• Secret 5-Eyes document shows surveillance partners discussing what information they can pool about their citizens
• DSD indicated it could provide material without some privacy restraints imposed by other countries such as Canada
• Medical, legal or religious information ‘not automatically limited’
• Concern that intelligence agency could be ‘operating outside its legal mandate’
The secret document shows the partners discussing whether or not to share citizens’ “medical, legal or religious information”. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters
Australia’s surveillance agency offered to share information collected about ordinary Australian citizens with its major intelligence partners, according to a secret 2008 document leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The document shows the partners discussing whether or not to share “medical, legal or religious information”, and increases concern that the agency could be operating outside its legal mandate, according to the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC.
The Australian intelligence agency, then known as the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), indicated it could share bulk material without some of the privacy restraints imposed by other countries, such as Canada.
“DSD can share bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata as long as there is no intent to target an Australian national,” notes from an intelligence conference say. “Unintentional collection is not viewed as a significant issue.”
The agency acknowledged that more substantial interrogation of the material would, however, require a warrant.
Metadata is the information we all generate whenever we use technology, from the date and time of a phone call to the location from which an email is sent.
“Bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata” means that this data is in its raw state, and nothing has been deleted or redacted in order to protect the privacy of ordinary citizens who might have been caught in the dragnet. Metadata can present a very complete picture of someone’s life.
The working document, marked secret, sheds new light on the extent to which intelligence agencies at that time were considering sharing information with foreign surveillance partners, and it provides further confirmation that, to some extent at least, there is warrantless surveillance of Australians’ personal metadata.
The DSD joined its four intelligence-sharing partners – the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, collectively known as 5-Eyes – to discuss what could and what could not be shared under the different jurisdictions at a meeting hosted by Britain’s GCHQ at its headquarters in Cheltenham on 22-23 April, 2008.
The notes, published today by Guardian Australia, suggest that Australia was open to pooling bulk data that almost certainly includes information about Australian citizens.
Clearly indicating the different attitudes between the intelligence partners, the Canadians insisted that bulk collection could only be shared if information about its citizens was first “minimised”, meaning deleted or removed. The various techniques used in “minimisation” help protect citizens’ privacy.
The GCHQ memo taker, reporting on this, said that “bulk, unselected metadata presents too high a risk to share with second parties at this time because of the requirement to ensure that the identities of Canadians or persons in Canada are minimised, but re-evaluation of this stance is ongoing”.
By contrast, DSD, now renamed the Australian Signals Directorate, offered a broader sweep of material to its partners.
DSD offered to share bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata – although there were specific caveats. The note taker at the meeting writes: “However, if a ‘pattern of life’ search detects an Australian then there would be a need to contact DSD and ask them to obtain a ministerial warrant to continue.”
A “pattern of life” search is more detailed one – joining the dots to build up a portrait of an individual’s daily activities.
It is technically possible to strip out the metadata of Australian nationals from bulk collection methods used by the 5-Eyes countries, such as cable taps – ensuring the information is not stored, and so could not be pulled in to searches and investigations by agents.
The Snowden documents reveal Australia’s intelligence services instead offered to leave the data in its raw state.
Australian politicians have insisted that all surveillance undertaken is in accordance with the law.
But Geoffrey Robertson, writing in the Guardian today, says if what was described in the memo took place, this would be a breach of sections eight and 12 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001. The act sets a strict requirement that ministerial authorisation is required if the data of an Australian citizen is involved, and indicates that the citizen must be a “person of interest”, such as someone involved in terrorism or organised crime.
The Cheltenham gathering, which appears to have been convened to consider the issues around the burgeoning collection of metadata and to reach common positions, resolved to avoid pre-emptive efforts to categorise various materials and “simply focus on what is shareable in bulk”.
The memo flags privacy concerns around the collection of various types of data, but the meeting, according to the record, resolved not to set “automatic limitations” – leaving judgment calls to each country’s own agencies.
“Consideration was given as to whether any types of data were prohibited, for example medical, legal, religious or restricted business information, which may be regarded as an intrusion of privacy,” the memo says.
“Given the nascent state of many of these data types then no, or limited, precedents have been set with respect to proportionality or propriety, or whether different legal considerations applies to the ‘ownership’ of this data compared with the communications data that we were more accustomed to handle.”
