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Australia Taps More Phones Than Entire U.S. 277

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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  • Big deal (Score:5, Informative)

    by Basje ( 26968 ) <> 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.

  • Re:being tapped (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2002 @04:53AM (#4264319)
    If you want to take a look at more serious government abuses, take a look at Sweden.

    There is a discussion on>Discussion Forums->Country Laws->Check out Sweden! sp lay.php?s=&forumid=11
  • by bukharin ( 344329 ) on Monday September 16, 2002 @05:20AM (#4264388) Homepage
    Yes, Australia has a constitution!
  • by jukal ( 523582 ) on Monday September 16, 2002 @05:23AM (#4264394) Journal
    Copypaste from the other branch:

    Actually, no. Just something wrong with my copy-pasting. What I was supposed to copy-paste was supposed to include this: "more than 2150 warrants were issued for phone taps in Australia, but only 1490 in the US".

    -> which goes down to: 2150 australian warrants -> 1023 arrests
    -> 1490 US warrants -> 3683 arrests

  • by darkov2 ( 570389 ) on Monday September 16, 2002 @05:24AM (#4264402)
    Actually, we do have one. See I think what you're reffering to in part is the Common Law, which we have adopted along with many other English conventions.
  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Monday September 16, 2002 @05:31AM (#4264417)
    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...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2002 @05:33AM (#4264420)
    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.

  • Re:Big deal (Score:2, Informative)

    by trevsta ( 191429 ) on Monday September 16, 2002 @07:02AM (#4264590)
    erm, you do realise that Australia only has a population of around 18 million?

    So therefore, it is still a big deal
  • by bryanp ( 160522 ) on Monday September 16, 2002 @07:34AM (#4264669)
    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.

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

    by cs668 ( 89484 ) <> on Monday September 16, 2002 @08:51AM (#4264947)
    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.
  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Monday September 16, 2002 @09:16AM (#4265088)

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

    Nope, I think I was correct in my orginal post. From the official web site (

    "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.

  • by odin53 ( 207172 ) on Monday September 16, 2002 @11:26AM (#4266018)
    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.

Each new user of a new system uncovers a new class of bugs. -- Kernighan