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Revelations that NSW Police use sophisticated hacking software raises serious concerns

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."

Article: NSW Police use hacking software to spy on computers and smartphones: WikiLeaks data

Source: The Age, 15/9/14

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Borsak bill offends democratic principles

The voting changes proposed in the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014 (the ‘Borsak Bill’)
offend basic civil liberties principles.

The Bill proposes to give 2 votes to owners of rateable land, 2 votes to rate paying lessees, and 2
votes to occupiers of rateable land in the City of Sydney, for that council’s elections.

The NSWCCL supports the fundamental democratic principle of one person one vote.

We do recognise that corporations and businesses have long been entitled to non-residential voting
rights in the City of Sydney. This is not our preferred position which is that democracy is about
representing people not property. 

In the context of the current Bill, we register our strong opposition to the profoundly undemocratic
proposal to increase the current entitlements for corporations owning, leasing or occupying rateable
land in the City of Sydney from one to two votes.

This is a move in precisely the wrong direction for democratic government. The notion of the
property franchise should be being rejected in the interest of effective democracy- not strengthened
as proposed in the Borsak Bill.

NSWCCL urges the NSW Parliament to reject the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) Bill 2014
(the ‘Borsak Bill’)

We note the alternative private members bill has been introduced into Parliament by the
independent MP Alex Greenwich: City of Sydney Amendment (Business Voting and Council Elections)
Bill 2014 (the Greenwich Bill). This Bill is preferable in that it maintains the current entitlements for
eligible corporations and businesses to one vote.

If the parliament considers improvements are necessary to the current arrangements for registration on the electoral roll then the Greenwich Bill is acceptable in that it does not further offend against the fundamental democratic principle at stake.

 

 CCL statement to MPs

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NSW bail amendments strongly opposed

The NSW Parliament has today resumed debate on the Government's Bail Amendment Bill 2014. NSWCCL strongly opposes the Bill.

The Government’s decision to respond to a narrow section of the media and hastily and prematurely review the new Bail Act is now history.  It acted with indecent and unwise haste in the face of widespread professional and expert advice that review of the Bail Act was seriously premature and would have to reach conclusions without access to meaningful operational data.

This unsound process has produced a Bill which should be rejected by Parliament as unwarranted and retrograde draft legislation. If the amendments to the Act are passed, the effect will be to graft onto a coherent, unified, clearly grounded and eminently workable system under the 2013 Act a number of qualifications of the kind that wrecked the original 1978 Act.

NSWCCL has two major principled objections to the Bill.

The creation of so-called “show cause” offences constitutes a reintroduction of presumptions against bail for prescribed offences by the back door. The presumption scheme was soundly criticised in the revamp of the Bail Act and this grafts presumptions against bail, with all their faults, back onto the scheme of the 2013 Act. It introduces complications for no clearly discernible legitimate benefit. The effect will be to transfer more power to the police, by their selection of charges before the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has a chance to exercise independent judgment in charge selection.

Further – and more seriously – the onus of proof has been reversed in relation to those offences. Article 9 of the ICCPR states (in effect) that remand in custody is not to be the default position for people – any people – charged with offences, yet this creates such a position and imposes upon the accused to prove that it should not apply.

If one’s right to liberty is to be taken away, then the onus has always been on the party that seeks to remove it to establish lawful grounds for doing so. This will no longer be so in respect of these offences. The mischief done by these provisions is tacitly acknowledged by the exemption of juveniles from the scheme.

NSWCCL has recommended the Bill be withdrawn by the Government or failing that rejected by Parliament. If the Bill is to proceed we have further recommended it should be referred to a Parliamentary Committee for consideration of its implications in relation to the reversal of the onus of proof and the reintroduction of ‘show cause ‘offences and to allow proper public consideration of the Bill

Read CCLs full statement 

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Alleged Australian people smuggler stripped of passport over secret ASIO evidence

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."

Article: Alleged Australian people smuggler stripped of passport over secret ASIO evidence

Source: ABC News, 5/9/2014

 

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Alleged Australian people smuggler's passport cancelled

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."

Listen now: Alleged Australian people smuggler's passport cancelled

Source: ABC Radio AM, 5/9/2014

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Timor-Leste spy scandal demonstrates need for greater whistleblower protections

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.”

Article: Timor-Leste spy case: Brandis denies referring lawyer to police

Source: The Guardian 1/9/2014

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No response on indefinite detention: Stephen Blanks speaks to ABC's Lateline

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.' "

Video: No response on indefinite detention

Source: ABC 'Lateline', 21/8/2014

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Changes to Australian Security Laws Will Make Illegally Obtained Evidence Permissible in Court

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.

 

Article: Changes to Australian Security Laws Will Make Illegally Obtained Evidence Permisable in Court

Source: VICE, 19/8/2014

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CCL's give testimony at Joint Committee inquiry into National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014

NSWCCL Secretary Dr Lesley Lynch and Civil Liberties Australia CEO William Rowlings have given testimony on behalf of Australian Civil Liberties Councils at the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security public hearing, following a recent joint submission by the councils regarding the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014.

Dr Lynch raised a number of concerns with the bill, including the lack of evidence-based justification for some of the enhanced powers, lack of effective oversight, the startling degree of ambiguity and loose definitions throughout and also an apparent lack of consideration of longer term impacts of legislation introduced to allegedly address short-term terrorist threats but ultimately remaining for the longer term. 

