Proposed Terror Law Would Allow Australia's Entire Internet To Be Monitored With Just One Warrant

from the terrorists-have-already-won dept

Recently, Techdirt has been following the Australian government’s moves to bring in intrusive new surveillance powers. The “justification” for all this is, of course, “terrorism”, which has become the lazy politician’s excuse for everything, and has already led to episodes of ridiculous over-reaction in Australia. So it hardly comes as a surprise that the worsening situation in the Middle East has brought forth even more of the same, in the form of the “Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014” (pdf). An accompanying Explanatory Memorandum (pdf) gives a good summary of its rationale:

1. Australia faces a serious and ongoing terrorist threat. The escalating terrorist situation in Iraq and Syria poses an increasing threat to the security of all Australians both here and overseas. Existing legislation does not adequately address the domestic security threats posed by the return of Australians who have participated in foreign conflicts or undertaken training with extremist groups overseas (‘foreign fighters’).

2. This Bill provides a suite of measures which are specifically designed to strengthen and improve Australia?s counter-terrorism legislative framework to respond to the foreign fighter threat. It will provide additional powers for security agencies to deal with the threat of terrorism within Australia and that posed by Australians who participate in terrorist activities overseas. It will further counter terrorism through improving border security measures and by cancelling welfare payments for persons involved in terrorism.

The Bill is a huge collection of amendments to dozens of existing laws, including those that regulate police search powers. Here’s CNET’s description of a major change in this field:

The Bill introduces the concept of a “delayed notification search warrant” — often referred to in the United States as a ‘no-knock warrant’ — which would allow Australian Federal Police to search premises without prior warning and “without having to produce the warrant at the time of entry and search”.

The Explanatory Memorandum details an important new capability relating to computers:

As computers and electronic devices are becoming increasingly interconnected, files physically held on one computer are often accessible from another computer. Accordingly, it is critical that law enforcement officers executing a search warrant are able to search not only material on computers located on the search premises but also material accessible from those computers but located elsewhere. This provision would enable the tracing of a suspect’s internet activity and viewing of material accessed by the suspect through the use of that equipment.

That seems rather broad; an article in the Sydney Morning Herald reveals just how broad:

On Wednesday afternoon, [Australian Attorney-General] Senator Brandis confirmed that under the legislation, ASIO [Australia’s spy agency] 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.

This means that the entire Australian internet could be monitored by just one warrant if ASIO wanted to do so, according to experts and digital rights advocates including the Australian Lawyers Alliance, journalist union the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance and Electronic Frontiers Australia.

Whether or not new powers are needed to address the problem of “foreign fighters” returning home, clearly that ability to monitor the entire Australian Internet with just one warrant is completely disproportionate, an assault on citizens’ privacy, and ripe for abuse by the authorities. It underlines once again that abrogating basic freedoms in order to “fight terrorism” simply means the terrorists have already won.

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Comments on “Proposed Terror Law Would Allow Australia's Entire Internet To Be Monitored With Just One Warrant”

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46 Comments
Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

1. Australia faces a serious and ongoing terrorist threat. The escalating terrorist situation in Iraq and Syria poses an increasing threat to the security of all Australians both here and overseas.

Wow. Just… wow.

I can understand people saying something like that in America, what with 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing, and various other incidents, but when was the last time Australia was the victim of an Islamic terrorist attack? (Or any terrorist attack, for that matter.) Have there been some and they just didn’t make the news on this side of the Pacific? Because I can’t think of a single incident.

Rikuo (profile) says:

“It will further counter terrorism through improving border security measures and by cancelling welfare payments for persons involved in terrorism.”

And when this inevitably fails in its stated goal, are these guys going to say “Okay, sorry, my bad, we made a promise that it turns out we weren’t able to keep, let’s go ahead and scale back these laws that demonstrably failed”…yeah, I can’t stop laughing either.

kiwirob (profile) says:

Perspective

The Australian Government needs to urgently pass legislation to allow the officers of the federal government access to peoples homes to inspect refrigerators for unhealthy foods.

Virtually all western governments are talking it upon themselves to invade personal privacy and erode civil liberties to protect the population from the rather minuscule actuarial risk of death or injury from terrorism. These same governments need to equally apply the newly acquired powers for alternative preventable risks of death and injury.

