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Australia Taps More Phones Than Entire U.S. 277

Posted by timothy
from the speak-up-mate dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Last year Australian authorities tapped more phones all United States authorities combined. Australian phones were tapped at 20 times the rate of phones in the US according to this article in the Sydney Morning herald. The fact was revealed during a debate in the Australian parliament. The government is attempting to pass new legislation to to make it even easier for the country's domestic spy agency ASIO to tap phones." Update: 09/16 14:07 GMT by T : Julian Assange writes "The Australian is also running the story and has better stats." Thanks for the link.
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Australia Taps More Phones Than Entire U.S.

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    And being one of those Australians who has been tapped - let me tell you it is not nice.

    Especially when you are innocent.
    • And being one of those Australians who has been tapped - let me tell you it is not nice. Especially when you are innocent. How did you find out you were being tapped? Was it just an uncomfortable feeling from knowing you'd been tapped, or have you actually had some of your stuff played back to you, etc.?
    • Re:being tapped (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If you want to take a look at more serious government abuses, take a look at Sweden.

      There is a discussion on www.dumblaws.com->Discussion Forums->Country Laws->Check out Sweden!

      http://www.dumblaws.com/forums/vbulletin/forumdi sp lay.php?s=&forumid=11
    • Re:being tapped (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      A friend of mine was raided by the Federal Police in full gear. They spent over $1 million ($500,000 $US) trying to get this guy..... And they turned up _nothing_ We found out from a contact in the Federal Police that naturally his phone was tapped, as were all his closer friends (this includes me).

      It disturbes me that I was watched because of guilt by association with someone who was NOT guilty of anything.
      • that's nothing. in america we spent over $30 million investigating one guy over a land deal and ended up barely being able to prove that he lied to people that he had an affair - and that was just because a private citizen illegally recorded some phone conversations.

        as usual we americans are better at everything - including abusing civil liberties. so there.
        • 'twas 70 million plus, actually.

          But it bought us Bush II ! I'm sure the House managers thought it other people's money well spent.
  • Oh No (Score:2, Funny)

    by WzDD (23061)
    Lucky We Live In A Free Country Like America!

    See What Happens When Citizens Give Up Their Guns?

    This Would Never Happen If Australia Had A First Amendment Like The US!

    Just wanted to get those out of the way. Carry on. :-)
    • Re:Oh No (Score:3, Funny)

      by rchatterjee (211000)
      not to be too picky about your little rant there but the first amendment is:

      Amendment I


      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


      I'm pretty sure Australia has most if not all of that somewhere in their constitution as well. What they don't have is something like our second amendment which is:

      Amendment II


      A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.


      But i'm just one of those types who is picky about which amendment is which.
      • Not trying to be funny, or anything, but isn't Australia in the same position as the UK, in that it doesn't have a written constitution? Just a network of constitutional laws and acts, and a supporting set of court judgements that delineate the powers of the state. I apologize for my ignorance, but if Australia is in the same position as the UK, then there is a problem with constitional rights, because there is nowhere that these rights are explicitly stated.
        For instance, with regard to freedom of speech, the UK government can use something called a D-notice to suppress press reports that it doesn't like, although there has been a lot of controversy about this, and I think that the use of this power is limited by the courts. I don't claim to be a big expert on this.
        I live in Russia, and used to work for a multilateral organisation here. We were always happy that our phones were bugged, because then the Russians might actually believe that we meant the advice that we gave them.
        • Yes, Australia has a constitution!

          http://www.dpmc.gov.au/docs/constitution.cfm
        • Actually, we do have one. See http://www.chanrobles.com/australia.htm I think what you're reffering to in part is the Common Law, which we have adopted along with many other English conventions.
        • For instance, with regard to freedom of speech, the UK government can use something called a D-notice to suppress press reports that it doesn't like

          As I understand it D-notices was/is a somewhat bizarre scheme, a kind of gentleman's agreement between newspaper editors and the Department of Defense whereby the DoD would supply the newspaper editors with privilaged access to certain information if they agreed not to publish it. It wasn't a legal thing as far as I am aware - the editors could (and some did) tell the DoD to stuff their D-notices.

          With regards to freedom of speech in the UK it is something that is pretty fundamental. For instance UK journalists and newscasters are really hard questioners and don't give politicians an easy time in the way they do in many countries...
          • For instance UK journalists and newscasters are really hard questioners and don't give politicians an easy time in the way they do in many countries...

            Let's see, we have:

            • Johnny Vaughan.
            • Richard and Judy.
            • Martin Bashir.

            On the other hand we also have

            • Peter Snow
            • Jeremy Paxman
            • Ali G :-)

            Hmm, depends who the politicians pick to interview them...

            • Hmmm. I don't think I would call Johnny Vaughan, Richard and Judy or Ali G news journalists.

