Monthly Archives: November 2014

Tough new terror laws to ease intelligence sharing between overseas spies, ADF

Attorney-General George Brandis image www.intelagencies.com

Attorney-General George Brandis dismissed concerns that the increased intelligence sharing could allow the ADF to target Australian citizens for killing. Photo: Andrew Meares

Police will have greater powers to curb the movements of terrorism suspects without charge and overseas spies will more easily share intelligence with the military under new national security legislation.

The third wave of the Abbott government’s tougher counterterrorism laws are set to pass the Parliament after Labor said on Tuesday it would support the measures.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the government had accepted 15 changes to the new law recommended by a joint parliamentary committee.

The law makes it easier for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service – the nation’s foreign intelligence-gathering agency – to share intelligence with the Australian Defence Force, a measure aimed at improving the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq.

Critics have warned this could help the ADF target Australian extremists in Iraq, though the change will also probably help military personnel protect themselves against suicide attacks.

Senator Brandis sharply dismissed the “baseless assertion” by Greens senator Penny Wright that the increased intelligence sharing could allow the ADF to target Australian citizens for killing.

He said ASIS was forbidden from using violence and the ADF had strict rules of engagement that would also prohibit such targeted killings. ASIS was already able to share intelligence with the ADF, he said. The change to the law would make that function more explicit and improve the “transparency” of that process.

ASIS, along with Defence’s communications and satellite intelligence agencies, will also be able to more easily collect information on Australian citizens in an emergency.

Currently they need a ministerial authorisation to do so but, under the changes, in the event an appropriate government minister cannot be found to give the authorisation straightaway, approval may be given by the head of the intelligence agency. An appropriate minister will then need to be notified within eight hours.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security will review any such authorisations.

Senator Brandis said the number of Australians going to the Middle East to fight with the Islamic State group meant there was a “heightened need” for such intelligence gathering on Australian citizens.

Senator Wright said: “We are debating a bill that may lead to ASIS being involved in the targeted killings of Australian citizens fighting in Iraq and Syria. And the Australian Greens have listened to experts in the space who say that such killings raise significant and difficult questions of domestic policy, human rights and international law.”

Henry Sapiecha

IS THE ABBOTT SCHOLARSHIP TO DAUGHTER ON THE LEVEL & OK?

If only Freya Newman could have tipped off ICAC

Some say it is in order, others say very naughty

Freya Newman leaves court after being handed a good behaviour bond image www.intelagencies.com

Yesterday’s sentencing outcome for the whistleblower who revealed Frances Abbott’s scholarship shows just how petty the case was. It also shows how much we need a Commonwealth anti-corruption body, writes Michael Bradley.

Freya Newman hasn’t suffered quite as much as Alfred Dreyfus, but the notoriety of her name has similarly transcended the actual significance of her legal case and become a cause célèbre for freedom fighters of all stripes.

Both those flying the standard of our right to privacy, and the advocates of our right to know, are busily flogging poor Freya’s remaining personal dignity to death.

You know when an issue has gone into fantasy overdrive when Christopher Pyne chooses to tweet about it, as he did yesterday. Does the sentencing decision of a NSW Local Court magistrate warrant the personal intervention of the Federal Minister for Education? Apparently so.

Freya Newman revealed that Frances Abbott had received a $60,000 scholarship image www.intelagencies.com

For all the grand declaiming, the reality is that Freya is a victim of politics. Had her crime not embarrassed the Prime Minister, she would never have been charged. Nor would she now be receiving favourable comparisons with Joan of Arc from the large number of members of Team Australia who actually hate the team captain.

Time for some dispassionate analysis. First, the facts. The Whitehouse Institute is a private tertiary body. It awarded Frances Abbott, the then opposition leader’s daughter, a scholarship which saved her family more than $60,000 in fees. The scholarship was not advertised and its existence was never made public. The Institute insists it was offered on the basis of academic merit but has offered nothing to substantiate this claim. The Institute’s chairman was a substantial donor to the Liberal Party, and has confirmed that he “probably” recommended Ms Abbott for the scholarship.

