Indonesia is recalling its ambassador to Australia over allegations that Canberra listened in on phone conversations of the Indonesian president.
Indonesia said the ambassador was being called to Jakarta for “consultations”.
The move by Jakarta comes as the Australian Department of Defence and the Defence Signals Directorate, or DSD, (now known as the Australian Signals Directorate), has been accused of monitoring the phone calls of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife Kristiani Herawati, as well as eight other high-ranking officials, including the vice president, Boediono.
The latest leak, provided in May 2013 by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was released jointly by The Guardian newspaper and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday, and will likely aggravate another diplomatic firestorm between Canberra and Jakarta.
The top secret material from the DSD is in the form of a slide presentation, dated November 2009, and divulges information on the monitoring of mobile phones just as 3G technology was being introduced in Asia.
In one of the presentations, entitled Indonesian President Voice Events, a graphic of calls is given on Yudhoyono’s Nokia handset over a 15-day period in August 2009. The data provides CDRs – call data records – which record the numbers called, the duration of communications, and whether the transmission was a voice call or SMS.
The Australian spy agency “appears to have expanded its operations to include the calls of those who had been in touch with the president,” the report indicated. Another slide, entitled Way Forward, gives the simple command: “Must have content,” perhaps a reference to encrypted material.
Attached to the bottom of each slide in the 2009 presentation is the DSD slogan: “Reveal their secrets – protect our own.”
Also named in the surveillance slides are Dino Patti Djalal, then-foreign affairs spokesman for the president, who recently resigned as Indonesia’s ambassador to the US and is seeking the candidacy in next year’s presidential election for Yudhoyono’s Democratic party, and Hatta Rajasa, current minister for economic affairs and potential presidential candidate for the National Mandate party. Hatta served at the time of the surveillance as minister for transport; his daughter is the wife of the president’s youngest son.
Other high-level officials on the list of “IA Leadership Targets” are: Jusuf Kalla, the former vice-president who ran as the Golkar party presidential candidate in 2009; Sri Mulyani Indrawati, then a reforming finance minister and since 2010 one of the managing directors of the World Bank Group; Andi Mallarangeng, who was at the time the president’s spokesman, and later minister for youth and sports; Sofyan Djalil, who served until October 2009 as minister for state-owned enterprises; Widodo Adi Sucipto, a former head of the Indonesian military who served until October 2009 as security minister.
Another slide, entitled DSD Way Forward, acknowledges that the Australian spy agency’s must “capitalise on UKUSA and industry capability”, apparently a reference to assistance from telecom and internet companies, the same method that the NSA used to collect data on millions of individuals around the planet.
News of Australia’s high-level snooping on the Indonesian president and his top aides is certain to provoke a harsh response from Jakarta, especially considering this is not Australia’s first breach of trust between the Pacific Rim countries.
Tensions between Canberra and Jakarta began in October when top secret files revealed by the German newspaper Der Spiegel and published by Fairfax newspapers showed that Australian diplomatic posts across Asia were being used to intercept communications.
Marty Natalegawa, the Indonesian foreign minister, issued a harsh response and threatened to review bilateral initiatives on issues important to Australia, including people smuggling and terrorism.
During a visit last week to the Australian city of Perth, Vice president Boediono – not yet privy to information that his own Blackberry device had been compromised by Australian spy agencies – briefly mentioned the long-standing spying controversy.
“I think we must look forward to come to some arrangement which guarantees that intelligence information from each side is not used against the other,” he said. “There must be a system.”
Yudhoyono is the latest in a growing list of global leaders who have had their personal communications listened to by the American intelligence service.
It has recently been reported that the leaders of Germany, Brazil and Mexico have been listened to by the so-called Five Eyes, the collective name for the intelligence agencies of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, who share information.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel in late October demanded a personal explanation from US President Barack Obama as to why the NSA had tapped her mobile phone. The White House attempted to reassure the chancellor that her phone was “not currently being tapped and will not be in the future”.
It will be interesting at this point to see if the diplomatic backlash in wake of the recent wave of revelations will curb the Five Eyes’ surveillance program, or if it will just go deeper underground.
The Guardian then reported that the DSD worked together with the NSA to stage a massive surveillance operation in Indonesia during a UN climate change conference in Bali in 2007.
On Monday a spokesman for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “Consistent with the long-standing practice of Australian governments, and in the interest of national security, we do not comment on intelligence matters.”
The Australian security state is collecting intelligence on a scale never seen before
Through rapid technology advances the Australian security apparatus has grown to an Orwellian scale. This has not necessarily been at the design of any elected government but something the Australian bureaucracy was forthright in promoting.
The executive government has only superficial control over the Australian surveillance system. It is fully integrated with the NSA apparatus which immediately brings up an issue about sovereignty. This is not about a country’s sovereignty over land, but knowledge. The international exchange of security information is a challenge to human rights of Australian citizens that has to be grappled with.
Consequently, it is not in the interests of the Australian or US intelligence community for any public or even parliamentary discussion. The idea that the parliament and executive are in total control of government is a myth.
Through technology and its innovative applications, the concept of privacy has been reframed to the point of anything a person does outside of the home or on a computer is public domain, captured through any of the large array of assets that can be utilized for surveillance.
