Xenophon demands spooks inquiry

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram While the two major parties continue to oppose an inquiry into data surveillance, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Greens upper house member Scott Ludlam are pushing for a full senate examination into the level of spying taking place on Australian citizens. Mr Xenophon has asked the government to disclose the extent of surveillance of phone and internet records by Australian security agencies working with the US National Security Agency. According to the latest revelations – coming from secret files obtained by former US intelligence operative Edward Snowden – information gleaned from internet and mobile phone accounts of Australian citizens was offered to Australia’s global spying partners. This week British newspaper The Guardian reported that Australia’s surveillance agency – the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) – indicated it was happy to share ‘bulk’ data with its ‘5-eyes’ partners – an intelligence-sharing network comprising the US, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The new revelations are based on a secret 2008 document revealing notes of what was discussed at a ‘5-eyes’ conference hosted in the UK. According to the report, Australia’s intelligence agency told its global intelligence partners it could share “bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata as long as there is no intent to target an Australian national”. The Australian government continues to deny accusations of a lack of transparency over covert surveillance operations – and to what extent data is shared with other countries. Senator Scott Ludlam – the Greens communications spokesperson – said that the DSD (now known as the Australian Signals Directorate) could be in breach of Australian law for sharing such information. “The publication of documents in which Australian spy agency DSD quite casually proposes to share ‘unminimised’ metadata obtained without a warrant with affiliated agencies overseas, implies that the agency may have been breaching Australian law for five years,” said Mr Ludlam. Mr Ludlam added that the DSD had an obligation to destroy data ‘unintentionally’ obtained on Australians – “instead, these discussions show the DSD contemplating sharing with overseas agencies and non-intelligence agencies”. “These documents are five years old: there is an urgent need to establish what practices, if any, govern this indiscriminate data collection on law-abiding Australians. “The government can no longer avoid the issues and hide behind platitudes that everything is done in accordance with the law. It is the job of this parliament to conduct a full inquiry, as is happening in many other countries around the world.” According to The Guardian’s report, the documents suggest that Canada imposed more rigorous privacy restrictions than Australia. Canada agreed to share information only on the basis that data concerning its citizens first had to be redacted. Prime Minister Tony Abbott defended the Australian intelligence agency’s actions, saying they had acted in accordance with the law, and that adequate safeguards were in place. “If there’s any evidence that we have acted inappropriately, that we have done something illegally, produce the evidence and the matter will be dealt with,” the prime minister told reporters on Monday. However, the PM’s description of metadata as ‘essentially the billing data’ drew an immediate response. In senate question time Senator Ludlam asked the Attorney General George Brandis to assist the prime minister’s understanding of the term ‘metadata’. “The prime minister displayed his misunderstanding of the term metadata by describing it as simply billing data. “In fact, metadata can include mobile and landline phone records, a person’s location, their entire social network, the source and destination of electronic mail and a person’s web history,” Senator Ludlam said.last_img