              Mind you, I remember Ali G asking Edward Heath if she ever fancied giving Thatcher a quickie, which is a pretty tough question...
          • As I understand it D-notices was/is a somewhat bizarre scheme, a kind of gentleman's agreement between newspaper editors and the Department of Defense whereby the DoD would supply the newspaper editors with privilaged access to certain information if they agreed not to publish it. It wasn't a legal thing as far as I am aware - the editors could (and some did) tell the DoD to stuff their D-notices.

            No. It involves the Offical Secrets Act, and basically amounts to "information about the theft of that anthrax from Porton Down is classified. If you tell anyone about it, we'll lock you up." There's a specific exemption to our Freedom of Expression for "national security" - basically, the Ministry of Defence (MoD; DoD is the US version) can just turn up and gag you on any matter they feel like. They can't gag you about, say, a politician screwing his secretary, but anything military or relating to the security services is another matter: just ask David Shayler...

            (The theft I mention was actually referred to by one paper at the time: the British lab at Porton Down was broken into, and had three things stolen - one being a sample of Foot and Mouth, another being Anthrax. For some strange reason, it wasn't referred to again...)


            • No. It involves the Offical Secrets Act,[..]

              Nope, I think I was correct in my orginal post. From the official web site (www.dnotice.org.uk):

              "The DA-Notices are intended to provide to national and provincial newspaper editors, to periodicals editors, to radio and television organisations and to relevant book publishers, general guidance on those areas of national security which the Government considers it has a duty to protect. The Notices, together with a General Introduction, details of the Committee and how to contact the Secretary, are widely distributed to editors, producers and publishers and also to officials in Government departments, military commanders, chief constables and some institutions. The Notices have no legal standing and advice offered within their framework may be accepted or rejected partly or wholly."

              I have also read an opinion piece about D-Notices by the editor of a national publication (I don't remember which), in which he said he basically ignored them. It is a system that apparently used to work - when it was a gentlemen's agreement type thing - but doesn't really any more.

        • Actually, Australia's constitution came into effect on 1 Jan 1901 - the day we federated. So it was quite a significant day. It established and defined the relationship between the all states. It took a long time to develop - and was done by a group of clear-thinking, diverse people in a fiery debate - where no one got killed.

          (People often walked out, but no one got killed. And the process went for years) until finally the fiction that is the Australian constitution was born. Somehow, we managed to develop a Clayton's monarchy, (the monarchy you have when you're not having a monarchy).

          And now lots of people want to change the constitution - because of this very clever fiction. But I'm sure in the process they'll remove a lot of the freedoms that are currently afforded to Australian's if they are allowed to change it one iota. Then we won't be able to walk down the street with the right to be free from fear of drive-by shootings and there will proabably be more allowances and less restrictions phone tappings by incompetent organisations like ASIO.

          If ASIO were so good at tapping phones, how come the newspaper knows about it? Is it just me, or is the real story - we know about more Aussies having their phones tapped than we know about American phones being tapped?

          Now the CIA, there's an agency that really knows where its towel is (and how to keep its phone-tapping under wraps).
          • by carlfish (7229) <cmiller@pastiche.org> on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:22AM (#4265124) Homepage Journal
            I really hope you were trolling. I'll bite anyway.

            The Australian Constitution does not guarantee us any freedoms at all. If you read it, it's all about how power is divided between the State and Federal governments and the Governor General. There's no Bill of Rights, no guarantees of anything for the citizens save the right to vote in elections. Australian governments can pass any oppressive legislation they want.

            We do have a pretty lame kind of freedom of speech, but you won't find it anywhere in the constitution. That's because the High Court invented it out of nowhere in the late 80's. It was an interesting case - the government of the day tried to pass a law restricting spending on political advertisements, the TV companies sued, and a one-judge majority in the High Court decided that we had a "freedom of political speech" implied in the constitution. In other words, "It's not there, but it should be so we'll pretend it is." The logic they used was tenuous to say the least.

            Being a High Court decision, and a narrow majority, it could be overruled any time.

            So there's no wonder we have more phone-taps than the USA. They have constitutional protection against unreasonable search, all we have is a Common Law doctrine of evidence that will mostly (but not always) suppress evidence that was illegally obtained.

            Charles Miller

            (Who isn't a lawyer, but did pass Constitutional Law before he dropped out of University to become a programmer)
            • What do you mean... it protected the Franklin River, didn't it? :P
              Have you seen The Castle? It protected those guys too - it's the vibe of the thing - really!

              It's not a bad old bird, really - and it allows changes as is appropriate, rather than being a document spawned in a civil war with no room to grow... It ain't perfect - but it ain't bad either.

              (I'm having fun, but not trolling :)
      • [1st Amendment] ... I'm pretty sure Australia has most if not all of that somewhere in their constitution as well.