This has allowed the creation of a new premise that has grown up through the administrative arm of the Australian Government, one of compliance. Australia seems to have adopted an almost fanatical compliance culture where the administrators believe that they are the natural custodians of Australia’s security interests, over the temporarily elected politicians of the day.
Some of the methods the Australian security state utilizes for intelligence gathering, storing, and collation are well documented and summarized below:
- The Australian Government database is a highly sophisticated group of electronic document and records management system(s) (EDRMS) for collating, storing, and matching data between various agencies and levels of governments. Consequently data collected by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), social security (Centrelink), Medicare, immigration, customs, and police enforcement agencies are integrated with relational databases and query systems. This is supplemented by individual agency databases with extremely detailed information on citizens. They carry an almost complete personal history of residential details going back decades, income, occupation, spouses, children, social security benefits, medical, and travel information, etc. These systems can be accessed by almost anybody within the public service. Every agency within the government has become part of the intelligence collection network. According to academics Paul Henman and Greg Marston of the University of Queensland, these systems that enable agencies to determine client eligibility for services are highly intrusive and used with a prevailing deep suspicion of citizens in regards to their continuing eligibility for services.
- The most recent revelations in the news about the ‘five eye’ countries eavesdropping on their citizens phone conversations, emails, and other electronic communications has been astounding. Through meta-data collection systems like PRISM and ECHELON are highly likely to be also operating within Australia due to the close relationship between the NSA and Australian intelligence community. According to AFP assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan, Australian intelligence has a much better relationship with the telecommunications companies than the US intelligence agencies. However, this doesn’t appear to be a new occurrence. A reliable source working within one of the Australian telephone companies when manual exchanges were operating confirmed that ASIO and state special branches had secret rooms within the exchanges to run phone tapping operations.
- The NSW police are using an Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system which takes continuous snapshots of car number plates. This is supplemented by tracking cars when they go through tolls.
- Law enforcement agencies have announced that they are preparing to utilize drones for crime surveillance in the not too distant future.
- State and Federal Governments have been encouraging citizens to inform on other citizens they suspect of breaking the law. Government campaigns have been very successful in achieving all-time high numbers of informants in crime, social security, and taxation related matters.
The incredible power of the above described databases are exponentially enhanced when coupled with recent developments in cellular, RFID, internet, and other computer technologies. When private data in retail, banking, travel, health and insurance, etc., is linked to Intelligence collected by government, the value of data becomes massively enriched. Data collected by private organizations and utilized by security services include:
- The internet domain is under constant surveillance. Companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter utilize tracking cookies to gather data on users. Australian security agencies employ private contractors like the National Open Source Intelligence Centre (NOSIC) to monitor, collate, and report on publically accessible information about individuals and organizations.
- Many business organizations such as shopping centres and banks now utilize CCTV. These assets can be utilized by security organizations to track and monitor individuals. This is now being supplemented with media access control (MAC) systems which can track smartphones. This technology is already being used in three Westfield shopping centres.
- Numerous private databases like electronic tenancy database which has detailed information. These include tenancy history, insurance company records that detail individuals insured assets, bank records, and university records. These can all be accessed by security agencies.
- Mobile phones can be used as a means to track people through inbuilt GPS on smartphones, triangulation, or through electronic data-collectors designed to identify individual mobile phones in public places.
- People’s purchase history and movements can be tracked through the use of credit, debit, and loyalty card purchases.
Emails, phones calls, places people go, and purchase history, in the context of other data collected has the latent potential to build up a profile on anybody. Data from social media like Facebook can enhance these profiles greatly by adding thought and behavior information. It’s the collection of small bits of information that can be collated into big pictures. Australian intelligence can retro-actively analyse anybody with the data they have access to.
Since 2007, when amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception & Access) Act 1974 were made during the last days of the Howard Government, government agencies have the power to search meta-data without the individual’s knowledge or any warrant.
CCTV cameras have been installed in many communities without the development of privacy policies on how they should be used. The law has yet to catch up with the ability to collect data.
Up until the 1980s most intelligence gathering was targeted monitoring of specific groups where ‘persons of interest’ were identified for intensive surveillance. ASIO and state special branches were videotaping activists primarily from the ‘left’. Surveillance was undertaken by ASIO and state special branches, where operatives used electronic means for eavesdropping, keeping index cards and files on ‘persons of interest’, recording mainly hearsay information.
Even then, red flags emerged. Peter Grabosky of the Australian Bureau of Criminology pointed out that ‘thought and discussion of public issues may be suppressed……and….excess use of (surveillance) may inhibit democratic and political freedom more subtly’. In addition, he believed that malicious accusations made from erroneous records produce false information which made innocent people suffer at the hands of the security agencies.
This problem can’t be corrected as these records are not assessable to be corrected for errors. The Mohamed Haneef arrest by the AFP in July 2007 where it was alleged he was connected with a terrorist cell in the UK, but later exonerated, hints at the security services being very territorial and ‘out of control’, where ASIO knew of Dr. Haneef’s innocence but didn’t advise the APF.
Faceless bureaucrats are the ones defining who were the enemies of the state. There appears to be a general inability to discriminate between healthy dissent in a political democracy and subversion.
Where no tangible threats existed to national security, lesser ones were perceived to be grave threats or even invented – remember “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq.
The rise of surveillance should not be understood as purely a technological development. It should be seen as a broader economic, social, and political paradigm shift within society where the balance of power has shifted away from the people and towards the state. There also appears to be a shift of power away from executive government towards an unelected bureaucracy. What makes this even more perplexing is that we don’t even know who these people really are.
