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Response to Matilda (Original post)

Tue May 15, 2012, 10:35 PM

2. War on privacy: committee sends Roxon back to drawing board

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.


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.


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.


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