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GET A WARRANT! March 25, 2015

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Human Rights.
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In this instance, Get UP were nicer than I am prepared to be. They merely suggested a  specific warrant is necessary, as in the case of that other country moved to oppose and dispose the general warrant of the King, now 239 years ago.  Now we are under officially surveillance by the state. This is both totalitarianism, and of doubtful utility for achieving its stated objectives. Representative Democracy necessarily involves trust which when broken goes deeper than a mere constitutional crisis. Of course democratic citizens should be mobilized, organized and active, informed participants. Generally this is not the case. This is the constructive work of participation in the life of our communities with which we all should be engaged. Notice the underlying assumption that such activity we are somehow not fit or competent, which is directly contradicted when I bring to mind my neighbours. This ideal and practice is contrary to “the special interests”, including the traditional media. On this general point, for example, Noam Chomsky has observed:

“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.”

Then there is an opinion that the Date Retention Laws do not matter much. After all the legislation is so flawed that it can be reasonably easily circumvented by the computer literate and technically competent. Politicians from Malcolm Turnbull to Scott Ludlam offer advice as to how this can be done, and what apparently will not be tracked. This line of argument overlooks the wider NSA/Five Eyes construction of the surveillance state. Encryption creates all sorts of problems, starting with decryption and simple inconvenience. I did not listen to the parliamentary debate. In Crikey, Bernard Keane, after observing:

A powerful, secretive clique within government has at last won a long battle to impose mass surveillance on Australians. Here are the key tactics that enabled their success.

Then took issue with the statement of Jacinta Collins, Victoria Labor senator:

Even for a debate marked by lies, wilful misinterpretation, denialism and obfuscation, it was one of the dumbest contributions of all, a statement so utterly absurd that it stood out even in the discussion of data retention.

So I was curious about what was said:

“Mandatory Data Retention is not mass surveillance,” Senator Collins said. “The Labor Party has not caved in on this matter.”

Senator Brandis, who laughingly goes by the title of Attorney-General admitted according to James Bennett, at ABC News, “Smart criminals” may be able to get around the Government’s new metadata laws. He further elaborated on the purpose of the legislation:

“Metadata is the basic building block in nearly every counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and organised crime investigation”, Senator Brandis said after the bill had passed. The Opposition agreed to support the legislation after the Government offered to amend it, inserting better protection for journalists’ sources. “No comparable nations will have greater pre-authorisation approval and post-authorisation oversight requirements for journalists,” Senator Brandis said. He said the legislation struck the right balance. “It does contain safeguards that were not there before, it is in the Government’s view, shared I’m pleased to say by the Opposition, a measured and proportionate response,” he told the Senate. The legislation, which will force phone and internet companies to store their customers’ information for two years, passed the Senate in a 43 to 16 vote, reflecting the Coalition and Labor’s support.

“The Government aims to have the regime fully operational within two years”. Paul Farrell puts the overall situation, without looking at any of the practical difficulties, including what the Greens have described as the “surveillance tax” – have the punters pay for the loss of privacy and the systematic democracy in the form of pervasive violation of privacy. He writes:

The story of your life in metadata is an open book. It paints a picture of where you went, who you spoke with, how long you were there for. What were you doing talking on the phone to the sexually transmitted infections clinic? What were you doing on the street corner where the man was murdered last night? Privacy, at its most basic level, is about the right of citizens to be let alone by their governments. At the heart of what is happening right now in Australia is a debate around this very idea. And as the federal government succeeded in passing its data retention laws on Thursday, it is an idea that is being challenged more than it ever has before.

The immediate effect of the legislation will that those who can afford to, and the public in general, will be considering all the ways and developments that can protect their privacy. It will create a new, and potentially wider digital divide than now exists. One supposes that the algorithms are on tap to deal with the massive collection of information and trivia that will be scooped up all in the name of national security. Senator Ludlam has taken the lead in opposing the legislation. His observations are worth reflection: We have not been observing what is going on elsewhere. We do not seem to have legal protections, which may raise questions in relation to intellectual property and copyright. As suggested earlier the citizens of the republic, the United States, may be better placed with the Fourth Amendment. To quote:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

But how has this worked out. Robert Scheer relates his experience and recent history. “They know everything about you”: The needle in the haystack will likely as not be missed, but when the “J Edgar Hoovers” want to set up a patsy – perhaps a Martin Luther King – the information will be very effective – especially when leaked by privilege, as national security information is regularly in the US. The people behind the curtain should stop their duplicitous hoovering respect the human rights and privacy of citizens, and go through the process of obtaining a legal warrant.

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