Current Affairs Wrap: Anti-terrorism, whistleblowers and PRISM

Michael Burrill covers a fortnight where, from PRISM to the Whitehouse Institute of Design, sticking noses into other peoples business seemed the order of the day.


The PM announced George Brandis‘ pet project, namely changes to the the Racial Discrimination Act, was dead this week as the government ramped up moves towards its proposed intelligence and “anti-terrorism” overhaul. Tone and George both struggled to define metadata (which the collection of, and access to, makes up an aspect of the changes) on TV interviews. Despite that specific uncertainty, they otherwise seemed keen to allay Australia’s fears and assure that all of this was for our own benefit. Secretive intelligence agencies dictate policy to seemingly inept politicians which allows them to freely access records of the numbers dialled or IP addresses accessed by anyone. I definitely don’t see anything terrifying about that situation.

In recent times, the FBI and CIA have been showing Australian agencies the heights (or depths, some might say) they could reach if they put their mind to it. Seemingly disappointed with the regular methods of creating terrorists’ foreign policy, the FBI seem to have been creating their own at home. A Human Rights Watch report suggested, “In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act.” Possibly harbouring an inferiority complex after the NSA‘s big PRISM breakout, it was revealed the CIA (which Obama casually admitted “tortured some folks”) had been spying on staffers of a senate inquiry into the aforementioned torture. Why spy on your allies when you can spy on your own government?

In Gaza, as the death toll neared 2000, and Israel and Hamas finally managed to hold a ceasefire, it seemed Israel may have taken a page out of the PRISM playbook themselves after it was alleged they had listened in on US Secretary of State John Kerry‘s phone calls during peace talks last year. Some might question why they would bite the hand that feeds them so much of the military hardware with which they indiscriminately bombard the Palestinian territories, while others may suggest they’ve just been paying attention. Whatever the case, if these recent hostilities have taught us anything it is that Israel doesn’t care what anyone thinks, and why would a nation who secretly built its own nuclear arsenal?

The Whitehouse Institute of Design has continued its grand tradition of Liberal party support shadowing moves by the government to criminalise whistleblowers. An ex-employee was charged with “unauthorised access of restricted data” after the institute lodged a complaint with police over the leaks regarding Frances Abbott‘s “Chairman’s scholarship.” One legal expert described the situation as “curious” and went on to suggest “very few” had been prosecuted on that charge, though I’m sure just as with Frances’ scholarship it was all based on the merits of the case and not that it involved the PM’s daughter…



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