A reminder from history
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Socialist.
"Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Trade Unionist.
"Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew.
"Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me".
This is the thin edge of the wedge in Australia and may well go down in history as the day liberty died in Australia (like it did in the US when they passed the Patriot Act)
No doubt when this comes to New Zealand in the near future, courtesy of John Key, the majority of the population will welcome the loss of freedom.
It has been like that in history - and will be like that in future.
Australian spies will soon have the power to monitor the entire Australian internet with just one warrant, and journalists and whistleblowers will face up to 10 years' jail for disclosing classified information.
26 September, 2014
The government's first tranche of tougher anti-terrorism bills, which will beef up the powers of the domestic spy agency ASIO, passed the Senate by 44 votes to 12 on Thursday night with bipartisan support from Labor.
Attorney-General George Brandis praised the laws being passed. Photo: Andrew Meares
The bill, the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014, will now be sent to the House of Representatives, where passage is all but guaranteed on Tuesday at the earliest.
Anyone - including journalists, whistleblowers and bloggers - who "recklessly" discloses "information ... [that] relates to a special intelligence operation" faces up to 10 years' jail.
Any operation can be declared "special" by an authorised ASIO officer
The senate votes on the bill on Thursday night.
This also gives ASIO immunity for criminal and civil liability in certain circumstances.
Many, including lawyers and academics, have said they fear the agency will abuse this power.
Those who identify ASIO agents could also face a decade in prison under the new bill, a tenfold increase on the existing maximum penalty.
The new bill also allows ASIO to seek just one warrant to access a limitless number of computers on a computer network when attempting to monitor a target, which lawyers, rights groups, academics and Australian media organisations have condemned.
They said this would effectively allow the entire internet to be monitored, as it is a "network of networks" and the bill does not specifically define what a computer network is.
ASIO will also be able to copy, delete, or modify the data held on any of the computers it has a warrant to monitor.
The bill also allows ASIO to disrupt target computers, and use innocent third-party computers not targeted in order to access a target computer.
Professor George Williams of the University of NSW has warned previously the bill was too broad.
And, unlike the government's controversial plans to get internet providers to store metadata for up to two years, the bill passed on Thursday allows for the content of communications to be stored.
Most groups that had complained about the new bill also said they feared its disclosure offences went too far, with the Australian Lawyers Alliance saying they would have "not just a chilling effect but a freezing effect" on national security reporting.
Attorney-General George Brandis did not seek to allay their concerns on Thursday but said that, in a "newly dangerous age", it was vital that those protecting Australia were equipped with the powers and capabilities they needed.
When the bill passed on Thursday night, he said it was the most important reform for Australia's intelligence agencies since the late 1970s.
On Wednesday afternoon, Senator Brandis confirmed that, under the legislation, ASIO would be able to use just one warrant to access numerous devices on a network.
The warrant would be issued by the director-general of ASIO or his deputy.
"There is no arbitrary or artificial limit on the number of devices," Senator Brandis told the Senate.
However, Senator Brandis did say on Thursday that the new bills did not target journalists specifically, despite concerns from media organisations that they would be targets.
The new legislation instead targeted those who leaked classified information, such as the former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, Senator Brandis said.
"These provisions have nothing to do with the press."
Despite this, Senator Brandis refused to say whether reporting on cases similar to Australia's foreign spy agency ASIS allegedly bugging East Timor's cabinet and the Australian Signals Directorate tapping the Indonesian president and his wife's mobile phone would result in journalists or whistleblowers being jailed.
The Australian Greens, through Senator Scott Ludlam, put forward an amendment that would limit the number of computers ASIO could access with one warrant to 20 but it failed to gain support from Labor or the government.
Speaking after the bill passed, Senator Ludlam told Fairfax Media he was disappointed.
"What we've seen [tonight] is, I think, a scary, disproportionate and unnecessary expansion of coercive surveillance powers that will not make anybody any safer but that affect freedoms that have been quite hard fought for and hard won over a period of decades," Senator Ludlam said.
"I have very grave concerns about the direction that the Australian government seems to be suddenly taking the country."
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm also put forward amendments that would protect whistleblowers but these did not gain enough support either.