Read the transcript here

Read the submission

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Privacy advocates criticise far-reaching ASIO surveillance powers

New digital surveillance powers for Australia's top security agency have been described as 'too expansive' by leading civil liberties advocates.

 

Article: Privacy advocates criticise far-reaching ASIO surveillance powers

Source: CNET, 18/8/2014

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Supplementary Submission: Inquiry into the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014

Following the joint submission to the Inquiry into the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014, Dr Lesley Lynch (NSWCCL Secretary) and Bill Rowlings (Civil Liberties Australia) gave testimony at the inquiry's public hearing on the 18th of August 2014. A supplementary submission was subsequently compiled offering more detailed comment regarding the discard of ministerial oversight of particular intelligence sharing between agencies

Read the supplementary submission

Read the first joint submission

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Joint Submission: Inquiry into the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014

NSWCCL has collaborated with other Australian civil liberties groups in making a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Inquiry into the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014.

The CCLs accept that ASIO and other intelligence and security organisations must have the powers and resources necessary for the protection of national security including protection against the very real threat of terrorist activity in Australia- consistent with democratic values. However, where the proposed changes expand existing ASIO powers and/or weaken balancing safeguards and protections our endorsement is dependent upon persuasive evidence justifying such changes and clear demonstration that rights and liberties are not being unwarrantedly or disproportionately encroached upon

In our view, such persuasive evidence has not been provided to justify some of the new or enhanced security powers being proposed in this Bill.

Read the joint CCLs submission

Also read the supplementary submission

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NSWCCL President and HR Commissioner Tim Wilson debate the right to be forgotten

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.

 

Watch now: AGENDA The importance of online privacy. The content we linked to is no longer available

Source: Sky News 'Agenda', 9/8/14

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Proposed amendment to NSW bail laws : indecent and unwise haste

The Bail Act 2013 was a product of two years’ work by the Law Reform Commission and a team of experts. The Report was tabled in 2012. The Government then carefully considered it and in 2013 passed a new Act which did not merely rubber-stamp the LRC Report. The Act was passed unanimously – no politician, from any party, in either House, voted against it.

There was then a delay while the criminal justice agencies absorbed the changes, trained staff, prepared processes and documentation and got ready for implementation. A great deal of administrative work was done by Police, DPP, Legal Aid, Bar Association, Law Society, Courts, etc.

The Act came into force on 20 May 2014, with much fanfare from the Attorney General. Soon after there were three high profile cases of bail being granted (Hawi, Fesus and Ibrahim). The tabloid media agitated. The DPP appealed the Ibrahim matter and his bail was refused – the system was working as it was intended to. A reading of the judgments in the other two cases would show that principles were properly applied and the decisions were uncontroversial.

On 27 June 2014, just over five weeks after the Act came into effect and before any meaningful data had accumulated (as acknowledged by Mr Hatzistergos), the Premier announced a review, supposedly because the Act was not protecting the community as much as had been intended.

The review was done in just over four weeks by one person. His Report was published today (5 August 2014), a Bill is ready (implementing all the reviewer’s recommendations) and it will go to Parliament next week.

The Government has acted with indecent and unwise haste. There has been no consultation with anyone about the recommendations or the substance of the Bill.

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NSWCCL warns against extraordinary counter-terrorism powers

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.

Video: ABC News 1/8/2014 (Story begins at 11:15)

Source: ABC News 1/8/2014

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Newsletter June-July 2014

In this issue:

  • Message from the Secretary 
  • Racial vilification legislation 
  • Independent monitor of counter-terrorism laws abolished
  • Senate election reform
  • Telecommunications interception and access
  • Police powers - safeguard weakened
  • Mandatory minimum sentencing
  • Independence of attorney general and police ministries
  • Racial vilification report deferred
  • Police consorting law reform
  • Oversight of police critical incidents

Click here to view the newsletter online

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NSWCCL's Stephen Blanks discusses Opal cards and the surveillance state on FBi Backchat

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.

Listen: Stephen Blanks: 'The surveillance state is one more step towards being complete'. The content we linked to is no longer available

Source: FBi Radio 'Backchat', 19/7/2014

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NSWCCL comments on national security proposals

Attorney-General George Brandis has delivered a press conference introducing the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014, which seeks to expand the powers of Australian intelligence agencies. NSWCCL has compiled a list of comments in response to the matters addressed by the Attorney-General at the press conference.

Read the NSWCCL comments in response to AG press conference

View the press conference here

National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014

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NSWCCL opposes draconian whistleblower penalties in news security laws

George Brandis's new spying laws will include measure to criminalise media reporting of Snowden-style leaks

Article: Journalists will face jail over spy leaks under new security laws

Source: The Guardian, 16/7/2014

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NSWCCL rejects police commissioner's casual dismissal of privacy concerns

It is disappointing to see the Commissioner of Police's comments in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning defending warrantless access to databases containing personal information.  The police are opportunistically taking advantage of the proliferation of electronic databases which do not have strong privacy policies to protect members of the community against inappropriate release of their personal information.  In the absence of strong data protection laws and personal privacy protection, the only protection the public can get is through privacy policies which require law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants from an independent judge or magistrate before personal information is released.

Read the article here

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