Documents published by Wikileaks on Monday have revealed NSW Police usage of sophisticated hacking software to spy on smartphones computers. Police can obtain 'covert' warrants allowing them to gain secret access to suspects devices and data, however the software offers potentially broader spying capabilities leading to concerns that it could be used inappropriately beyond the intended scope of the search warrant.
NSWCCL's Stephen Blanks offered the following comment: "The use of software like this to enable law-enforcement agencies to remotely access computer networks raises particular concerns and it is vital that there is sufficient information made available about the use of [the associated] warrants so that the public can be satisfied that they are not being abused."
Source: The Age, 15/9/14
An Australian citizen has been stripped of his passport on the basis of secret ASIO evidence that allegedly shows he is a people smuggler.
"The extraordinary thing about it is it's not a case involving terrorism, it's a case involving people smuggling," Mr Blanks said.
"So when the Government says that these powers are needed to deal with the terrorist threat, that's actually quite misleading when they use them in relation to people smuggling cases.
"Certainly threats to border and territorial integrity were inserted into the definition of security in 2010, but it's not clear that people smuggling is within that definition or should be."
Source: ABC News, 5/9/2014
ASIO has cancelled the passport of an Austrlalian citizen believed to be involved with people smuggling. This is based on a secret assessment and without opportunity for the accused to challenge the allegations in court, under Australia's recently toughened 'anti-terror' national security laws .
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks spoke to ABC Radio's AM:
"Accusing somebody of people smuggling is accusing them of a criminal offence. If they charged the person with the criminal offence they would have to produce evidence that could be revealed in open court and the accused would have his day in court to answer it. This way there is no idea of what the evidence is and the accused has no fair opportunity to answer the accusation."
Source: ABC Radio AM, 5/9/2014
The attorney general, George Brandis, has denied referring lawyer Bernard Collaery and a former intelligence officer to the Australian federal police after they revealed that Australia spied on Timor-Leste during negotiations over a lucrative oil and gas pipeline.
The head of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said the lack of a public-interest defence available to Collaery or the agent was “a gaping hole in Australia’s legal system”.
“Some of the most important breachers of classified info have been totally justified because of those being in the public interest,” he said.
“What this prosecution will do is have a chilling effect on potential whistleblowers and the media and if it continues, there will be self-censorship and the media will not live up to its obligation of being a fearless investigator and reporter on matters of national importance.”
Source: The Guardian 1/9/2014
Twelve months after the United Nations Human Rights Tribunal criticised the indefinite detention of more than forty refugees with negative security assessments from ASIO, the Abbott government has failed to respond to the tribunal's report.
"Australia's Government is thumbing its nose at the UN, saying, 'We're not interested in what you think about human rights.' "
Source: ABC 'Lateline', 21/8/2014
ASIO is pushing for the new laws which are being sold to the public as necessary to guard against terror. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Attorney General George Brandis and ASIO director general David Irvine have been keen to link the laws to the threat of Australian jihadis fighting overseas.
Source: VICE, 19/8/2014
New digital surveillance powers for Australia's top security agency have been described as 'too expansive' by leading civil liberties advocates.
Source: CNET, 18/8/2014
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks and Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson debate online privacy and 'the right to be forgotten' with Sky News' David Lipson.
Source: Sky News 'Agenda', 9/8/14
The Australian Government's latest package of enhanced security and counter-terrorist powers includes a disturbing proposal to reverse the onus of proof on Australians returning from regions of conflict, such that they would be required to prove that they have not been fighting in wars overseas.
This presumption of guilt contravenes the fundamental principles of criminal justice, NSWCCL's Stephen Blanks speaks to ABC News and highlights that security agencies already have "extraordinary powers" for detaining and interrogating citizens, the proposed changes are unnecessary and a step too far.
Source: ABC News 1/8/2014
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks speaks to FBi Radio about Opal card privacy concerns , increased ASIO powers and the disturbing proposal to criminalise media reporting of intelligence operations.
Source: FBi Radio 'Backchat', 19/7/2014