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Australia Spying On Its Own 474

Posted by timothy
from the he-ain't-heavy-he's-big-brother dept.
AVIDLY INTERESTED writes: "Well well, the Australian government has been caught out spying on its own citizens, despite denying for years that they do this type of thing. This story at The Age shows that the Defence Signals Directorate listens to just about every bit of communications in Australia. The interesting thing about this story is the background to it. In this case the govt spied because they were trying to win an election, and needed evidence to demonise a ship that was docking in Australia carrying a bunch of refugees. National security be damned, this is echelon for political gain. Is it happening anywhere else?"
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Australia Spying On Its Own

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  • by wackybrit (321117) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @05:53AM (#2993062) Homepage Journal
    Back in the old days, France used to be much like this. The government would be all high and mighty, and yet the peasants would actually be quite carefree and an open minded people.

    Australia in recent years seems to have taken a turn for the worst. I'm a libertarian, but I can definitely say that Australia stinks of 'Liberalism' right now. Is the country run by a bunch of soccer moms who are scared their kids are going to be raped if everyone in the country isn't kept under constant surveillance? Probably.

    Australia is advocating a 'no-privacy' state.. and I can't help but think that that stance will put off a lot of companies from doing business there.

    • Do some research and you will see that Australia is run by the right -- Conservatives not liberals.
    • Liberalism? (Score:3, Informative)

      by ergo98 (9391)

      Liberalism is seldom associated with increased surveilance and invasions of personal liberties: Quite the opposite in fact. Most "soccer moms" who call for greater and greater restraints and government controls are conservatives. A liberal approach to things is live and let live. A conservative approach to things is "live the way we see as the best way to live".

      • Re:Liberalism? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Thornae (53316)
        Liberalism is seldom associated with increased surveilance and invasions of personal liberties: Quite the opposite in fact. Most "soccer moms" who call for greater and greater restraints and government controls are conservatives. A liberal approach to things is live and let live. A conservative approach to things is "live the way we see as the best way to live".


        Unfortunately, to the confusion of all concerned, the political party currently in power here is called the Liberal Party, thus the previous poster's comment. The Liberal Party should actually be called the "Rich Conservative Bastards" party, which would cover most of their points of view.

        The current leader of our lucky country is a man named John Howard (you seppos might have seen him on your tvs recently, trying to act like Australia was actually important to the rest of the world - most of us aren't under such illusions). Little Johnnie is of the opinion that Australia would be entirely better off if we were to wind the morals and values of the society as a whole back to 1950 - eg, he opposed single women orlesbian couples getting IVF. Not a proper family he said, ignoring the thousands upon thousands of broken homes that fuck the kids up far worse...

        Anyway, it's not like anyone here really cares about Australian politics. Most of us aussies don't, why should you? (=

      • Liberalism is seldom associated with increased surveilance and invasions of personal liberties: Quite the opposite in fact. Most "soccer moms" who call for greater and greater restraints and government controls are conservatives.

        In Australia the main conservative party are called `The Liberals'. Hence the confusion.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Australia in recent years seems to have taken a turn for the worst. I'm a libertarian, but I can definitely say that Australia stinks of 'Liberalism' right now. Is the country run by a bunch of soccer moms who are scared their kids are going to be raped if everyone in the country isn't kept under constant surveillance? Probably.


      Yes. His name is John Howard, and he lives in an imaginary utopian world circa 1950. His crowning achievement in this country is that he introduced a chronically confused goods and services tax, after stating categorically that he would never do so, which is slowly throttling small business in this country. Oh, and he lived with mummy until he was 31.

      Unfortunately, he somehow won the Federal election late last year, largely on the back of his stance on illegal boat people post-September 11. Which is what the /. article is all about. So we're stuck with him for another couple of years.

      And John, if the DSD passes this little missive on to you, I won't be voting for you next time either.
    • by autopr0n (534291) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @05:51PM (#2996472) Homepage Journal
      Ok, in reading this thread, there seems to be a lot of confusion about the term 'liberal' and what it means. Let me see if I can explain what's going on... someone correct me if I'm wrong.

      First of all, the poster declared himself to be a 'libertarian', a libertarian, in the US is someone who believes in little government interference and that type of thing, it's a term only really used in the US, as far as I know. And he called what the Australian government's actions "liberal", now I'm guessing he means "liberal" in the US sense, rather then say, the British sense. Now, to make things extra-confusing "Liberal" in the US and "Liberal" outside the US mean opposite things. In the US the Democratic party is called "Liberal" and the republican party is called "Conservative". In the rest of the world, the republican party would be called "Liberal". Liberals out side favor liberty and the like. In the US, liberals are liberal with government money: P.

      The term 'libertarian' thus came about here, because people who favored liberty but didn't think the republican party was any good needed something to call themselves. They couldn't use "liberal" because it was already in use by people who they even more strongly disagreed with, thus "libertarian" was minted.

      To make things extra confusing partisans, people who identify strongly with a particular labeled viewpoint (like liberal, conservative, fascist, communist, whatever) tend to label things they don't like as being in the opposite camp. This libertarian here called the AU's listening "liberal" in the US sense (I think), because he didn't like it.

      Personally I don't think listening to almost everyone in the AU has any particular political slant other then "Sleazy", and of course "Very, very disturbing", (although you might be able to say its "reactionary").

