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Call for secret search warrants lashed by civil libertarians, security experts

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  • Call for secret search warrants lashed by civil libertarians, security experts

    Call for secret search warrants lashed by civil libertarians, security experts

    Federal investigators want the power to secretly search homes and workplaces, saying the rise of new technology such as message encryption and cryptocurrencies is making it harder to root out corruption and other serious crimes.

    As critics warned against parliamentarians approving an "outrageous" increase in police powers, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity has told an inquiry that the use of delayed notification search warrants should be widened because conventional surveillance techniques are becoming easier to evade.

    So-called "sneak and peek" warrants are limited to terrorism investigations for the Australian Federal Police, Victorian, Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory police. NSW Police can additionally use them for serious crimes that carry a sentence of at least seven years' jail, including murder, drug manufacturing, money laundering and fraud.

    The warrants allow officers to search a suspect's premises and seize evidence without needing to tell the owner or occupier for months or years, if at all, to avoid tipping them off that they are being investigated. In some cases, police can enter a neighbouring premises to gain access to the suspect's home or workplace.

    The secretive ACLEI is responsible for investigating corruption and misconduct across federal law enforcement agencies, including the AFP, Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and anti-money laundering regulator AUSTRAC. It is the closest the Federal government has to an anti-corruption watchdog.

    In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry looking at how advances in computer and communications technology are hampering law enforcement's ability to carry out investigations, ACLEI said it relied on covert means to gather evidence but the task was getting harder.

    "Many of the potential challenges for law enforcement investigation capability arising from new and emerging ICT-encryption, multiple data storage platforms, dark web, cryptocurrency, social media and messaging apps have been broadly referred to as 'going dark'," the submission said.

    ACLEI said the government's metadata retention regime for telecommunications companies had been an important step for investigations but it believed the introduction of delayed notification search warrants merited consideration.

    "Since corruption thrives on secrecy – and law enforcement corruption thrives on insider knowledge to hide tracks and avoid detection – a DNSW regime would be a particularly valuable means of ACLEI obtaining information covertly, especially when the effectiveness of ICT surveillance methods may become more limited in future," the submission said.

    ACLEI's request has sparked a fierce response, with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's head of border security, John Coyne, saying it was an outrageous power grab.

    "It just arms them as a secret police against our police," said Dr Coyne, a former federal police officer.

    "Our law enforcement does a lot in this country. Are we willing to subject them to more intrusive checks on their privacy?"

    Dr Coyne said the success in targeting crooked cops and other law enforcement officers suggested watchdogs had enough powers to do their jobs as it is.

    NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said he was concerned about the possibility of "function creep" with more and more law enforcement agencies pushing to use secret warrants.

    "It's always disturbing when powers are given to agencies for terrorism, then another agency says they would like to use those for something else," he said.

    "That is a problem with not drawing a line in the sand that says some powers are just too dangerous to be given to government agencies."

    A spokesman for new Attorney-General Christian Porter said the government would consider the issue when the inquiry's final report was complete.
    If we believe in “freedom”, we don’t get to choose whose freedom is most worth defending.
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  • #2
    Things are bad in terms of terrorism, no doubt, and their technical skills are enormous. It could be argued that authorities are much better placed before the ball than after it. But, it all comes down to trust and I become lost immediately. Sad isn't it, that you just simply can't trust government and this very mistrust could indeed, one day, be to our own peril, but so be it.

    I really can't imagine the atmosphere we'd all be living in, were these types of measures actually crucial and truly warranted (no pun intended). But, we're surely headed that way.

    Because we have dear friends there, I read a lot about occurrences in the UK, and how authorities are trying to deal with terrorism issues. Sadly, you can't help but form opinion they've already lost the war. Is it because they're hands are tied behind their back, because they don't have the necessary wherewithal to fight back, such as these warrants we're talking about now? Who really knows. Again, from the public perspective, and from what I read, a matter of trust it would seem.

    Governments complain incessantly of the adversity they face in introducing these types of investigative, management and suppressive techniques relating to terrorism, but I often wonder if they ever give thought to the reasons why they face so much opposition.

    Back in the Obama days an article surfaced in the US, titled "What should we fear the most, terrorism, or our government?" It was quite lengthy, but nonetheless very succinct in the issues and all evidence based. In any event the conclusion was that government was to be feared most, at that time.

    I fear we continue to be led by the nose!

    Education is what you get from reading the small print.
    Experience is what you get from not reading it.