The way the UK Parliament oversees intelligence agencies is antiquated and needs a major overhaul, including big changes to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.
That's the finding from a House of Commons select committee report
out today. The report was conducted in the wake of the revelations of Edward Snowden. The Parliament's intelligence and security committee now plans its own detailed inquiry into mass surveillance.
That comes on top of the Obama administration's high-level review of mass surveillance, which concluded that there was no evidence mass surveillance was needed to stop terrorist attacks, that the National Security Agency should be broken up, and that economic espionage by such agencies should be banned. Legislation aimed at curtailing the powers of the NSA is making its way through Congress.
In Australia? Nothing.
No inquiry by our parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security; only Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has tried to initiate such moves. All we've had are smears of Snowden, via both Labor and Liberal attorneys-general and national security propagandists masquerading as journalists at The Australian
and The Australian Financial Review
Do we trust intelligence agencies with powers of mass surveillance? We know the Australian Signals Directorate engaged in economic espionage on lawyers and provided the results to US corporations. We know ASD tried to tap the phones of the Indonesian President of Indonesia and his wife. We know the NSA has secretly reserved to itself the right to spy on Australians -- even if Australian agencies disagree. We know the Australian Security Intelligence Service used the cover of an aid program to spy on East Timor's cabinet, and that ASIO tried to intimidate the whistleblower who revealed it.
We don’t "trust" ordinary bureaucrats or politicians with money or power -- we subject them to public and parliamentary scrutiny and strict processes of accountability. Security and intelligence agencies, which have huge budgets and extensive powers, face no such public scrutiny or accountability. It's time Australia, too, examined the way it oversees its spies.
Crikey has a new editor. Marni Cordell has worked as a journalist and editor for the past 15 years, and until recently was the publisher and editor of independent news website
New Matilda. Cordell joins the Crikey team on May 19.