      Anyway, let me know of any mistakes I've made. Personally I think we should choose new names in the US for these terms to make intercontinental communication easier.
      • You're totally right. I was, of course, using the US meaning for everything I said, despite being British. It's totally pointless to use UK terminology on the Internet since a majority of Americans will never learn about anything outside of their own country. ;-)

        There is no libertarian movement in the UK as such. And the only 'liberal' party is called the 'Liberal Democrats' which adds further to the confusion! They seem to hold both libertarian views as well as a few socialist ideas.. so it's a bit of both.

        It's hard to define all of these terms because a lot of people use the standard 'Left, Middle, Right' way of defining a party's 'position' in the political world. You could say that the Libertarians are smack bang in the middle.. but this ground is also covered by partly-left partly-right liberal parties who are in favor of big government (the Democrats).

        Either way, politics.. it's all BS really.
  • Offcourse (Score:2, Interesting)

    by selderrr (523988)
    offcourse this happens in other places too. Probably even on a larger scale and with creepier purposes.

    Whenever power is in reach or at stake, people will use every possible trick to grab or hold it. Including spy technologies.

    See also : Darwinism, survival of the fittest.

    Note : I don't approve of it, it's just that I don't pretend to be flabbergasted by the discovery that politicians are corrupt crooks.
  • by corebreech (469871) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @05:58AM (#2993073) Journal
    When has power over others ever gone unused?
    • Or Even Worse (Score:5, Insightful)

      by inKubus (199753) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @06:21AM (#2993119) Homepage Journal
      "At the same time, that capability [ECHELON] at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology...
      I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return." -- Senator Frank Church

      The question is whether it's too late to go back.
      • that capability [ECHELON] at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left

        I can still "flog the dolphin" whenever my roomate leaves the room and no one's the wiser... of course, I have to use the mere 4GB of pr0n I already have on my HDD. *sigh*
      • or that it has already happened and nobody has noticed.
  • by duvel2 (558047) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @06:02AM (#2993081)
    I would be somewhat surprised if the Australian people would make a big deal out of this

    Surely the Australian government will have its bases covered on the jurisdictional side of things. After all a government can make its own laws, so they're the best placed to know any and all loopholes to make this kind of 'spying' perfectly legal. There's no doubt that this government will have a perfect explanation ready as to why their actions were legitimate.

    On top of that, an elected government represents its voters. There is a slow but undeniable tendency in Australia for the last ten years towards more hostility against immigrants. Is this xenophobic and therefore perhaps loathable? Perhaps (even probable). But it's there, so as more and more voters don't really want any more foreigners to live in Australia, those people will have more and more representation in government. Those people may object to having their own phones tapped, but they probably have a the-end-justifies-the-means-attitude towards phonetapping potential immigrants.

    I'm not saying that's a good thing. After all even Hitler was at first elected in normal elections, but that's the way a democracy works (or should work): if enough voters want something bad enough, the government will make it happen.

    • Perhaps this should get modded down as Off-Topic, along with the posts that I'm responding to, but here goes:

      Before Australia gets raked over the coals by a bunch of obnoxious ignoramouses, I should point out that, among the Western democracies, Australia takes an enormous number of immigrants (relative to its fairly small population) and treats them very well.

      The primary issue here is not that Australians are racist or opposed to immigration, but that Australians are fed up with _illegal_ immigration. There's a system in place, and these economic refugees are "jumping the queue".

      I'm tired of hearing a) endless rehashes of Australia's sordid past and b) context-free attacks on Australia's so-called "racist" attitude by people who live in countries that deal with an order of magnitude less immigration, whether legal or illegal.
      • I'm tired of hearing a) endless rehashes of Australia's sordid past and b) context-free attacks on Australia's so-called "racist" attitude by people who live in countries that deal with an order of magnitude less immigration, whether legal or illegal.

        This is a view I hear time and time again from fellow Australians. Perhaps you might like to consider why Australia's "sordid past" comes up again and again.

        It's because that past has never been satisfactorily rectified. Australia really does have an abhorrent history, which most people know about and I wont rehash. But the attitude of most Australians is to try and forget about it, to sweep it under the carpet and look the other way as if it never happened. This attitude is reflected in the current government, in fact it's the reason they're currently in power.

        The liberal government in Australia won the unwinnable election by going to the lowest common denominator and playing up to people's inherent xenophobia. They welcomed every right wing loony (the ones who were voting for one nation only a year or two ago, about 10% of the population) back into the political mainstream. They've made it socially acceptable to be racist again, but hidden it under the rhetoric of "queue jumpers" and "economic refugees." They've basically sent the country back 20 years to the days of the white australia policy and shattered forever the myth of giving everyone a "fair go."

        Regarding your point (b), I'm an Australian now living in the UK. The UK takes on far more refugees on a per capita basis than Australia, and while it certainly is a problem, people aren't automatically singled out as being fraudulent and locked away for years when they try and claim refugee status.

        The politicians here are just as back-stabbing as they are anywhere but both sides have agreements not to bring race into political debate. Why? Because they're mature and responsible enough to recognise that stirring up racism for short term political gain is in noones interest and makes the country a much worse place overall.

        From a distance the country I call home looks like a selfish spoiled brat that doesn't know how to face its responsibilities and grow up.
      • I should point out that, among the Western democracies, Australia takes an enormous number of immigrants (relative to its fairly small population)

        This is, quite simply, untrue. While the government has been repeating this ad-nauseam, in fact what they are referring to is the quotas, and they are pointing out that the quotas are in the top 4 (IIRC). Of course only 8 of the countries that take refugees have a quota in place - the rest judge refugees on their merits and take those that arrive. In fact, when you look at the number of refugees actually taken, Australia is at #35 on the list internationally, on a per-capita basis.

