Greens seek to limit ASIO hacking powers

Greens MP Adam Bandt will seek to amend the legislation in the lower house

Greens MP Adam Bandt will be seeking to amend a number of controversial provisions in the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014, including a measure that could potentially allow ASIO to monitor an unlimited number of devices using a single computer access warrant

Bandt said he would oppose the bill, but if it the legislation looked likely to pass the lower house he would move to amend the bill to remove some measures from it.

An attempt by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam to amend the bill failed to get the numbers in the Senate.

The Coalition and the Labor Party combined in the upper house to pass the bill making it certain to pass the lower house.

"The parliament is dangerously close to giving the government unprecedented powers that would treat every Australian as a suspect," Bandt said.

"If laws that passed the Senate last week pass the House of Representatives this week, they will permanently remove freedoms that Australians enjoy.

"Under these new laws, the government will be able to access your computer or your mobile, take it over and control it, modify what’s on it, even add files to it, even though you’re not suspected of having done anything wrong."

In addition to broadening the definition of "computer" to include multiple devices and computer networks, the new laws allow ASIO to use third party systems to access target computers or networks, and allow the security agency tamper with computers in order to bypass security measures.

The legislation also creates a category of Special Intelligence Operations. Revealing information about such operations could lead to jail time. Bandt said the new category was ill-defined and could criminalise whistleblowers and journalists.

"Our amendments would limit the number of devices that can be accessed by a single warrant to 20," Ludlam said.

"At the moment, just because you happen to be on the same network, perhaps at work, at university, or just on the internet as someone who is a suspect, all those computers or devices can be caught by a single warrant. We think this is massive overreach. It should be limited.

"We’ll also move to amend the provisions that criminalise whistleblowers and journalists for reporting on these operations when it’s in the public interest to do so."

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