        Well, no and yes. The Australian Constitution [austlii.edu.au] is largely based on the US Constitution, but does not include anything resembling the Bill of Rights. There is no explicit right of free speech written into the Constitution.

        However, in a number of cases, most famously Aust. Capital TV v C'th [austlii.edu.au], the High Court discovered an implicit "Freedom of Political Communication", woven into the fabric of the Constitution, (ie. since the constitution sets up a representative democracy, there must be a presumption of a politically informed electorate, and this implies a right to be informed.)

        Note that this freedom of communication is restricted to political matters ('political' as it relates to the electoral process). It seems unlikely, for example, that a pornograper could argue for constitutional protection under this principle.

  • Suspicious ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lushman (251748) on Monday September 16, 2002 @04:32AM (#4264269)
    I think that maybe CIA/FBI statistics are a little less forthcoming than those from ASIO. With all these measures to prevent terrorism, I'd assume that the CIA and FBI combined would be at least 20 times what they were just over a year ago anyway.

    In short: I don't believe it.

    The USA can keep dreaming that they have privacy, but guys, face it - you don't live in the land of the free any more.
    • Re:Suspicious ... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 1nhuman (597328)
      I never got the whole big deal about "The Land of The Free". What's so "free" in the states that isn't in any other western country (Canada, Germany, U.K., Sweden, The Netherlands, France, Denmark, Iceland, Belgium, etc.etc.).

      I travel a *lot* and personally I feel more free and more save in Europe then I do in the states, especially in my home country The Netherlands. And that has nothing to do with the 11th. I've felt like this for years.

      Oh btw my favorite country in the world is still New Zealand.

      • Re:Suspicious ... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pubjames (468013)
        I never got the whole big deal about "The Land of The Free". What's so "free" in the states that isn't in any other western country (Canada, Germany, U.K., Sweden, The Netherlands, France, Denmark, Iceland, Belgium, etc.etc.).

        I travel a *lot* and personally I feel more free and more save in Europe then I do in the states, especially in my home country The Netherlands. And that has nothing to do with the 11th. I've felt like this for years.


        I agree with you, and I have posted opinions like this to Slashdot before. However, it's best just not to bother posting this type of stuff. You will just get insulted and called communist/ liberal/ socialist/ Eurotrash/ America-hater and whatever. Just don't post this kind of opinion. Lots of Americans just aren't tolerant of it. (Ironic isn't it? For people that go on about freedom of speech so much!)
        • Re:Suspicious ... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:53AM (#4265340) Homepage Journal
          I agree with you, and I have posted opinions like this to Slashdot before. However, it's best just not to bother posting this type of stuff. You will just get insulted and called communist/ liberal/ socialist/ Eurotrash/ America-hater and whatever. Just don't post this kind of opinion. Lots of Americans just aren't tolerant of it. (Ironic isn't it? For people that go on about freedom of speech so much!)
          Free speech != keeping your mouth shut when someone says something you disagree with. Quite the opposite.

          That being said, as an American, I cringe at those comments you're talking about, because free speech also doesn't mean that you should shoot your mouth off without thinking every time someone presses your buttons. And anyone who uses words like "commie" or "eurotrash" in serious conversation is, by definition, not worth paying attention to.

          Anyway ... It's true that now many European countries have just as much freedom as the US. But you've got to look at the historical background. At the time of the War of 1812 (when the lines "land of the free and home of the brave" were written) every other great power in the world was a monarchy (unles you want to argue that France under Napoleon was somehow less a monarchy than the rest of Europe under traditional dynasties; I wouldn't.) Ironically, the only other great power in the world that could lay claim to anything approaching the degree of freedom the US offered in those days was Britain, which was slowly approaching a de facto democracy even then. But the idea of the US as uniquely free was really quite accurate then, and it was burned into our national consciousness.

          I'm the child and grandchild of immigrants, and I've lived outside the US for substantial periods of time; I know that we're not all there is to the world, and that there are many other places in the world that offer a very good life. I am also a veteran and a patriot; I love my country and hope that it will retain its historical role as a beacon of freedom in a world where too many are oppressed. That's why current trends, both in the US and throughout the free world, scare the shit out of me.
      • Re:Suspicious ... (Score:3, Informative)

        by cs668 (89484)
        Being from Germany and imigrating to the US there are some differences.

        In the US I am free from Church Tax.

        In the US I have freedom of speech and assembly that is far beyone what I would in Germany.

        I was in Germany this summer visiting my family and while I was there they were arresting people for being in a neo-nazi organization. They had commited no crime other than being raving idiots. My point is, in europe they are much more willing to take away free speech rights when they disagree with you than in the US.

        In Germany you also don't have the right to be protected from self-incrimination the way you do in the US.

