New anti-terror law allows ASIO to torture

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Article Lead - wide6131829110d96simage.related.articleLeadwide.729x410.10i9hv.png1410944480323.jpg-620x349“Senator Brandis has proven as adept at selling the government’s law-and-order messages as Treasurer Joe Hockey has been at crafting and selling a tough federal budget.” Photo: Glenn Hunt

It is not clear why the Attorney-General, George Brandis, believes it is necessary for the Australian government to have the latitude to resort to torture, but you could drive a truck through his National Security Legislation Amendment Bill and not hit anything that says “do not torture people”.

I’ve spoken to two legal experts and one outraged Senator about this bill and it is obvious that allowing torture, by government security agents, lies within the scope of the draft law.

Read it for yourself. Under the heading, “Immunity from liability”, Section 35K of the draft  National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2014 bill states:

“A participant in a special intelligence operation is not subject to any civil or criminal liability for or in relation to conduct if … the conduct does not involve the participant engaging in any conduct that: (i) causes the death of, or serious injury to, any person; or (ii) involves the commission of a sexual offence against any person; or (iii) causes significant loss of, or serious damage to, property;”

You don’t need the advice of a QC to work out that this provision states that it is unlawful to kill people, cause serious injury, sexually abuse, or cause serious damage to a person’s property, but deliberately leaves about 150 shades of grey, ranging from ethical ambiguity to outright black ops.

In explaining the proposed changes to the law, Senator Brandis told parliament on July 16, “Covert operations may expose intelligence personnel or sources to legal liability in the course of their work. For this reason, some significant covert operations do not commence or are ceased. To address this issue, the Bill implements the recommendation to create a limited immunity for participants in authorised, covert operations…The limited immunity is subject to rigorous safeguards.”

The law is silent about an array of punitive measures, including inflicting permanent psychological damage, in the name of security interrogation. You don’t even need to have been charged with a crime. The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill is designed to “establish a framework for the conduct of covert intelligence operations”. I suspect that framework will now be revisited by the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security.


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