Category Archives: SURVEILANCE

Government’s plan to spy on all Australians exposed in leaked letters

It may shortly be far easier for government spies to access your private data. Photo source: Pixabay

We’re constantly being advised to protect our data and information online, but it turns out there may be even a greater threat & cause for concern.

An exclusive report by The Sunday Telegraph reveals our online data may not even be safe from the Australian Government. Australian citizens may soon be subjected to secret digital monitoring by the top cyber spy agency in the country with no warrant rerquired for accessing all your info when they feel like it.

This means everything from text messages to emails and even bank statements could be accessed in secret under the radical new proposed plan. The Sunday Telegraph viewed the secret letters between the heads of Department of Home Affairs and Defence. The letters detail possible new powers for the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).

As the current rules stand, intelligence is not to be produced on Australian citizens. Having said that, the Australian Federal Police and domestic spy agency ASIO can investigate people with a warrant and also seek help from the ASD if needed in what are deemed to be extreme cases.

If the proposal is passed, it would be up to Defence Minister Marise Payne and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to allow spying to occur. Furthermore, they could approve cases without Australia’s top law officers being aware of it.

The Sunday Telegraph believes Dutton hasn’t yet presented Payne with any formal proposals for changes to the legislation. If passed though, spies would be given permission to secretly access information relating to an Australian citizens’ financial data, health information and phone records. A change in law would mean it’s also illegal for government agencies and private businesses to hold back any information that could hinder the security measures.

The Sunday Telegraph believes the reason for the data crackdown would be to stop terrorism, child exploitation and other serious crimes being conducted both here in Australia and overseas.

Several times in recent months online data and its safety has made headlines. Earlier this year, Facebook came under fire for breaching privacy data rules. As it stands, anything you share or access online remains there, even if you delete it.

This means any photos, emails, website history, online comments and videos you upload or view are stored away somewhere in cyberspace. Worryingly, any information shared on a social media platform such as Facebook will remain with the company, even if your profile is deleted.

What are your thoughts? Have you concerns that your private information could be secretly accessed by spies and the government? Do you think it’s really to protect Australians, or just another feeble excuse for the government to gain more information about us? Big brother is going too far this time one would think. Write to your MP.

Henry Sapiecha

This is how much access Australian police already have to your data

The Australian government now wants further powers to access encrypted communications, but does it need them?

Police and intelligence agencies already have significant abilities to access data about our emails, phone calls and text messages if we’re suspected of committing a crime, although it can be difficult to tell exactly what they’re doing with them.

The government argues existing interception capabilities are inadequate to protect national security. According to Attorney-General George Brandis, backdoor access to encrypted communications would redress the “degradation of our intelligence capability” to prevent terrorism.

Many Australians are unaware of current police and intelligence powers when it comes to accessing our data. As the government lobbies for new levels of access, that needs to change.

‘Backdoor’ access

The government’s proposal to compel technology companies to provide access to encrypted messaging services is modelled on laws passed by other members of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance, of which Australia is a member.

Deputy US Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein recently announced the Department of Justice intends to demand interception of encrypted communications. New Zealand already requires technology companies to grant access. In the UK, authorities may force decryption where it is technologically feasible.

As with our allies, it is unclear if Australia’s laws will require so-called “backdoor” vulnerabilities to be built into messaging applications like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.

They could compel access via decryption keys or they might enable remote access to devices for interception of communications “at the ends”.

In response, cryptographers argue it is not mathematically possible to access end-to-end encrypted messages via interception without undermining online privacy for everyone.

The current state of telecommunications surveillance

The government already has various powers to access metadata, the contents of digital conversations and computer networks.

The Attorney-General’s Department recently released its annual report on telecommunications surveillance.

Thanks to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act (TIA Act), law enforcement and other agencies can access stored communications with a warrant. This can include “email, SMS or voice messages stored on a carrier’s network”. In other words, the contents of any communication not encoded via encryption.

Agencies may also apply for “preservation notices” to compel telecommunications companies to preserve data.

During the 2015-16 financial year, there were 712 warrants issued for access to stored communications. Data is not available about the types of offences these warrants were used for. It is also not clear how the telecommunications information was used in investigations.

Applications for stored communications warrants (issued)

Agency 2014-2015 2015-2016
ACC 4 2
AFP 94 80
CCC (WA) 5
DIBP 10 1
NSW CC 3 4
NSW Police 290 345
NT Police 16 11
PIC 7 16
QLD Police 123 132
SA Police 38 19
TAS Police 29 17
VIC Police 40 41
WA Police 38 35
Total 696 712

Source: Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 Annual Report 2015–16

The issue of metadata retention

A controversial 2015 amendment to the TIA Act requires telecommunication service providers to retain metadata for two years.

