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Australian govt talked PRISM before Snowden revelations

Published time: October 08, 2013 10:21
Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

Highly-redacted documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws show the Australian Attorney-General’s Department prepared a secret briefing on the US PRISM spying program months before it was exposed in Edward Snowden’s leaks.

The documents in question were requested and obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

They reveal that the Attorney-General’s Department had a briefing on US PRISM spying program scheduled for March 21, and that’s more than two months before the program’s role in US global surveillance was exposed in reports based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.

The timing for the PRISM-briefing is actually the biggest news coming out of the nine pages of paperwork made public by the Australian government. Much of the text has been taken out, citing national security concerns.

Among the totally blacked out things are talking points concerning the effect of PRISM on the privacy of Australians and also the analysis of the media reporting following the release of the leaked NSA papers.

What’s left untouched is demands for clarification on the use of PRISM in Australia by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

Interception and access to telecommunications in Australia is undertaken strictly in accordance with the law,” is the answer to almost every question asked.

"The Australian Government has tried to be completely opaque about this,” Ludlam reacted to the papers’ release. “Our attorneys-general, either of the Labor or the Liberal variety, will just wave their hands and say 'national security', and that's meant to make you stop asking questions."

According to Edward Snowden’s leaks, made public in June, Australia is one of the “Five Eyes” – an alliance of intelligence-sharing countries which also include Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the US.

The report on Australia’s role in US surveillance in the Brazilian newspaper O Globo pointed at four facilities in Australia which contributed heavily to US spying.

In the wake of the NSA scandal, a surveillance deal struck between Australia’s largest phone company, Telstra, and the FBI was disclosed.

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