It smells pretty bad, as some senior staff members at the Institute thought. Freya Newman was 20 years old and a junior part time employee. She was told by more senior staff where she could access information regarding the scholarship in the Institute’s computer system, and encouraged to do so using another staff member’s log in details. She did it, and then she resigned.

The Institute wanted to press charges, and Ms Newman was charged under s308H(1) of the Crimes Act with obtaining unauthorised access to restricted data held in a computer. The maximum penalty is two years’ imprisonment. Ms Newman promptly pleaded guilty. The prosecution accepted that her offence was at the lowest end of the range of severity. The magistrate decided that the fair result was to record no conviction, but with a two-year good behaviour bond attached. Ms Newman’s youth, and her altruistic motivation, appear to have been significant factors in the magistrate’s mind. Any harsher outcome would have been ridiculous.

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The case does raise important questions. It has been pointed out that, had the Institute been a public university, Ms Newman would most likely have been protected by whistleblower laws. Given that the Prime Minister’s family obtained a substantial financial benefit from the scholarship, was there not a legitimate public interest in the disclosure? Should there be any difference if the alleged giving of favours comes from a private entity rather than a public one? Therefore, should not Freya Newman be lauded as a heroine rather than charged with a crime?

This is a very difficult question. The Whitehouse Institute is a private entity and is entitled to privacy. It is not in the same position as a government body or publicly funded organisation. If it wants to give away scholarships in a manner which undermines its pretensions to integrity, it can do so. That isn’t a crime; it’s just grubby.

However, there is a valid public interest in knowing what happened here, because corporate sector lobbying is a cancer on democratic politics and because we’re entitled to know if our Prime Minister is being compromised.

If the problem is stated as being that, absent Freya Newman’s actions, we’d never have found out about this, then the short answer is this: actually, the reason we didn’t know about it is that the Prime Minister failed to comply with his parliamentary disclosure obligations. He is supposed to disclose financial benefits, and he has not explained why he didn’t disclose the scholarship. The disclosure requirement exists to ensure any perceived risks of influence are exposed, with the subsidiary benefit that insiders with knowledge won’t face Ms Newman’s moral and legal dilemma.

But, he didn’t disclose it and the dilemma arose. Where then is the correct balance between private rights and the public interest? It’s not that what Ms Newman did shouldn’t be a crime. Certainly it should only be a minor offence unless there are serious aggravating factors. The sentencing outcome underlines how petty this was.

Part of the answer has been loudly shouted lately by our chief law officer, Attorney General George Brandis. On the unrelated topic of the jailing of journalists for disclosing ASIO operations, he has been going on about how the Director of Public Prosecutions is obliged to consider the public interest before launching any prosecution. The same principle applies to all prosecuting authorities.

It’s certainly arguable that the prosecutorial discretion ought to have been exercised in Freya Newman’s case to recognise that she was collateral damage in a much larger war and that there was no public interest in inflicting more punishment on her than she had already suffered.

And there’s another answer. If the Prime Minister had been a NSW parliamentarian, ICAC would have had jurisdiction to investigate. An anonymous tip-off would have sufficed and ICAC’s coercive powers would have done the rest.

In the end, that’s what the Freya Newman case really means: we badly need an anti-corruption body in the Commonwealth sphere, with all the powers of ICAC and the ability to protect whistleblowers no matter where they work.

Michael Bradley is the managing partner of Marque Lawyers, a boutique Sydney law firm. View his full profile here.

Henry Sapiecha

New Australian Parliamentary inquiry into Data Retention Bill 2014

aust gov logo white on black

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security today commenced an inquiry into the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014.

The Data Retention Bill seeks to implement a mandatory telecommunications data retention regime. It contains measures to require telecommunications suppliers in Australia to retain certain data for two years. The data would not include a person’s web-browsing history, or the content of a communication, email or social media post. The Bill would also limit those able to access telecommunications and stored data to enforcement agencies with a demonstrated need and with appropriate internal procedures to protect privacy.