The Sydney Morning Herald just ran a story that intelligence data was passed on to assist the mining giant BHP. Moreover, the human rights website WEBMOBILIZE alleges in a recent article that the Australian security apparatus is being used to steal intellectual property from companies and passing it over illegally to competitors. Some of the organizations that have been alleged to receive unlawfully gained IP include the University of Melbourne, Ageis Media, Telstra, Sensis, Deakin University, Belgravia Health and Business Group, Channel Nine, Nine Entertainment, Nine MSN, Corporate health management, Fairfax media, the Herald Sun, The Guardian, Nintendo, and the Australian Labor Party (ALP)and Liberal National Party (LNP).
There has been little in the way of public debate, nor much concern shown by the major political parties.
The powers to detain anyone under section 34D of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Act 1979 for up to seven days without the right to reveal their detention, resembles the mechanisms of a police state.
With an annual growth rate of more than 20% and budget of over $4 Billion p.a., ASIO has a new $500 Million building in Canberra and a secret data storage facility is being built at the HMAS Harman Naval Base, near Canberra, where details are except from public account committees. When other government programs are being cut, the deep philosophical question of why there is a need to continue the increase of funding for surveillance of the nation’s citizens requires national discussion.
Mass surveillance doesn’t seem to have much to do with terrorism as it has to do with keeping check on what people are doing. It seems to be more of an intimidating compliance mechanism, aimed at protecting public revenue, preventing and detecting crime, tax evasion, and fraud.
The rapid increase in staff within ASIO from 618 in 2000 to 1860 in 2010 has meant that the organization now primarily relies upon young and inexperienced analysts in their 20s and 30s. This means that Australia is at the mercy of a “Gen Y” culture that has grown up connected to the cyber world where a sense of privacy is very different to generations before them. Newly uncovered evidence suggests that ASIO has gone to great lengths to spy on people who have broken no laws.
Through Australia’s history Australian Security Agencies have blundered in the assessments they have made on many issues. The 2004 Flood report commenting on the “failure of intelligence” on Iraq stated that these weaknesses included “a failure to rigorously challenge preconceptions”, and the absence of a “consistent and rigorous culture of challenge to and engagement with intelligence reports”. Flood found an inconsistency in assessments and very shallow analytical abilities within the security agencies he examined. On many occasions, particularly during the Howard years, intelligence analysis was ‘bastardized” by political agenda. Those who criticized the political agenda ran the risk of being reframed from dissidents and classed as deviants who come under security surveillance.
The question here, can government with a long history of cover-ups be trusted?
The dream of a fair, just, and equitable Australian society where sovereignty is in the hands of its citizens may be one of the greatest myths. Australia’s surveillance on its own has eaten into and taken away many of the rights and liberties of Australians, turning society into one of mistrust.
This cannot be really satisfactorily answered relying only on public domain knowledge. We can only make guesses. However one undeniable fact is that there is presently a hidden and totally unaccountable part of government that is changing the nature of society. It is here where no media organizations are asking any questions.
We have entered into a new period of governance. We are now in an age of governance by surveillance of the masses by a few unknown elite and unaccountable people. Communist totalitarianism may have collapsed in Europe in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union, but the “free world’s” version of surveillance and intelligence would have made Stalin, Honecker, and Ceauşescu very jealous.
The lack of transparency is becoming indefensible. Without scrutiny the Australian security apparatus is the loose cannon of the Bureaucracy which will cause many reverberations like the destruction of peoples’ livelihoods through IP theft, or the ruining of peoples’ reputations through persecution.
There has never been a public mandate for the development of such an extensive surveillance program. Is the money being spent justified?
As more information comes to light about the global snooping being conducted by the NSA and GCHQ, it is becoming clearer that much of it had little to do with combating terrorism, as a recent EFF article makes plain. But most damaging to the idea that massive surveillance was justified, because it was to protect people from extreme threats, is the revelation that commercial espionage was also being conducted. So far, the chief example of that is in Brazil, but The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) now has information about large-scale industrial spying on Japanese companies carried out by Australian secret services:
BHP [BHP Billton -- the world's largest mining company] was among the companies helped by Australian spy agencies as they negotiated trade deals with Japan, a former Australian Secret Intelligence Service officer says.
A former diplomat has also confirmed Australian intelligence agencies have long targeted Japanese companies. Writing in The Japan Times, Professor Gregory Clark said Australian companies were beneficiaries of intelligence operations.
“In Australia, favoured firms getting spy material on Japanese contract policies and other business negotiations used to joke how [it had] ‘fallen off the back of a truck’,” Professor Clark wrote.
The article has more details, but doesn’t reveal how the materials were obtained. However, since Australia is part of the “Five Eyes” inner circle of snooping countries that also includes the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, it seems likely that information of interest from those partners also found its way to Australian companies. SMH quotes Clark as saying:
Business information is a main target for [intelligence] agencies
It will be interesting to see if later releases from Snowden’s hoard of documents show any evidence of this Australian use of NSA materials for industrial espionage.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+
The corridors of the Australian parliament are so white you squint. The sound is hushed; the smell is floor polish. The wooden floors shine so virtuously they reflect the cartoon portraits of prime ministers and rows of Aboriginal paintings, suspended on white walls, their blood and tears invisible.
