How Australia's New 'Anti-Terror' Censorship Law Could Cover Up Botched Intelligence Operations

from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong? dept

As we reported a few weeks ago, Australia has passed a dreadful “anti-terror” law that not only allows the authorities to monitor the entire Internet in that country with a single warrant, but also threatens 10 years of jail time for anyone who “recklessly” discloses information that relates to a “special intelligence operation.” But what exactly will that mean in practice? Elizabeth Oshea, writing in the Overland journal, has put together a great article fleshing things out. Here’s her introduction:

The parliament has passed legislation that permits the Attorney General to authorise certain activities of ASIO and affiliates as ‘special intelligence operations’. We can only assume that ASIO will seek such authorisation when its operatives plan to break the criminal or civil law — the whole point of authorising an operation as a special intelligence operation is that participants will be immune from the consequences of their unlawfulness. It will also be a criminal act to disclose information about these operations.

So the Australian government can designate activities of its spy services as “special intelligence operations,” which may well be illegal, and then it becomes a criminal act to disclose anything about those operations, however bad they are. Indeed, that even seems to include operations that result in death, as Oshea explains in one of her examples of what could happen under the new law:

A botched operation is conducted that results in the death of an innocent bystander (credit this suggestion to the former Independent National Security Legislation Monitor). Note that if a person with three children dies as a result of a failure to take reasonable care, her family will be unable to make a claim for the cost of raising her dependents. If she is maimed but not killed, she will be unable to make a claim for the cost of her medical care, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and the cost of raising her dependents.

That’s a hypothetical case, but Oshea also lists a number of incidents that have already occurred, but which are likely to be covered by the new law — and would thus become impossible to write about. Here are a couple of them, with links to the real-life cases:

Agents and officers raid a couple in their home and hold them captive at gunpoint for an hour, only leaving when they discovered they were at the wrong address. The couple will have no entitlement to compensation for any property or personal damage arising from imprisonment, trespass and assault.

Agents kidnap and falsely imprison a young medical student. They attempt to coerce answers from him, making making threats that go beyond what is permitted by the relevant search warrant.

There’s more of the same, listing previously-reported incidents that would probably be censored in future. The post also explores legislative proposals that are equally disturbing:

The parliament is considering laws that will punish people with life imprisonment for a range of new offences associated with ‘subverting society’ (which is a component of the new definition of ‘engaging in hostile activities’). The law contains a defence of advocacy, protest, dissent or industrial action, but it is very unclear how these would be applied.

Here’s the kind of thing that might get you life imprisonment in Australia in the future:

Leaking materials taken from government information systems that demonstrate serious wrongdoing (as per Manning or Snowden).

Organising and engaging in denial of service attacks ? the online equivalent of a sit in ? against government websites, such as that of the President, Prime Minister, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Stock Exchange.

There’s also an explanation of what data retention might mean for the public. All in all, it’s a valuable guide to some of the seriously bad stuff that Australia is doing. Let’s just hope that other countries don’t take it as a blueprint.

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Comments on “How Australia's New 'Anti-Terror' Censorship Law Could Cover Up Botched Intelligence Operations”

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tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

> Don’t worry Yanks. I’m sure your government won’t use my government to run illegal ops against you.
> help us…


For forty or fifty years past, Mr. H. G. Wells and others have been warning us that man is in danger of destroying himself with his own weapons, leaving the ants or some other gregarious species to take over. Anyone who has seen the ruined cities of Germany will find this notion at least thinkable. Nevertheless, looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery. We may be heading not for general breakdown but for an epoch as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity.

I’m a Canuck (“Order, and good government …”). I feel your pain. I too am sick to death of watching this BS happen. When does Open Season on Politicians begin?

We, The People, have got to start fixing all these broken governments we’ve nonchalantly put up with all these years. They are out of control and need to be put down.

Anonymous Coward says:

LIFE IN PRISON for a DOS attack, or for leaking materials?

No, no, no. A leak might be serious, but once the person is convicted of leaking, it’s not like he’s going to be in a position to leak more.

I take a dim view of DOS attacks, but unless a it results in deaths (in which case you’d have other charges to bring) it’s ridiculous to give a life sentence for it. It’s roughly equivalent to property damage.

