Documents released earlier today which appear to show a spy agency offering to share information about Australian citizens are unverified, Attorney-General George Brandis has told The Senate.
The Guardian published the document supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. It appears to show details of a meeting between United States, British, Canadian and New Zealand intelligence agencies.
Reportedly, what was then the Defence Signals Directorate offered to share “bulk” metadata, which amounts to the digital signatures of thousands of people.
“DSD can share bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata as long as there is no intent to target an Australian national,” notes from the intelligence conference cited in the report say.
In the Senate today Brandis called Snowden, now a fugitive who has been granted asylum in Russia, a “traitor” and said the document was unverified.
“I also note that the unverified document is described as a draft document which, contrary to the reports, does not report or record any activity by any Australian agency,” he said according to The ABC.
The Guardian’s report says the DSD offered to hand over the data, and advised its partners the risk of information on Australian citizens being inadvertently shared was not great.
“Unintentional collection is not viewed as a significant issue,” the DSD in the document.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, according to The ABC, said Australian intelligence gathering was subject to strict protocols which prevented agencies breaking the law.
“I’m confident that we’ve got all the relevant safeguards in place and I have no reason to think that any Australian intelligence organisation has not acted in accordance with Australian law.”
Joel Fitzgibbon, who was defence minister in 2008 when the meeting the document is sourced from took place, told Sky News earlier that his signature would have been required for the agency to monitor any Australian citizen.
The article raised concerns that the agency, now known as the Australian Signals Directorate, could have been operating outside of its legal mandate by offering to provide the information.
Meanwhile, The Greens are calling on the government to “come clean” on its spy activities.
There’s more here.
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