Monday, 30 April 2018 10:54

Privacy Foundation expresses alarm over ASD report Featured

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The Australian Privacy Foundation says it is "seriously alarmed" about the weekend's report that the Australian Signals Directorate is trying to extend its powers to spy on Australian citizens.

The story ran in some News Corporation newspapers on Sunday and both the government and the secretaries of the two departments concerned, Home Affairs and Defence, were quick to deny that any such plans existed.

Adam Molnar, the co-chair of the APF's Surveillance Committee, said the move was "a dangerous precedent that would remove an already inadequate oversight mechanism that our nation’s top foreign intelligence agency has in relation to the rule of law and democratic accountability".

He said the revelation only reaffirmed the need for a robust and comprehensive bill of rights that would provide vital judicial oversight and accountability of some the nation’s most powerful government agencies.

"While we acknowledge the important role that security intelligence agencies have, these efforts must never come at the expense of meaningful democratic accountability and the protection of Australia’s human rights," Molnar added.

He also clarified that while some media were saying that the ASD had legal authority to monitor Australian citizens to assist domestic intelligence and law enforcement through agreement between the director of the ASD and the Attorney-General, "the reports incorrectly assert this is a form of 'judicial authorisation'.

"An agreement between two heads of agency is a form of executive agreement that is non-compliant with the principles of rule of law. To erroneously suggest that this is a form of judicial authorisation is misleading, and ignores the present state of duress that rule of law is under in Australia," Molnar said.

The APF called for:

  • An immediate public denunciation by all Australian political parties of the proposal to decouple ASD activities from prior authorisation by the AG;
  • A change in the existing status quo that authorises ASD assistance to domestic agencies based on executive authority between the heads of the agencies in favour of actual judicial authorisation that would uphold rule of law and provide meaningful democratic accountability;
  • That all political parties work together to introduce a comprehensive constitutional rights regime, especially given present day capacities for collection and analysis of digital information; and
  • Enhanced resourcing and legal reform that ensures both the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor and Office of the Australian Information Commissioner are fit for purpose.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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