“ASIO don’t seem to realise how privileged they are compared to intel orgs in other Western democracies,” tweeted terrorism researcher Andrew Zammit (pictured) yesterday.
Zammit is a researcher at the Global Terrorism Research Centre (Monash University) and Australian Policy Online (Swinburne University), and he was responding to my blog post from yesterday, â€œInsulted, ASIO? That’s not really the problem, surely?â€ and the attached podcast.
Here are his subsequent tweets, turned into continuous prose:
CIA for example has ongoing congressional oversight (of actual operations) as opposed to our occasional parl[iamentary] inquiries, people can FOI CIA docs only a few years old (ASIO has 20-30 year exemption) and some of the CIA’s analytical roles are transparent, as in analysts will have CIA business cards whereas even an ASIO kitchen hand’s identity will be kept secret. And CIA isn’t even a domestically-focused agency. So yes, ASIO needs to be less precious about being asked questions.
I agree. From the perspective of the United States I’m a foreign national, yet I’ve spoken with officers from the FBI, NSA and the Secret Service — all of whom had business cards with their full names. The closest I’ve gotten in Australia is chatting briefly with a DSD chap, one of two attending Linux.conf.au in January this year — given names only, and I suspect that those given names were really in scare quotes.
The excuse always given is “operational security”, but I do think the world has changed. The tools and methods are surely not so different from SEKRIT agencies to private-sector security companies and even analysis in non-security realms, given that so much technology is now available off the shelf to all comers.
Surely these days OPSEC is more about protecting sources and the specific operations that are or are not being conducted?
Of course I really don’t know this stuff. I’ve never worked in this field. I’ve never even held a security clearance. I’m just an interested bystander mouthing off. But I am intrigued.
My regular spot on Phil Dobbie’s Balls Radio this week was a conversation (yes, another one) about the Australian government’s data retention proposals.
Here’s the audio of my segment. As you’ll hear, it’s much the same argument as in my last post about the Patch Monday podcast, with random asides about the meaning of misogyny and what should be done with real estate agents.
Yes, there’s a few audio dropouts. Welcome to the joys of using Skype over Telstra Next G mobile broadband while 1.5 kilometres into the eucalypt scrubland.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 14:38 — 6.4MB)
If you’d like more Balls Radio, have a listen to the full episode. You can subscribe over at the website.
There aren’t many places in the world where you can openly accuse the nation’s top police and intelligence agencies of having an attitude problem, as I did on Monday, without being visited by the men in the van with the canvas sack. Which is a good thing.
In this week’s Patch Monday podcast, embedded immediately below for your convenience and CBS Interactive’s traffic logging, I departed from the usual format to present a personal opinion.
Data retention for law enforcement is one of the most important political issues relating to our use of the internet now and as far into the future as we care to imagine, I said, and it’s being mishandled.
The Australian government’s current one-page working definition (PDF) of what constitutes communications metadata (which can be requested by law enforcement agencies without a warrant) as opposed to communications content (which generally does require a warrant) is, to anyone with a technical understanding of how the internet actually works and is evolving, virtual gibberish.
“Dangerously immature” is how I described it.
I also raised three points where I think the version of reality being promoted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is wrong.
- This is a push for more power. We conduct so much more of our lives online than we ever did on the phone, and that means the balance of power is changing. We need to have a conversation about this.
- The AFP says quite specifically that they’re not after our web browsing activity, but I don’t see how the working document supports that argument. And other agencies, including the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), are after that stuff.
- ASIO and the AFP constantly talk about the powers being needed to catch the terrorists and pedophiles. But the law will probably be modelled on the current law for the phone, which provides access to communication metadata to many other agencies with far less stringent accountability rules for many other, far less serious, crimes.
Please have a listen and tell me what you think.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (21.5MB)
The podcast stands on its own, but I want to emphasise the thing that still disturbs me…
Continue reading “Insulted, ASIO? That’s not really the problem, surely?”
