Category Archives: Australia
Update: CISA is now the law: OBAMA SIGNS SPENDING, TAX BILL THAT REPEALS OIL EXPORT BAN
* * *
Back in 2014, civil liberties and privacy advocates were up in arms when the government tried to quietly push through the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, a law which would allow federal agencies – including the NSA – to share cybersecurity, and really any information with private corporations “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” The most vocal complaint involved CISA’s information-sharing channel, which was ostensibly created for responding quickly to hacks and breaches, and which provided a loophole in privacy laws that enabled intelligence and law enforcement surveillance without a warrant.
Ironically, in its earlier version, CISA had drawn the opposition of tech firms including Apple, Twitter, Reddit, as well as the Business Software Alliance, the Computer and Communications Industry Association and many others including countless politicians and, most amusingly, the White House itself.
In April, a coalition of 55 civil liberties groups and security experts signed onto an open letter opposing it. In July, the Department of Homeland Security itself warned that the bill could overwhelm the agency with data of “dubious value” at the same time as it “sweep[s] away privacy protections.” Most notably, the biggest aggregator of online private content, Facebook, vehemently opposed the legislation however a month ago it was “surprisingly” revealed that Zuckerberg had been quietly on the side of the NSA all along as we reported in “Facebook Caught Secretly Lobbying For Privacy-Destroying “Cyber-Security” Bill.”
Even Snowden chimed in:
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 25, 2015
Following the blitz response, the push to pass CISA was tabled following a White House threat to veto similar legislation. Then, quietly, CISA reemerged after the same White House mysteriously flip-flopped, expressed its support for precisely the same bill in August.
And then the masks fell off, when it became obvious that not only are corporations eager to pass CISA despite their previous outcry, but that they have both the White House and Congress in their pocket.
As Wired reminds us, when the Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act by a vote of 74 to 21 in October, privacy advocates were again “aghast” that the key portions of the law were left intact which they said make it more amenable to surveillance than actual security, claiming that Congress has quietly stripped out “even more of its remaining privacy protections.”
“They took a bad bill, and they made it worse,” says Robyn Greene, policy counsel for the Open Technology Institute.
But while Congress was preparing a second assault on privacy, it needed a Trojan Horse with which to enact the proposed legislation into law without the public having the ability to reject it.
It found just that by attaching it to the Omnibus $1.1 trillion Spending Bill, which passed the House early this morning, passed the Senate moments ago and will be signed into law by the president in the coming hours.
This is how it happened, again courtesy of Wired:
In a late-night session of Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a new version of the “omnibus” bill, a massive piece of legislation that deals with much of the federal government’s funding. It now includes a version of CISA as well. Lumping CISA in with the omnibus bill further reduces any chance for debate over its surveillance-friendly provisions, or a White House veto. And the latest version actually chips away even further at the remaining personal information protections that privacy advocates had fought for in the version of the bill that passed the Senate.
It gets: it appears that while CISA was on hiatus, US lawmakers – working under the direction of corporations adnt the NSA – were seeking to weaponize the revised legislation, and as Wired says, the latest version of the bill appended to the omnibus legislation seems to exacerbate the problem of personal information protections.
It creates the ability for the president to set up “portals” for agencies like the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, so that companies hand information directly to law enforcement and intelligence agencies instead of to the Department of Homeland Security. And it also changes when information shared for cybersecurity reasons can be used for law enforcement investigations. The earlier bill had only allowed that backchannel use of the data for law enforcement in cases of “imminent threats,” while the new bill requires just a “specific threat,” potentially allowing the search of the data for any specific terms regardless of timeliness.
Some, like Senator Ron Wyden, spoke out out against the changes to the bill in a press statement, writing they’d worsened a bill he already opposed as a surveillance bill in the guise of cybersecurity protections.
Senator Richard Burr, who had introduced the earlier version of bill, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Americans deserve policies that protect both their security and their liberty,” he wrote. “This bill fails on both counts.”
Why was the CISA included in the omnibus package, which just passed both the House and the Senate? Because any “nay” votes – or an Obama – would also threaten the entire budget of the federal government. In other words, it was a question of either Americans keeping their privacy or halting the funding of the US government, in effect bankrupting the nation.
And best of all, the rushed bill means there will be no debate.
