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Government denies ASD has plans to spy on Australians Featured

The Australian Government has been quick to deny a story that the Australian Signals Directorate is trying to extend its spying powers to Australian citizens.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters in Cairns: "The current laws safeguard the privacy of Australians but also provide us with an opportunity to keep Australians safe."

The story ran in Sunday editions of News Corp newspapers and cited correspondence between the head of the Department of Home Affairs, Mike Pezzullo, and Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty.

It said the ASD was seeking powers to monitor Australian citizens for the first time and such powers would allow the agency - which has so far had an external role - to secretly access emails, bank records and text messages.

Additionally, the proposal said that the defence and home affairs ministers could sign off on the data grab, removing the need for any judicial oversight.

A denial also came in a joint statement from Pezzullo, Moriarty and ASD director Mike Burgess.

"There is no proposal to increase the ASD's powers to collect intelligence on Australians or to covertly access their private data," they said.

"We would never provide advice to government suggesting that ASD be allowed to have unchecked data collection on Australians – this can only ever occur within the law, and under very limited and controlled circumstances."

Labor shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus called for an investigation into how such correspondence had leaked.

"The documents described in the media appear to be extremely sensitive and divulge information about one of Australia's key security agencies," he wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

At the moment, only the Australian Federal Police and ASIO can access the information of Australian citizens and only after obtaining a warrant from the attorney-general.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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