        I could keep rambling, but it really dosn't matter. The people in europe are OK with the fact that their Govmts are more restrictive, so to bad for them it is their choice.
      • About America... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by El Camino SS (264212) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:44AM (#4265259)
        I know a lot of you out there think that your home countries are a lot safer, more interesting, etc.... and I agree. But you forget one thing about it. America is a real soup of people, and NOTHING COMES EASY IN AMERICA.

        That is the nature of the soup that is the good 'ol USA. Most of the people that are from Finland and Norway say that there are no tensions and no problems at all with others.. well, move to Minnesota or the Upper Penninsula in the USA and you will notice that there is less violence there too... on the count that there really are less ethnic-religious-governmental-general-people tensions. Its the land of happy, slightly overweight hockey playing white guys. Lots of cheese.

        I mean honestly, what the hell is there to argue about in Finland? Do you have a thousand cabbies that come from every country in the world and can't understand you, nor you understand them when they speak? Do you have hundreds of religious groups pining for their big piece of the political pie? Do you have anything that might get you annoyed like that? Unregistered illegal Mexican drivers that ran over kids in a schoolyard and then get no punishment because they are not US citizens, and caused all of this becasue they can't be bothered to read and understand English road signs?

        WHY DOES AMERICA HAVE ALL OF THESE PROBLEMS? Because when poor, uneducated, huddled masses think of travelling to a land of prosperity they don't look around their straw hut and say, "Let's go to Iceland!"

        Don't get me wrong. That's a good thing about being an American. But also you don't get this: when a Mexican punk drug dealer shoots a Texas cop on a sting in front of police, you also don't get an international incident where Vincente Fox shows his ass as a "show of power" to the American people over a P.O.S. drug dealer. The last time I checked, the Netherlands hasn't sent troops anywhere to save people. SO the Netherlands hasn't drawn any heat for it either. Believe it or not, there are several places in the world where people are excited to see me because I am a representative of America. Not everyone will try to kidnap me.

        America-bash away. I don't blame anyone for liking a home country where everyone basically acts and looks the same as you... sounds great. Never had that. Probably pretty nice.

        WE ARE JUST DIFFERENT, WITH DIFFERENT PROBLEMS. NOT BETTER OR WORSE THAN ANYONE, JUST WITH DIFFERENT PROBLEMS. But you can't really blame the USA for going crazy every day. You'd be nuts too if you had this many people that can't agree.

        And another thing. When everyone says we don't need an army it just makes me laugh. Well, that is because we are doing the job for you. Keep in mind that if anyone invaded Norway, Iceland, The Netherlands, Australia, beautiful New Zealand, or anywhere else civilized... we might have the jets in the air faster than you might have yours. Why?

        NOT BECAUSE AMERICA WANTS TO BE MR. BADASS ALL THE TIME. Its actually simpler than that.

        That is what true friends do for friends when they need help. We'd kick butt again for France or Germany (or the Netherlands) in a second if they needed it. Of course, the UK doesn't even need to ask. You get punched silly for even looking at the UK in front of the USA.

        • The last time I checked, the Netherlands hasn't sent troops anywhere to save people.

          Well, maybe you should have checked a little more carefully? Google found a lot of links under Netherlands peacekeeping [google.com].

          Sheesh.

          And your comment about cabbies? What are you trying to suggest here? That you would have a more pleasant cab ride if the authorities tapped your cab-driver's phone?

      • I travel a *lot* and personally I feel more free and more save in Europe then I do in the states, especially in my home country The Netherlands. And that has nothing to do with the 11th. I've felt like this for years.

        "Feeling" free is an awfully vague statement. How many situations have you been in where your freedom was genuinely put to the test? For example, have you ever been charged with a crime in any of these countries?

        Partly you feel more 'free' in the Netherlands and in Europe because those places are more like home to you. I'm from the southern US, and I certainly feel a bit more 'free' there than I do in NYC, where I live. While there are some differences in the laws of those two places, they aren't large, and if anything, the laws down south are more restrictive.

    • Re:Suspicious ... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by k-0s (237787)
      I'm in total agreement with you. Also has anyone thought that with Carnivore and our (remaining) rights here in America that maybe the CIA/FBI/NSA are just having the Aussies tap the American lines for them so as to prevent all those nasty civil rights violations we always hear in the media? Notice in the article it says "The data also reveals that the number of phone taps used *IN* Australia has increased threefold in four years, and ninefold in just over a decade" and "The Australian figures include *INTERCEPTIONS BY* the National Crime Authority, the Australian Federal Police and state policing agencies, but exclude ASIO." Nowhere does it say these are all domestic taps. I read somewhere thats how our government was getting around those pesky rights of ours, in regards (but not limited) to Carnivore, by having foreign governments do the tapping and keeping their hands clean of the matter. Seeing as how we are close allies with the Aussies it's not hard to believe that any information relavent to a case would be turned over to the American government. In the article it mentions how easy it is to get taps in the country so why go to a local judge when a tribunal half way around the world can get it done alot easier. I know this sounds all Men In Black, super spy, conspiracy theorist but I could have sworn I read about the skirting of our rights in regards to Carnivore on Slashdot a while back.
    • I think that maybe CIA/FBI statistics are a little less forthcoming than those from ASIO. With all these measures to prevent terrorism, I'd assume that the CIA and FBI combined would be at least 20 times what they were just over a year ago anyway.
      In short: I don't believe it.
      The USA can keep dreaming that they have privacy, but guys, face it - you don't live in the land of the free any more.

