New laws to widen ASIO spy powers

The below article, just like the legislation seems to be slipping quietly through the mainstream media and the parliamentary process with little consideration or input from the public on what this actually means for the average Australian citizen.  One thing we can be assured of, considering the Attorney Generals position on Julian Assange and Wikileaks, there will be even more cooperation with American officials as they continue along the path of manufacturing a case to extradite Julian Assange to the USA.  WACA urges every concerned citizen to contact their local federal member and express concern over this proposed legislation.


Dylan Welch  May 19, 2011

Scrutiny ... the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, says he wants to improve links between domestic and overseas spy agencies.Scrutiny … the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, says he wants to improve links between domestic and overseas spy agencies. Photo: Glen McCurtayne

ASIO will be able to engage in industrial and economic espionage as well as spy on groups such as WikiLeaks on behalf of Australia’s two foreign spy outfits, under one of the most significant widening of its powers in a decade.

According to the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, the changes are being made to allow ASIO to work better with Australia’s two overseas spy agencies, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Defence Signals Directorate.

But legal experts and the Greens have expressed concerns that the changes are not needed and fundamentally change the way Australia’s main domestic spy outfit operates.

”I think [the ASIO amendments] are dangerous. In a sense they’re unprecedented,” the Greens spokesman on national security, Senator Scott Ludlam, told the Herald.

”I think it is a good example of a bill that needs genuine scrutiny. My gravest concern is that it will slide through the parliamentary process without getting due consideration.”

The amendments, found in the Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 and currently before a Senate committee, are set to pass Parliament in June.

They will widen ASIO’s ability to work with and on behalf of the overseas agencies in collecting what is known as ”foreign intelligence”.

Such collection can only be made when approved by the Attorney-General. His approval is dependent upon the matter being in ”defence of the Commonwealth or the conduct of the Commonwealth’s international affairs”.

But the amendments will provide a far broader definition, involving Australia’s national security, foreign relations or national economic well-being.

”[This] will afford the minister and the agency almost unfettered discretion to determine when and how ASIO’s powers may be used to gather information about people’s activities, communications and relationships abroad,” the Secretary-General of the Law Council of Australia, Bill Grant, wrote in a submission.

And by changing the meaning of ”foreign” in the ASIO Act from ”a foreign power” to ”people, organisations and governments outside Australia”, ASIO will be able to monitor a whole new range of people and entities

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