The parliament stands in Barton, a suburb of Canberra named after the first prime minister of Australia, Edmund Barton, who drew up the White Australia Policy in 1901. “The doctrine of the equality of man,” said Barton, “was never intended to apply” to those not British and white-skinned.
Barton’s concern was the Chinese, known as the Yellow Peril; he made no mention of the oldest, most enduring human presence on earth: the first Australians. They did not exist. Their sophisticated care of a harsh land was of no interest. Their epic resistance did not happen. Of those who fought the British invaders of Australia, the Sydney Monitor reported in 1838: “It was resolved to exterminate the whole race of blacks in that quarter.” Today, the survivors are a shaming national secret.
The town of Wilcannia, in New South Wales, is twice distinguished. It is a winner of a national Tidy Town award and its indigenous people have one of the lowest recorded life expectancies. They are usually dead by the age of 35. The Cuban government runs a literacy programme for them, as they do among the poorest of Africa. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth report, Australia is the richest place on earth.
Politicians in Canberra are among the wealthiest citizens. Their self-endowment is legendary. Last year, the then minister for indigenous affairs, Jenny Macklin, refurbished her office at a cost to the taxpayer of $331,144.
Macklin recently claimed that, in government, she had made a “huge difference”. This is true. During her tenure, the number of Aboriginal people living in slums increased by almost a third, and more than half the money spent on indigenous housing was pocketed by white contractors and a bureaucracy for which she was largely responsible. A typical, dilapidated house in an outback indigenous community must accommodate as many as 25 people. Families, the elderly and the disabled wait years for sanitation that works.
In 2009, Professor James Anaya, the respected UN Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, described as racist a “state of emergency” that stripped indigenous communities of their tenuous rights and services on the pretext that pedophile gangs were present in “unthinkable” numbers – a claim dismissed as false by police and the Australian Crime Commission.
The then opposition spokesman on indigenous affairs, Tony Abbott, told Anaya to “get a life” and not “just listen to the old victim brigade.” Abbott is now the prime minister of Australia.
I drove into the red heart of central Australia and asked Dr. Janelle Trees about the “old victim brigade”. A GP whose indigenous patients live within a few miles of $1,000-a-night resorts serving Uluru (Ayers Rock), she said, “There is asbestos in Aboriginal homes, and when somebody gets a fibre of asbestos in their lungs and develops mesothelioma, [the government] doesn’t care. When the kids have chronic infections and end up adding to these incredible statistics of indigenous people dying of renal disease, and vulnerable to world record rates of rheumatic heart disease, nothing is done. I ask myself: why not? Malnutrition is common. I wanted to give a patient an anti-inflammatory for an infection that would have been preventable if living conditions were better, but I couldn’t treat her because she didn’t have enough food to eat and couldn’t ingest the tablets. I feel sometimes as if I’m dealing with similar conditions as the English working class at the beginning of the industrial revolution.”
In Canberra, in ministerial offices displaying yet more first-nation art, I was told repeatedly how “proud” politicians were of what “we have done for indigenous Australians”. When I asked Warren Snowdon — the minister for indigenous health in the Labor government recently replaced by Abbott’s conservative coalition — why after almost a quarter of a century representing the poorest, sickest Australians, he had not come up with a solution, he said, “What a stupid question. What a puerile question.”
At the end of Anzac Parade in Canberra rises the Australian National War Memorial, which historian Henry Reynolds calls “the sacred centre of white nationalism”. I was refused permission to film in this great public place. I had made the mistake of expressing an interest in the frontier wars in which black Australians fought the British invasion without guns but with ingenuity and courage – the epitome of the “Anzac tradition”. Yet, in a country littered with cenotaphs not one officially commemorates those who fell resisting “one of the greatest appropriations of land in world history”, wrote Reynolds in his landmark book Forgotten War. More first Australians were killed than Native Americans on the American frontier and Maoris in New Zealand. The state of Queensland was a slaughterhouse. An entire people became prisoners of war in their own country, with settlers calling for their extinction. The cattle industry prospered using indigenous men virtually as slave labour. The mining industry today makes profits of a billion dollars a week on indigenous land.
Suppressing these truths, while venerating Australia’s servile role in the colonial wars of Britain and the US, has almost cult status in Canberra today. Reynolds and the few who question it have been smeared with abuse. Australia’s unique first people are its Intermenschen. As you enter the National War Memorial, indigenous faces are depicted as stone gargoyles alongside kangaroos, reptiles, birds and other “native wildlife”.
When I began filming this secret Australia 30 years ago, a global campaign was under way to end apartheid in South Africa. Having reported from South Africa, I was struck by the similarity of white supremacy and the compliance and defensiveness of liberals. Yet no international opprobrium, no boycotts, disturbed the surface of “lucky” Australia. Watch security guards expel Aboriginal people from shopping malls in Alice Springs; drive the short distance from the suburban barbies of Cromwell Terrace to Whitegate camp, where the tin shacks have no reliable power and water. This is apartheid, or what Reynolds calls, “the whispering in our hearts”.
John Pilger’s film, Utopia, about Australia, is released in cinemas on 15 November and broadcast on ITV in December. It is released in Australia in January.
US intelligence agencies are using Australian embassies throughout Asia to intercept data and gather information across the continent, according to the latest report based on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Data collection facilities operate out of the embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Bejing, and Dili, according to Fairfax media. There are also units in the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, the most populated city in Malaysia, and Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.