The current parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s national security laws has become a mildly hot media topic this week, so I ended up doing a backgrounder on ABC Local Radio last night with Dom Knight.
I should probably write more about this some time. And I will. But for now, here’s that 18-minute conversation. Including our digression into talking about that fine TV drama The Wire.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (10.3MB)
The audio is of course Â©2012 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, archived here because it isn’t being archived anywhere else.
My week Monday 30 July to Sunday 5 August 2012 was dominated by the insanity involved in cloning hard drives and restoring my backup system to good working order.
Doing all of this over USB 2.0 interfaces was not helpful, but they were the only ports I had available on the loaner MacBook I’ve been using. Remember, I’m nomadic and quite often 100km from Sydney.
And then my backup drive failed…
Creating a new Time Machine backup of around 450GB of data takes 6 to 7 hours. Encrypting a 1TB drive takes nearly 23 hours. Even zeroing out a 750GB drive takes 5 hours.
And whenever you make a mistake, or a drive throws an error, you have to start that process again.
It’s been a wonderful lesson in patience. See, that’s the positive angle. Sigh.
- Patch Monday episode 148, “The politics of data retention”. It’s in the news because it’s one of the ideas being floated as part of the inquiry into potential reforms of national security legislation being conducted by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security. The podcast includes Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan, national manager of high tech crime operations for the Australian Federal Police; Bernard Keane, Canberra corresponded with Crikey; and network engineer Mark Newton.
- On Monday I did a spot on ABC 105.7 Darwin with a couple of other people about overly-busy lifestyles, but the internet stream from which I was recording it was dodgy so I haven’t posted the audio.
- On Tuesday night I did another regular Balls Radio spot, but I didn’t record it. That’s probably for the best, it was rather disjointed.
The Week Ahead
I’m returning to Wentworth Falls on Monday, and have a day trip to Sydney on Thursday. In theory it’s a steady-paced week of writing. We shall see.
[Photo: Blue, being a photo of Wentworth Falls railway station on Thursday afternoon, one of the few bright spots in the week.]
A weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets and in the media and so on and so forth — and this week I’ve done a lot of writing.
- The information ‘vacuum’ over secretive ISP data retention scheme, for Crikey. The Attorney-General’s Department has been holding discussions with internet service providers and others about the potential for ISPs to retain customer data for use by law enforcement agencies. Secret discussions. Last week a Senate Inquiry initiated by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam dug out some details. The Twitterverse is using the hashtag #ozlog for this issue.
- Information Commissioner’s toe in the Government 2.0 waters, for Crikey. On 1 November the new Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) opened for business. The first Information Commissioner, Professor John McMillan, is showing political nous from day one. (As an aside, I’ve interviewed him for the next edition of the Patch Monday podcast, which will be posted on, erm, Monday.)
- Citizen journalism is dead, long live crowdsourcing, for Crikey. At Wednesday’s Future of Crowdsourcing Summit, some media folks talked about the changes in journalism that are being triggered by this buzzword.
- Timeline of misinformation: Twitter’s plane crash down to human error, for Crikey. On Thursday, media outlets including Reuters and Fox News were actually reporting that Qantas flight QF32 had crashed in Indonesia when, in fact, it ended up landing safely in Singapore.
- Patch Monday episode 63, “The govt’s data retention dreams revealed”. If you’d prefer to listen to the edited highlights of that Senate hearing rather than read about it, this is the go.
- Parity Bit episode 1. A new IT-related video podcast produced and presented by Owen Kelly. I was chatting with him and the other panellists about #ozlog and other news stories. I didn’t swear once.
Not a sausage.
Most of my day-to-day observations are on my high-volume Twitter stream, and random photos and other observations turn up on my Posterous stream. The photos also appear on Flickr, where I eventually add geolocation data and tags.
[Photo: Enmore village in the spring rain, taken from the Warren View Hotel. Compare this with the similar view from a few weeks ago.]