Australia: New Law Allows Feds to Hack and Control Online Accounts of Political Dissidents Without a Warrant
The Australian parliament has recently passed one of the most egregious attacks on privacy rights and civil liberties in the world.
The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2021 was rapidly snuck through with little debate or fanfare in a 24 hour window. The piece of legislation has the support of both the Liberal and Labour parties.
The law is a radical departure from due process. The new powers allow Australian Federal Police (AFP) to hack and take over the personal accounts of targets they label as “terrorists,” which in recent years has meant white people who advocate for nationalist beliefs, as well as other dissenting opinions.
Under the new rules, federal agents no longer need to establish suspicion of criminal activity before a judge, to obtain a warrant. Instead, the agency itself will make these calls with the intention of “disrupting” activity and networks.
The standard for what could provoke state action is low and there are hardly any independent safeguards against abuses. Former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, an early advocate of the bill, promoted the bill as a way to shut down child pornographers and drug traffickers, but critics have held that it is a government power grab that will be used to silence and intimidate critics of the status quo.
To demonstrate its potential use, the Australian federal police have recently been targeting a group called the National Socialist Network (NSN). There is no evidence that NSN has engaged or plans to engage in any terrorist activities, yet police have pursued members in a myriad of ways due to their stated critiques of Jewish power and mass immigration. Thanks to the ideologically laced and arbitrary label of “terrorist,” virtually anyone who disagrees with the powerful could be caught in the dragnet.
Parliament member Lydia Thorpe of The Greens, the only party which opposed the buffed up surveillance powers, said in an August 27th statement that Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) are now “judge, jury and executioner,” and complained that the parties overrode all of their recommendations for greater safeguards to protect innocent people from abuses.
The Australian government’s ability to alter data from within could also allow them to frame innocent people for crimes, delete exculpatory evidence, and possibly even destroy inconvenient material gathered by journalists. Refusal to comply with “data warrants” is now a crime punished by up to 10 years in prison.