‘Tony Abbott running from the law’ | The Saturday Paper

Abbott is not a conservative here. Separation of powers, habeas corpus and court scrutiny of government are conservative doctrines. All prime ministers bridle at the restraints of the law. But Abbott has been willing to a remarkable degree to push the law aside to appease populist fears and populist contempt for human rights.

This plays beautifully to his base but across Australia it raises old trust issues with Tony Abbott. The evidence of the polls can’t be doubted: Australians trust courts far more than they trust politicians. Attacking courts, judges and the traditional ways of the law makes Australians uneasy.

via Tony Abbott running from the law | The Saturday Paper

Torture report highlights consequences of permanent war | Andrew Bacevich

How did this happen? To blame a particular president, a particular administration, or a particular agency simply will not do. The abuses described in the report prepared by the Senate Committee on Intelligence did not come out of nowhere. Rather than new, they merely represent variations on an existing theme.

Since at least 1940, when serious preparations for entry into World War II began, the United States has been more or less continually engaged in actual war or in semi-war, intensively girding itself for the next active engagement, assumed to lie just around the corner. The imperatives of national security, always said to be in peril, have taken precedence over all other considerations. In effect, war and the preparation for war have become perpetual. [ . . . ]

One consequence of our engagement in permanent war has been to induce massive distortions, affecting [the] apparatus of government, the nation, and the relationship between the two. The size, scope, and prerogatives accorded to the so-called intelligence community — along with the abuses detailed in the Senate report — provide only one example of the result. But so too is the popular deference accorded to those who claim to know exactly what national security requires, even as they evade responsibility for the last disaster to which expert advice gave rise.

via Torture report highlights consequences of permanent war – Opinion – The Boston Globe

(h/t FB Ali)

Laura Poitras and Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch

Laura Poitras in conversation with Tom Engelhardt.

I was put on a watchlist in 2006. I was detained and questioned at the border returning to the U.S. probably around 40 times. If I counted domestic stops and every time I was stopped at European transit points, you’re probably getting closer to 80 to 100 times. It became a regular thing, being asked where I’d been and who I’d met with. I found myself caught up in a system you can’t ever seem to get out of, this Kafkaesque watchlist that the U.S. doesn’t even acknowledge.

TE: Were you stopped this time coming in?

LP: I was not. The detentions stopped in 2012 after a pretty extraordinary incident.

I was coming back in through Newark Airport and I was stopped. I took out my notebook because I always take notes on what time I’m stopped and who the agents are and stuff like that. This time, they threatened to handcuff me for taking notes. They said, “Put the pen down!” They claimed my pen could be a weapon and hurt someone.

“Put the pen down! The pen is dangerous!” And I’m like, you’re not… you’ve got to be crazy. Several people yelled at me every time I moved my pen down to take notes as if it were a knife. After that, I decided this has gotten crazy, I’d better do something and I called Glenn [Greenwald]. He wrote a piece about my experiences. In response to his article, they actually backed off.

via Tomgram: Laura Poitras and Tom Engelhardt, The Snowden Reboot | TomDispatch

Anthony Albanese: Labor has gone too far in supporting national security laws | The Guardian

At a time like this the security agencies will take the opportunity to impose things that have been in their bottom drawer for a long period of time. I believe our agencies, including Asio, do a great job for this nation … but it’s also the case in a democratic country like ours – we’re talking about fighting for freedom, it’s important to ensure freedom is protected and not given up.

That’s Anthony Albanese on Sky News’ Australian Agenda on Sunday morning. The Guardian’s report continued.

Albanese argued the impact of theNew law should be closely examined by everyone. “There are legitimate criticisms and they need to be responded to by the government.

He signalled the laws might need to be wound back. “I’m concerned about the rights of journalists. I’m someone who has consistently supported the rights of media to report.”

Asked whether his critique was supported by other senior figures, Albanese said: “I’m speaking for myself.”

Continue reading

Greater surveillance and deeper silence | Melissa Parke

Melissa Parke was the only major party MP to speak out against the new national security laws.

Quixotic, perhaps, but worth noting and honouring.

So far the debate on this issue has occurred within a frame that posits a direct relationship between, on the one hand, safety and civility in our everyday lives and, on the other, the powers that impinge upon and make incursions into individual freedom.

If we want to continue our lives free from terrorism and orchestrated violence – so the argument goes – we have to accept shifting the balance between freedom and constraint away from the observance of basic rights and towards greater surveillance, more interference, deeper silence.

Let me say that no one should be fooled into believing it is as simple as that.

The truth is that the remarkable peace, harmony, and security we enjoy in Australia is in fact produced and sustained by our collective observance of freedoms and human rights, rather than existing in spite of such values and conditions.

It is wrong to say that we have been complacent about security on two counts.

First, because we have strong, well-resourced, and competent security agencies, and second because our commitment to a way of life that puts faith in freedom, respect and tolerance, that puts faith in democracy and the rule of law, is itself productive of peace and shared security.

It’s amusing, if a little depressing, to ponder what pressing issue Shorten and co might have had in mind when they decided to waive this abomination through so as to keep their “obstructionist” powder dry.

via No one should be fooled into believing security is as simple as greater surveillance and deeper silence | Melissa Parke | theguardian.com

National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014

Even the authors of the Parliamentary Library Bills Digests report on the NSLA Bill aren’t comfortable.

The lack of independent scrutiny and time for Members and Senators to consider the complexities of the Bill is concerning. It is particularly so in light of Recommendation 41 in the 2013 PJCIS Report. The PJCIS recommended that amendments implementing its recommended changes to AIC legislation be released as an Exposure Draft for public consultation as well as being subject to Parliamentary committee scrutiny and targeted consultation with the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS).

They’re not alone. Here’s the bottom line from the Law Council of Australia:

These concerns have led the Law Council to recommend that the NSLA Bill not be passed in its current form and that the PJCIS should request the next appointed Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) to consider the operation, effectiveness and implications of existing legislation with a view to addressing the issues which are raised by the Bill. While the previous INSLM has considered a few of the relevant issues (as noted below), most have not been subject to the INSLM’s consideration.  If this recommendation is not adopted, then the Law Council urges the PJCIS to carefully consider the following recommendations for changes to the Bill that are discussed in detail in this submission.

They, like most others concerned with this bill, are particularly unhappy with Section 35P which creates new offences related to the unauthorised disclosure of information relating to a Secret Intelligence Operation (SIO). It devotes almost five pages to its flaws and dangers Continue reading

Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul? | Jesse McCarthy at The Point

In this marvellous essay, Jesse McCarthy puzzles over why there is “a bloody knot in the social fabric that is as vivid in Ferguson, Missouri today as it was in Baldwin’s Harlem half a century ago.”

He starts with “Fifth Avenue, Uptown: a Letter from Harlem”, James Baldwin’s essay from 1960.

It is hard on the other hand to blame the policeman… he too, believes in good intentions and is astounded and offended when they are not taken for the deed… He moves through Harlem, therefore, like an occupying soldier in a bitterly hostile country; which is precisely what, and where, he is. … He can retreat from his unease in only one direction: into a callousness which very shortly becomes second nature. He becomes more callous, the population becomes more hostile, the situation grows more tense, and the police force is increased. One day, to everyone’s astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up. Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed, editorials, speeches and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is that Negroes want to be treated like men.

“Want to be treated like men.” That wish, together with all its many ramifications, is in McCarthy’s view ground zero. Continue reading