The legislation, which also covers a number of other issues, addresses many of the recommendations of a joint parliamentary inquiry into Australia's national security laws.
After concerns were raised by Labor and Senator Leyonhjelm, the government agreed to amend the legislation to specifically rule out ASIO using torture.
"ASIO cannot, does not and has never engaged in torture," Senator Brandis said.
The Palmer United Party was also successful in amending the law so anyone who exposes an undercover ASIO operative could face up to 10 years behind bars instead of one.
"The internet poses one of the greatest threats to our existence," Palmer United Party Senator Glen Lazarus said, speaking out against Senator Ludlam's amendment.
The Australian Greens voted against the bill, slamming the new measures as extreme and a "relentless expansion of powers" of the surveillance state.
Senator Leyonhjelm and Senator Xenophon also opposed the legislation, as did independent Senator John Madigan.
One of the amendments put forward by Senator Xenophon would have required ASIO's watchdog, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, to report publicly each year on how many devices ASIO accessed.
But Labor and the government voted against it, with Senator Brandis saying it "would not be appropriate" to report figures as it would reveal information about ASIO's capabilities.
The legal changes come amid growing concern over Islamic State extremists in the Middle East and terrorism threats at home.
Islamic State (also known as ISIL) has ordered followers to target civilian Australians.
In less than a week, police in two states launched the biggest counter-terrorism raids in Australia's history, and shot dead a known terrorist suspect after he stabbed two officers in Melbourne.
A second anti-terrorism bill targeting foreign fighters was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday and will be debated next month.
These changes have opposition support and would make it a criminal office to travel to a terrorist hot-spot without a reasonable excuse.
A third bill enabling the collection of internet and phone metadata for a period of up to two years for warrantless access by law-enforcement and spy agencies will be introduced later this year.
- with AAP
Eight ways Tony Abbott is trying to trade freedom for security
A series of law enforcement and intelligence gathering bills to be considered by parliament will affect the rights of all Australians
24 September, 2014
The Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, has argued that some freedoms may need to be sacrificed in order to protect Australians. Citizens are now being asked to support a shift in “the delicate balance between freedom and security”.
But what is that shift and how far should it go? The federal government is embarking on a series of major changes to our law enforcement and intelligence gathering power. Many of these changes are confusing, highly technical, and are being brought forward in a series of different bills that are at very different stages.
What they will all affect are the rights and freedoms of Australians. The debate that occurs over the coming months in federal parliament and in the public domain will shape how digital rights, personal liberties and freedoms are protected in years to come.
Here are eight of the key changes being proposed across three separate bills and how they could affect your rights and freedoms.
National security reform bill one
This bill was introduced into the Senate in July by the attorney general. It was then sent to the joint committee on intelligence and security, which proposed some small changes to the legislation. It is now being debated in the Senate. The three points below are found in this bill.
1) Journalists and whistleblowers face jail for intelligence reporting
Australian journalists could face prosecution and jail for reporting about certain spy operations, even if there is a public interest in the release of the information. This bill creates a new offence punishable by five years in jail for “any person” who discloses information relating to “special intelligence operations” and raises serious concerns about press freedom in Australia. While Brandis has said that the new offence is not aimed at journalists, the joint committee review did not recommend changes to the law – meaning journalists could still face penalties down the line if they knowingly report on these types of operations.
Separate offences have also been created that only apply to current and former intelligence operatives and contractors in a move which appeared to directly address the risk of documentary disclosures being made following revelations by the US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden – who Brandis has previously labelled a “traitor”.
2) Computer hacking powers for intelligence agencies
New powers could allow Asio to obtain massive warrants for effectively the whole of the internet as part of changes to computer access laws. Under these changes, Asio will be given new powers to obtains warrants to disrupt and target “third party computers”. But as constitutional law expert and University of New South Wales professor George Williams told Fairfax Media, the new laws could effectively allow agencies to gain access to one “network” that effectively covered all of Australia. Depending on the scope of these warrants and how they are interpreted, this could involve quite serious invasions of privacy.
