Showing posts with label ASIO. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ASIO. Show all posts

Sunday, 10 December 2017

"Lucifer" Dutton takes up role as Australian Minister for Home Affairs on Sunday 17 December 2017


The Saturday Paper, 6 December 2017:

Attorney-General George Brandis has confirmed immigration minister Peter Dutton will take up the new home affairs “super ministry” on December 17. The home affairs portfolio, announced in July, will give Dutton sweeping powers over Australia’s intelligence, security and border control apparatuses, and has been criticised for centralising too much authority under one figure and stripping the attorney-general position of its ability to hold security agencies accountable. Brandis denied rumours he will retire from politics before the December reshuffle, saying he intended to stay put. Last week a Canberra Times investigation found a web user with an IP address connected to the Australian Taxation Office edited Dutton’s Wikipedia page, briefly changing his middle name to “Lucifer”.

The Home Affairs super portfolio will merge Australia’s immigration, border protection, law enforcement and domestic security agencies in a single portfolio, including spy agency ASIO, the Federal Police, Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission - under the control of millionaire former Queensland police officer and Liberal National Party MP for Dickson Peter Dutton, with allegedly increased oversight by Australian Attorney-General and Liberal Senator for Queensland George Brandis.

A political pairing from Queensland which may yet turn out to be the stuff of nightmares, given these two gentlmen's attitudes to human rights and civil liberties.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

National ID Database: so you think if you do nothing wrong you'll have nothing to fear?


“There is also a tendency for technologies to converge, allowing for the creation of devices with increased surveillance capabilities. CCTV, for example, may be combined with facial recognition technology….to identify individuals from their images. Another example is modern mobile phones, which combine telephonic services with GPS tracking software, digital visual and sound recording capabilities, and connection to the internet. A consequence of the convergence of surveillance technologies is the greater ability of surveillance users to compile detailed pictures of members of the public, making it increasingly difficult for individuals to maintain their privacy and anonymity.” [Victorian Law Reform Commission – Surveillance in Public Places: Final Report 18, 2010]

This month the Turnbull Government, state and territory governments have agreed to add the photo IDs of all registered drivers to the Facial Biometric Matching Capability (FBMC) database (est. 16 November 2016) which already has access to passport photographs, visa application photos, airport surveillance images and arrest ID images from the criminal justice system.

Additional images will probably be harvested from social media and added to this database which is to be used with CCTV footage of the general population going about their daily lives when considered necessary by police and security services. The biometric 'map' of an individual's face created by FBMC being easily applied to searches of video footage from public venue, shopping centre, street and road cameras as CCTV technology is now capable of recognising faces of people, vehicles, animals and bags automatically.

FBMC will involve using a Face Verification Service , Face Identification Service, One Person One Licence Service and Facial Recognition Analysis Utility Service in identity matching, along with a the Document Verification Service, Identity Data Sharing Service and/or any other government identity matching or data sharing service and, of course one of the areas it will be used is in so-called crime prevention.

Use of this facial recognition database will also be available to authorised private sector agencies and, like many new tools it is likely there will be function creep so that photo IDs will be required by more government agencies and private businesses when interacting with individuals in the future.

The Facial Biometric Matching Capability database will function alongside the Biometric Identification Services (BIS) which features national identification capability using fingerprints, palm prints, foot prints and facial recognition, person identity and evidence image case management, image enhancement tools and record auditing, matching services of one to one, one to few, one to many, and many to many, as well as photobook, photo line-up and witness viewing services.

But what’s the worry? After all if you are an ordinary person not committing a crime you have nothing to fear. Right?

Well there is this on the horizon…………..


Criminologists at Monash undertake cutting edge research in the areas of risk and security that is theoretically sophisticated, innovative and highly relevant to areas of pressing national and international concern. The discipline hosts two recipients of the Australian government’s prestigious Future Fellowship Award, Professor Sharon Pickering and Associate Professor Weber, both undertaking programs of research on border policing. Their jointly authored book Globalization and Borders: Death at the Global Frontier was awarded Australia’s most significant criminology publication award in 2013. The Border Crossing Observatory is the online repository of all border-related research undertaken by Monash Criminology and our national and international partners. Criminologists at Monash have received multiple highly competitive Australian Research Council grants to investigate a host of risk and security related topics, amongst them, counter terrorism laws and policing, immigration and exploitive labour practices, deportation, regional security, and the gendered nature of border crossing and transnational law enforcement. Our risk and security research expertise includes the interrelated topics of borders, counter terrorism, state crime, transnational crime, irregular migration, human trafficking, risk and disability, and pre-crime. [my yellow bolding]

What is “pre-crime”?