Based on the additional powers governments are granting themselves “because terrorism” there needs to be similar invasions of privacy and liberties “because heart disease”. It is entirely appropriate for governments to start inspecting the fridges of citizens for harmful foods that may lead to preventable death and injury. The risk of preventable death and injury from heart disease is substantial. In 2012 there where 9,286 deaths from heart attacks in Australia while there where 0 deaths from terrorist attacks.

It has been determined, by the powers that be, that the risk of terrorism justifies sweeping changes to peoples privacy for their own protection. These same “powers that be” need to put equal or greater efforts into other avoidable risks of death and injury the people are also exposed to, such as the biggest killer of them all, heart disease cause by bad diet.

No-knock warrants need to be issued for random inspection of peoples refrigerators to hunt down and eradicate foods contributing to the serious and ongoing threat of heart disease. To make matters worse there are parents out their feeding bad foods to innocent children throughout Australia. We need new laws and random refrigerator inspections in peoples homes for the sake of these poor children. For heavens sake we can’t delay, this needs to happen for the sake of the children, the poor chubby children.

Sambo says:

You forgot the jailing journalists bit

There is a also a clause where anyone can be jailed for up to 10 years for revealing information, to anyone anywhere about a newly created and loosely defined “Secret Intelligence Operation”

Who defines what a “SIO” is? None other than the same Attorney General ramming through these surveillance laws.

As per the US, noone except the intelligence community and the Gov of the time will know what has been designated as an SIO as it is totally kept secret. It is supposed to stop a Snowden style leak however the Gov has made it clear there is no immunity for journalists nor public interest defence.

So, not hard to see where this is going – just by reporting, blogging, even linking on social media just about anything to do with intelligence services and what they are up to could face jail for 10 years.

This is both a reaction to Snowden however also to try to prevent the Government for embarassment. There is a current criminal case against the Australian Gov in the ICJ in The Hague brought by the (very poor) people of Timor-Leste claiming that (extremely wealthy) Australia illegally spied on recent negotiations over a hige gas and oil field to gain clear advantage that has left the Timorese far worse off than they should be.

The case was brought about due to a senior intelligence officer providing proof that yes this did happen. Even murkier is the fact that the senior Australian politician that drove the negotiations on the gas field, Alexander Downer had since retired from politics only to take up a position with Woodside, the resource giant that got the deal to develop to gas field. Read into that what you will.

Just prior to the evidence being presented to the ICJ, the lawyer assiting the Timorese had his offices raided and all documents confiscated, the witness had his passport cancelled. All under the guise of “National Security”

Since then our Attorney General who does not seem to see that the clear breach of attorney client priviledge is a problem and has confirmed he is looking to find ways to charge both the lawyer and the intelligence operative.

This is same the man that wants the power to surveil the entire internet and jail journalists.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: You forgot the jailing journalists bit

It’s not just journalists who could be charged and convicted under that law.

ANYONE who retweets, shares, reposts, or any other ‘re-submission’ of the information, however small and de minimus that amount of information or activity is, on ANY platform/forum be it digital, or otherwise can be charged as well.

This includes foreign nationals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You forgot the jailing journalists bit

Nope, my website is hosted on my servers in California. So it is ONLY subject to UNITED STATES laws. While I could be charged under United States laws, if something appeared on my web site, my web site is NOT SUBJECT to the laws of Australia. The SERVER is in my apartment in the United States, so all content that appears on the site is ONLY subject to the LAWS of the United States, and NOT SUBJECT to the laws of Japan, South Africa, Australia, or any other country that has either passed, or considered passing such laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 You forgot the jailing journalists bit

One small problem with that. Comcast Business, which I use, is not subject to any Australian court orders, so the Australian authorities could not find out who I was, because Comcast can, and likely would, tell the Australian authorities to take a long walk off a short pier. Comcast is only subject to American courts and American laws, and an Australian court order is not valid in the United States.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 You forgot the jailing journalists bit

Comcast is only subject to American courts and American laws, and an Australian court order is not valid in the United States.

You should really look into the legal reciprocity between Australian Courts and US Courts before you jump to the conclusion that any order to Comcast is somehow invalid.