The bottom line as OTI’s Robyn Green said, “They’ve got this bill that’s kicked around for years and had been too controversial to pass, so they’ve seen an opportunity to push it through without debate. And they’re taking that opportunity.”
The punchline: “They’re kind of pulling a Patriot Act.”
And when Obama signs the $1.1 trillion Spending Bill in a few hours, as he will, it will be official: the second Patriot Act will be the law, and with it what little online privacy US citizens may enjoy, will be gone.
As globalist lemmings and willing war accomplices go, there is no bigger stooge on than Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.
Many critics believe that Abbot has recently lost the plot with his authoritarian style of government. The troubled Abbott has often been dubbed by critics as a “clone of Tony Blair”, engaging in similar politically rapacious behaviour against civil liberties, evangelizes for the TPP and will dutifully falling into line with any imperial foreign policy rhetoric coming out of Washington and London. Abbott also employs the same siege mentality as Blair when it comes to incoming criticism – budge not, and rely exclusively on a tight inner circle of loyalists.
Exactly like David Cameron and the Tory conclave, Abbott originally seized power through another shady backroom deal aka, a ‘coalition’, and thus swept into office with no real electoral mandate himself. Now his political syndicate is disintegrating, and fast…
This Australian weekend has been getting pollsters and pundits salivating. Every political observer loves a good slaughter, and for some time now, Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has been willing to offer himself up for the billing.
The Fairfax/Ipsos poll, with an angle distinctly not slanted towards Rupert Murdoch, has proven to be punchy in its dimension – at least if you are a Coalition strategist. Current figures suggest that, should an election be held now (and yes, the operative word here is now), a 9.5 percent swing would eventuate, leading to a loss of 44 seats. The coalition hovers at a stale 44 percent of support, while Labor looks pretty with a collaring 56 percent.
It has been a spectacularly bruising time for Coalition politics. The prime minister gravely miscalculated over the expenses scandal surrounding the now ex-speaker of the House, Bronwyn Bishop. “Choppergate”, as it came to be called, assumed plague like proportions, even finding voices of condemnation within the shock jock fraternity. The conservative clan were in revolt. The prime minister had gone too far.
Andrew Bolt, normally serenely arm-in-arm with Abbott in his columns, suggested that the behaviour of Bishop was “getting dangerous”. “Bishop wrongly claimed $5000 for a helicopter jaunt on purely party business but [Malcolm] Turnbull claimed just a train fare to the same city on parliamentary business.” The party faithful were getting edgy; talks were held. Eventually, the speaker did step down.
Abbott’s own impoverished standing only looks worse when compared to Labour’s Bill Shorten. Abbott’s disapproval rating comes in at a hefty 59 percent. Shorten finds himself in less foreboding territory at 49 percent.
This, by any stretch of the imagination, is dire stuff, a solemn battle of negativities. Labor’s option is a faction sponsored machine man who resembles that very target of technocracy that the Australian poet A.D. Hope loathed – “These modern Dives with their talking screen/ Who lick the sores of Lazarus and grow fat.”
These are the advertisers, the materialists, the shallow popularisers desperate to stay on message not due to any coherent principle, but because they will do anything to get elected. But political stocks are desperately low, and it takes a certain deficiency in quality to propel Bill Shorten into politically viable territory.
Perusing such polls does come with its risks. Few in the recent British election predicted the Tory conquest, an outcome which managed to step over detritus and doom to see David Cameron re-elected. The 2012 US Presidential elections similarly saw a “tight” race between the candidates, till election night witnessed Barack Obama speeding pass the finishing line against a supremely incompetent opponent. Black magic tends to be a far better prospect for rewards than scientifically constructed poll numbers.
Besides, the Australian political system has a well worked curiosity called preferences. Governments can get across the line with the support of other parties who preference them in the final count. Primary votes in Australia matter less than secondary calculations, a desperate attempt to save a first placed vote from its initial doom. The only problem for Abbott’s crew is where those preferences are going to coming from.
The Australian Greens, in the poll, command a steady 16 percent. This can be viewed in a variety of ways. Given the nature of the Australian political system, these could be regarded as Labor votes in cold storage, unleased at the appropriate moment. Come election time, disgruntled Labor supporters might pitch for the Greens. Green voters will, in turn, fork out for Shorten. This makes the situation for Abbott even more precarious, though it does, disgracefully, offer an undeserved option for Labor. Yet again, major parties can cream the proceeds off their respective misbehaviour.