      In other words:
      If the data doesn't line up with your ideology. You must discount it. Sure, be skeptical, but just because U.S. is bad, doesn't mean it's the worst.

      Australia can keep dreaming that they have privacy, but guys, face it -- you don't live in the land of the free any more either

      *Officially bored of the blanket bash U.S. policy. Please provide facts, figures and fair comparisons between other countries.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2002 @04:34AM (#4264273)
    They're welcome to our line. I admire anyone that could stand more than 5 minutes of listening to the crap that my sister speaks about all day long on the phone.
  • Silly. What did you think seti was for?
    To spy ET phone home..
  • Big deal (Score:5, Informative)

    by Basje (26968) <bas@bloemsaat.org> on Monday September 16, 2002 @04:35AM (#4264276) Homepage
    I live in the Netherlands (pop 15 million, about as much as NYC) and the police over here taps more phones than the whole of the US.

    It's not as much the phone taps that are in place that worry me. It's the taps that should be there and that are prevented by corrupt officials.

    Land of the free. Yeah sure, but only when you've bought your local politician/whatever.

    • I live in the Netherlands (pop 15 million, about as much as NYC) and the police over here taps more phones than the whole of the US.

      Same thing here in Germany. I suspect that each European country (well, what about the UK?) taps more phone calls than the US. Probably because we had our terrorism experience 30 years ago.
    • Re:Big deal (Score:2, Informative)

      by trevsta (191429)
      erm, you do realise that Australia only has a population of around 18 million?

      So therefore, it is still a big deal
    • by shepd (155729)
      I mean, as long as I can buy a 900 Mhz scanner and listen to everyone's CC #s, VMB #s + passcodes why bother?

      Here's hoping you never used your cell or portable phones to say anything silly!

      >:-)
  • They are probably all too busy tapping us foreigners, so they don't have the time to tap themselves.
    Besides, when you've heard one yankee, you've heard them all.
  • Echelon... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kinko (82040) on Monday September 16, 2002 @04:49AM (#4264304)
    Echelon makes this kind of irrelevant. The 5 countries that are part of Echelon (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and NZ) can basically listen in on ANY phone call/fax/email/IP etc in any of the other countries. There are some computers here in New Zealand that are directly controlled by the US (NSA I think). This means that the NZ govt (and Aust govt etc) can listen to US phone calls. Now part of the reason it is set up like this is that the US authorities can use the NZ bit of the network to listen to US calls. This way it is technically not "domestic spying" as it is occurring over here.

    I guess the wiretaps they're talking about here are for court-issued wiretaps for the police, rather than the secret services.
    • I knew I wasn't losing my mind when I posted this [slashdot.org] basically when you were also typing your response. Thanks for proving to me (and others by default) that I'm not a loony (or at least the only one)
    • You're quite right, this is discussing court-issued wiretaps (however, the court they're issued by is a fairly low-level court).
      U

      nauthorised wiretapping by intelligence agencies is kinda nasty, but they can't use it to convict you (directly).

  • How will I go about conspiring with my terrorist buddies now. It's getting harder to be a sleeper agent in the asia pacific region. Looks we will will have to go back to pidgeons.
  • by Camel Racer (134168) on Monday September 16, 2002 @04:51AM (#4264311)
    I found the quote
    The spokeswoman said the Australian figures reflected the "increasing sophistication of criminals and their use of new technology".
    especially telling.

    Guess that explains everything. The crooks, labor organizers, and opposition, have mastered the "sophistication" of the telephone.

  • the ratio of tapped phones to population must be tremendous. Theres only what? 20,000,000 people in Australia?
    • Re:so that means (Score:3, Insightful)

      by danamania (540950)
      It's a far larger amount certainly, but of a fairly small number.

      To recap, Australia did 2150 taps in 19million people, the US did 1490 taps on 284 million.

      For Australia, that's about one in 10,000 people, compared to about one in 200,000 people for the US

      a grrl & her server [danamania.com]
  • by Black Copter Control (464012) <samuel-local.bcgreen@com> on Monday September 16, 2002 @04:54AM (#4264322) Homepage Journal
    I've been friend and associate of enough interesting activists that ther have been times when I just pre-emptively presumed that my line was being tapped (there was actually one instance where I had some circumstantial evidence that my line really was being tapped.