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill states that data retention is necessary at this time as:
•serious and organised criminals and persons seeking to harm Australia’s national security, routinely use telecommunications service providers and communications technology to plan and to carry out their activities, and
•agencies have publicly identified the lack of availability of data as a key and growing impediment to the ability to investigate and to prosecute serious offences.

The proposal for a data retention regime was considered by the Committee in Chapter 5 of its 2013 Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation. In that report the Committee recommended a number of features that should characterise any proposed regime and the oversight mechanisms.

The Chair of the Committee, Mr Dan Tehan MP, commented that “Australia has recently introduced a number of counter terrorism measures to address emerging threats. The Committee has carefully scrutinised each of these measures and made a number of recommendations to ensure adequate safeguards and oversight are in place.”

He added, “We will be considering the appropriateness of the data retention regime proposed in this Bill and its application to the investigation and prosecution of serious criminal offences and to countering threats to national security. Safeguards and oversight will be a key focus for the Committee.”

The Committee invites submissions to the inquiry. Please email the secretariat at dataretention@aph.gov.au by Monday 8 December 2014 if you intend to make a submission. Submissions are requested as early as possible, but no later than Monday 19 January 2015.

Public hearings will be held on 17 December 2014 and on Wednesday 28 and Thursday 29 January 2015, with the possibility of further hearings if required.

The Committee intends to report by 27 February 2015.

Further information about the inquiry can be accessed via the Committee’s website at http://www.aph.gov.au/pjcis. The Bill and Explanatory Memorandum can be accessed via http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation.

For media comment, please contact the Office of the Chair, Dan Tehan MP, on 6277 4393 (Parliament House) or 03 5572 1100 (Electorate).
For inquiry information, please contact the Committee Secretariat on 02 6277 2360 or email dataretention@aph.gov.au.

Media release: 27 November 2014

Henry Sapiecha

Uber Corp hires former privacy chief of IBM to conduct assessment amid controversy

uber logo image www.intelagencies.com

Uber is hiring Harriet Pearson and law firm Hogan Lovells in an attempt to stamp out growing controversy around riders’ privacy. Photo: Reuter

In a move straight out of the PR crisis management handbook, Uber has hired a heavyweight data privacy expert to conduct a review of its practices amid growing controversy and criticism.

The San-Francisco-based ride-sharing app start-up announced in a blog post that Uber had engaged the services of Harriet Pearson — formerly IBM’s chief privacy officer — and her colleagues at law firm Hogan Lovells to “conduct an in-depth review and assessment of [Uber’s] existing data privacy program and recommend any needed enhancements”.

Pearson said in a phone call that she will work for Uber as a legal adviser. An Uber representative declined to comment beyond the blog post.

Criticism of Uber practices grew following remarks by executive Emil Michael.

Uber has been grappling with a growing controversy after one of its executives, Emil Michael, recently said the company would be willing to pay to look into reporters’ lives. Another Uber manager is also under investigation after using a tool in the app known as God View to track a journalist at online publication BuzzFeed without her permission, a person with knowledge of the matter has said.

The incidents have prompted a wave of criticism. Minnesota’s Senator Al Franken, a Democrat who chairs the Senate subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law, sent a letter yesterday to Uber asking for answers on the startup’s privacy policies.

Elsewhere, journalists and commentators have wondered whether Uber’s dangerous win-at-all-cost attitude is emblematic of start-up culture when blown up to a global scale.

Some consumers have said they have deleted the Uber app from their smartphones following the incidents. Many have also taken to social media to promote the hashtags #BoycottUber and #deleteuber.

“Trust founded on confidentiality and information security lies at the very heart of Uber’s business and we will be working with the team to review and reinforce where appropriate its policies and systems,” Pearson said in an e-mailed statement, adding that she is an Uber user.

Uber had clarified its privacy policy earlier this week, saying employees would only access data for issues like monitoring for fraudulent activity and solving problems.

“The policy is also clear that access to rider and driver accounts is being closely monitored and audited by data security specialists on an ongoing basis,” the company said in a blog post earlier this week. “Any violations of the policy will result in disciplinary action, including the possibility of termination and legal action.”

