Terror laws clear Senate, enabling entire Australian web to be monitored and whistleblowers to be jailed

Thursday, September 25, 2014
By Paul Martin

Ben Grubb
SMH.co.au
September 25, 2014

Australian spies will soon have the power to monitor the entire Australian internet with just one warrant, and journalists and whistleblowers will face up to 10 years’ jail for disclosing classified information.

The government’s first tranche of tougher anti-terrorism laws, which beef up the domestic spy agency ASIO’s powers, passed the Senate 44 votes for and 12 against on Thursday night with bipartisan support from Labor.

The bill, the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014, will now be sent to the House of Representatives, where passage is all but guaranteed on Tuesday at the earliest.

Anyone — including journalists, whistleblowers and bloggers — who “recklessly” discloses “information … [that] relates to a special intelligence operation” faces up to 10 years’ jail.

Any operation can be declared “special” and doing so gives ASIO criminal and civil immunity. Many, including lawyers and academics, have said they fear the agency will abuse this power.

Those who identify ASIO agents could also face a decade in prison under the new laws, a tenfold increase in the existing maximum penalty.

The new laws also allow ASIO to seek just one warrant to access a limitless number of computers on a computer network when attempting to monitor a target, which lawyers, rights groups, academics and Australian media organisations condemned.

They said this would effectively allow the entire internet to be monitored, as it is a “network of networks” and the bill doesn’t specifically define what a computer network is.

Professor George Williams of UNSW previously warned the laws were too broad.

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