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Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, has called on the Australian Government to urgently establish whether Australians have been spied on by the US’ National Security Agency (NSA).
This follows revelations in France’s Le Monde newspaper that 70 million pieces of French telephone data were recorded by the NSA, prompting France’s Interior Minister to condemn the spying and for the US Ambassador to France to be summoned.
Senator Xenophon also called on the Federal Government to disclose the extent of surveillance of phone and email records by Australian security agencies, often working in concert with the NSA.
Senator Xenophon will convene a Summit at Parliament House next month on the future of investigative journalism in the era of mass surveillance, in an effort to end the “culture of secrecy” surrounding mass surveillance of ordinary citizens in Australia.
“This kind of surveillance is shocking—and the Australian Government should be shocked by it too,” Nick said. “In Britain, the US, France, Brazil and Mexico there is public outrage over this level of snooping, but in this country the major parties are sleep-walking on this issue.
“These revelations show that government assurances of adequate oversight are simply not credible—and assertions that all this is legitimate intelligence in accordance with Australian law are no comfort either. It is the law itself that needs to be re-examined.”
Senator Xenophon says the Summit will also help start a national conversation about the future of investigative journalism in the era of mass surveillance.
Senator Xenophon has received advice from Associate Professor Clinton Fernandes of the University of NSW, who lectures at the Australian Defence Force Academy on Australian and security intelligence issues.
Professor Fernandes says: “The technology of surveillance is now far ahead of current Australian laws. This makes it almost impossible for journalists to guarantee the confidentiality of their sources. This in turn has a chilling effect on investigative journalism and whistleblowers.”
“It’s not just ordinary citizens and some politicians who are affected—journalists are directly affected too, which in turn has a stifling effect on free speech,” Nick said.
In June Senator Xenophon asked several questions in the Senate on whether the NBN had been used to facilitate surveillance by Australian or other intelligence agencies—there was no denial.
“This issue needs to be brought out into the open, which is why I’ll be hosting a summit of MPs, journalists, legal experts and academics in the first week Parliament resumes on November 12.”