More intelligence collection occurs at US embassies and consulates, as well as at the diplomatic outposts of other ‘Five Eye’ nations, particularly Britain and Canada. The Defence Signals Directorate, which falls under the Australian Defence Agency, conducts the surveillance missions, and most Australian diplomatic officers are completely unaware of such activity, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The ‘Five Eyes’ is an alliance for intelligence cooperation that includes the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The document released by Der Spiegel, codenamed ‘STATEROOM,’ indicates the outfits “are small in size and in number of personnel staffing them… They are covert, and their true mission is not known by the majority of the diplomatic staff at the facility where they are assigned.”
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs refused comment on the story, saying it is against government policy to speak on intelligence activity.
The NSA document viewed by Der Spiegel also proves that the intelligence missions are hidden: “For example antennas are sometimes hidden in false architectural features or roof maintenance sheds.”
The Jakarta unit, in particular, is a hotbed of information. “The huge growth of mobile phone networks has been a great boon and Jakarta’s political elite are a loquacious bunch; even when they think their own intelligence services are listening they just keep talking,” a source said.
The disclosure comes as US President Barack Obama is reportedly considering suspending all surveillance efforts against American allies. He is facing growing pressure from the international community after reports questioned whether the NSA monitored the personal cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Another leak this week revealed that the US swept up more than 60 million phone calls from Spain in one month alone.
European leaders, once reluctant to demonize the surveillance, now openly wonder if the surveillance was ever employed to stop terrorism, as US leaders have maintained all along. German leaders have suggested renegotiating a deal known as the SWIFT pact, which allows the US to track the flow of what it suspects are terrorist finances.
“It really isn’t enough to be outraged,” German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schanarrenberger told rbb-Inforadio this week. “This would be a signal that something can happen and make clear to the Americans that the [EU’s] policy is changing.”
Yet intelligence officers speaking to Fairfax Media now say that it is good to stop terrorism and international crime, “but the main focus is political, diplomatic and economic intelligence.”
For the last few years, Australia’s security agencies have been pushing for the mandatory retention of the communications data of every citizen. If implemented, this policy would require private companies to keep communications metadata of all customers for two years. Essentially, it treats every person as a criminal suspect. Yesterday, a parliamentary committee issued a report declining to recommend data retention and strongly criticizing the government for failing to adequately explain and justify its proposal. In the wake of the report, the governing Labor Party announced it will not pursue data retention before the next election. So data retention in Australia has been defeated, for now.
The most recent push began last July, when the Attorney General’s Department submitted a list of security proposals, including data retention, to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security. The scheme met with overwhelming public opposition—98.9% of public submissions rejected data retention. Civil rights groups and individuals explained that the scheme sacrifices the privacy of all citizens. Contrary to the government’s claims, collecting metadata is highly intrusive as it reveals the most intimate connections between persons. In addition, the scheme would create a huge trove of data vulnerable to hacking while imposing significant costs on private companies dragooned to act as the government’s spies.
The government failed to rebut these objections. In a ham-fisted attempt to avoid criticism, the Attorney General’s Department initially refused to provide concrete details about its data retention scheme. The committee strongly criticized this lack of transparency:
[T]he Committee was very disconcerted to find, once it commenced its Inquiry, that the Attorney-General’s Department had much more detailed information on the topic of data retention. Departmental work, including discussions with stakeholders, had been undertaken previously. Details of this work had to be drawn from witnesses representing the [department].
Journalist Bernard Keane tweeted that he’d “never seen a government-controlled committee give a kicking to a department” like this report did. In addition to slamming the department for hiding the ball, the committee acknowledged public concern about privacy:
[A] mandatory data retention regime raises fundamental privacy issues, and is arguably a significant extension of the power of the state over the citizen. No such regime should be enacted unless those privacy and civil liberties concerns are sufficiently addressed.
The committee punted on the ultimate issue. It wrote that there was “a diversity of views within the Committee” as to the merits of a data retention regime and said it was “ultimately a decision for Government.” With an election scheduled for later this year, the governing Labor Party announced that it is dropping the unpopular scheme.
Green Party Senator Scott Ludlam cautioned that, even with the defeat of this proposal, Australia’s security agencies might achieve the same result by other means. He warned that, in light of the recent NSA Spying news, agencies may bypass domestic due process through the “wholesale importing of content and non-content data from colleagues in the U.S.” We need greater oversight of the security establishment to ensure that international cooperative agreements are not enabling the evasion of domestic legal restrictions.
Senator Ludlam also predicted that, regardless of who wins the next election, the data retention plan will be back. Security agencies will not abandon their campaign to treat every person like a criminal suspect. Privacy advocates in Australia and around the world need to keep up the fight.
- Australian Data Retention Plan Swept Under The Rug…For Now [Updated] (gizmodo.com.au)
- Government backs down from data retention — for now (computerworld.co.nz)
Australia Post and Israel Post collaboratively issued two stamps.
