Graeme Philipson for ITWire:
The Defence Department is building a new secret communications facility designed to handle the ‘data deluge’ of electronic intelligence the US shares with Australia. PRISM is in town.
In the quiet Canberra suburb of Harman, abutting the NSW border near Queanbeyan, is the Royal Australian Navy’s communications complex. In the quaint Navy way of naming shore facilities as if they are ships (the phrase is ‘stone frigates’) it is called HMAS Harman...
The DSD (motto – ‘Reveal their secrets – Protect our own’) is Australia’s equivalent of the US National Security Agency (NSA). That shadowy US body has made headline news this week since whistleblower Ed Snowden disclosed the extent of its spying operations on US citizens – the PRISM electronic surveillance program.
I have been very hesitant to write about PRISM and the NSW over the past couple of weeks. This is not because I fear triggering keyword searches in secret data centres dotted around the world, but because I don't wish to add to the deluge of information flooding every RSS stream.
However, now that Australia is, supposedly, developing a facility to cope with the masses of data it is getting, I feel it is time to speak up. I do not, nor ever will condone the act of mass collecting data on citizens without just cause from the courts of law. It is not the duty of the government to track its people's movements and actions through clandestine projects that have so little public disclosure, or even awareness.
Although we can hardly expect him to know much, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said that "...the Government is actively complicit in the United States' surveillance of Australian citizens". The good senator does have a point, it is highly likely that our government has had knowledge, albeit strictly limited, of the NSAs programs so as to help in the fight against terrorism in all its forms. There is one thing though, if the NSA is monitoring Skype conversations, then they must have known about the sexual abuse that has been engulfing the Australian Army, is this not worthy enough to be passed on to a government official to investigate, or are they only targeting mass murderers and religious fanatics?
If we are to live with this government sanctioned surveillance, becoming more like a dystopian author's wet dream, then should it not be put to good use monitoring things within the very government that authorised its use? Within the military that it is meant to help? The federal election is less than 100 days away, I would love to hear what both Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott have to say about this, maybe then Australia can have a serious discussion about the digital era and what it really means...
Update: The Age has released their article on the issue, it portrays a somewhat bleak outlook on the privacy of Australian citizens.