“It was agreed that the conference should not seek to set any automatic limitations, but any such difficult cases would have to be considered by ‘owning’ agency on a case-by-case basis.”
The document also shows the agencies considering disclosure to “non-intelligence agencies”. It says: “Asio and the Australian federal police are currently reviewing how Sigint [signals intelligence] information can be used by non-intelligence agencies.”
The record of the Cheltenham meeting does not indicate whether the activities under discussion in April 2008 progressed to final decisions or specific actions. It appears to be a working draft.
Since Snowden leaked the NSA documents to the Guardian and the Washington Post in May, controversy has raged around the world over revelations that surveillance agencies are collecting information in bulk about ordinary citizens’ day-to-day activities, without first getting a warrant.
In Australia, the Greens party and the South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon have been pursuing questions about the extent to which Australian citizens have been caught up in the dragnet, and the extent of Australian intelligence agencies’ involvement.
So far, those questions have largely met with stonewalling, both under the previous Labor government and the new Abbott administration.
Ewen MacAskill, James Ball and Katharine Murphy
The Guardian, Monday 2 December 2013 00.20 GMT
Find this story at 2 December 2013
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
Buro Jansen & Janssen Postbus 10591, 1001EN Amsterdam, 020-6123202, 06-34339533, signal +31684065516, email@example.com (pgp)
Steun Buro Jansen & Janssen. Word donateur, NL43 ASNB 0856 9868 52 of NL56 INGB 0000 6039 04 ten name van Stichting Res Publica, Postbus 11556, 1001 GN Amsterdam.
- Observant#80 2022 Protesteren is Terrorisme
- Observant#79 2022 VASTech / Cyberupt
- Observant#78 2021 De burger is staatsgevaarlijk
- Observant#77 2021 Fox-IT in Rusland
- Observant#76 2021 Integrale Nepwetenschap
- Observant#75 2020 Fox-IT en exportvergunningen
- Observant#74 2020 Stasi NL Benaderingen in 2019
- Observant#73 2019 Fox-IT in het Midden-Oosten
- Arrestantenhandleiding 2018
- Observant#72 2018 Geheime politie van Nederland
- Referendum WIV 2017 magazine 2018
- Observant#71 2018 Niet Transparante Wetenschap
- Observant#70 2017 Social Media Surveillance
- Observant#69 2017 Politie Mercenaries
- Observant#68 2016 Wetenschappers en Politie
- Observant#67 2015 Data Bedrog
- Observant#66 2015 Terroriseren politiek protest
- Observant#65 2014 G4S, Facebook en de AIVD
- Observant#64 2014 Vreemdelingendetentie
- Observant#63 2013 Ideologische orde, Chiquita
- Observant#62 2012 De Psyche van een Mol
- Observant#61 2012 RID bespioneert jongeren
- Observant#60 2012 Duurzaam afwimpelen
- Security Industry: Israel - the Netherlands 2011
- Observant#59 2011 RID protest Twente
- Observant#58 2011 Kraaijer, AIVD, De Telegraaf
- Observant#57 2011 Shell, imago AIVD, India
- Europese politie en Justitie Infozine 2010
- Observant#56 2010 Ochtendgloren, politie phishing
- Observant#55 2010 Politieke Politie
- Observant#54 2009 ID-plicht, Demonstratierecht
- Observant#53 2009 Haags Fouilleren
- Observant#52 2009 200.000 professionals?