    I know that one friend of mine had her phone line bugged over some activist work she was doing. She saw the transcripts. Her comment on it was "all they got were some really nice recipies".

    Not that all that stopped me from saying much: As Ghandi once said:

    Let then know exactly what you're going to do, and then hope that they overreact

    At one point, my outgoing phone message (on the phone company's voice messaging system) said:

    Hi: You've reached the home of Stephen and Regan. Unfortunately, our answering machine is broken, but that's OK -- Our phone line is being tapped. So speak clearly and we'll get the transcripts from our lawyers.
    Most people recognized it as a joke, but a couple took it seriously... Regan's mom, particularly left a message worrying about whether or not we were going to get the message, and what kind of roommates did he have that we were getting our line tapped?

    It was the best laugh I had for months.

  • As the article also states that:" However despite the greater reliance on phone taps, it seems Australian authorities have had less success with solving crimes. Figures also show that in 2000-2001 Australian agencies made 1033 arrests and obtained 623 convictions, while US authorities made 3683 arrests with 732 convictions."

    So, maybe this means that phone-tapping in Australia has become the default part of crime solving-process at very early stage and that the right to phonetap can be obtained on very vague basis. Atleast here in Finland, AFAIK, it goes so that first they have to show quite strong evidence, and then if the evidence exists they can phonetap to get more evidence. In australia - based on these figures - it seems to be the reverse: phonetap to get initial evidence, then do rest of research.

  • PATRIOT! (Score:3, Funny)

    by DoctorFrog (556179) on Monday September 16, 2002 @04:56AM (#4264329)
    America must claw its way back to the top. We can't have the Aussies showing us up! Support your local PATRIOT Actors...
    • Support your local PATRIOT Actors...
      I've often suspected that our congresscritters are really just actors...

      Makes me wonder who the real legislators are. :)

  • by Jotham (89116) on Monday September 16, 2002 @05:01AM (#4264339)
    • Figures also show that in 2000-2001 Australian agencies made 1033 arrests and obtained 623 convictions, while US authorities made 3683 arrests with 732 convictions.

    Out of 3683 arrests they only made 732 convictions? that's less than 20% compared with Australia's 60% conviction rate.

    Either the US is arresting a hell of a lot of innocent people or they need to spend a bit more time collecting evidence before they make their arrests.

    • by nzhavok (254960) on Monday September 16, 2002 @06:39AM (#4264544) Homepage
      Yeah but it's so much easier to convict when you have a kangaroo court...

      Sorry, couldn't resist.
    • I'm surprised nobody's yet made a joke about Australia being founded by criminals... although if that were really the main factor, you'd think that they'd have a LOWER conviction rate, since they're all, you know, professional criminals from birth and probably have lots of training. :)

      (Yes, this is a joke, relax.)
    • The modus operandi in the US is to just arrest anything that moves or speaks, and work from there. We're not much on proof before arrest; actually, arrest isn't indication of a case the cops want to persue -- arrest has simply become a crowd-control mechanism in the states. Grab 'em, hold 'em, let 'em go without charging them, and if they talk, bonus! Some countries consider this harassment, but not the Land of the Free-from-Terror. There's very little chance that in any given situation the cops can't provide some kind of pretext for arrest, not that their actions are questioned very often, as the Drug War has eroded police oversight to a frightening degree.
  • only 1490 warrants issued. maybe, but how many phones are tapped without the warrant in the usa? with all the technology for taps. do we really think it's only 1490? i don't think so...
  • So... (Score:1, Redundant)

    by J4 (449)
    I should be happy, because Australia is worse than the US in this regard?
    Sorry, that's bullshit.
    I suppose I should shut up because because I don't have to deal with the GFoC either?
    Fuck it, none of this is important. I should
    concentrate on bitching about the RIAA instead.
    My bad.
  • by The Famous Druid (89404) on Monday September 16, 2002 @05:18AM (#4264382)
    Does anyone really believe that the entire US spy industry only taps 1490 phones per year???

    At current levels of funding, that would work out at about $50 million per phone tap.

    • I don't know where you're getting your numbers from, but I'd bet you're assuming the entire budget of said intelligence agency divided by the number of wiretaps. This is as valid as me looking at the cost of office supplies in a year and saying "Geez you people buy a lot of Post-It's!" You assume the entire budget is used for one thing.

    • Don't we also have a little system called Echeclon ...

      Maybe there was a clerical error, and a few 0's were omitted from that 1490 figure?
    • What I was left wondering is if a "tap" can cover a "suspected organization of individuals", thus it would span potentially thousands of individual telephone circuits/numbers.

