and 12 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001. Snowden’s evidence that that DSD ignored this law (or was ignorant of its correct interpretation) raises the prospect that law-abiding Australians have had their personal data wrongfully collected and transmitted to bodies which may use it to damage them.

The Intelligence Services Act sets strict limits on any DSD (now ASD) activity “likely to have a direct effect on an Australian person or produce intelligence on an Australian person”. In such cases, ministerial authorisation is required (section 8) and before giving it, the minister must be satisfied that the Australian is “a person of interest” – ie involved in terrorism or espionage or serious crime. This is a vital safeguard and any unauthorised or unnecessary surveillance of an Australian is in breach of the Act (section 12).

The Snowden leak, however, suggests that in some circumstances DSD believes it can circumvent this safeguard and even offer up the fruit of its warrantless interceptions to foreign agencies.

The meeting of the five national electronic spying representatives was called in 2008 to consider whether and how to share the remarkably intimate intelligence that can be gathered from “metadata” – the log of electronic signals sent and received by individuals. “Metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life” says the NSA’s general counsel. It told, for example, that General Petraeus was having an affair with his biographer, so he could not, in puritan America, remain head of the CIA. There are doubtless quite a few Australians whom metadata tales might dob in (think Bob Hawke and Blanche d’Alpuget) without any suggestion that they have been involved in crime. It is this prospect that makes it important to ensure that DSD operates scrupulously within the law.

The minutes of the policy convention show DSD representatives insouciant about sharing metadata on Australians – so long as it had been hoovered up “unintentionally” they were happy to store and to disclose it without obtaining a warrant. This is a misinterpretation of section 8. If it has been collected unintentionally it must be destroyed. Significantly, the Canadian eavesdroppers drew the line at sharing this “bulk metadata” precisely because of Canada’s privacy laws.

There are other disquieting details in the minutes of this spooks’ convention. The parties all agreed that as a result of electronic spying breakthroughs they appear to be now collecting “medical, legal and religious, or restricted business information, which may be regarded as an intrusion of privacy (my italics)”. But there is no “may” about it – obtaining details of personal medical history counts as an invasion of privacy under every human rights treaty, whilst theft of professionally privileged legal advice is contrary to the common law. These minutes are further evidence we are slipping into an Orwellian world where the state can scoop up any electronic communication, and in which DSD thinks it can lawfully tittle-tattle on Australians to foreign agencies and is even considering disclosure to “non-intelligence agencies” – police, professional associations, employers and perhaps even to newspapers.

Snowden’s earlier revelations, in Guardian Australia and the ABC, that DSD had in 2009 targeted the mobile phones of top Indonesians, including the president’s wife, raise the question of whether it had exceeded its powers to gather information of relevance to national security, as distinct from gossip and intimate personal data. His latest revelations are more serious, raising the question of whether DSD has, since 2008, been exceeding its powers in relation to disclosing data collected on Australian citizens who are not suspected of crime. It calls for an answer to the Quis Custodiet question: who guards the guardians?

In Australia there is a parliamentary committee on intelligence and security. But it can only review matters referred by a minister or by the houses of parliament – it cannot act on its own initiative to ensure that DSD is operating within the law. There is however an inspector general of intelligence and security, a position established by special legislation in 1986 who may of her own initiative “inquire into any matter that relates to the compliance by (DSD) with the laws of the Commonwealth … or the propriety of particular activities of the agency… or a practice of that agency that is or may be inconsistent with or contrary to any human right”.

The guardian who must now guard the DSD is the current inspector general Dr Vivienne Thom, a legal academic. So far she has remained silent on the Snowden revelations and as far as the public is aware, she has not investigated the organisation for privacy invasion or excess of power in respect of those allegations. If she hasn’t, she must do so urgently and immediately, or her office will not live up to its statutory duty. The answer to the Quis Custodiet question, in Australia, will be Nemo – nobody.

• Geoffrey Robertson QC is the author of Dreaming too Loud – Reflections on a Race Apart, published this month by Random House