The federal government has refused to recognise a decision by a US appeals court which ruled that mass collection of telecommunications metadata.
Parliament today rejected a motion by Greens communications spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam that the senate take note the ruling and recognise that “Australians and the global community have legitimate and ongoing concerns about the erosion of privacy caused by the unchecked growth of government electronic surveillance programs”.
The Greens also recognise the work of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in exposing mass surveillance programs among the so-called ‘five eyes’ allies of which Australia is a member.
The motion was overwhelmingly rejected by 38 votes to 15.
Senator Ludlam said that Labor and the Liberals continued to collude on mass surveillance.
“This motion called on the Senate, which just months ago passed a data retention scheme, to acknowledge the reality that the US Court of Appeals has ruled the bulk collection of telecommunications metadata by US Government agencies to be unlawful,” Senator Ludlam said.
“Australians and users of telecommunications services everywhere have legitimate and ongoing concerns about the erosion of privacy caused by the unchecked growth of indiscriminate surveillance programs.
“These are concerns that the Liberal and Labor surveillance alliance continue to ignore, despite the growing risk of significant data breaches as a result of the scheme they forced on all of us,” he added.
Senator Ludlam’s motion referred to the Manhattan 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision last month, which found that the NSA’s mass collection of call records of US citizens, was not legal under the Patriot Act.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the case after Mr Snowden, who is currently living in exile in Russia, exposed the NSA’s mass surveillance to the media.
In his ruling Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch rejected the government’s interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot allowed it carry out the program legally.
“If the government is correct, it could use (Section) 215 to collect and store in bulk any other existing metadata available anywhere in the private sector, including metadata associated with financial records, medical records, and electronic communications (including e‐mail and social media information) relating to all Americans.
“Such expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans. Perhaps such a contraction is required by national security needs in the face of the dangers of contemporary domestic and international terrorism. But we would expect such a momentous decision to be preceded by substantial debate, and expressed in unmistakable language,” he wrote.
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