    • So you have the numbers for the budget for wiretaps? Impressive. Somehow, though, I doubt you actually have those numbers, but instead are actually taking some figure for the "intelligence" budget and dividing by 1490. That's pretty goddamn stupid. Please, think before posting.
    • Does anyone really believe that the entire US spy industry only taps 1490 phones per year???

      That would fit with the figures reported a few years ago. Scientific American had a brief article about wiretaps some years ago. At that time there were approximately 600 Federal wiretap warrants and about 600 State wiretap warrants issued per year.

      I thought to myself, "1200 warrants? They why are they making such a big deal over clipper?"

      But some time later the CBC did an item on how powerful a net a single warrant could cast in the USA.

      There was one warrant, that cost millions, where the LAPD tapped the phone that prisoners could get to use. This warrant was in place for a long time. Eighteen months? Several years? I can't recall. But it cost so much because it ran so long, and it was being audited 24/7.

      The cops who listened in to wiretaps in LA had a standard operating procedure. If they knew, from their taps, that someone was going to be driving somewhere, with some kind of illegal material onboard, they would phone in to the Police dispatch board, on an ordinary phone. Dispatch would send officers to pull over the car, make an excuse for a search, arrest the perpetrators. When the paperwork was completed, the justification for pulling the car over in the first place was the "anonymous tip" they got. They would write it up as if an ordinary citizen phoned in reporting erratic driving, or reasonable equivalent.

      Abuse of warrants like this could make the USA's 1500 legal warrants far more effective than more reasonably implemented, more restricted warrants.

  • Missquote? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BoBaBrain (215786) on Monday September 16, 2002 @05:19AM (#4264386)
    Shouldn't it read "Last year Australian authorities admitted to tapping more phones all United States authorities combined"?
  • by fldvm (466714)
    Some one needs to tell Washington! We are getting behind ... not tapping nearly enough phones.
  • I kind of doubt US government agencies could give an accurate accounting of how many phones they have tapped if they wanted to, and they probably don't even want to. And "tapped" probably doesn't take into account any kind of monitoring and audio keyword search that isn't aimed at a specific person.
  • ... if cops have nothing to do except listening to other people's phone talks.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We're bugged more than US By Duncan Macfarlane September 16, 2002

    POLICE are being given authority to tap telephone conversations at
    such an unprecedented rate that Australians are 20 times more likely
    to be bugged than Americans. But despite the rate of tapping
    increasing ninefold over the past decade, the ability of Australian
    authorities to secure convictions as a result of listening to
    telephone calls is lower than in the US.

    In the past four years alone, the number of phone-tap warrants
    approved by the courts and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has
    tripled from 675 to 2157 - one-third more than all state and federal
    taps approved in the US.

    In contrast to the US, our national security authorities, including
    the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation, do not
    publish statistics of their bugs.

    The extent of the tapping has prompted federal Labor justice
    spokesman Daryl Melham to call for a new body to oversee the use
    of phone taps by Australian police, possibly based on a model used
    in Britain , which has a chief surveillance commissioner.

    "There is an urgent need to strengthen the resources available for
    external scrutiny of telephone interception activities and other
    forms of intrusive surveillance," Mr Melham said.

    Labor analysis shows that only seven of the 2164 police applications
    for interception warrants were rejected by the courts last year.
    Since 1999, when Administrative Appeals Tribunal officers were
    first given power to issue warrants, numbers have increased sharply.

    AAT officers now issue 94 per cent of all warrants, Family Court
    judges 5 per cent, and Supreme Court judges only 1 per cent.

    The Australian Council of Civil Liberties said the explosion in
    warrants showed that police were forum shopping and targeting
    sympathetic judicial officers.

    Cameron Murphy, secretary of the council, demanded the federal
    Government publish more detailed information to reveal if a handful
    of judges and officials were responsible for most of the warrants.

    "We think Australians would be aghast if they knew so many people's
    phone conversations were being bugged," Mr Murphy said.

    Labor also warned that Australian police were achieving far fewer
    criminal convictions per phone tap than US authorities.

    Between 1996 and 2001, US police made 3.31 arrests and secured 1.55
    convictions for each phone tap.

    Over the same period Australian agencies made only 0.63 arrests
    per phone tap and 0.46 convictions.

    A spokesman for Mr Melham said technological advances were part of
    the reason for the explosion in tapping.

    All telecommunications providers were now required to construct
    their facilities so that police could tap phones centrally instead
    of climbing telegraph poles.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2002 @05:46AM (#4264435)
    Last night I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep when I thought I heard a strange noise coming from the bathroom.

    Knowing that I wouldn't be able to doze off until the mystery was solved, I hauled by sad ass out of bed and stumbled down the hall to the "little room"

    At first I thought it must just be tinnitus because the sound was really indistinct and seemed to be coming from multiple directions at once.

