May 18, 2011

New powers mean ASIO could spy on WikiLeaks

A new bill that has received little attention will dramatically expand ASIO's powers to spy overseas, including on organisations like WikiLeaks.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

A new bill before parliament will significantly increase ASIO’s powers to conduct offshore surveillance and extend surveillance to organisations such as WikiLeaks, just months after legislation widened ASIO’s power to share the results of its spying.

The Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 was introduced into the House of Representatives in March without debate and is currently the subject of an inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. The inquiry deadline has been brought forward from September to June. So far there have been just six submissions (including ones from the Attorney-General’s Department and Queensland Police predictably supporting the bill) — reflecting the small number of stakeholders who are across the significance of these sorts of changes to legislation affecting intelligence services.

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62 thoughts on “New powers mean ASIO could spy on WikiLeaks

  1. Mike Jones

    ASIO spying on Wikileaks ? I’d call that 15 all. Julian’s serve.

  2. Climate Change

    I think its one of thise bill, where there are 5 people in the Reps and 5 in the Senate and its all over in 30 seconds

  3. Michael James

    There is a key reason for at least one change.

    •“Foreign intelligence” is redefined to relate to “intelligence about the capabilities, intentions or activities of people or organisations outside Australia”. Under current legislation, it is limited to “intelligence relating to the capabilities, intentions or activities of a foreign power”. Similarly, the concept of a “foreign power” has been redefined — currently it applies to “a foreign government, an entity that is directed or controlled by a foreign government or governments, or a foreign political organisation”. Under the bill, it will become “people, organisations and governments outside Australia”.

    This is because of the rise of transnational terrorist organisations such as Al Qaida. They don’t qualify as a natin, but their effects can be greater than the actions of nation states.

  4. Ian

    This is horrendous. More and more state control and interference in people or institutions who present no harm to the people but threaten government’s control of them and the exposure of the underhand and non transparent actions of our governments.
    Wikileaks is a case in point. The public need to know what their governments are doing on their behalf.

    We are becoming more and more like the US – a morally bankrupt regime whose least concern is social justice or the well-being of people (their own and the rest of the world’s).

  5. MLF

    The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation subject to legislative changes so that it can carry out Security Intelligence Operations in the post-AQ, post-WL world? Shocking!!!!!

    JA wouldn’t mind anywho, he is all for phone-tapping it seems.

    In inferring that ASIO would engage in industrial espionage Senator Ludlam has made a pretty nasty allegation against the organisation that is charged with the responsibility for our national security.

  6. zut alors

    1984: on my calculations we’re currently running 27 years behind schedule. But making fast ground.

  7. graybul

    ‘The price of freedom . . eternal vigilance’! Consider . . an essential empowerment OR essentially intrusive leading to reduction of existing freedoms.

  8. Amused for now

    The most important point here for me is that ASIO used to be an internal agency. We had ASIS for foreign intelligence gathering. I see a turf war here between competing agencies as they fight for product to justify their budgets.

  9. Michael James

    Not suprised that Greens Senator Scott Ludlam aopposes anything that might smack of more effective Defence and National Security issues, having read their policy that is laughingly called “Peace and Security”.

    I can see that they live in a fantasy land where the UN is the answer to all problems and if we all sit down and talk it out there should be no need for a defence or national security / counter-terrorist capability.

    As the rest of us live in the real world, it’s fortunate indeed that the Greens are unlikely to ever be in a position where the nation’s secuirity is in their hands.

  10. freecountry

    The expansion from “foreign power” would also enable ASIO to spy abroad on home-grown terrorist organizations which may be inspired by Al Qaeda but independent of it.

    The authority to collect information appearing on a computer during the life of the warrant would enable ASIO to install spyware surreptitiously on a computer, if a court issues a warrant for them to do this. The AG department says in its submission: “This amendment is not intended to change the law, but rather to clarify the intent of the provision and ensure consistent language is used throughout the provision.”

    The point most in need of closer examination is the proposed inclusion of “economic interests” as things to be protected by espionage abroad. Does that mean ASIO can spy on the trade secrets of export competitors, or only spy on export competitors who are suspected of spying on us? Would it have enabled us to be better prepared for the AWB scandal if, as some suspect, our American competitors were doing the same sort of thing in Iraq and exposed AWB for their own commercial reasons? Would it enable us to make more effective inquiries about the intentions of Chinese companies seeking to takeover major Australian export assets?

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