Israel and Australia’s joint projects normalizing Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity has sunk deeper in the degenerate mire of hasbara (propaganda & lies);
“So projects that constitute normalization are not about freedom, justice or liberation, but about numbing our minds to the horror of the occupation, so we accept it as normal, as permanent, as an unchangeable fixed reality”! (1)
In May, Australia Post and Israel Post collaboratively issued two stamps commemorating the Australian Light Horse and the WWI Battle of Beersheba in Palestine. The $2.60 stamp features contemporary images of Australian Light Horsemen. The 60c stamp features the statue of an Australian Light Horseman in the Park of the Australian Soldier, funded by the Pratt Foundation, at Beersheba.
ANZAC heroic courage and endurance warrants commemoration but the issue of the stamps entailed a cynical rewriting of Australian war history that deflects ANZAC honor to deodorize Israel’s stinking reputation around the world; the recent BBC’s 2013 Country Rating Poll places Israel squarely amongst North Korea and Pakistan as the world’s most negatively viewed nations
The stamps’ description on the Australia Post shop site states:
“The capture of Beersheba allowed British Empire forces to break the Ottoman line near Gaza and then advance into Palestine, a chain of events which eventually culminated in the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.”
Connecting the ‘capture of Beersheba’ to ‘the establishment of the state of Israel’ is an outright lie. Australian Communications minister, Steven Conroy, showing off his ready dexterity to bend over backwards for Israel, shamelessly repeated the lie:
“I don’t have any role in choosing what’s on stamps, but I do support this – it’s a wonderful tribute to the 4th Light Horse Brigade and recognizes a chain of events that eventually culminated in the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.”
The real chain of events began in 1895 with the Zionist ambition to take over the whole of Palestine for a Jewish homeland which was accelerated in 1947 by Plan Dalet’s systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestine that destroyed over 500 villages, slaughtered thousands of villagers and forcefully deported over 700,000 indigenous Palestinians. Israel then unilaterally declared an independent state in breach of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, still binding, that guaranteed independence for Palestine.
The Australian Zionist lobby has inflated the ANZAC lies. The Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce announcing the special boardroom lunch to celebrate the launch piled on the hasbara:
“During WWI, Australian troops fought alongside the British army to conquer Israel from under ottoman rule…. The friendly Australian soldiers were remembered fondly by residents of the Jewish colonies of Israel. Warm ties were also formed with the Australian soldiers who were stationed in Israel during WWII.”
Fact: In 1917 (and during WWII) Israel did not exist. World War I and II were fought on Palestinian soil.
The claim by Australia Post managing director, Ahmed Fahour is highly questionable, “The Battle of Beersheba is something close to the hearts of both Israelis and Australians” when it was Palestinian fighters who helped the ANZACs …
“Defending the west and south west of the town, the 27th Division’s 67th and 81st Infantry Regiments, were deployed in the fortified semicircular line of deep trenches and redoubts strengthened by barbed wire. These regiments consisted mainly, of “Arab farmers from the surrounding region, and although inexperienced fighters they were defending their own fields.”(Massey, Graeme (2007). Beersheba: The men of the 4th Light Horse Regiment who charged on the 31st October 1917. Warracknabeal, Victoria: Warracknabeal Secondary College History Department.
… while Palestinian villagers struggled to survive the dire economic impact on their land and livelihoods of the mounted armies of the Imperial and Ottoman forces. The Turks had demolished orchards and all the cavalries ‘drank out wells and grazed their horses on standing crops’. Palestinian foodstuffs and livestock were requisitioned by the British military and consequently there was a shortage of basic food and commodities with awful disruptions to daily life.
One generation later, the same villagers were forcefully routed by Jewish terrorist militias to Gaza where they remain in desolate refugee camps under the illegal and inhumane Israeli siege.
The decision to include the image of the statue of an Australian Light Horseman in the Park of the Australian Soldier was Machiavellian sleight of hand. The Park professes to be “a permanent memorial to those who died in battle for the Jewish state.”
The Park funded by the Pratt Foundation was set up by Zionist Richard Pratt, the Australian Visy Industries billionaire who ripped off Australian customers by fixing prices and market sharing with the rival Amcor group. Visy’s underbelly has been linked to the Hells Angels reputed to have ties to criminal organizations in Australia and overseas.
Nevertheless, Australian political luminaries like Ex-PMs Kevin Rudd and John Howard have attended fundraisers at Pratt’s Melbourne mansion, Raheen; Bill Shorten- now a Minister in the Gillard government- was married there, and others such as exPM Bob Hawke, exPM Gough Whitlam, exPM Malcolm Fraser, ex state premier Nick Grieiner, former police commissioner Mick Miller have been on the Zionist’s lucrative payroll as consultants. Anthony Pratt, Richard’s successor hosted in July 2011, an Australian speaking tour of Israel’s darling, Tony Blair, the supposedly neutral envoy for the Middle East Quartet.
The Park of the Australian Soldier is included in ‘The Anzac Trail from the Be’eri Badlands to Be’er Sheva’ which is a project of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) which seizes Palestinian properties in East Jerusalem and razes, over and over, villages on the ancestral lands of impoverished Bedouins.
If you think that the hijacking of the rising sun’s glory is a preposterous fancy you may change your mind when you scratch the surface of the key-players, to find the web of corporate affiliations to Israel’s military and illegal occupation.
Ahmed Fahour Australia’s highest paid public servant, $2.78 million pa, prior to Australia Post, had a long executive career with Citigroup and its website ‘boasts the largest presence of any foreign financial institution in Israel and offers corporate and investment banking services to leading Israeli corporations and institutions, and global corporations operating in Israel’ including equity offerings for Delek.