    After a few minutes walking around the bathroom with my hands cupped to my ears I finally traced the source of the noise to the basin.

    Yes, those bastard law-enforcement officials -- they'd phoned my tap!

  • releif (Score:3, Funny)

    by tanveer1979 (530624) on Monday September 16, 2002 @05:58AM (#4264447) Homepage Journal
    so ggod in living in a developing country .. our phones dont work half of the time whew ;-)
  • ... at least the Aussie's have better high-tech wireless phones than the US ...

    Thank you, I'll be here all week ... :) remember to tip your waitress ...

  • Whenever a country experiences a surge in crime, (because of a bad economy or new methods by crooks or a new street drug) it runs the risk of a major backlash in the form of draconian punishments, abolition of civil liberties, and sometimes vigilantism. The backlash never solves the problem, which means it can repeat itself again and again. The appearance of crack cocaine in America caused the public to tolerate aggressive tactics by the DEA and then by other TLAs, culminating in Waco. Europe and Australia now tolerate promiscuous phone tapping. Britain is almost a panopticon now, and is loosening regulations on psychiatric commitment. Eternal vigilance, folks. Nothing else suffices.
  • Looks like our little Johnny Howard has been following the lead of the US more than we first imagined. I'd imagine he'll be constructing the Aussie version of the PATRIOT Act next. Depressing and, at the same time, completely unsuprising.

    • It's ok. Howard can destroy our rights all he likes. As long as there are some Little Yellow People to distract and blame for our ills, we'll keep voting for him (my, isn't he tough and strong!). Well I don't... but your average Aussie is still racist.

      No War!
      • but your average Aussie is still racist

        Shows how much you know about Australia. What bullshit. The words and actions of a vocal and (unfortunately) influential minority do not a country make. There were a lot of people who voted against John Howard in the last election, myself included. Are you saying that I, as well as all these other people, are racists? I don't think so.

        But hey, while we're on stereotypes here, can I say that the average American is a fat, ignorant git who's more than willing to give up his "freedoms" in order to feel "safe" again? I don't believe that's true, but you'd be suprised what people would believe in the absence of the truth.

  • Call some random person...

    *ring* *ring* *ring*

    "Hello?"

    "The secret website is goatse.cx!"

    "Huh?"

    *click*
  • This report came from FOI requests made by the Opposition (the minority party), who are opposing further extensions to wiretapping laws.

    These bills are thus likely to fail in the Senate, as the opposition is opposing the bill and the green-left minor parties that hold the balance of power were *never* going to vote in favour of it.

    This is (at last) a somewhat politically courageous action by the opposition, because standing up for civil liberties is rarely politically advantagous and will run the risk of the government accusing them of risking Australia's national security or some such nonsense. Kudos to Labor for actually showing a little backbone.

  • Australia Taps More Phones -LEGALLY- Than Entire U.S.

    Since even those in chage say that the number underreported ia on an order or mangitude higher than those reported. These numbers also don't take into account US customs whose records were destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. They are still trying to re-create those records from ancilarry data.
  • As an American, I've always thought of Aussies as being likewise independent, free-thinking and friendly people (Mad Max notwithstanding).

    You know, like, "No worries, mate!"

    Now I'm feeling bad because I was worried about the evil Ashcroft and Carnivore while my buddies in Oz are enduring much worse!

  • Wow! With so many police listening into so many conversations, the crime rate must be nearly zero. How can people do anything wrong if they can be listened to at will!

    Except, um, if the people listening in aren't totally honest themselves. Who listening in on the prosecutors and cops? How long until blackmail starts?
  • Man in Black: Truly you have a dizzing intellect.
    Vizini: Wait 'til I get going. Where was I?
    Man in Black: Australia.
    Vizini: Yes, Australia. And everybody knows Australia is entirely peopled by criminals... and criminals are used to people not trusting them as YOU are not trusted by me. Therefore I can clearly not chose the wine in front of you.

    That about do it folks? Can't believe nobody posted this already. *shakes head*

  • Some years ago TVO, Ontario's public educational channel, had a series on new technology. They devoted one show to surveillance, bugging, wiretapping. They very interviewed these two different guys. One was with a guy who sold bug detectors. The other interview was with a grizzled old cop in Washington DC. He looked like Joe Friday. The bug-detector salesman kept touting his products, and saying how good they were at detecting bugs. The grizzled cop kept saying how difficult it was to be sure you weren't being bugged. Finally he said:

    You can never know when you are being bugged. None of our bugs has ever been detected. Why we have conducted over 1,000 legal wiretaps alone.
  • This is impossible! Everyone knows that the United States is the world's most corrupt nation, and violates more individual liberties than the next five corrupt nations combined. The US is the home of Microsoft, the MPAA and the RIAA. Alan Cox boycotts the US, not Australia.

    This story cannot be true.

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