Henry Sapiecha

INFORMATION GATHERING IS TO BECOME EASIER BECAUSE OF SOFTWARE THAT SEES THE PIXELS IN PHOTOS TO COLLECT DATA

Image-recognition software uplifts results in web searches

info code in blue image www.intelagencies.com

HANOVER, N.H. – Dartmouth researchers and their colleagues have created an artificial intelligence software that uses photos to locate documents on the Internet with far greater accuracy than ever before.

The new system, which was tested on photos and is now being applied to videos, shows for the first time that a machine learning algorithm for image recognition and retrieval is accurate and efficient enough to improve large-scale document searches online. The system uses pixel data in images and potentially video – rather than just text — to locate documents. It learns to recognize the pixels associated with a search phrase by studying the results from text-based image search engines. The knowledge gleaned from those results can then be applied to other photos without tags or captions, making for more accurate document search results.

The findings appear in the journal PAMI (IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence).

“Images abound on the Internet and our approach means they’ll no longer be ignored during document retrieval,” says Associate Professor Lorenzo Torresani, a co-author of the study. “Over the last 30 years, the Web has evolved from a small collection of mostly text documents to a modern, gigantic, fast-growing multimedia dataset, where nearly every page includes multiple pictures or videos. When a person looks at a Web page, she immediately gets the gist of it by looking at the pictures in it. Yet, surprisingly, all existing popular search engines, such as Google or Bing, strip away the information contained in the photos and use exclusively the text of Web pages to perform the document retrieval. Our study is the first to show that modern machine vision systems are accurate and efficient enough to make effective use of the information contained in image pixels to improve document search.”

The researchers designed and tested a machine vision system – a type of artificial intelligence that allows computers to learn without being explicitly programmed — that extracts semantic information from the pixels of photos in Web pages. This information is used to enrich the description of the HTML page used by search engines for document retrieval. The researchers tested their approach using more than 600 search queries on a database of 50 million Web pages. They selected the text-retrieval search engine with the best performance and modified it to make use of the additional semantic information extracted by their method from the pictures of the Web pages. They found that this produced a 30 percent improvement in precision over the original search engine purely based on text. The new system was developed by researchers at Dartmouth College, Tecnalia Research & Innovation and Microsoft Research Cambridge.

Uber exec Emil Michael threatens to dig dirt on company critics, unleashing torrent of criticism

UBER EXEC SAYS HIS COMPANY TO SPEND $1M ON PRIVATE INVESTIGATORS GETTING DIRT ON REPORTERS

An executive of a car hire service which has risen from tech start-up to $US17 billion international giant in four years has declared to a dinner table that the company should spend a million dollars hiring private investigators to dig up dirt on journalists to silence them. Nick O’Malley reports.

Emil Michael, senior vice president for Business for Uber.image www.intelagencies.com

n the gun: Emil Michael, senior vice president for Business for Uber. Photo: Bloomberg

It was a truly spectacular own goal scored by one of the most senior executives of one of the tech world’s hottest companies in the presence of two famous journalists in a semi-private club owned by the Vanity Fair editor, Graydon Carter.

At the dinner on Friday night the executive, Emil Michael, a senior vice president at Uber, the car hire tech that has risen from start-up to $US17 billion international giant in four years, declared to the table that the company should spend a million dollars hiring private investigators to dig up dirt on journalists to silence them.

The group, gathered the Waverley Inn in Manhattan’s West Village, included the actor, Ed Norton, and the Huffington Post publisher, Ariana Huffington, as well as the journalists Michael Wolff and Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith. Michael’s own boss was there too, the Uber chief executive and founder, Travis Kalanick. The host was Ian Osborne, a former adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron as well as an Uber consultant.

Some time in the course of the meal Michael began to vent his frustration at journalists who had dared to criticise Uber, a company that has grown from unknown start-up to a giant  and struck fear into the heart of the taxi industry around the world.

Michael, Buzzfeed reported, was particularly frustrated by one female journalist, Sarah Lacy, who runs the popular Silicon Valley website PandoDaily. She has criticised Uber for having an allegedly sexist culture and for putting female passengers at risk by not vetting its drivers thoroughly enough.