- Observant#51 2009 Chocolade spionnen
- Observant#50 2008 Sloop Deporatiemachine
- Observant#49 2008 Bewaarplicht en Onmacht
- Observant#48 2008 De Onschuld is Dood
- Identificatieplicht Infozine 2007
- Observant#47 2007 WUID & buitenland
- Observant#46 2007 Aanslagen, Prüm, toezicht
- Observant#45 2007 Blauw Waas, terrorisme
- Observant#44 2007 Preventief Strafrecht
- Terrorismebestrijding in Nederland infozine 2006
- Ruimte voor het recht 2006 Demonstratierecht
- Onder Druk, Terrorismebestrijding NL 2006
- Observant#43 2006 Kiezen verdwijnen terreur
- Observant#42 2006 Schaduw terreur
- Observant#41 2006 Willekeurig Strafrecht
- Observant#40 2006 Vuile terreur oorlog
- Observant#39 2006 Terreur van grootmachten
- Gestraft zonder veroordeling 2005
- Observant#38 2005 Bedrijfsspionage terrorisme
- Observant#37 2005 Terrorisme fabels
- Observant#36 2005 Terroristen lijsten
- Observant#35 2005 EU Grondwet
- Observant#34 2005 Gewist AIVD bewijs
- Observant#33 2005 ID-weigeraars Nat. Recherche
- Observant#32 2005 Misleidende inlichtingen
- Observant#31 2005 Cyclopisch Recht
- Observant#30 2004 Bedrijfsspionage acties
- Observant#29 2004 Rasterfahndung NL
- Observant#28 2004 Veganisten barbeque
- Observant#27 2004 EU2004, dieren en camera's
- Observant#26 2004 Vreemdelingen inlichtingen
- Observant#25 2004 Incidentenpolitiek
- Observant#24 2004 Europese Terreur
- Observant#23 2004 Boeven en buitenlui
- Observant#22 2004 Terroristische Activist
- Misleidende methode 14 november 2003
- Keizer in lompen, 1 november 2003
- Observant#21 2003 Vreemdelingen en de AIVD
- Observant#20 2003 Snuffelstaat
- Observant#19 2003 Globalisten onder de loep
- Observant#18 2003 EU & AIVD, list & bedrog
- De Snuffelstaat, NL en de BVD 1 november 2002
- Schone schijn, 1 juni 2002
- Observant#17 2002 Schone Schijn
- Observant#16 2002 EU Europol snuffelen
- Observant#15 2002 Politie betaalt studie
- Observant#14 2002 Op jacht naar links
- Observant#13 2002 IMSI DNA BVD kip
- Observant#12 2002 De vader van de bruid
- Observant#11 2001 War on Terror
- Observant#10 2001 Europa tegen demonstranten
- Observant#9 2001 Burenruzie en oliegiganten
- Observant#8 2001 Veiligheid en zekerheid
- Observant#7 2001 Camus Echelon Greenpeace
- Zoom, cameratoezicht, 1 augustus 2000
- Tips tegen tralies, 1 juli 2000
- Dossier Cryptografie, 1 mei 2000
- Dossier Cryptografie (GB), 1 mei 2000
- Dossier Pepperspray, 1 maart 2000
- Observant#6 2000 BVD en vluchtelingen
- Observant#5 2000 Begrotingen politie justitie
- Observant#4 2000 Zoom: dossier cameratoezicht
- Observant#3 2000 Europol
- Observant#2 2000 Crypto Pepperspray
- Observant#1 2000 Crime in Cyberspace, EK2000
- Luisterrijk, 1 november 1999
- Dossier Europol II, 1 april 1999
- Het Europese asielbeleid, 1 september 1999
- VD-Amok inlichtingendiensten, 1 december 1998
- Dossier Europol I, 1 mei 1997
- Welingelichte Kringen, 1 juli 1995
- Nederland, open U, 1 juli 1994
- De muren hebben oren 1 januari 1994
- Opening van Zaken, 1 maart 1993
- De vluchteling achtervolgd, 1 april 1991
- Regenjassendemokratie, 1 april 1990
- Administratieve Apartheid
- Adrian Franks, infiltrant in actiegroepen
- AIVD en vreemdelingen
- Artikel 140
- Cryptografie, cyberwar in 2000
- De tragiek van de geheime dienst
- De zaak Bosio
- Demonstratierecht, Is er ruimte voor het recht
- Dossier CICI
- Dossier RaRa
- Etnisch Profileren
- Europese Politie en Justitie
- Europese regelgeving
- Koppelingswet, uitsluiting van vreemdelingen
- Louis Sévèke, vermoorde Nijmeegse activist
- Informanten & Infiltranten
- Openbare Orde
- Oud Papier Affaire
- Paola, Italiaanse repressie
- Particuliere Recherche
- Paul Kraaijer, informant of fantast
- Preventief Fouilleren
- RCID Kennemerland
- Van Traa
• Secret 5-Eyes document shows surveillance partners discussing what information they can pool about their citizens