All in all, the difference now lies in how polls drive policy, an overly busy, sentimental engine that has no actual empirical value. Reversing the order of politics – that a policy should drive the measuring polls – hatchet men and women will be looking at the figures within parties and advise – no, tell – individuals to hop it if the going is getting worse. This is Westminster democracy at its self-defeating worst, the dominance of party hacks at the expense of leadership prowess.
In Abbott’s case, nerve will be everything. This he probably has, given his almost daft obliviousness to party squabbles and sounds governance. He seems to be Australia’s last true ideologue. Repeatedly, he has pursued a closed circle of advice, an even smaller circle of conviction. It will be something his colleagues may well lack.
There is already a palpable sense that options are being fielded, possible successors to a planned bloodbath: the urbane and more credible Malcolm Turnbull, who as such is considered with scepticism by many in the Liberal Party; the terrier-like ideologue Scott Morrison, cruel mastermind and implementer of the “turning back boats” policy; or the more judicious Julie Bishop, quietly doing the count. The captain, as of this point, risks being slain by his very own.
Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email:[email protected]
Activist Post: Disloyal to the United States? Wesley Clark Wants to Detain You For Duration of War on Terror
Former US General Wesley Clark went on MSNBC to promote detaining domestic ‘radicals’ or people ‘disloyal to the United States’ in internment camps for the duration of the war on terror.
The host asked Clark “How do we fix self-radicalized lone wolves, domestically?”
First, Clark cites people who lose a job or break up with a girlfriend as being especially dangerous. Next he tells us what he’d do to those who’re disloyal to the U.S. during the war on terror.
“In World War II, if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech. We put them in a camp,” Clark continued, “They were prisoners of war.””If these people are radicalized, and they don’t support the United States, and they’re disloyal to the United States, as a matter of principle, fine, that’s their right, but it’s our (the government’s) right and our obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict. And I think we’re going to have to get increasingly get tough on this.”
As of July 1, everyone under the age of 50 who has been on unemployment benefits for more than six months is being forced to participate in the Australian government’s “work for the dole” scheme in order to continue receiving poverty-level payments. The expansion of the punitive scheme paves the way for private businesses to exploit “work for the dole” labour.
When the $14.9 million scheme was first announced in May 2014, Employment Minister Eric Abetz and Assistant Minister Luke Hartsuyker said it was part of the government’s Economic Action Strategy “to build a strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia.” Thus, they linked the issue of forcing the jobless to perform unpaid work to national security.
A trial period from July 2014 to July 2015 was announced for 18 locations throughout the country—six in New South Wales, five in Queensland, four in Victoria, and one each in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
By August 2014, over 1,600 people aged between 18 and 30 had been coerced into working for various charities, not-for-profit and government organisations. Unemployed workers were engaged in all manner of menial and skilled work, such as “hairdressing, grounds-keeping, IT, administration and maintenance,” according to a Department of Employment media release last October.
The previous “work for the dole” scheme, which was rolled out in 1998 by the conservative Howard government and maintained by the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments, was limited to the long-term unemployed. Under the new regime, almost all unemployed people have to spend six months every year “working for the dole.” People aged under 30 must perform 25 hours’ labour per week and those aged between 30 and 49 must do 15 hours. Unemployed workers aged over 50 can “volunteer” to take part.
Hartsuyker told ABC TV’s “Lateline” program in May: “From July we’ll have around 100,000 people over the year involved in work-for-the-dole. It’ll obviously ramp up. We are moving from phase one … It will go nationwide. So, no matter where you live, you’ll have the opportunity to benefit from a work-for-the-dole placement.”
The Department of Social Security’s figures on welfare recipients give an indication of how much the scheme will “ramp up.” In May this year—the latest figures available—343,735 people under 50 were classified as “job seekers” or on unemployment benefits. Of those, 217,829 had been out of work for 12 months or more. Anywhere between 200,000 and 300,000 people could potentially be thrown into “work for the dole.”