This allows authorised law enforcement agencies warrantless access to information about digital communications such as the recipient or time sent, but not their content.

However, some agencies that aren’t meant to be able to access metadata are still making requests under different legal regimes, according to the Communications Alliance, and there have already been reported breaches where an Australian Federal Police officer accessed a journalist’s metadata without an appropriate warrant.

The 2015-16 financial year was a grace period for service providers to comply with retention requirements. During this time, there were 332,639 authorisations by criminal law-enforcement agencies.

Authorisations occurred most for drugs or homicide investigations. It’s possible this may indicate police are relying on ready access to metadata rather than pursuing traditional investigatory methods.

DEF CON 22 – Zoz – Don’t Fuck It Up! MUST WATCH VIDEO


Don’t Fuck It Up!
Online antics used to be all about the lulz; now they’re all about the pervasive surveillance. Whether you’re the director of a TLA just trying to make a booty call or an internet entrepreneur struggling to make your marketplace transactions as smooth as silk, getting up to any kind of mischief involving electronic communications now increasingly means going up against a nation-state adversary. And if even the people who most should know better keep fucking it up, what does that mean for the rest of us? What do the revelations about massive government eavesdropping and data ingestion mean for people who feel they have a right if not a duty to occasionally be disobedient?

It’s time for a rant. Analyzing what is currently known or speculated about the state of online spying through the prism of some spectacular fuckups, this talk offers an amusing introduction to how you can maximize your chances of enduring your freedom while not fucking it up. Learn how not to fuck up covering your tracks on the internet, using burner phones, collaborating with other dissidents and more. If you have anything to hide, and all of us do, pay attention and Don’t. Fuck. It. Up!

Zoz is a robotics engineer, prankster and general sneaky bastard. He has been pretty successful at pulling some cool subversive shit and not fucking it up and getting caught. He once faked a crop circle for the Discovery Channel and it was all uphill from there.


Henry Sapiecha

Internet Firms Warn UK Against ‘Dangerous’ Changes To Law

electricity background red pink surreal image

Major U.S. Internet companies have urged the British government to reconsider a plan to make telecommunications firms help spies hack into computers and phones.

The draft Investigatory Powers Bill would require telecoms companies to keep records of customers’ Web histories for up to a year, and to help security services gain access to suspects’ electronic devices.

In a joint submission to a committee of British lawmakers, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo said that “to the extent this could involve the introduction of risks or vulnerabilities into products or services, it would be a very dangerous precedent to set.”

They urged the government to reconsider, and warned against changes that would weaken online encryption, which they called a “fundamental security tool.”

The submission was made last month and published Thursday by the committee, which is reviewing the proposed legislation.

Apple has also objected to the British proposals, saying they could weaken online security by providing a backdoor to users’ data for “bad guys” as well as “good guys.”

The British government insists the bill won’t weaken or ban online encryption.

If approved by Parliament, the bill will let police and spies access Internet connection records — a list of websites, apps and messaging services someone has visited, though not the individual pages they looked at or the messages they sent.

Civil liberties groups have also expressed alarm at the bill. A previous version of the legislation was thrown out by lawmakers in 2013 as overly intrusive.

The government says it will set out final proposals in the spring.


Henry Sapiecha

FBI: Surveillance flights by the book, rarely track phones

FILE - In this May 26, 2015, file photo, a small plane flies near Manassas Regional Airport in Manassas, Va. The plane is among a fleet of surveillance aircraft by the FBI, which are primarily used to target suspects under federal investigation. The FBI assured Congress on June 17, in an unusual, confidential briefing that its plane surveillance program is a by-the-books operation short on high-definition cameras, with some planes equipped with binoculars. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

FILE – In this May 26, 2015, file photo, a small plane flies near Manassas Regional Airport in Manassas, Va. The plane is among a fleet of surveillance aircraft by the FBI, which are primarily used to target suspects under federal investigation. The FBI assured Congress on June 17, in an unusual, confidential briefing that its plane surveillance program is a by-the-books operation short on high-definition cameras, with some planes equipped with binoculars. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In this May 26, 2015, file photo, a small plane flies near Manassas Regional Airport in Manassas, Va. The plane is among a fleet of surveillance aircraft by the FBI, which are primarily used to target suspects under federal investigation. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The FBI assured Congress in an unusual, confidential briefing that its plane surveillance program is a by-the-books operation short on high-definition cameras — with some planes equipped with binoculars — and said only five times in five years has it tracked cellphones from the sky.The FBI would not openly answer some questions about its planes, which routinely orbit major U.S. cities and rural areas. Although the FBI has described the program as unclassified and not secret, it declined to disclose during an unclassified portion of a Capitol Hill briefing any details about how many planes it flies or how much the program costs. In a 2009 budget document, the FBI said it had 115 planes in its fleet.