        A huge part of the problem right now is the outright lies being told by the government, who are refusing to allow anybody to get information out of the detention centres that the government hasn't filtered to ensure that their own stories are the ones getting the airplay.

        Australians are fed up with _illegal_ immigration. There's a system in place, and these economic refugees are "jumping the queue".

        And when there is no queue, as is the case for these refugees? For those that do have acess to a queue, how about when people die in the queue after being assessed as genuine refugees, as is notoriously common?

        Any way you cut it, saying "they don't have a right to be here because they weren't born here, and I do because I was" is an us-and-them attitude that is intrinsicly xenophobic. Being born in a location entails no intrinsic natural right to that location to the exclusion of others, and a claim that there is, especially as against people who are fleeing oppression, has no validity of any description.

  • by arsaspe (539022) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @06:06AM (#2993089)
    can be found here [news.com.au]

    personally, I think that spying on citizens is like masturbation. Everyone does it, no one admits it, and in the end it gets you nowhere.
  • by Nice2Cats (557310) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @06:15AM (#2993103)
    As an American who grew up in Germany during the Cold War, I've stopped even thinking about who is reading my snailmail or email, who is bugging my phone, going thru my trash, or who, every time I flush, starts filtering my - well, you get the point.

    From the German government's Lauschangriff to Echelon to the NSA to my provider [Hi, guys! Keep up the good work!] to some company that routes my data to people I haven't even heard of, I would just assume that anybody who can listen in will listen in. Germany does have a constitutional Right to Privacy that the U.S. Bill of Rights doesn't, but I don't think that is going to impress too many of those people - what am I going to do, sue the people who run Echelon?

    My suggestion: Live with it and use crypto where you can.

    • My suggestion: Live with it and use crypto where you can.

      Unless you live in the UK where our then Home Secretary managed to push through a bill (which sounds astonishingly like the one in Enemy of the State) that allows the government and the police to do all the snooping they like. It's not like it wasn't happening anyway, but this made it legal.

      The real kicker though, is that anyone who encrypts their data has to decrypt it if the police say so. If you don't, then you get locked up. The problem is, the law makes no distinction about refusing to decrypt, and not being able to decrypt. If you lose your keys, then you can get banged up. The government were planning a national database of encryption keys where you had to submit your own. I don't know where that is ATM.

      Moral of the story: If you live in the UK, don't bother encrypting either. They'll just get their grubby hands on it if they want to.
      • > Moral of the story: If you live in the UK, don't bother encrypting either.
        > They'll just get their grubby hands on it if they want to.

        Actually, speaking as another .uk resident, I'd say encrypt *everything* you can think of - that way the stuff that needs to be encrypted won't stand out so much against the background noise ...
      • Moral of the story: If you live in the UK, don't bother encrypting either. They'll just get their grubby hands on it if they want to.


        But the advantage is that they have to come and ask you to decrypt. This way you KNOW that someone "intercepted" your data and read it. It's like an envelope: it's not like nobody can open it, but you get to see if it has been opened or not.


        Personally, I have nothing to hide, and if police wants me to open up my data I've nothing against it, provided it works both ways, i.e. I want to know WHY they are reading my data and who will access it. This way, if it's "confidential" stuff (like my CC number) I know who to sue if anything goes wrong.

      • "Moral of the story: If you live in the UK, don't bother
        encrypting either. They'll just get their grubby hands on it
        if they want to."

        Or generate a keypair, send an encrypted
        email to your best enemy, wipe the keypair and call
        the police that your best enemy is a terrorist.
        Ooooops.

        In fact, this could be a way to jail mutually everyone.

        Remark: Don't jail me, I was joking!

        --
        live dream
      • So, if you didn't like someone, just plant an encrypted email and throw away the key. Give an annonymous tip (drugs, child porn, tax evasion, etc...) and wait until they are locked up without bail. Problem solved!
  • by doug363 (256267) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @06:18AM (#2993109)
    I'm an Australian, and I really don't think that what they did was wrong. However, I do think that the article has quite a bit of political bias (I'd expect to see this sort of bias on k5 more than here). Let's look at the story:

    Well well, the Australian government has been caught out spying on its own citizens, despite denying for years that they do this type of thing.
    They were spying on phone conversations to a ship which was boarded by SAS troops! From the article: The Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) at Geraldton in Western Australia intercepted the phone calls after the ship was boarded by SAS troops. Whether or not you agree with the government's actions regarding the ship is irrelevant; this ain't no ordinary civilian phone conversation they listened in on.

    This story at The Age shows that the Defence Signals Directorate listens to just about every bit of communications in Australia.

    Funny, when I read the story, I didn't see that stated. I read a number of statements saying that the DSD's intelligence gathering was within Australian laws and supervised by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. The DSD also reports to the cabinet and (I think) a committee on intelligence. I read that the Opposition Leader, Simon Crean, asked for an inquiry and I read that the opposition said that they now generally don't trust the DSD, but no actual facts. (Aside: Does anyone else dislike the term "unAustralian" (or whatever nationality you please)? Simon Crean used the term and it really ticks me off.)

    The interesting thing about this story is the background to it. In this case the govt spied because they were trying to win an election, and needed evidence to demonise a ship that was docking in Australia carrying a bunch of refugees.

