Australian government mulls secret terror court proposals

Because everybody needs a Star Chamber

The Australian government is taste-testing new anti-terrorism proposals to give police access to information gathered by its spook agencies.

Dropped to the Murdoch press over the weekend, the idea is to create secret courts to look at information from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and other security agency information to issue communications interception warrants and search warrants.

Unlike the UK, where secret courts can be used to conduct terrorism trials, the Australian government's thought-bubble would be restricted to information gathering, or so Murdoch organ The Daily Telegraph believes.

The drop to the newspaper was confirmed by the chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Dan Tehan. Tehan said the UK's secret court model would be examined, because it helps protect the identity of intelligence personnel.

While Internet communication wasn't specifically mentioned to the Murdoch press, it's likely that extended “phone tap” powers would include hoovering whatever else happened to appear on a target's phone line.

The ratcheting-up of Australia's spook powers and anti-terror laws has included proposals to jam parliamentary communications at the behest of the Australian Federal Police; an ill-defined data retention regime; restrictions on cryptography research; and a telecommunications security regime that arguably all-but bans software-defined networks. ®

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