The briefing Wednesday to Senate staff was the first effort in recent years — if ever — to impose oversight for the FBI’s 30-year aerial surveillance program that gives support to specific, ongoing investigations into counterterrorism, espionage and criminal cases and ground surveillance operations. While it withheld some details, it offered assurances that the planes are not intended to perform mass surveillance or bulk intelligence collection. However, there is still no formal oversight regimen for the program.

The briefing came two weeks after the FBI confirmed to The Associated Press for the first time its wide-scale use of the aircraft, after the AP traced at least 50 planes registered to fake companies back to the FBI. The AP investigation identified more than 100 flights in 11 states over a 30-day period this spring. The planes since June 1 have flown more than two-dozen times over at least seven states, including parts of Texas, Georgia and the Pacific Northwest.

The ubiquity of the flights, combined with few details about the surveillance equipment aboard the planes, raised civil liberties concerns over Americans’ privacy.

The AP had reported that, in rare circumstances, the FBI equipped the planes with technology capable of tracking thousands of cellphones using a device known as a “cell-site simulator.” These can trick pinpointed cellphones into revealing identification numbers of subscribers, including those not suspected of a crime.

The FBI said that technology has been used on its surveillance aircraft only five times since 2010, according to one Senate staffer present at the briefing. The FBI would not say how often it has used the technology in ground surveillance operations.

Staffers shared details with the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about them.

The FBI said 85 percent of the aircraft have commercially available infrared still and video cameras. The remaining 15 percent use binoculars for surveillance missions. The FBI said there were only eight high-definition cameras in the fleet, though it would like to have that technology for more of its planes.

The FBI, like the Drug Enforcement Administration, said it hides its aircraft behind fake companies so that it can discreetly conduct surveillance and protect the safety of the pilots. The FBI said most surveillance flights — some 64 percent — are part of national security investigations. It was unclear over what time period those flights took place.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, pressed for answers about the FBI’s aerial surveillance program after The Washington Post reported in May that an FBI surveillance plane was used over Baltimore during rioting that erupted following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who sustained grievous injuries while in police custody. In that instance, the FBI was helping local police with aerial support.

Despite government concerns that publicity about the planes might impede surveillance, the number of flights has remained consistent since the AP first reported on the program, according to an AP review of flight records and radar data. Flights since June 2 have occurred a few times each day over cites across the United States, including San Francisco, Phoenix and Orange County, California. They are generally flown without a warrant, which the FBI says is consistent with the law.

Two senators proposed changing that Wednesday.

Sen. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, and Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has been outspoken about government surveillance, introduced a bill that would limit what the federal government can record from the skies and require a warrant to conduct surveillance from planes and drones.

“Technology has made it possible to conduct round-the-clock aerial surveillance. The law needs to keep up,” Wyden said in a statement. “Clear rules for when and how the federal government can watch Americans from the sky will provide critical certainty for the government, and help the unmanned aircraft industry reach its potential as an economic powerhouse in Oregon and the United States.”

The FBI said it does not comment on pending legislation, but maintained that a warrant was not necessary for the type of surveillance being conducted from its planes.

Courts are grappling with balancing constitutional protections against evolving technologies, as laws have not kept pace with technological advancements.

Among other reasons, the surveillance planes were exposed as belonging to the FBI because one of its fake companies shared a post office box with the Justice Department, creating a link between the companies and the FBI through publicly available Federal Aviation Administration records.

The FBI told Senate staffers it was working with the FAA to restore some cover to preserve operational security, but it did not plan to spend the money required to operate under “deep cover.”


Henry Sapiecha

Judges now required to give written reasons for issuing warrants for covert surveillance

NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, centre, has introduced a procedure requiring judges to write brief reasons for granting a warrant for covert surveillance. image

NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, centre, has introduced a procedure requiring judges to write brief reasons for granting a warrant for covert surveillance.

NSW Supreme Court judges are now required to give written reasons for issuing warrants authorising covert surveillance such as listening devices.

The recent parliamentary inquiry into the police bugging scandal revealed the extent of covert telephone intercepts of police and journalists allegedly without good reason between 1999 and 2001.