The government has spent $6.8 billion to replace the previous Job Services Australia providers with “jobactive” organisations, which will administer and police the “work for the dole” placements. Large amounts of money are at stake for Australia’s burgeoning “welfare industry.” Fifty-one “work for the dole” coordinator positions were announced last year, with each worth $380,000 annually, according to the Saturday Paper.
Hartsuyker said the government received tenders from 184 organisations and over 1,400 individual bids. The greatest beneficiary, with 14 contracts, was MAX Solutions, a wholly-owned subsidiary of US company Maximus, which recorded annual revenue of $US1.7 billion last year.
The Saturday Paper reported that MAX Solutions had at least two former senior government officials under their employment in 2009—the same year the company became the largest recipient of government contracts. One now works for Advanced Personal Management, another of the private companies that won jobactive contracts this year. During the past five years, MAX Solutions took in $800 million from government contracts.
The next highest winner of “work-for-the-dole” contracts was Mission Providence, a joint venture between Mission Australia, a Christian charity, and Providence Service Corporation, a US company that posted a “modest” rise in revenue to over $US1.1 billion in 2013.
From June 2016, unemployed youth under 25-years-old will be forced into a four-week “rapid activation strategy.” They will be required to perform “a number of additional job search activities” on top of applying for five jobs a week before receiving their first welfare payment.
Non-compliance with jobactive requirements in the four-week period—such as failing to update a resume, agreeing to a “jobs plan” or refreshing a “job seeker” profile on the JobSearch web site—will result in the cancellation of payments. Those cut off will receive no income support and must re-apply. Currently all welfare recipients have a minimum one-week pause on their first payment.
The “No Show No Pay” policy, due to be implemented from July next year, will see unemployed people docked a day’s worth of benefits for every day they do not show up for their “work for the dole” shifts, miss an interview or appointment, or fail to participate in any other activity deemed compulsory by their jobactive organisation.
In addition, payments can be suspended for not conducting “adequate” job seeking, as defined by the jobactive organisation.
The logical next step is the expansion of the draconian and humiliating “work for the dole” scheme to allow private businesses to exploit unemployed workers. This was proposed in this year’s May budget, but has not yet been enacted.
At a meeting of the Queensland Chamber of Commerce on May 20, Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared employers would soon be able to “try-before-you-buy,” referring to unemployed workers. “Job seekers” over 18 would be able to “volunteer” to do 25 hours a week for employers at no pay. In reality, there would be nothing “voluntary” about this scheme amid rising youth unemployment, a scarcity of secure, full-time work and growing desperation among young people.
Abbott’s remarks followed calls in February by Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Kate Carnell for the expansion of “work-for-the-dole” to small businesses. Carnell said: “It needs to be easier for small-to-medium businesses to employ people but that means it needs to be easier for them to downsize as well.” Her remarks made clear that the proposal is aimed at using the unemployed as a battering ram against the wages and conditions of the working class as a whole.
A 17-year-old teenager was remanded in custody on Monday after facing a children’s court in Melbourne on unspecified charges of “engaging in an act in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act” and “possessing things connected with a terrorist act.”
For the second time in two weeks, alarming police claims and media reports about teenagers planning imminent terrorist attacks—first on April 25 (the “Anzac Day plot”) and then May 10 (the “Mother’s Day plot”)—have proven to be dubious.
Last weekend, federal and state police chiefs claimed to have foiled a bombing, just in time, that would definitely have killed people. “As a result of Victoria Police and Australian Federal Police [AFP] interception, some Victorians are going to be alive because of it,” AFP Deputy Commissioner Mike Phelan told a media conference.
“Mother’s Day bomb plot: Teen allegedly blocked family and friends from Facebook posts” was the headline in the Sunday Herald Sun, a Melbourne tabloid. According to the Fairfax Media’s Age: “Up to three teenagers have been arrested in relation to a Melbourne terror plot that was reportedly set to be carried out on Mother’s Day. A 14-year-old boy in Sydney was also arrested in relation to the ‘imminent threat’.”
Ending any hopes of the teenager receiving a fair trial, Prime Minister Tony Abbott seized on the raids to launch another terrorism scare campaign. “There is evidence of a bomb plot that was in a reasonably advanced state of preparation,” he declared last Saturday.
However, by the time that the 17-year-old, who cannot be named because he is a minor, appeared in court on Monday, the police had admitted they had no evidence of any attack planned for May 10, or any other specific date. Nor could they nominate a supposed targeted location.