Recently she wrote that she was deleting her Uber app as a result.

At the dinner Michael was outraged and, according to Buzzfeed, said that Uber’s dirt diggers could be used to “prove a particular and very specific claim about her personal life”.

After the dinner Michael said in a statement:  “The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner — borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for — do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.”

But the comments are attracting significant attention, in part because they appear to confirm the growing popular notion that Uber is becoming recklessly aggressive.

The founder, Travis Kalanick, has never been one to back down from a fight. In 2012 he explained to Fairfax Media that in each city Uber began operating in it met the same regulatory resistance from entrenched taxi monopolies or oligopolies with the same cosy relationship with city or state governments.

Uber – and Kalanick – appeared to take delight in combating these opponents and Uber’s users cheered him on.

Once you have signed up for the Uber app you can summon a car at the press of a button and know with certainty that it will come, when it will come and that it will wait for you. Uber users commonly report better, cheaper, more reliable service in cleaner cars by friendlier drivers than they get from taxi companies. And with the domineering old players like CabCharge cut out of the loop, drivers often reported earning more with Uber than they had a taxi drivers.

Recently the New York Times wrote that Uber was changing the very fabric of life in Los Angeles because it was allowing people to return to the public transport starved downtown areas. A Washington Post blog noted that Uber had become the transport method of choice for US politicians and their staff, a sure sign the company was not going to be regulated out of existence.

But there is a growing sense that its aggression in combating regulators has become part of Uber’s posture towards critics, media, its drivers and its competition.

The Verge website reported that Uber was using teams of agents with disposable mobile phones accounts and credit cards to disrupt competitors like Lyft by making false calls for rides.

Last month Uber’s drivers in New York went on strike saying their pay had shrunk 25 per cent as Uber sought to undercut its rivals. “Uber makes billions on the backs of drivers. We own the cars, we pay for gas, we pay for maintenance, we suffer the depreciation and we take all of the risks,” one protest flier proclaimed, the New York Post reported.

In a series of tweets since the Buzzfeed report Kalanick has apologised for Michael’s remarks at dinner, saying they showed a “showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity and a departure from our values and ideals” and that they “do not represent the company”. He noted that Michael’s “duties here at Uber do not involve communications strategy or plans and are not representative in any way of the company approach”.

There was no suggestion that Michael might be looking for a new job, nor is there any sense that his comments will have any long-term impact on the company. But it has added to a general perception that the young company, flushed with extraordinary success, has a cultural problem.

Perhaps the news site Vox captured it best with a comment piece called “Uber has an a__hole problem.”

“Uber is a major company,” wrote Vox. “And it’s time to start acting like it. Not all rules are made to be broken. The fact that Michael is getting a kind of verbal scolding rather than suffering real consequences suggests that maybe the company’s board and CEO still don’t get that.”

Henry Sapiecha

CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR COMPUTER SYSTEM SECURITY, THEN THIS FREE OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE CAN IDENTIFY THE MALWARE & FIXES IT FOR YOU AUTOMATICALLY

Self-repairing software locates the malware problem & fixes it. Let this free software be your investigator & mechanic.

Eric Eide, University of Utah research assistant professor of computer science image www.intelagencies.com

Eric Eide, University of Utah research assistant professor of computer science, stands in the computer science department’s “Machine Room” where racks of web servers sit. It is on these computers that Eide, U computer science associate professor John Regehr, and their research team created and tested A3, a suite of computer applications that defeat malware and automatically repair the damage it causes. The project could help lead to better consumer software defenses. Credit: Dan Hixson/University of Utah College of EngineeringSALT LAKE CITY, Nov. 13, 2014 – University of Utah computer scientists have developed software that not only detects and eradicates never-before-seen viruses and other malware, but also automatically repairs damage caused by them. The software then prevents the invader from ever infecting the computer again.