It emerged there was insufficient or no evidence of wrongdoing by many of the more than 100 police and civilians whose names appeared on warrants issued by the Supreme Court.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas image

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas was at the centre of a NSW police bugging scandal. He accused the former police internal affairs unit of engaging in “massive wrongdoing and habitual illegal acts”. Photo: Daniel Munoz

On Tuesday the Chief Justice of NSW Tom Bathurst said he had introduced a procedure whereby judges are required to write brief reasons for granting a warrant to any state or federal agency for covert surveillance.

The written reasons will be placed in a sealed envelope alongside the documents submitted in support of the warrants.

Chief Justice Bathurst said the court is receiving an average five requests a day for warrants, usually from NSW Police, the NSW Crime Commission and occasionally the Australian Federal Police.
NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst.NSW Supreme Court image

NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst. Photo: NSW Supreme Court

Describing the revelations from the inquiry into Operation Mascot as “historical problems”, he said the decision to implement a formal written record of a judge’s reasons was “a sensible thing to do”

“It just focuses the attention, I think, of the judge without making what is already an onerous burden too onerous,” he said.

However, so long as the power to issue warrants remained with the judiciary “we rely on the judge to act responsibly in doing so”, he said, noting the suggestion of setting up an administrative body to handle the task has been raised.

Chief Justice Bathurst said aside from the inquiry, there has been “very little direct complaint” about the issuing of warrants. “There’s an awful lot of trials in which intercepted material is used and very little complaint that it has been illegally or improperly obtained,” he said.

The NSW police bugging scandal emerged from Operation Mascot, which used a corrupt former policeman, code named M5, to target allegedly corrupt police with a listening device between 1999-2001.

NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas was named in 35 affidavits in support of 80 bugging warrants issued, which included surveillance of members of his family. Journalist Steve Barrett was named on 52 warrants.

Mr Kaldas accused the former police internal affairs unit of engaging in “massive wrongdoing and habitual illegal acts”.

During the inquiry, a former solicitor for the Crime Commission, John Giorgiutti, highlighted the sheer volume of warrants being issued to law enforcement agencies for surveillance operations, querying whether the courts are subjecting them to sufficient scrutiny.

Greens upper house MP and former barrister David Shoebridge, said: “There is this largely pretend oversight by the Supreme Court of applications for warrants and covert surveillance … our court system cannot handle inundating waves of ex parte applications by crime agencies other than by simply rubber-stamping them.”


Henry Sapiecha




Henry Sapiecha

Angry media won’t buckle over new surveillance laws

A new Bill would require telecommunications service providers to store so-called ‘metadat

A new Bill would require telecommunications service providers to store so-called ‘metadata’ for two years.

A HIGH-powered federal government team has been doing the rounds of media organisations in the past few days in an attempt to allay concerns about the impact of new surveillance legislation on press freedom. It failed.

The roadshow featured the Prime Minister’s national security adviser, Andrew Shearer, Justin Bassi, who advises Attorney-General George Brandis on crime and security matters, and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin. Staffers from the office of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull also took part.

They held meetings with executives from News Corporation and Fairfax, representatives of the TV networks, the ABC top brass and a group from the media union and the Walkley journalism foundation. I was involved as a member of the Walkley board.

The initiative, from Tony Abbott’s office, is evidence that the Government has been alarmed by the strength of criticism from media of the Data Retention Bill it wants passed before Parliament rises in a fortnight. Bosses, journalists, even the Press Council, are up in arms, not only over this measure, but also over aspects of two earlier pieces of national security legislation that interfere with the ability of the media to hold government to account.

The Bill would require telecommunications service providers to store so-called “metadata” — the who, where, when and how of a communication, but not its content — for two years so security and law enforcement agencies can access it without warrant. Few would argue against the use of such material to catch criminals or terrorists. But, as Parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has pointed out, it would also be used “for the purpose of determining the identity of a journalist’s sources”.

And that should ring warning bells for anyone genuinely concerned with the health of our democracy. Without the ability to protect the identity of sources, journalists would be greatly handicapped in exposing corruption, dishonesty, waste, incompetence and misbehaviour by public officials.

The Press Council is concerned the laws would crush investigative journalism.

“These legitimate concerns cannot be addressed effectively short of exempting journalists and media organisations,” says president David Weisbrot.

The media union is adamant journalists’ metadata must be exempted from the law. That’s what media bosses want, too, though they have a fallback position based on new safeguards being implemented in Britain.

That would prevent access to the metadata of journalists or media organisations without a judicial warrant. There would be a code including — according to the explanatory notes of the British Bill — “provision to protect the public interest in the confidentiality of journalistic sources”.

