17 Jul 2014

The expansion of security powers could go to far.

You don't need a steam roller to iron a shirt

Australian journalists could face jail for reporting leaked revelations about certain spy operations,  “its outrageous” , leading criminal lawyers have warned.


Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Greg Barns said a separate provision in the legislation could be used to prosecute and jail journalists who reported on information they received about special intelligence operations.

This is a clear shoot the messenger situation, it  opens the door to charge journalists.
The offences relating to the unauthorised disclosure of information are outlined in section 35P of the national security legislation amendment bill, which was presented to the Senate is set to face parliamentary debate after the winter recess.
The explanatory memorandum to the bill said the offence applied to “disclosures by any person, including participants in an SIO [special intelligence operation], other persons to whom information about an SIO has been communicated in an official capacity, "and persons who are the recipients of an unauthorised disclosure of information, should they engage in any subsequent disclosure”.
Barns said: “I thought the Snowden clause [in the bill] was bad enough but this takes the Snowden clause and makes it a Snowden/Assange/Guardian/New York Times clause.”They could all be prosecuted under this clause.

Talking about clauses, what of Santa Claus, if someone leaked the present list could that constitute a felony "and persons who are the recipients of an unauthorised disclosure of information, should they engage in any subsequent disclosure”. 
“It’s an unprecedented clause which would capture the likes of Wikileaks, the Guardian, the New York Times, and any other media organisation that reports on such material.”

This clause takes us a step to far, the consequences are a threat to freedom of speech and the public's right to know what their government is doing in their name.

I'm not suggesting that there is a need for ramped up surveillance but much care is needed in drafting such legislation. I am hopeful that common sense will prevail otherwise we are on a slippery slope.

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