A3 is a software suite that works with a virtual machine — a virtual computer that emulates the operations of a computer without dedicated hardware. The A3 software is designed to watch over the virtual machine’s operating system and applications, says Eric Eide, University of Utah research assistant professor of computer science leading the university’s A3 team with U computer science associate professor John Regehr. A3 is designed to protect servers or similar business-grade computers that run on the Linux operating system. It also has been demonstrated to protect military applications.

The new software called A3, or Advanced Adaptive Applications, was co-developed by Massachusetts-based defense contractor, Raytheon BBN, and was funded by Clean-Slate Design of Resilient, Adaptive, Secure Hosts, a program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The four-year project was completed in late September.

There are no plans to adapt A3 for home computers or laptops, but Eide says this could be possible in the future.

“A3 technologies could find their way into consumer products someday, which would help consumer devices protect themselves against fast-spreading malware or internal corruption of software components. But we haven’t tried those experiments yet,” he says.

U computer scientists have created “stackable debuggers,” multiple de-bugging applications that run on top of each other and look inside the virtual machine while it is running, constantly monitoring for any out-of-the-ordinary behavior in the computer.

Unlike a normal virus scanner on consumer PCs that compares a catalog of known viruses to something that has infected the computer, A3 can detect new, unknown viruses or malware automatically by sensing that something is occurring in the computer’s operation that is not correct. It then can stop the virus, approximate a repair for the damaged software code, and then learn to never let that bug enter the machine again.

While the military has an interest in A3 to enhance cybersecurity for its mission-critical systems, A3 also potentially could be used in the consumer space, such as in web services like Amazon. If a virus or attack stops the service, A3 could repair it in minutes without having to take the servers down.

To test A3’s effectiveness, the team from the U and Raytheon BBN used the infamous software bug called Shellshock for a demonstration to DARPA officials in Jacksonville, Florida, in September. A3 discovered the Shellshock attack on a Web server and repaired the damage in four minutes, Eide says. The team also tested A3 successfully on another half-dozen pieces of malware.

Shellshock was a software vulnerability in UNIX-based computers (which include many web servers and most Apple laptops and desktop computers) that would allow a hacker to take control of the computer. It was first discovered in late September. Within the first 24 hours of the disclosure of Shellshock, security researchers reported that more than 17,000 attacks by hackers had been made with the bug.

“It is a pretty big deal that a computer system could automatically, and in a short amount of time, find an acceptable fix to a widespread and important security vulnerability,” Eide says. “It’s pretty cool when you can pick the Bug of the Week and it works.”

Now that the team’s project into A3 is completed and proves their concept, Eide says the U team would like to build on the research and figure out a way to use A3 in cloud computing, a way of harnessing far-flung computer networks to deliver storage, software applications and servers to a local user via the Internet.

The A3 software is open source, meaning it is free for anyone to use, but Eide believes many of the A3 technologies could be incorporated into commercial products.

Other U members of the A3 team include research associate David M. Johnson, systems programmer Mike Hibler and former graduate student Prashanth Nayak.

Henry Sapiecha

Long running police bugging scandal to become the subject of NSW parliamentary inquiry

BUGGING SCANDAL TO SOON ROCK THE NSW POLICE FORCE IN AUSTRALIA

Greens justice spokesman David Shoebridge image www.intelagencies.com

The police bugging scandal that has plagued top levels of the NSW force for more than a decade will be examined by a NSW parliamentary inquiry with concerns the Ombudsman has taken too long to finalise his investigation.

The state government tasked the Ombudsman in October 2012 with inquiring into allegations surrounding illegal bugging by the NSW Police’s Special Crime and Internal Affairs and the NSW Crime Commission between 1999 and 2001 and the investigation that followed into it.

But after more than two years, the $3 million inquiry, dubbed Operation Prospect and held behind closed doors, has released no specific details.

Now, The Shooters and Fishers Party, with the support of Labor and The Greens, will establish an inquiry that will examine the bugging allegations, the subsequent police investigation into those allegations and the Ombudsman’s inquiry. It will report by February 2015

Shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch said Labor was in support of the inquiry because the original matters involving allegations of police bugging “were extremely serious”.