    Well, the government still has the same policy after the election. The main people saying that the government is using this for political gain are the people who don't like the government's actions, or who dislike the government generally. For all you Australians who think the government is doing this for political gain: Phillip Ruddock (immigration minister, primarily responsible for refugee decisions) is a member of Amnesty International, and has been for a long time. John Howard (Prime Minister) has demonstrated that he doesn't mind taking unpopular decisions every now and then, especially when quite a long way from an election. Have you ever considered that these two, and the rest of the government, might (a) know more about the situation than you (and their info isn't full of media bias); and (b) may have a different value system to you??? (Shock horror!)

    What was said is the following: Transcripts of phone conversations between the International Transport Federation, Maritime Union of Australia and the crew of the MV Tampa were used by the government to formulate a political response... One wonders why the phone conversations were useful. I assume that if the political response was simply lies, lies, and more lies, then the actual facts probably wouldn't be that useful. I'd be interested to know exactly how the phone conversations were used, although that probably is classified information that we won't find out for another 50 years.

    • by DarkZero (516460) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @06:51AM (#2993179)

      Have you ever considered that these two, and the rest of the government, might (a) know more about the situation than you...

      I have to admit, I stop reading an article whenever I see a quote like this, and I see it all too often. Should government figures be invulnerable to criticism simply because they're part of the government, and because, at least under your reasoning, they must have not only better information, but better judgement than the rest of us? A quote like that smacks of thoughtless nationalistic bias.

      Congratulations, you fit the profile for almost every negative Australian stereotype out there. Get violently drunk off your ass and you'll be the perfect poster boy for everything the world thinks is wrong with your country.

      • Congratulations, you fit the profile for almost every negative Australian stereotype out there. Get violently drunk off your ass and you'll be the perfect poster boy for everything the world thinks is wrong with your country.


        what a fucking jerk. people like you perpetuate stereotypes.

        as an australian who lived more than half his life in the US, i feel qualified to comment on this one... in my experience, americans know little or nothing of australia. maybe that's changed since the olympics, but i don't expect so.

        americans tend to either categorise australians as sheep-fuckers, because they can't tell the difference between an australian and a new zealander :) , or they marvel at our ability to speak as adults at work without fear of litigation. they might even mention something about the fact that we tend to swear more, but i'm not sure i agree with that.

        cunt.

        • LOL.

          Hey, some of us Americans have read "In a Sunburned Country," watched the Olympics and seen that movie where you all got blown up in Turkey during WWII... relax.

          I mean, Australia's a very imporant country. What would 2 a.m. be without Australian Rules Football and Insanely Violent Rugby? Fosters? Outback Steakhouse? Priscilla, Ballroom and Muriel (the holy trinity of Australian filmmaking)? These are all important additions to life.

          I did get laughed at heartily once by asking how long the ferry ride between Australia and New Zealand was, but hey... What's the state capital of Louisiana? Didn't think so... And there's no fucking way anyone on Earth can tell the difference between the Aussie and Kiwi accents. Sorry it's true. (Though normally the Kiwi's are the ones to get nuts about this not you guys... Sorta the way Canadians get in Europe - the kiwis need a national symbol they can tatoo to their foreheads like the 51st state does with that leaf thing. But I digress...)

          Anyways, being an American abroad living here in Spain there's nothing that cheeses me off more than someone calling Americans ignorant or arrogent in general because of one idiot's remarks (like pResident Bush, for example...). There's 280 MILLION Americans and we're a Democracy (unlike Australia) and have been so for 200+ years. That means that we're free to be idiots if we want to. And since there's so many of us, there's a high percentage you're going to meet them or read their remarks on Slashdot. But in general, show some fucking respect.

          And finally, if you're going to swear, get it right. That guy was an asshole (like I am right now), not a cunt.

          -Russ

          P.S. It's pronounced "zee".

    • by cthugha (185672) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @06:57AM (#2993191)

      They were spying on phone conversations to a ship which was boarded by SAS troops!

      So the SAS troops in and of themseleves weren't sufficient to neutralizae any security threate posed by the Tampa?

      This story at The Age shows that the Defence Signals Directorate listens to just about every bit of communications in Australia.

      Funny, when I read the story, I didn't see that stated. I read a number of statements saying that the DSD's intelligence gathering was within Australian laws and supervised by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

      Not everything printed in the newspaper is true. Conversely, not everything that isn't printed isn't true. The DSD can and does intercept anything and everything it can, but according to whatever rule book it follows: any intercepted communication where one or more parties to the communicationa are Australian and the communication is not related to a serious criminal matter or one of national security is supposed to be deleted. Of course, we trust them to do this implicitly.

      What was said is the following: Transcripts of phone conversations between the International Transport Federation, Maritime Union of Australia and the crew of the MV Tampa were used by the government to formulate a political response... One wonders why the phone conversations were useful.

      In addition, conversations between the captain of the Tampa and both the compnay that owned her and the Norwegian government (under whose flag the Tampa is registered) were passed on, all while the government was trying to negotiate a solution that served its own best interest. Needless to say, the edge this would have given the government in such negotiations could have been considerable.

      The main point is that intelligence is not supposed to be used for the advantage of any Australian political party (under section 2A of the Intelligence Services Act, IIRC). The idea of spooks interfering in the political process by giving one side an advantage over another (either by the simple supply of information or by engineering a certain outcome to a politically sensitive situation through the supply of information) is quite frightening.

