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Australia snoops email for terrorism

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Emails snooped for Terrorism

The new laws would allow employers to spy on workers’ emails and internet communications without their consent.

The Australian government is drafting new anti-terror laws that would allow employers to spy on workers’ emails and internet communications without their consent, drawing flaks from civil liberties groups.

“It’s a national security move, not a move about an unseemly interest in people’s private emails,” Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Monday, April 14, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

She said the new legislation aims to prevent a cyber attack on critical national infrastructure such as stock exchange, electricity grid or transport system.

“I promise we are not interested in the email you send out about who did what at the Christmas party,” said Gillard.

“What this is about is looking at our critical infrastructure. If our banking system collapsed, if our electronic system collapsed, obviously that would have huge implications for society.

“We want to make sure they are safe from terrorist attack.”

The government’s current Telecommunications Act allows only security agencies to monitor employees’ communications without consent. The Act will expire in June 2009.

“Part of doing that is making sure we’ve got the right powers to ensure that we can tell if there’s something unusual going on in the system,” said Gillard.


The planned anti-terror laws drew diatribe from civil liberties group.

“These types of powers, which are currently only enjoyed by a select few agencies including the Australian Federal Police and organizations such as state crime and conduct commissions, shouldn’t be extended to companies which are providing critical infrastructure services,” Dale Clapperton, chair of the independent Internet rights watchdog Electronic Frontiers Australia, told ABC radio.

“Our concern is, that if given these powers, they’re more likely to be used for eavesdropping and corporate witch hunts rather than protecting Australia from some kind of cyber attack.”

The Australian Council of Civil Liberties also blasted the government’s move.

“We have passed so many laws in the name of fighting terrorism that we’re at serious risk of losing the balance between giving the intelligence services sufficient powers to fight terrorism while at the same time keeping longstanding and cherished civil liberties,” said chairman Terry O’Gorman.

Under former premier John Howard, Australian enacted a series of anti-terror laws condemned by rights groups as draconian.

Most Australian Muslims blame the Howard government for fostering an image of the Muslim minority as the enemy within through his hard-line policies and unbalanced remarks.

Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.5 percent of the 20 million population. & News Agencies


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