“It’s taken way too long to get to this stage,” he said. “These things will undoubtedly benefit from ventilation in public”.

The Greens justice spokesman David Shoebridge said the inquiry would remove the secrecy behind the police bugging scandal which has affected the most senior ranks of the NSW Police.

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The current Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, and a current Deputy Commissioner, Catherine Burn, worked at SCIA at relevant times. One of the detectives SCIA was bugging was Nick Kaldas, now also a Deputy Commissioner.

“What we have is a secret police investigation that obtained secret warrants, that was then reviewed by a secret police investigation and is now being considered by a seemingly endless secret Ombudsman’s inquiry,” Mr Shoebridge said. “This secrecy must stop.”

Between 1999 and 2001, the  SCIA and the crime commission ran a covert investigation codenamed Operation Mascot into allegedly corrupt NSW police.

Central to Mascot was a serving NSW police officer, codenamed M5, who went to work for SCIA and the commission, wearing a wire to bug his colleagues, some of whom were undoubtedly corrupt. But many of those he sought to entrap were honest police.

Some listening device warrants obtained by SCIA and the commission contained more than 100 names, mainly of former and serving police.

In many cases, the affidavits presented to Supreme Court judges contained no information whatsoever that would justify the bugging, and Fairfax Media has established that some of the information in the affidavits was false.

Many police involved in the case believe numerous criminal offences have been committed by some officers of the SCIA and the commission.

Complaints by police, including some from within SCIA itself, were internally investigated by NSW police from Strike Force Emblems as far back as 2004. But inquiries were stymied by the secrecy provisions of the NSW Crime Commission, which refused to co-operate or hand over crucial documents.

Successive governments refused to release the Emblems reports – but they were obtained by Fairfax Media. The reports said “criminal conduct” and revenge might have been behind the mass bugging.

The first Emblems report found there may have been “criminal conduct” involved in the bugging of 100 serving and former police.

Even M5, the NSW police officer doing the undercover bugging, confessed that in some cases he was “settling old scores” and “assisting, nurturing corruption”.

Henry Sapiecha

SENIOR POLICE OFFICERS IN NSW COULD BECOME VERY UGLY IF INVESTIGATION ALLOWED TO GO AHAEAD

MPs warned ‘ugly investigation’ could destroy reputations of senior NSW police

Crucify people's reputations. Former police minister Mike Gallacher image  www.intelagencies.com

“Crucify people’s reputations”: Former police minister Mike Gallacher. Photo: Jessica Hromas

NSW MPs have been warned they risk holding “an ugly investigation” that could destroy the reputation of some the state’s most senior police if they proceed with an upper house inquiry into the state Ombudsman’s probe of a police bugging scandal.

During a heated debate on a Shooters and Fishers Party motion which established the inquiry on Wednesday, former police minister Mike Gallacher spoke against its establishment, warning it would “focus in on the conduct of one or two senior police”.

Mr Gallacher – who resigned from cabinet in May after being named in evidence at a public corruption inquiry into political donations – said there would be “allegations and counter allegations, all of which will be played out in our media”.

Crucify people's reputations. Former police minister Mike Gallacher image   www.intelagencies.com

Potential negative consequences” of inquiry: Bruce Barbour. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

“I am for one very conscious of the impact that allegations can have on an individual, particularly when they’re played out in public,” he said.

Mr Gallacher accused those supporting the inquiry of being concerned about the direction of Mr Barbour’s report and said this was a “last-chance dance”. He said they wanted to “crucify people’s reputations”.

The debate followed an extraordinary bid by NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour to stop the inquiry into the conduct and progress of his investigation into the scandal.

The Ombudsman’s investigation, codenamed Operation Prospect, has already spent over two years examining allegations of illegal bugging by the NSW Police’s Special Crime and Internal Affairs (SCIA) and the NSW Crime Commission between 1999 and 2001 and the internal investigation that followed.

It is understood to have caused tensions at the top ranks of the NSW Police, with the current Commissioner Andrew Scipione and current Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn working at SCIA at relevant times.

One of the detectives SCIA was bugging was Nick Kaldas, now also a deputy commissioner.