Put simply, “pre-crime” activity is a crime not yet committed – it is the suspicion that an individual might be capable of breaking an unidentified law at some unspecified time in the future.

Such suspicion does not mean there is a need to charge, prosecute or convict for a specific crime. Intervention at “pre-crime” stage is supposedly risk containment.

You don’t have to be researching bomb-building or Googling how to buy a weapon online to commit a “pre-crime” activity - it can be your thoughts and political opinions spoken aloud or written down, as well as your actions at a public meeting or protest rally.

It can even be allegedly ‘guilty knowledge’ in that you knew the time and place a small environmental activist group was going to confront their local MP or you saw a person painting an anti-government picket sign ahead of a planned street march.

Going to the media – social or mainstream – with a genuine complaint against a government department might be considered a “pre-crime” if you visibly persist in seeking answers, redress or apology. You could easily be labelled "fixated" by police if a government minister takes offence and decides to complain.

If you make a small donation to a group the police or government consider problematic, troublesome or obstructive of the aims of government or big business you may at some time in the future be considered politically partisan and displaying “pre-crime” tendencies.

These are just some of the groups that are already complained about by big business and politicians: Environment Victoria, Wilderness Society (Australia, Victoria & Queensland), Friends of the Earth, Victorian National Parks Association, Australian Conservation Foundation, Lock the Gate Alliance, 350.org Australia, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth Australia, Politics in the Pub and GetUp! as well as Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd.

Just belonging to a group or community association which speaks up on matters of social, economic, environmental or political concern could see you being eyed off as part of a potential conspiracy in the making.

In at least one Western country pre-crime can also manifest itself as a suspicion that you have come into a city centre with the intention of having a drink or two and you will be given a 48 hour direction-to-leave order.

With the notion of “pre-crime” there is no presumption of innocence and little more than lip service to due process if any arm of state or federal government decides you are a person of interest.

So how will pre-crime activity be monitored by police and security services? Well one of the methods used will be surveillance and this surveillance may involve use of the Facial Biometric Matching Capability database created by the Turnbull Government.

Surely this couldn’t possibly happen in Australia? you say. Think again. 

We already keep individuals in gaol long after their court-imposed sentence has been fully completed under continuing detention legislation, have preventative detention without charge and control orders which can be applied to both minors and adults, police are known to use spyware to enter, monitor and control home computers and, in certain circumstances your home can be entered and searched without your knowledge by police and security services.

And here in Australia we have a history of unwarranted surveillance based on an individual's political association (1950s Cold War era) and political dissent (1960s & early 1970s Viet Nam War era) as well as virtually unchallenged unlawful use of coercive powers (Border Force 2014 to 2017).

Police and security agencies are constantly pushing for more legislation which would allow amongst other matters the creation of a raft of pre-emptive, punitive measures based solely on suspicion and an individual’s “pre-crime” tendencies.

Right now in Australia governments are all about political and physical control of the population - they are not about human rights, 'civil liberties' or a free, open and democratic society.

As a society Australia has been sliding down that slippery slope towards an authoritarian destination for years now and in 2017 we appear to have reached the bottom of the slope.

“For years, there’s been ample evidence that authoritarian governments around the world are relying on technology produced by American, Canadian, and European companies to facilitate human rights abuses.  From software that enables the filtering and blocking of online content to tools that help governments spy on their citizens, many such companies are actively serving autocratic governments as "repression’s little helper."
The reach of these technologies is astonishingly broad: governments can listen in on cell phone calls, use voice recognition to scan mobile networks, read emails and text messages, censor web pages, track a citizen’s every movement using GPS, and can even change email contents while en route to a recipient. Some tools are installed using the same type of malicious malware and spyware used by online criminals to steal credit card and banking information. They can secretly turn on webcams built into personal laptops and microphones in cell phones not being used. And all of this information is filtered and organized on such a massive scale that it can be used to spy on every person in an entire country.” [Electronic Frontiers Foundation, accessed 7 October 2017]

“Australia’s leading privacy and civil liberties organisations condemn the decision by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to provide all images from state and territory driver’s licence databases to the federal National Facial Biometric Matching Capability.
The creation of such a comprehensive national facial database is an unnecessary and disproportionate invasion of the privacy rights of all Australians, is the foundation for suspicionless, warrantless mass surveillance and is fundamentally incompatible with a free and open society.

