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May 16, 2012

War on privacy: committee sends Roxon back to drawing board

Nicola Roxon's efforts to establish a process for expanding national security powers has suffered a hiccup, with the powerful Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security asking her to redraft it.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

As Attorney-General Nicola Roxon prepares to head to the United States to further integrate Australia’s role in the War on Terror into the American security apparatus, the powerful Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has knocked back her terms of reference for an inquiry into the further widening of intelligence-gathering laws, including the controversial data retention proposal.

The rejection is bad timing for Roxon, who wrote today in The Australian about her pending trip to the US for further meetings with US Department of Homeland Security head Janet “you cannot live free if you live in fear” Napolitano, who was recently in Australia.

Roxon’s reference to the committee included some proposals to strengthen privacy protections and streamline administrative procedures relating to warrants, which are separately identified as being supported by the government, but also invited consideration of wide-reaching expansions to the powers of security and intelligence agencies to: increase powers of interception; make it easier for ASIO to break into computers and computer networks, including those of third parties not targeted in warrants; facilitating the prosecution of anyone who names an ASIO officer; and, most controversially, a long-considered proposal from departmental bureaucrats to impose a two-year data retention directive on ISPs to record and store all Australians’ internet usage for government monitoring.

One problematic but easily remedied issue about the draft terms of reference was the reporting date of July 31, giving the committee just 10 weeks to conduct full-scale public inquiries into major changes to several pieces of national security legislation.

However, there are more substantive concerns among committee members, who decided to knock back Roxon’s initial terms of reference at a meeting on May 10. Crikey understands that while the committee has agreed in-principle to the inquiry, it is now considering an overhaul of the terms of reference. Committee chairman, Victorian MP Anthony Byrne, did not return calls this morning.

Roxon’s piece for The Australian today was a peculiar piece of national security proselytism, using the “Underwear Bomber Mark II” and his “sophisticated new bomb technology” as the basis for a “call for constant vigilance”. In fact, the most recent Yemeni “underwear bomber” plot was, like most domestic terrorist plots “thwarted” by the FBI in the US, a creation of governments — the “bomber” appears to have been an agent working for western and Saudi intelligence services who initiated the plot himself and elicited support for it from al-Qaeda operatives.

Putting aside the inconvenient problem that “underwear bombs” can’t bring down airliners, the main difference with FBI-initiated plots in the US was that, at least in this case, Western intelligence didn’t furnish the bomb as well as the bomber.

However, Roxon uses this as the pretext for calling for a range of expansions in security and intelligence powers. She wants to ensure “that Australia has a wide array of tools to assist law enforcement to prevent, detect and disrupt organised crime online” (the inevitable child p-rnography got a mention) and “improving the quality and quantity of evidence of cyber crime that we have access to by joining the US in acceding to the European Convention to Cybercrime”.

Did you spot that sleight of hand there? “Improving the quality and quantity of evidence” in the context of the European Convention on Cybercrime means giving foreign governments access to your telephone and internet user data. And we haven’t yet acceded to the convention because the government’s bill to enable it — which, embarrassingly, had to be redrafted because it would have actually prevented accession — is still before the Senate, after the government’s effort to rush the bill through parliament came unstuck amid complaints not merely from civil liberties groups and online activists, but ISPs who would have to foot the bill for it.

Roxon’s commitment to holding a transparent and public inquiry into possible expansions of surveillance and law enforcement powers is to be commended — it’s something markedly at odds with the cybercrime bill process and the usual legislative rush that accompanies expansions to intelligence and law enforcement powers. It will be even better if, as seems likely, the JCIS committee — which includes John Faulkner, Kevin Rudd, Andrew Wilkie and George Brandis — takes its responsibility seriously.

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20 thoughts on “War on privacy: committee sends Roxon back to drawing board

  1. Suzanne Blake

    Bernard, is this to do with internet censorship as well.

