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Australian Parliament Passes Wiretapping Legislation

8 June 2000

Australian spooks and cops are set to have an easier time monitoring the telephone calls, communications and even the computers of the country's citizens with the passing of a new bill through Parliament Wednesday.

The Telecommunications (Interception) Legislation Amendment Bill 1999 was passed through Parliament on Wednesday, aiming to aid law enforcement officers investigating criminal activities and intelligence collection by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

The legislation updates wiretapping rules to take into account new technologies like the Internet, and amends rules so that law enforcement officers no longer need to apply for separate warrants for each tap on a service being used by a suspect.

Attorney-General Daryl Williams said the legislation was "designed to ensure an appropriate balance between individual privacy and the public interest in effective law enforcement and national security."

This latest bill adds to legislation passed last year that gave ASIO, Australia's internal security service, the right to hack into any Australian's computer if "there are reasonable grounds for believing that access to data held in a particular computer (the target computer) will substantially assist the collection of intelligence that is important in relation to security."

An access warrant permits ASIO to use computers, phone companies and telecommunications equipment to gain access to a remote or networked computer. Once in, the ASIO hackers are allowed to copy, add, delete or alter any data in the target computer that is relevant to the security matter.

When they leave security officers will be allowed to cover up the fact that they hacked into the system and will not be subject to the Crimes Act which forbids computer hacking in Australia.

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