in need of nappies...
The reforms proposed by the Abbott government are intended to make it easier for the peak spy agency, Asio, to monitor computers and computer networks. They also contain provisions which create a new offence punishable by five years in jail for “any person” who discloses information relating to “special intelligence operations”.
The broad wording in the proposed anti-leaking provision has prompted some leading criminal lawyers, the journalists’ union and media companies to warn the change could criminalise not only the initial disclosure, but any subsequent reporting of Snowden-style intelligence leaks.
An explanatory submission by Brandis’s department to the new JPCIS inquiry makes it plain that it will be the attorney general who decides who will be prosecuted under the new provisions.
The department presents the proposed ministerial authority to the committee as an important safeguard in the new package. “The offences are subject to a number of safeguards to ensure that their application is limited to serious instances of wrongdoing. For example, there is a requirement that the attorney general must consent to all prosecutions,” it says.
Brandis and the head of Asio, David Irvine, have thus far attempted to deadbat arguments that the broadly drafted provision could potentially catch publication as well as the initial disclosure. Both have argued it is not the “intention” of the new clause to target media outlets.