    • Of course it should be noted that Amnesty has repeatedly asked Philip Ruddock to take off his Amnesty badge because they feel that his actions are not appropriate for a member of Amnesty (he keeps on wearing it BTW). Not to mention that the Liberal party has recently disendorsed a candidate in Tasmania because he criticises the Liberal's refugee policty. On an added note, wasn't there that nasty incident during the election last year where the Defence Minister said that boat people were throwing their children overboard to blackmail Australia to accept them and swore that there was a tape to prove it. Now it turns out that this tape may not even exist and defense personnel at the scene swore it didn't happen the way the Australian Government said. In fact before he retired (but after the government was re-elected) the Defense Minister was starting to retract his statements, admitting that he never actually saw the tape or personally confirmed the incident. Not to mention the recent mass suicide attempst, self-multilation attempts by desperate refugees in camps, reports of child abuse being ignored by a corporation attempting to make money, a refusal to allow media to talk to refugees even when invited by refugees, refusal to open the camps to the UN (though they changed their mind on that one). The latest bright spark is that even though many of the Afghans belong to minority groups long abused in Afghanistan by the majority even before the Taliban they are proposing to let the present Afghan government which include many leaders of the groups that abused these refugees to talk to them to "persuade" them to go back to Afghanistan thus sparking riots. Not to mention unaccompanied children in the camps for several years and the fact that many of the refugees believe that they are are being punished for September 11 and will be jailed forever. I do think that the summary here is blatently wrong (because the government listened in once on a phone conversation between a non-Australian captain of a ship which was about to be boarded by the SAS, suddenly the government listens in on *all* civilian phone calls. Talk about conspiracy theories). However I don't think it is wrong to say that the government definitely tries to demonise the refugees and treats them badly. Not to mention that the vast majority of "illegal immigrants" are Britons and Americans who overstay their visas, sometimes for years on end, also taking jobs and resources from Australian taxpayers. Yet, I don't see John Howard calling for a mass round-up and incarceration.
    • The DSD also reports to the cabinet and (I think) a committee on intelligence

      For the sake of Democracy in Australia I sure hope it is a committee of the parliament and it includes all parties......

    • My main problem with the word "unAustralian" is that it's not English. Don't they have spell checkers in Australia?

      I understand that the popularity of eToys, eBay, iPlanet, etc. may have this sort of thing common in trademarks, but in regular English, we like to use a dash between the "un" and whatever noun we're un-ing. For example, "un-American." Except of course if the term you're negating is generic, then you just smoosh [1] it all together like "uncircumcised."

      I know I'm just an American and have little to no control over the Queen's English, but it might be nice for journalists of all nations to agree to some basics. Since the spelling of color, labor and aluminum will never be agreed upon, they might as well try to focus on general grammar, hey?

      -Russ

      [1] Smoosh isn't a real word.
      [2] It's a joke... smile.

    • "this ain't no ordinary civilian phone conversation they listened in on."

      Oh yes it was! The fact that the Australians boarded the ship didn't make either side of the phone calls less civilian! the only millitary presence on that ship was australian commandos who, according to norwegian media, were rather shocked at the conditions among the refugees*, and to what they had to do.

      As to "ordinary". Well, yes, I suppose such conversations could leak embarrasing facts about the situation and the conditions on board, and that the government was therefore justified in wiretapping in order to prepare for the PR blow this would be... or?

      *that's what the australians called them. But to the captain they were mainly people saved from a sinking ship.
  • by Paleolithic (148678) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @06:21AM (#2993116)
    Of course, government monitoring of its citizens has been going on for as long as there have been governments. However, 9/11 has excellerated this trend considerably. Australia has had a massive backlash against what many there consider excessive immigration. Australians feel they are in danger of being overrun by immigrants and they also fear terrorism. I think they -- like a number of other countries -- feel that these two issues are closely linked.

    The backlash against immigration started well before 9/11 but the terrorist attack intensified this backlash. I think that this is happening -- though to a lesser extent so far -- in both the U.S. and in Europe. Surveillance has increased dramatically and will continue to increase.

    I think that this is going to lead to massive investment in surveillance by many countries all over the world not just in the West. Governments across the globe will engage in surveillance at levels way, way above anything we have ever seen in history.

    Paleolithic

  • by guttentag (313541) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @06:27AM (#2993133) Journal
    ...the Defence Signals Directorate listens to just about every bit of communications in Australia
    Geez, every time some government does something like this we run around screaming about restrictions on our freedom. No one's restricting your freedom -- you still have to freedom to not communicate. I mean, that's what I do... aside from Slashdot, that is. I just got tired of all the PGP, SSL, and Cocoa Crunchies Decoder Wheels and stopped communicating altogether. Problem solved.

    No one's forcing you to communicate with other people, just like no one's forcing you to use Windows...

    (If you can't detect the sarcasm in the above statements, you really shouldn't be roaming the Web without a guardian)

  • Control of power (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zeno4ever (323855) <zeno4ever.gmail@nl> on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @06:29AM (#2993139) Homepage
    Some thougts:

    Under normal circumtances (at least here in Holland) a judge has to aprove a tap to prevent abuse of these powers. Was this tap cleared by a judge? This would it make much worse since the control mechanism that SHOULD contol abuse. If not than it's clear that the people who caried out this tap doesn't care for a clearancy.

    I don't know what more damaging. A mislead judge or some people that tap into private conversations without a warrent!

    • But did you know that we have far more official taps per habitant than in america? And that is for th official taps.

      There are story's (ettienne U. ) of unofficial taps & phones lying next to to the phone so the police by accidenct could listen in to homes.

      No officially we are not doing this in holland. 8)
    • Was this tap cleared by a judge?