3) Immunity from prosecution for uses of force by Asio officers involved in “special intelligence operations”
One of the most controversial aspects of this legislation allows Asio officers to use force during certain types of operations. Traditionally, the intelligence agency was about just that – intelligence gathering. But changes in this bill seem to indicate a shift permitting them to engage in a much broader range of activities that were traditionally left to other law enforcement agencies.
They won’t be able to kill or seriously injure or commit a sexual assault – but the fact remains that this does permit a level of force to be used by Asio officers in these types of special intelligence operations. An amendment to the bill was subsequently moved by the government to helpfully clarify that it does not permit torture.
National security reform bill two
This bill was introduced into the Senate on 24 September. It has not yet been debated, and will likely go to the joint committee for intelligence and security for their consideration first. If that is the case it will not be debated in the Senate for at least another month. The four points below are found in this bill.
4) Expanding detention without charge powers
Controversial orders to hold people with charge that were introduced by the Howard government are set to be not only retained but expanded under this bill.
Preventative detention orders allow a person to be detained without charge for up to 14 days and their use is shrouded in secrecy. They were set to expire last year, but the case is now being made for their renewal for another 10 years.
The only types of these orders ever made were issued last week in the major counter-terrorism operation in Sydney under NSW legislation. The AFP even refused to confirm how many people were being detained under these orders, and there is currently an indefinite order prevention publication of any details about them.
The new act also seeks to lower the threshold for when police officers can apply for these orders from having a “belief” to a “suspicion” While it may seem semantic this is an important distinction that lowers the bar for applying to a court for the orders.
Legal experts have questioned the need for this entire regime to exist – given there are already substantial powers to hold and detain people under the existing criminal code, and particularly seeing as there doesn’t seem to have been much use for these laws over the past decade.
5) Restricting freedom of movement and association with control orders and prohibited contact orders
Control orders and prohibited contact orders will similarly be retained under the new bill if it succeeds in passing. Control orders allow a judge to impose restrictions on the movement of a person without finding them guilty of an offence, while prohibited contact orders limit their associations.
Both of these orders will be expanded to increase the range of reasons they can be sought, including restricting the movement or associations people who have been involved in foreign incursions and return to Australia.
6) Life imprisonment for people who fight, or even prepare to fight, overseas in a foreign country
An aggressive deterrent is being put forward where people who fight or intend to fight in a foreign country could face life imprisonment. The government is radically reshaping the foreign incursion laws to create life sentences for people who engage in foreign incursions, prepare for foreign incursions, give or receive goods or allow the use of buildings or vessels for foreign incursions.
7) Prohibiting travel to a region, or even an entire country, unless a person can demonstrate a legitimate reason for being there
In a separate offence that requires a lower threshold of evidence than the previous incursion law, an entire country can be declared a “no-go zone” that could see entrants to the country jailed for 10 years if they cannot point to a legitimate reason for their trip.
The new offence would criminalise a person entering or remaining in a “declared area” by the foreign affairs minister if they enter or remain in an area that has been proscribed.
The defendant would need to demonstrate they had a legitimate reason for being there – which could include journalism, aid work or government duties – to avoid being subject to the offence. Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Greg Barns has raised serious concerns about whether this law is necessary or proportionate – and what value it would serve given the existing laws surrounding incursions.
National security reform bill three
This is the last package of national security legislation and is likely to be mainly about electronic surveillance. It is much more difficult to consider what impact it will have, as the government still appears to be considering what changes they will make. But they have given some indications of what they would like to see, and the one point below outlines this. The attorney general has flagged the bill for introduction later this year.
8) Mandatory data retention of Australians web and mobile data for two years
Mandatory data retention would largely be for the purposes of allowing web and mobile data to be seized by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This sort of retention potentially exposes Australians to significant intrusions into their private lives, allowing broad access to who, when and where a person emailed or call somebody.
The proposal has created additional concerns because of the weak safeguards around access to this sort of personal information already in place. Under the current laws, thousands of local, state and federal agencies can request access to Australians’ personal data – or metadata – without a warrant. Access to this data is so easy there were over 300,000 requests for Australians’ personal data in 2013. It raises serious concerns for all citizens, but also poses major difficulties for journalists and their sources, who can easily be exposed through these laws
Not everyone has gone alone with this
Not everyone has gone alone with this