In their meetings this week, the government team boasted of concessions in the new Data Retention Bill. The number of agencies able to access metadata will be reduced by excluding such organisations as the RSPCA and local councils. And whenever an authorisation is issued for access to information about a journalist’s sources, the Ombudsman (or, where ASIO is involved, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security) will receive a copy.

That does nothing to solve the problem. The Government has effectively admitted as much by agreeing that the parliamentary committee should conduct a separate review of how to deal with the issue of journalists’ sources.

But another inquiry would be a waste of time — the committee has already received and considered dozens of submissions on the subject. The bottom line is that the Government does not deny that the legislation is flawed, but is demanding it be passed anyway with the possibility left open of a repair job down the track. That is a ridiculous approach.

Claims that immediate action is imperative do not stand up. These are measures that won’t come into full effect for two years. Anyway, amending the Bill to either exempt journalists or adopt the UK model could be done quickly, without any risk to national security.

AS Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said in a letter to Abbott last month: “Press freedom concerns about mandatory data retention would ideally be addressed in this Bill to avoid the need for future additional amendments or procedures to be put in place in the future.”

The Data Retention Bill will be debated in the House of Representatives this week. Then, on Friday, CEOs from leading media organisations will front the parliamentary committee to air their concerns before the legislation goes to the Senate.

Those CEOs should make it clear they are just as angry about this as they were about Stephen Conroy’s attempt to impinge on press freedom through media regulation under the previous Labor government.

Memories of the grief Conroy brought down on his head would undoubtedly make Abbott sit up and take notice.



Henry Sapiecha




A GROUP of men triggered a security scare at Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor yesterday

after two vehicles parked about 100m from the front security gate.

The five adults, who were with two children, were interviewed by NSW and federal police for about 20 minutes

after they were spotted near the highly sensitive site at 5.15pm.

police question persons at sydney nuclear reactor site image www.ispysite (4)

Police talk to the group of men near the Lucas Heights perimeter fence.

Police quizzed the men about their movements, taking down particulars from each of them and checking their identifications.

After the discussions, the men were allowed to go without charge, with police warning them that Lucas Heights is a protected Commonwealth facility controlled by the Australian Nuclear Science And Technology Organisation.

police question persons at sydney nuclear reactor site image www.ispysite (6)

Police talk to the group of men near the Lucas Heights perimeter fence.

But a police source raised the question of why the men — who had earlier been seen walking along a track near bushland off New Illawarra Rd — were at a location clearly marked as restricted Commonwealth land.

Police at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.

“That’s the most concerning question and explains why so many police raced to the scene,” the source said.

Nine News reported that at least two of the men, wearing robes, were seen praying not long after they had been stopped by police.

police question persons at sydney nuclear reactor site image www.ispysite (3)

Police at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.

It is believed police warned the men that trespassing in the restricted zone was potentially an offence that carries a $2000 maximum fine and/or up to six months in jail depending on the circumstances.

police question persons at sydney nuclear reactor site image www.ispysite (2)

Police talk to the group of men near the Lucas Heights perimeter fence.

A police spokesman said: “Following inquiries, all occupants of the vehicles were ­allowed to leave.”

The Lucas Heights facility is heavily protected and security has been progressively increased in the wake of several security scares and incidents in recent times involving bushwalkers and trail-bike riders.

police question persons at sydney nuclear reactor site image www.ispysite (1)

Police talk to the group of men near the Lucas Heights perimeter fence.

One unrelated example was a terror plot involving French Islamic convert Willie Brigitte in 2003.

sydney nuclear reactor site aerial footage of men praying when apprehended by police image

A screen shot from Channel 9 footage which appears to show two of the men praying

The facility was also the focus of the foiled Pendennis terror plot involving Australian-born terrorist Mohamed Elomar, who was photographed proudly holding the severed heads of Syrian soldiers while fighting with Islamic State militants.

police question persons at sydney nuclear reactor site image www.ispysite (7)

Police talk to the group of men near the Lucas Heights perimeter fence.

He was arrested in 2005 and jailed for being the bombmaker in the Pendennis plot to blow up the nuclear reactor and the MCG.

The area is subject to restricted airspace and is bound by perimeter fencing, CCTV cameras, barriers and tyre-shredding road spikes.


Police talk to the group of men near the Lucas Heights perimeter fence.

A huge steel protective barrier was built over the nuclear reactor in 2004 to protect its core if an aircraft was flown into it.

Dubbed the “chip basket”, the striking 30m-long feature, the first of its kind in the world, acts as a net to catch a terrorist-piloted aircraft.

Personnel vetting, information security and technology measures are part of the security measures on the site, 31km southwest of Sydney.

ANSTO Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Lucas Heights sign image

The ANSTO Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Lucas Heights.



Henry Sapiecha


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