      Near as I can tell from the article, the "tap" was part of a military operation, involving foreign nationals. Not quite the same thing as eavesdropping on everyday telephone calls.
  • Australia's not that powerful a nation. I don't mean to badmouth Australia, but really, it isn't up there with the larger powers of the world that can fund entire South American dictatorships with their spare change, or nuke this planet and possibly the moon out of existence with only half of its nuclear arsenal. So this makes me wonder... what are countries like the United States, Britain, Russia, or the combined force of the European Union doing with THEIR resources?

    With the power and money of the United States, I'm starting to wonder if this whole "Middle East" area is really just a set of Hollywood sound stages. And if they aren't, then Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are most certainly super-advanced molecular AI programs that have been created using a combination of Martian and Plutonian alien technologies.

    Or if their aims are closer to the ones that the Australians chose (political gain), then these "homosexuals" and "fetuses" are most certainly a right wing fabrication that has reached a global scale through the use of flamboyantly dressed male holograms and "sonogram" machines that are actually just downloading black-and-white video images from the global satellite network code named "Holy Satellite System of Wonder, Goodness, and Jesus".

    Instead of "It's a joke. Laugh.", I think I should use, "It's a joke. Calm down. Please."
    • While I've found you, I've been meaning to ask:

      Shiny side in or out?

  • What is happening in Australia is a kind of sickness, a governmental sickness. There are people who like to sneak around, rather than have a real connection with others. If they can attach themselves to a government that believes in, or accepts, secrecy, they find that they have endless money, and they can do whatever they like. Given the nature of secrecy, and the nature of bureacracy, there is never true accountability in a secret bureacracy.

    Angry people often like to cause trouble if they can avoid being held accountable. Secret troublemaking by government is a dream job for these people.

    Secret agencies in the U.S. are much bigger troublemakers than those in Australia. The article, What should be the Response to Violence? [hevanet.com], has links to about 600 pages from major news sources that tell the story. For example, there is a section about a secret agency of the U.S. government that trained Arabs to be terrorists. Also see the sections, To understand the present conflict, consider the past, and Understanding the CIA.
  • Is it happening anywhere else?

    Is water wet?
  • by LarsWestergren (9033) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @06:52AM (#2993180) Homepage Journal
    It has been mentioned in subthreads above, so this might be modded down as redundant. However, since several posters are arguing that freedoms are being taken away by the Evil Liberal Soccer Moms of Australia, I'll risk it by saying that John Howards Liberal party in Australia is actually deeply conservative. Their main opposition is the Labor party which are more social-democrat/liberal in the European sense.

    As for you libertarians who seem to think liberals are the greatest threat to freedom, who are the ones currently taking away US freedoms in the old excuse of national security? It ain't the liberals anyway.
    • As for you libertarians who seem to think liberals are the greatest threat to freedom, who are the ones currently taking away US freedoms in the old excuse of national security? It ain't the liberals anyway.

      And it ain't the libertarians either.

      Its a "bi-partisan" effort, as in Democrats and Republicans ("liberals" and "conservatives").
    • by markmoss (301064) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @01:37PM (#2994983)
      "Liberal" means quite different things depending on country and date:

      19th Century: Best expressed by J.S. Mills. Sort of what Americans now call "moderate libertarian":
      - Capitalist, free-market economics.
      - Mills probably never heard of labor unions, and certainly wouldn't have approved of them.
      - Distrust of government balanced against recognition that some government is necessary. Mills: "That government is best which governs least."
      - Representative democracy with quite limited governmental powers. (In the US, this depends largely on the Supreme Court, the legislature and executive both being notably lacking in self-restraint and respect for the Constitution... British liberalism substituted the hereditary House of Lords for the Court, and tradition for a written Constitution, and so far it seems to have worked out no worse than over here...)
      - Heavy emphasis on individual rights, except where they conflict with the free market.
      - Some public works projects are acceptable (like roads), but gov't should stay out of anything that can be done by competitive commercial concerns, or by private charities.

      Late 20th & 21st century American "liberals": Moderate socialists. Sometimes not so moderate. Example: Ralph Nader
      - Regulated capitalist economy with many socialist trimmings.
      - Pro union
      - Distrust of big business. Also tends to regulate small business to death...
      - Schizoid attitude towards government -- when it comes to arresting criminals or the national defense, gov't is bad, but when it comes to welfare, business regulations, zoning, public schools, or social agencies checking up on how you raise your children, gov't magically becomes good.
      -Representative democracy with some limits on governmental powers.
      - Heavy emphasis on individual rights, except where they conflict with the "liberals" favorite gov't regulations.
      - Almost everything should be a public work. If the regulated and heavily taxed economy can't employ everyone, the gov't should hire them. If necessary, to dig holes and fill them up again...
      - Does not believe that honest citizens can or should defend themselves.

      (Don't let my ridicule of 21st century liberals fool you -- conservatives are even more schizoid. But that would get too long and too far off topic...)

      British or Australian late 20th - 21st century liberals: What we call "conservatives" in America
    • As an American living in Austrlia, I have been known to watch the exchange rate since I get paid in AU$ but I have bills in US$.

      One thing I've noticed is that everytime a major US newspaper publishes something about the Australian Liberal party that invovles large amounts of money, the AU$ drops compared to the US$. If the liberal party isn't named, then logic seems to hold and if the spending is good for Australia, the AU$ rises and if its bad, the AU$ drops like it should. If the liberal party wants to get the exchange rate back to .79 then I think they will need to change their name.
  • I love the statement our foreign minister Downer said in a press conference, "... there has been no SIGNIFICANT breech of protocol ..."