In a letter to Premier Mike Baird on Tuesday night, Mr Barbour expressed his concern about the “potential negative consequences” of an upper house inquiry.

Mr Barbour warned that having to co-operate with the inquiry would delay finalisation of his report, which he expected to complete in the first half of 2015.

Mr Barbour also noted the inquiry proposed to examine the use of secrecy powers by the Ombudsman’s office, which are “of central importance to the fair and rigorous conduct of Operation Prospect”.

But it is understood some current and former officers caught up in the scandal are concerned the inquiry has been held behind closed doors and focused primarily on who leaked information to the media about the scandal rather than investigating the bugging allegations themselves.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said there had been a “cloud hanging over the NSW Police Force” for more than a decade due to the bugging scandal and it was Parliament’s job to “shine a light when nobody else is prepared to do it”.

Henry Sapiecha

G20 SUMMIT TO HAVE HIGHEST LEVEL OF SECURITY IN AUSTRALIAS PEACETIME HISTORY

Barack Obama’s security team strips floor of Marriott Hotel ahead of G20 in Brisbane

BARACK Obama’s security team ordered the stripping of an entire floor of the Marriott Hotel and investigated installing their own wiring to keep the world’s most powerful man safe while he is in Brisbane for the G20.

Bedding and furniture, including mirrors, have been ­removed from rooms, while others have been left with just desks and chairs as part of the elaborate security operation to ensure he cannot be spied on.

Secure communication lines will be established and rooms will be swept for bugs to ensure he can conduct confidential business and make private phone calls from within the hotel.

The hotel will sit inside a cordoned off ­security zone, where only those with accreditation will be allowed to enter.

The Marriott Hotel is undergoing drastic changes ahead of Barack Obama’s arrival image www.intelagencies.com

The President is expected to arrive on Saturday and will stay at the Marriott for at least one night while he attends the G20.

A source close to the operation said some rooms had been left almost completely bare, while others have only minimal furniture.

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Staff believed to be associated with Mr Obama’s support team have been involved with the move, and have also discussed installing their own wiring.

Another source said there was almost always an area set aside for him to discreetly carry out his presidential ­duties via phone.

The US President’s team is taking over entire floors of the Marriott Hotel.image www.intelagencies.com

The US President’s team is taking over entire floors of the Marriott Hotel.

A “control centre room” is also likely to be set up for his support team, who will require workstations and other facilities to use the hotel as a mobile office.

The US President will be accompanied by hundreds of staffers, who will occupy a number of floors at the hotel. The US is famously cautious when it comes to security arrangements for its presidents when they’re abroad.

Mr Obama has previously travelled with a special portable security tent, which can be set up in hotel rooms to allow him to examine classified material and hold talks securely.

He is expected to arrive in Queensland via Amberley air base early Saturday morning, before being flown to Brisbane via chopper.

The President will deliver a speech at the University of Queensland around 11am with invitations already going out for the large venue.

US President Barack Obama will stay at the Marriott Hotel for at least one night while in Brisbane for the G20 image www.intelagencies.com

US President Barack Obama will stay at the Marriott Hotel for at least one night while in Brisbane for the G20.

The crowd is likely to be made up of mostly young ­people, with a dress code of smart casual, with the event to be held at the UQ Centre, which has the capacity to seat 2500 people,

It is hoped the famous ­orator will deliver a landmark speech at the university.

Meanwhile, the security perimeter is beginning to tighten as centres from Bowen Hills to Woolloongabba become “declared zones’’ in preparation for the G20 leaders’ summit.

All streets surrounding the Brisbane Convention Centre are now fenced off, while other locations around the city will join declared zone status today and tomorrow.

Hundreds of Queensland police on 24-hour foot and bicycle patrol on the South Bank are being joined by a contingent of about 200 officers coming from Western Australia.

Police are now routinely checking identification of pedestrians. Half a dozen police were swarming over a lone motorcycle parked a few metres from the convention centre shortly before 2pm on Sunday.

The bike and owner were later given the security all-clear.

Henry Sapiecha