Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Australia admits spying on journalists

The Australian government has admitted that its spy agency, ASIO, has been targeting journalists:

Australia’s attorney general, George Brandis, appears to have granted the country’s domestic spy agency access to journalists’ metadata in a small number of cases, the agency’s head has revealed.

Duncan Lewis, the director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Agency (Asio), confirmed in parliament on Tuesday that the agency had been granted some journalist information warrants.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon has been pursuing Asio over the details of the warrants, and focused repeated questioning on Lewis in Senate estimates on Tuesday.

They warrants came into force in October 2015 in part to secure passage of Australia’s sweeping data retention laws that require telecommunications companies to store phone and web metadata for two years.

Pretty obviously, they're after leakers, but they're also likely to be targeting journalists working on refugee issues and human rights abuses in Australia's concentration camps in Nauru. The common factor here is that both are deeply embarrassing to the government. "National security" powers should be for exactly that - not for protecting politicians and officials from democratic oversight.