Haim Elmoznino, CEO of Israel Post was deputy CEO of Delek Israel Fuel Corporation which supplies Israel’s military-industrial complex. Delek also fuels US warplanes. Delek was the exclusive distributer of Ford in Israel and according to Who Profits, “Ford F550 trucks were retrofitted by Hatehof for the Israeli army to armored personnel carriers for use by the IDF in the West Bank….and its vehicles are used by the ‘Caracal’ military … a combat unit which patrols the occupied section of the Jordan Valley, in the West Bank areas close to the Separation Wall and on the Israeli-Egyptian border.’
Sasi Shilo, Chairman of Israel Post, was, CEO of Netivei Hayovel in which Danya Cebus, a construction firm has a stake. Danya Cebus is a subsidiary of Africa Israel Investments Ltd:
“Africa Israel Chairman and founder Lev Leviev and his brother are responsible for the settlements of Zufim (Tsufim) and Zufim North on land belonging to the village of Jayyous in the northern West Bank. They are being built by a Leviev company called Leader Management & Development. The villageës water wells, greenhouses, and most of its agricultural land have been confiscated for these settlements. Among the largest investors in Africa Israel are Barclayës Global Investors (which has been purchased by BlackRock), and the Vanguard Group. In August 2009, Blackrock made a decision to divest from Africa Israel due to its involvement in the occupation.” (2)
Attending the stamp launch was Yaron Razon, Director of Israel Philatelic Service. who in a past life was CEO of Ma’ariv Magazines. Ma’ariv, according to The political line of Israeli papers (a reader’s guide) in +972, 2010, “ is extremely hostile to the Arab population and to human rights organizations, and recently, it shows a hospitable attitude to the settlement project (a recent double spread all but invited people to live in Tapuach, a settlement formally known as the stronghold of Kahane supporters). Among Israeli papers, Maariv is the most supportive of Avigdor Lieberman’s policies”
Also attending was Australia’s Attorney General Mark Dreyfus whose Zionist colors are for all to see in his 2012 speech (3) to the Zionist Council of Victoria where he reiterated the Australian governments ‘enduring support for Israel’ and pointed out how PM Gillard supported Israel’s wearisome mantra of its right to defend itself by perpetrating war crimes against Gaza in 2008/9 and by voting against the UN Goldstone Report which Dreyfus falsely declared was discredited.
Concerned Australians have bombarded the Postal Ombusdman, Australia Post and Minister Conroy with protests against the government’s commandeering of ANZAC and Palestinian history for the whitewashing of Israel state terrorism and demanding the withdrawal of the stamps because young ANZAC soldiers did not sacrifice their lives to give the stamp of approval to Israel’s impunity to daily violate international law and wreak inhuman suffering on Palestinian men, women, children and the elderly.
- Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.
The world is still reeling from the series of revelations about NSA and FBI surveillance. Over the past two weeks the emerging details paint a picture of pervasive, cross-border spying programs of unprecedented reach and scope: the U.S. has now admitted using domestic networks to spy on Internet users both domestically and worldwide. The people now know that foreign intelligence can spy on their communications if they travel through U.S. networks or are stored in U.S. servers.
While international public outrage has justifiably decried the scope and reach of these revelations, carte blanche foreign intelligence surveillance powers over foreigners are far from new. In the U.S., foreign intelligence has always had nearly limitless legal capacity to surveil foreigners because domestic laws and protections simply don’t reach that surveillance activity.
This legal framework, with no protection for foreigners and little oversight besides, has been exacerbated by the growth in individuals now living their lives online, who conduct their most intimate communications in cloud services that are hosted in the U.S. and across different jurisdictions. To make matters worse, the vast amount of Internet traffic globally is routed through the U.S. Last but not least, logistical barriers to powerful, mass surveillance have lowered and the application of existing legal principles in new technological contexts has become unclear and shrouded in secrecy, especially in a extra-territorial surveillance context. The US government’s FISA powers, which in 2008 opened the door to broad surveillance of communications where one side is an American and the other side is a foreigner, represent just an example of an increasing state capacity to conduct nearly limitless invasive extra-territorial surveillance from domestic soil.
On June 18, Germans rallied at a well-known Berlin Wall crossing point called Checkpoint Charlie. Under the motto: “Yes We Scan!” German activists protested against PRISM and NSA surveillance in response to President Barack Obama’s Berlin visit. Pictures of the rally show protest signs claiming that the Obama administration has become “Stasi 2.0” with the quote “All your data belong to us”.
The Stasi 2.0 campaign was originally designed in 2007 to fight Germany’s mandatory data-retention law, a law implementing an EU Directive that force ISPs and telecom providers to continuously collect and store records documenting the online activities of millions of ordinary Europeans. Roughly 34,000 citizens filed a lawsuit against the mandatory data retention in protest. The campaign was successful and in March 2010 a German court declared the law unconstitutional and ordered the deletion of the collected data. Now, the Stasi 2.0 campaign has shifted focus on calling upon their government to protect them against overreach scope of NSA foreign surveillance practices, Sandra Mamitzsch from Digitale Gesellschaft told EFF.