    Oh, and I apologise to the shaved monkeys.
  • by waimate (147056)
    Spying on its own people ???

    Puhleease !!

    Spying on a foreign registry vessel in international waters which had been directed not to enter Australian territory, but which then did enter in some sort of Norwegian Invasion. If comm intercept ability does not exist for occasions such as this, then why does it exist at all?

    Oh, BTW, of course this happens everywhere, but moreso. Especially in the US where people are "told" they are "free" and don't have the education system to question the fact. Try making a few phone calls or sending a few emails about how you're gonna sh**t the pr*s*dent, and see who comes knocking at your door. And that's without the external threat of a Norwegian ship invading your sovereign territory under duress from a bunch of Iraqi queue-jumpers with designer luggage stuffed full of cash (no exageration).

  • by totierne (56891)
    What is the best way to waste the time of government bodies who monitor email and/or telephone conversations? (Please point me to an faq..)

    Just a few thought to be added to:
    1/Encrypt with an easy to decypt password (I am not important enough for them to try very hard :) )
    2/Send lots of slightly altered binaries/gifs back and forth with your normal mail
    3/Browse the hacking/conspiracy/revolutionary web sites
    4/Use hushmail.com and/or PGP
    5/Talk about unibomber/trade center type conspiracies on the phone
    6/Use emacs spook command
    7/Mention project echelon and Operation Vengefull
    8/Try not to get too wrapped up in this stuff yourself as they are probably not watching you (much).
    9/Send around this type of posting..
    10/Make conversations over insecure channels based on previous secure channel eg face to face conversations that would not have been likely to be taped
    11/Base insecure communication conversations on shared belief systems and/or shared knowledge (for example literary references) that would take some effort for the eavesdropper to resolve.
    12/Make insecure communications ambiguous so that the other side of the conversation may work out the really meaning (or demand clarification), the eavesdropper cannot resolve ambiguity by cross examining..
    13/Use an (Arabic or Irish) (accent or language), [though speaking Irish in an Arabic accent or speaking Arabic in an Irish accent might really confuse].

    I thought encrypting everything too much might make it too hard for them to track you and not fire off enough warning signals in their (automated) monitoring center..

    So basically I want to put a message [the president will be shot within the next month] inside a lightly encrypted message so when they
    decrypt it [maybe automatically] they think they have some information of value, or that they have to act upon, if they act you know they have read your message. Alternatively put in a really good original joke (they are hard to come by [whats brown and sticky? -- a stick] [standards of humour may vary]) and see if it gets back to you through the government listener. These are the two standard cryptography 'red book' methods of seeing if your communication channel is compromised.

    I am not a good shot so I'll have to get someone else to do it.

    Turloch

    'There is a place for everyone in this struggle no matter how big or how small. Let us increase our strength and the strength of our analysis by finding a place for them all.' Bobby Sands

    PGP key follows
    --
    YeP I HaVe NOT BoTHereD To GEt PGp -- yet

  • by dmiller (581)

    It is probably not common knowledge to those of you not in Australia, but the governement's "tough" handling of the Tampa issue* practically won it the federal election last year.

    * - The Tampa issue in a nutshell:

    1. Norweigan ship, the NV Tampa receives a call from the Australian Coast Guard telling it of a vessel in distress near its location
    2. The Captain rescues 438 refugees from the sinking ship
    3. Captain makes way to nearest port, being Christmas island - in .au territory
    4. Government says that he is not allowed to land and that the refugees should return to the port from which they came (in Indonesia)
    5. Government sends in the SAS (Australia's elite special forces) to "control" the situation
    6. Indonesia refuses to take refugees
    7. Australian government devises so-called "pacific solution" whereby refugees are shipped for "processing" in poor pacific states in return for millions of aid dollars
  • Watergate (Score:3, Interesting)

    by markj02 (544487) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @08:50AM (#2993400)
    Have people forgotten Watergate? In the US, every political party has been spying on the other, and if they happened to be in power, they were using the powers of the state to do so. Now, do you really believe that that has stopped? I suspect it has just gotten more sophisticated (I mean, Nixon was just plain stupid). And there are so many more possibilities now: a lot of intelligence work has been "privatized" and therefore has been freed of many pesky government regulations, and the US government can always outsource to foreign intelligence services and say "the French did it".
    • Have people forgotten CoIntelPro ??

      Learn more From this webpage [derechos.net]:

      COINTELPRO is an acronym for the FBI's domestic "counterintelligence programs" to neutralize political dissidents. Although covert operations have been employed throughout FBI history, the formal COINTELPRO's conducted between 1956-1971 were broadly targeted against radical political organizations.

      These people would spread FUD via a deep-dark secret purposeful conspiracy. The FBI actually became involved in destroying people and political movements. Murder, Sabotage, Agent Provocateurs, Misinformation and Criminal-Implicating (framing) were regularly used.

      These people are at it again: here [thirdworldtraveler.com] and here [www.tao.ca] and here [saraolsondefense.com]

  • Wow, I'm glad that Slashdot is offering a non-biased "independent" view of the news that is free of the evil influences of the capitalist bourgoiuse imperialist leaning of traditional media.