We are talking criminality here not torts, and though nasch is correct it’s not just Australia you wouldn’t be able to go to but any country where criminal reciprocity agreements are. aka ANYWHERE

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 You forgot the jailing journalists bit

We are talking criminality here not torts, and though nasch is correct it’s not just Australia you wouldn’t be able to go to but any country where criminal reciprocity agreements are. aka ANYWHERE

Don’t those agreements say something about the act being a serious crime in the country where the person resides as well? My understanding is the US won’t extradite someone for doing something that isn’t illegal in the US, or even for a minor offense (unless you’ve angered powerful people in the US anyway).

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 You forgot the jailing journalists bit

There’s the gray area that is very ambiguous at moment and what should be scaring the bejeezus out of anyone in any ‘Western’ Country

A serious crime here is anything over a 5yr gaol sentence (we don’t have misdemeanors anymore) this has a max sentence of 10 years therefore is classified as a serious crime, it also is part of national Security structures and under the ANZUS treaties (to name one treaty) you would more than likely have to apply full comity, though it would be a political mindfield (not a legal one).

Could your governemt (USA) really say no if our govt stated Charge this person in the USA and/or extradite or we remove all 5eyes (echolon) data etc etc.. Not sure it would get that far but if we had an incident that was as bad to our govt’s image, credibility etc as Snowden was to yours.. then maybe

PatG (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 You forgot the jailing journalists bit

US government goons would probably play ball with Australian government goons because all 5 of the 5Eyes countries’ governments are hell-bent on mass surveillance of their populations, and on making themselves answerable to NO ONE. This is getting extremely scary, as they appear to be pursuing it now more aggressively and in the open.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You forgot the jailing journalists bit

I think it’s illegal to protest in….a long list of at least 91 places in Tasmania.

Australia went through a phase like this in the 80’s…Queensland was a real police state then, I still remember the Jello Biafra interview about them playing abroad and even though they played places like Indonesia, they said the place that seemed the most dangerous to them was their time to play a show in Brisbane. Riot Cops miles around the little venue of 500 people max where they played. That Queensland governor died and a lot of his laws were repealed.

G Thompson (profile) says:

The strange thing is we already have these search orders..

They are called Anton Piller orders and have been used since 1976 in Australia (the name is derived from a UK case of Anton Piller KG v Manufacturing Processes Ltd [1976] Ch 55 )

I’ve personally been involved in a few and though have major hurdles to be overcome for the granting of them they are hardly a rare thing. Can even be used in civil situations as well (as the original case was)

The difference with these ‘new’ powers is that the govt has bugger all hurdles or due process to go through to have these granted due to the “it’s terrorism’ effect.

http://www.fedcourt.gov.au/law-and-practice/practice-documents/practice-notes/cm11 [Federal Courts Practice notes on Search Orders (Anton Piller’s) ]

Roger says:

Scam!! The Terrorists ARE Created & Run By The Govt

This is easy provable that EVERY major terrorist group, whether Al-CIA-da (CIA) or Hamas (Mossad; real name: Israeli Secret Intelligence Service- ISIS)is run by an intelligence agency.

What we really have going on here is the system secretly creates the PROBLEM the they manipulate, through a controlled press the REACTION they want so they can propose the SOLUTION they had in mind all along. This “Solution” always gives more money and power to the elites and makes things worse, exactly as planned all along.

Richard (profile) says:

Because

As computers and electronic devices are becoming increasingly interconnected, files physically held on one computer are often accessible from another computer. Accordingly, it is critical that law enforcement officers executing a search warrant are able to search not only material on computers located on the search premises but also material accessible from those computers but located elsewhere.

In other words law enforcement needs to be able to access these computers…because they can.

bl says:

I personally consider this a move in the right direction.

Getting a warrant in most cases takes far too long, especially in the types of cases this legislation is designed to combat, this added time can and will very likely cost civilian lives. The increased risk to civilians is unacceptable and the only previous solution was just to ignore warrants in the first place.

With these new additions to the law, we can actually expect the government to apply for the single warrant as it will not continually affect investigations.

From this, we get a unimaginable improvement in the percentage of warrants obtained. This new amount of warrants obtained is obviously a magnificent improvement in oversight of the intelligence community and should be encouraged.

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