Germany has also increased its capacity to conduct sweeping and invasive extra-territorial surveillance from its domestic soil. As we noted, the German government has leveraged its ability to remotely compromise computer systems in order to spy on its citizens. The government has used commercial malware to hack private data. While there has been no confirmation that Germany is deploying these investigative techniques against persons outside German territories, extra-territorial surveillance is feasible because infection occurs via email and other Internet transmissions.
Campaigns against the NSA spying overreach are now being planned for July 6 all around Australia. Australians can get involved here: http://ourprivacy.org.au/
Micheal Vonn, policy director at the B.C. Civil Liberties Association in Canada, told to the Global News in Canada: “[w]e fully intend to get some pointed questions to the Canadian government about knowledge, complicity, alliance with this program. And whether, in fact, very, very quietly, the Canadian security establishment has been harvesting the fruits of this program for some time.”
EFF is demanding Internet companies to join our cause and protect the privacy of their international customers calling on Congress to create a committee to uncover the truth about the NSA alarming allegations. You can take action here. Current foreign intelligence surveillance targetting foreigners must be challenged to ensure strong human rights safeguards, transparency and accountability across the world. A global dialogue on extra-territorial foreign intelligence surveillance among all nations is much needed.
EFF will continue blogging about the impact of the NSA leaks on Internet users abroad in our Spies Without Borders series. Next, we will examine what implications the government’s use of these FISA powers has for Internet users abroad, with an eye to other jurisdictions and the requirements of international law.
This is the 5th article of our Spies Without Borders series. The series are looking into how the information disclosed in the NSA leaks affect Internet users around the world whose private information is stored in U.S. servers, or whose data travels across U.S. networks.
Image: Digitale Gesellschaft, licensed under a Creative Commons BY SA 3.0 license.
This important documentary explores the decade long war in Afghanistan. It was produced as part of Hizb ut Tahrir Australia’s recent campaign on the decade anniversary of the war. It is high time for a honest and rigorous assessment of this war and, in the Australian context, continued involvement in it. The politicians, from both sides, have regurgitated the same platitudes, built on false narratives, for ten years, as more soldiers have died, more civilians have perished and more of Afghanistan has been destroyed.
- Top Israel Lobby Senator Proposes Permanent US Air Bases For Afghanistan (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The case of Ben Zygier, known as “Prisoner X,” has opened the door to questions about the possibility of Israel secretly detaining other prisoners and abductees.
Zygier, a Jewish-Australian citizen, died in an Israeli prison two years ago, in a case Israel went to extreme lengths to cover up, imposing media gag orders.
This is not the first time Israel has hidden information related to the whereabouts and conditions of prisoners. Consider, for example, reports of the three Iranian diplomats kidnapped by the Lebanese Forces during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, who were reportedly moved to prisons in occupied Palestine.
Then consider the case of Lebanese prisoner Yahya Skaf. In addition to a wealth of reporting on his case, testimonies by other detainees all aver that he is still alive and being held in an Israeli prison. It’s a claim that Tel Aviv denies, maintaining that it lost Skaf’s body.
In the same vein, reports from various sources assert that Iranian General Mohammed Reza Asgari, who was kidnapped in Turkey in 2007, is being held in Israel.
Until recently, the global norm was to accept that Israel is a state where the rule of law is paramount. Any reports that questioned Israel’s democratic credentials were considered prejudiced or even anti-Semitic.
Yet if Tel Aviv was able to conceal the truth about Zygier for so long – the fact that he had committed suicide more than two years ago – then it’s entirely fathomable that Israel is withholding the truth about other prisoners like Skaf, Asgari, and the above-mentioned Iranian diplomats.
The answer is now clear and backed up by damning evidence: Israel has both the capability and the willingness to engage in such acts.
A simple hypothetical exercise. Let’s say the kidnapping, detention, and subsequent suicide of the Australian Prisoner X had happened to another detainee of a different nationality. How would the global media reaction differ? Would it have been as fervent as with the Australian Prisoner X?
Just look to the cases of the Lebanese and Iranian detainees, specifically with the three Iranian diplomats and General Asgari. Iran repeatedly declared that it had evidence as to their whereabouts, and the Iranian press reported extensively on the matter. Yet Israeli denials were enough to refute the Iranian account. Western and Israeli reports did not stop there, and Iran was even mocked as a source of fabricated news.
The same applies to cases involving Lebanese citizens, such as Skaf. Israel cannot possibly deny it has him, and that he had entered occupied Palestine. For one thing, Tel Aviv’s claims about Skaf and his lost body make little sense. If he had been a citizen of Australia, or other nations of similar stature, Israel’s account would have differed.
Israeli assertions that Tel Aviv had kept the Australian government in the loop on Prisoner X created more – not less – ramifications. Indeed, Israel is not only able to hide the facts and detain people in secret, but also to involve Western governments in the cover-up.
Gazzetta del Sud | January 11, 2013
Palermo The region of Sicily on Friday moved to suspend US defense plans to construct a satellite communications system on the Italian island after activists blocked construction crews. The move, announced by Sicily Governor Rosario Crocetta, came after protestors blocked trucks and cranes overnight in the town of Niscemi and later clashed with police near an American military base.
Builders at the site, which is part of a global satellite defense network called the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), had allegedly rushed construction in recent days, according to the Sicily governor. “The regional government finds this sudden rush to complete the project truly extraordinary,” said Crocetta. Opponents to the project say it will be an environmental nuisance and threatens world peace. Other bases participating in MUOS are in Australia, Hawaii and Virginia.