    PS what did you think of Stephen Mayne’s performace on Q&A on Monday

  2. botswana bob

    Bureaucrats are born snoopocrats. And then there is Roxon: totally manipulated by Canberra’s Sir Humphrey Applebys.

  3. shepherdmarilyn

    More powers for ASIO who already have no accountability to anyone and can drag kids off the streets and jail them for life without evidence or reason.

  4. Gary Johnson

    ((Roxon’s commitment to holding a transparent and public inquiry into possible expansions of surveillance and law enforcement powers is to be commended)))

    Ceratinly, but Roxon’s pretext of the Undies Bomber mark 2 as serious further justification is very unserious. That happless Western intelligence dupe and the escapade has been exposed all across Europe and the US for the false flag that it was…sigh!

    Australia is looking to Rudd,Faulkner, Wilkie and Brandis to show some honest form. Come on boys!!! show the world we won’t be fooled or absorbed into the US’s terrorism Fasle Flag security apparatus.

    As usual, BK is relentless in his pursuit of the Truth.

  5. Michael de Angelos

    One World Conspiracists are being handed these things on a plate: the USA is demanding sovereign countries everywhere surrender citizen’s rights to comply with USA’s new dodgy laws.
    They are doing it in cyberspace and sadly, tech writers are lining up to support them.

    Watch the howls of anguish on crikey and elsewhere when a court victory is scored against the new Fasle Gods-Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook and Google by ordinary citizens or an Archbishop wishing to negate lies published about them.
    Crikey is also guilty of promoting a view that those who are a gateway to publishing (Google etc) should remain in a sort of untouchable cyberspace free of ordinary laws (at the same time they base themselves in tax havens ) or that laws that have served us well for centuries must change and defer to private companies (fascism?).

    Kiddie Porn, terrorists bomb recipes-supposedly there are “a billion” such websites according to the US government (read it in a Fairfax newspaper so must be true) and so on, threats everywere so our freedoms must be curtailed and we must be watched permanently even in our homes and as shown by a NSW Labor government-police can now secertly enter your premises without a warrant. Expect no joy from Roxon.

  6. Michael de Angelos

    Suzanne Blake- Mayne’s performance was disappointing especially when he claimed an MP should comply and be hounded out of Parliamnet because of accusations.

    I think there is a Young Liberal still struggling to get out.

  7. shepherdmarilyn

    Yes and the major claim of electoral fraud and theft of funds and funds not diclosed and declared was simply not true.

    FWA seem to have been the ones misleading the public and someone should be fired for it.

    Of course Kathy Jackson fed the same lies about others to various investigations going back many years while raking in the dough herself.

    I suspect this poor widdle so-called whistleblower will find her legal bills will rise.

    Because this claim came only from her and FWA swallowed it whole.

  8. GocomSys

    No longer watch shows like Q&A. Also, if someone like doozie Suzie chimes in, its time to move on!

  9. Suzanne Blake

    @ GocomSys

    I am shocked, Q&A is very left wing biased, even down to the tweets selected.

    What is more left wing for you? Green – Left weekly newsletter?

  10. Jimmy

    Not meaning to get off topic but I was wondering if SB could explain this to me

    Joe H.oc key today first refused to commit the Coal ition to the NDIS as he “isn’t going to promise what he can’t del iver” and then;

    “Mr Hockey was tackled on the Coal ition’s commitment to provide tax cuts without a carbon tax, saying the cuts would be made to the tax tables as they stood today, not to the new rates that come into force when the carbon tax is introduced.” So will they del iver tax cuts that actuall y increase the tax rates?
    “In a wide-ranging speech that ana l ysed last week’s federal budget, Mr Hockey flagged a hardl ine fiscal strategy from the Coal ition if it was to win the next election.” SO we are going to wind back means testing of the private health rebate, subsidise Nannies, make the paid parental leave scheme ridiculousl y generous, pay big business to stop polluting, del iver tax cuts and increased welfare and still have a “hardl ine fiscal strategy” – sounds like Greece is looking pretty good if Abb ott becomes PM.