Since 2001, we have seen an extraordinarily intensive period of legislative activity on law enforcement and intelligence gathering powers – possibly unrivalled in any other liberal democratic nation. We have seen the ‘anti-encryption’ Assistance and Access Act and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Amendment Act expanding the role and powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. We have seen the extension of ASIO’s extraordinary detention powers, which were due to expire in September 2020, until March 2021. And in 2020, we have seen the introduction of the International Production Orders Bill to allow sharing of data with foreign law enforcement and security agencies.
Now this controversial Identify and Disrupt bill that passed through Parliament with bipartisan support last year, has introduced three new warrants in an accelerating wave, strengthening the powers of the state without any humility about the cumulative erosion of democratic freedoms they entail.
These new hacking powers have handed unprecedented powers to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC). The agencies can apply for ‘data disruption’, ‘network activity’, or ‘account takeover’ warrants in relation to a “relevant offence” — typically an offence with a maximum penalty of at least three years imprisonment.
Whilst NSWCCL appreciates that cyber-enabled serious and organised crime exists and should be targeted by law enforcement, the key problems with the three new warrants are:
• the breadth of their application;
• the widening of spy agency remits to allow intelligence gathering on Australian citizens; and
• the overall risk of abuse of power.
Read more here.