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 13th, 2014 @ 10:04am

On many targets of DoS’er ire, it’s even less, taking down the site for a couple hours or so. If the site doesn’t have important functions, such as a U.S. government web page, DoSing is basically just to send a public angry message. It’s hardly vandalism if it has no negative effects. Who cares if the NSA website is up 24/7, no one trusts it anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

KillDisk is not illegal to own or use in Australia.

And KillDisk, unlike Evidence Eliminator, is designed so that evidence of its use can be all but impossible to detect. KillDisk has a mode which makes the disk as blank as the day is was manufactured, erasing everything, even partition information.

Then all you have to do is re-partition, re-format, and the re-install Windows. Any traces that you destroyed data on your hard disk will not be there. What will be there is a freshly re-installed Windows.

KillDisk is a superior product to the old Evidence Eliminator. It can erase a disk so completely, that any traces that illegal data was there, or that is was erased is not there, once the disk has been re-partioned, re-formatted, and Windows and all your programs re-installed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

KillDisk does more than that. It securely erases and overwrites the entire disk, making anything that was there unreoverable. By also deleting and overwriting partition information and making the whole disk blank, it also makes it all by impossible to determine what previously existed there, making it all but impossible to prove a destruction charge.

Anonymous Coward says:

you can bet your ass that these laws will spread! it seems as if every country is going down the same road, the road that removes as many rights as possible from the people and gives as many cases that can be charged as offences, resulting in as severe punishment as possible. whilst doing this, the same governments are giving as much as possible to turn the countries involved into corporations. these same things have been tried before but failed. this time it’s getting closer by the day! before long, all peoples rights and freedoms are going to be scraped, just so governments can do whatever they like with absolutely no come back!
the people need to remember what is going on here and then vote appropriately when the time comes

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

Screw transparency!

Classify everything as a “special intelligence operation”.
Now you have free reign to do whatever you like, and anyone who complains goes to jail. Oh, and no one can challenge that, because the act of declaring everything a special intelligence operation is also a special intelligence operation.
Instant totalitarianism, just add a questionable but secret interpretation of the law.

Anonymous Coward says:

One can also use an under the radar vpn that will not be detected.

I run such a VPN on my Comcast Business connection. Since the servers are in my my apartment in California, which is still part of the United States, what goes through my VPN is NOT SUBJECT to Australian laws, even if the user connects from Austrlia. My servers in my apartment in California are ONLY subject to AMERICAN laws. As long as it does not break American laws, I don’t care what people do on my VPN. I ONLY recognize AMERICAN jurisdiction over my servers, and if the Australians do not like that, they can kiss my sassafrass.

Anonymous Coward says:

the law is outright fascism.

Speak ill of those in charge and you could be arrested and charged.

Look at the mockery the states make of the national security bit. Where everything and anything is declared a national secret even when it is not.

If the Australian government is going to pass tyrannistic laws like this why would anyone expect them to not use these laws to supress dissent of anyone they do not like

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That ONLY applies to news outlets in AUSTRALIA. Newspapers, radio, and TV OUTSIDE of Australia ARE NOT SUBJECT to this law.

For example, if the San Francisco Chronicle printed such a report, they would be NO SUBJECT to this law, becuase they are an AMERICAN newspaper.

A newspaper in San Francisco is ONLY subject to AMERICAN laws, as far as what it prints.

TK says:

Liberal goverments in AU remove rights, labour governments don't restore them

Our current government has been eroding rights faster than previous ones but it is following the trend here. I hate to think of the penalties imposed for Killdisk’ing potential evidence. In Victoria it has been a crime not to hand over encryption keys upon warrant for several years.

Privacy isn’t a right, neither is freedom from self incrimination. It will only get worse, the current government has a couple of years until the next election.

GEMont (profile) says:


“How Australia’s New ‘Anti-Terror’ Censorship Law Could Cover Up Botched Intelligence Operations”

Should Read:

“Australia’s New ‘Anti-Terror’ Censorship Law Is Designed To Cover Up Botched Intelligence Operations”

As soon as you realize that YOU are the ENEMY, (officially designated as the Adversary), these little syntax errors do get a lot easier to spot and rectify. 🙂

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