    This is the type of journalism that I would expect from a website like Indymedia. Too bad Slashdot is adopting it.
  • by sdo1 (213835) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @10:16AM (#2993741) Journal
    Doesn't anyone remember the statement made by someone at the NSA following the 9/11 attacks. This was probably a day or two later and someone from the NSA said that they were pouring over thousands and thousands of cell phone calls recorded in the Pennsylvania area looking for recordings of calls made from the plane that crashed there.

    I thought "HUH?!?!?!? Did they just admit that they randomly record cell phone calls of private citizens without a warrant?" Sure as heck sounded like it to me. I remember there being a little bit of noise about the statement at the time it was made. I remember just how vile it sounded to me and surprised that the statement didn't get much attention. I suppose in those days following, the vast majority of Americans were more than willing to give up any amount of privacy if it meant the bad guys would get caught (and I'm not sure it's terribly different now... 5 months later).

    I've been looking for an article or something referencing that statement from the NSA, but I can't put my finger on one. Can anyone help?

    -S
    • Cell phones (and cordless phones) use radio waves, which by definition and by legal statute are NOT private. Anyone can record them, same as you can any other radio broadcast.

    • by AgTiger (458268) on Tuesday February 12, 2002 @11:31AM (#2994107) Homepage
      The thing is though, if it weren't for the United Statees' EPCA (Electronic Privacy Communications Act), there would be no expectation of privacy when talking on a cellular phone anyway. Of course, we all know how effective trying to control a technological ability with a law is.

      There is _plenty_ of RF Scanning gear that was sold commercially before the EPCA came into effect that is still in private and corporate hands that can listen to the cellular portions of the 800MHz band.

      Different countries tackled this problem different ways. So far, I have yet to hear of a truly effective solution.

      Canada tackled the problem this way: If it's in the air, and you can pick it up and listen to it, no problem. BUT... you may not disclose the information to other individuals or organizations for personal gain.

      Honestly, both laws are ineffective in controlling listening and use of cellular radio traffic in unethical ways.

      The real solution would have been to respond to citizens *and* the cellular industry with this: "If you want privacy, encrypt the traffic, otherwise you should assume you are being monitored by the very people you don't want listening to your conversation."

      Why wasn't this done? Because at the time, Louis J. Freeh, then director of the FBI during the Clinton administration had a serious burr up his backside about people being able to encrypt data. The whole "clipper chip" fiasco was being pushed as a solution, and neither the industry nor the customers swallowed that.

      Like anything... it ended up a mess, and we're left with that legacy today. So... don't be too surprised when the NSA makes the comment that they were pouring through logs of thousands of cellular calls in the area. They're a government agency, and are probably exempt from the provisions of the EPCA that forbid citizens from monitoring cellular traffic.

      • The thing is though, if it weren't for the United Statees' EPCA (Electronic Privacy Communications Act), there would be no expectation of privacy when talking on a cellular phone anyway.

        [snip]

        There is _plenty_ of RF Scanning gear that was sold commercially before the EPCA came into effect that is still in private and corporate hands that can listen to the cellular portions of the 800MHz band.

        You're talking about old-style cellular, which most people are moving away from except as a fallback. The rules have changed now.

        I use GSM on the 1900 MHz band. I know that my conversations have several layers of encryption and are transmitted over a spread-spectrum link with the cell. I know that breaking the encryption is difficult, and intercepting the transmission has never been accomplished even under laboratory conditions. I have *every* expectation of privacy for the radio leg of my call.

        OTOH I know they can tap my call at the cellular company's switch. The cell company is not supposed to allow this without a court order. So, I damn well expect a well-behaved law enforcement agency to go to an ordinary judge and talk the judge into issuing a clear warrant ordering my phone to be tapped before it can happen.

        If the NSA were to be going around recording my calls randomly, I would want them crucified for it.
  • Absolute power corrupts absolutely.. We all know this, and have known this for thousands of years. Now we get suprised that a government abuses it's power? Hell EVERY government official abuses their power every day. It's a given. They just dont get caught. The best example is the "shining light of truth and democracy" our beloved United States of America.. Our presidents have usually been womanizers and did worse than what Clinton did, Nixon did what every other prisedent did but just got caught.

    Hell, I wouldn't be suprised to find that Bin-Laden was paid to do his dasterdly deed just so Bush could bomb the crap out of the middle east like "dear ol' dad". (Note to the gun jumpers here... this is a hypothetical statement.. please look it up before screaming, ranting and running around with your arms in the air.)

    Your Govt, is watching you, your employer is watching you, and your nosey neighbor is watching you. and only YOU have control of that, you can decide to cut the flow of information to them at a price.

    Most people find the price is too high or too inconvienent, or just couldnt care less.

    • "They just dont get caught. "

      Some do. They get caught, more so in the US. Look at Gary Condit, Clinton, lets see what unfolds from Enron && Bush. You know they got lots of money from that. I wont say more at this point it will just be interesting to see what unfolds.

      "Hell, I wouldn't be suprised to find that Bin-Laden was paid to do his dasterdly deed just so Bush could bomb the crap out of the middle east like "dear ol' dad"."

      Or to just increase his popularity or something. I have wondered that my self. I'm glad that I am not the only one that has questioned weather or not the Bush Administration knew about that or that they knew something was going to happen. I don't think they knew that it would be that disasterous though.

  • This story at The Age shows that the Defence Signals Directorate listens to just about every bit of communications in Australia.

    The story is interesting, and quite believable, but let's be clear here... it doesn't show anything.
  • It was probably to fight terrorism. You know. The terror created by offering the electorate a choice of political parties. All that indecision!
  • I thought the U.S. government has already patented using the Internet to spy on Australians.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.

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