The police also revealed that no other arrests had been made, and they were not investigating any other suspect. No connection was alleged to the 14-year-old reportedly detained in Sydney.
AFP Deputy Commissioner Phelan stated: “We may not know exactly where it was going to occur nor when it was exactly going to occur, but … let me tell you, something was going to happen.”
Victoria Police Acting Chief Commissioner Cartwright said there was no evidence the teenager planned on attacking a specific event. Nevertheless, the police chief sought to continue the atmosphere of crisis. “We will allege he was well advanced in preparing a bomb,” he maintained.
This claim contradicted the earlier police accounts of detecting three “suspected improvised explosives devices” and detonating them in a local park. That operation, conducted by heavily-suited bomb disposal personnel, was designed to give the impression that bombs actually existed.
Cartwright said investigators were not looking for anyone else in connection with any plot, but were exploring the possibility of online radicalisation. His statement underscored the focus on the teenager’s political views, which voiced hostility to the atrocities being committed by the US and its allies throughout the Middle East.
Cartwright declared that, under existing legislation, the teenager could face an adult court, despite his youth. Media proprietors also applied to the children’s court judge to publicly name the boy. This was refused, but the judge said the application could be revisited at a later date.
Media interviews with members of the 17-year-old’s family gave a picture of the terrifying manner in which balaclava-clad Special Operations Group police officers armed with assault rifles stormed their house last Friday. The operation was clearly intended to send a wider signal to working people of the powers of the police to shoot to kill.
The boy’s mother first thought the police were “some type of terrorist group,” she told the Sunday Herald Sun. “I thought I was being shot at, I thought I was going to be killed,” she said. The police shot at her car as she backed out of the driveway. “[T]hey started shooting into the tyres, around the car … five or six times,” she related.
Police sources claimed the bangs were flash charges, thrown beneath the car to distract the teenager. But family members said police, with automatic weapons drawn, pulled the 17-year-old from the car and yelled at his mother to get out.
The boy’s sister, who watched the scene from the house, rushed outside, only to be confronted by three police with drawn guns who yelled “do not move.” The sister screamed to her friend to “call the cops” but the armed men answered back, “We are the cops.”
Questions remain about the timing of the operation. Police said there was an anonymous tip to the national security hotline nine days earlier. The raid was only launched once an attack was “imminent.” Now that claim has been abandoned.
Two weeks earlier, both Abbott’s Liberal-National government and the Victorian state Labor government of Premier Daniel Andrews exploited the arrests of five other teenagers to urge people to turn out in large numbers to attend the Anzac Day ceremonies marking the centenary of the disastrous British-led invasion of Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula during World War I.
The vague charges laid against the 17-year-old highlight the political and legal purposes of a crucial amendment to the terrorism laws that was rammed through the Australian parliament in November 2005 by the Howard Liberal-National government, with the full support of the Labor Party and the Greens.
That amendment changed the wording of all terrorism offences from “the” to “a” terrorist act. That has allowed the police to arrest and successfully prosecute people without having to show evidence of any specific terrorist act. Nothing has to be proven about any time, place, date, target, method or equipment used—simply that “a” terrorist act was being plotted, even a hypothetical one.
In a manufactured atmosphere of national crisis, all the parliamentary parties, including the Greens, lined up behind the government in rushing the amendment through both houses of parliament within 36 hours. Prime Minister John Howard claimed he had received “specific intelligence” about a “potential terrorist threat.”
For electoral reasons, the Greens have postured at times as critics of aspects of the police-state terrorism laws, while mostly proposing cosmetic modifications. When the World Socialist Web Site exposed their role in backing the amendment, they protested, claiming that the change had “no discernible impact.”
In reality, the amendment opened vast new scope for police-government frame-ups and “terrorist” scare campaigns. Last weekend’s raids are the just the latest in a long line of cases that have relied on the shift from “the” to “a.”
By voting for the key amendment, the Greens displayed their broader role of lending legitimacy to the fraudulent “war on terror.” Its real purpose has become increasingly clear—to provide a pretext for escalating US-led militarism in the Middle East, and for the ripping up of basic democratic rights and civil liberties at home.
Source : World Socialist Web Site.