David Vaile, Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation said, “This government has proven it is blind and deaf to privacy and personal information security threats. Make no mistake – this database will affect all Australians, even the most conscientious and law-abiding. It will likely generate massive ‘false positive’ lists that will flood our very effective police and security services with useless distractions. We’ve already seen calls for ‘scope creep’ to cover welfare enforcement, and there’s every reason to expect this capability will come to be used to identify people with unpaid fines and other minor issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” [Electronic Frontiers Australia, 6 October 2017]

“Every single portion of human rights activism overlaps, manifests or is exercised with the use of technology. That alone caused attackers and adversaries to recognize that technology itself is a good vehicle to get to these people and interfere with them or cause them harm.” [Claudio Guarnieri of Amnesty International quoted in Threat Post at Kapersky Lab, 4 October 2017]

Friday, 2 September 2016

ASIO wouldn't be asking for these extensions to its coercive powers if Australian Attorney-General George Brandis hadn't already given the nod


If Labor and the crossbenches agree to this demand then there is little hope left that Australians will have adequate protection under law.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 August 2007:
ASIO has proposed scrapping the need for judge-approved warrants to detain and question Australians for up to a week without charge in terrorism investigations, in a watering down of safeguards that has alarmed lawyers and rights advocates.

The power to grant the security agency a controversial "questioning and detention warrant" would rest instead with the Attorney-General – a situation the Law Council of Australia has branded "unprecedented".

The changes being requested by ASIO would also remove a current separate requirement that an independent legal authority, such as a retired judge, is present when a person is being questioned. Rather, oversight of questioning would rest with the intelligence watchdog, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

Under laws passed in the wake of the September 11 and Bali bombing attacks, ASIO has the power to hold someone for up to seven days and question them if it may "substantially assist the collection of intelligence that is important in relation to a terrorism offence", even if the person isn't a terrorism suspect themselves…..

Currently ASIO needs an "issuing authority" in the form of a serving judge to approve the warrant.

The laws include both "questioning warrants", which make it an offence to refuse to answer ASIO's questions and also "questioning and detention warrants", which allow ASIO to have the Australian Federal Police arrest and hold someone so ASIO can question them…..

Police and intelligence agencies say that terrorism plots in the Islamic State era are increasingly rudimentary and fast-moving, which means processes such as obtaining warrants need to be streamlined as much as possible so authorities can swoop to protect the public.

But the detention warrants have never actually been used in the 11 years they've been in place. Questioning warrants have been used 16 times since 2004, though not since 2009.
The Attorney-General already has the power to approve intelligence-gathering methods such as phone intercepts and surveillance.

But Law Council of Australia director Arthur Moses, SC, who also gave evidence to the inquiry, told Fairfax Media: "We're talking here about persons being detained in custody and deprived of their liberty. That takes it to an entirely different level."

"Western democracies have always taken the position that we do not in effect have a situation where a politician can give that authority … Usually people have the protection of a judicial officer … In my view it's unprecedented.

"We accept and understand that in respect of an evolving security threat environment, sometimes legislation and procedures need to be amended … but we are not aware of any issue that has arisen where ASIO has attempted to obtain a detention warrant and it has not been able to."…..

Friday, 19 September 2014

Abbott Government intends to give ASIO the power to use force against Australian citizens


slippery slope
phrase
1. a course of action likely to lead to something bad or disastrous
[www.oxforddictionaries.com]

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told the world that he does not intend to go to the UN climate change conference on 23 September 2014 because it was more important that he be in the House of Representatives while some remaining budget measures and national security legislation are debated in both houses – including the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 currently before the Senate.

This particular bill will allow the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to use force against persons when executing property searches.

Something that under existing legislation ASIO officers apparently have no right to do and, this new muscle rather disturbingly will even be able to be flexed during searches when law enforcement officers are not present.

In exercising this ability to use force, the Abbott Government intends to offer immunity to ASIO officers under s35K of the bill providing they don't kill, seriously injure or sexually assault a person during special intelligence operations - leaving an incredible amount of leeway for adrenalin-charged security personnel to inflict physical punishment.

In its September 2014 advisory report the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has signed off on this new power.

Although the Committee does accept that; If not appropriately constrained, the use of force against persons by ASIO officers could, over time, change the basic premise of the way ASIO operates.

Which would have to rate as the understatement of the year.

Rather optimistically the Abbott Government’s explanatory memorandum accompanying this bill states that it is compatible with internationally recognised human rights and freedoms.

However, the general public are unlikely to be able to test that assertion against circumstances on the ground, as the same bill enables the federal government to prosecute and gaol journalists (for up to five years) if they report on special intelligence operations without permission.