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Police chief denies PRISM links

James Hutchinson (via AFR) | July 23, 2013
AFP chief Tony Negus has denied any links between US government surveillance programs and a controversial push to keep phone and internet browsing records in Australia for up to two years.

Mr Negus told a parliamentary committee last year that he would prefer companies keep metadata indefinitely.

"We need to be realistic that this will hamper law enforcement into the future unless something is done to ensure that data is kept for an appropriate length of time," he said.

"The appropriate length of time is really for the committee and the parliament to decide.

We're happy to look at a two-year thing. Whether the government comes to that, or whichever parliament looks at it, we'll wait and see."

Labor MP Anthony Byrne, who chaired the parliamentary committee on data retention and other national security proposals, last month said the government's refusal to make public draft legislation for the regime had prevented the committee from making an informed decision on data retention.

"As you see from the events in America with PRISM, what has occurred is that the public must have confidence in its parlia­mentary oversight agencies, and so, therefore, the committee was extremely careful in putting ­forward a model for if the gov­ernment shows . . . [if] it's the ­government's decision to introduce intrusive powers," he said.

Revelations surrounding PRISM and similar surveillance programs have sparked outrage and concern from other countries, with German chancellor Angela Merkel calling at the weekend for a global data protection agreement.

Shadow communications minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed the calls for what he called a "cyber equivalent of an arms limitation agreement" on Monday.

"All countries have a strong mutual interest in agreeing on some ground rules for cyber surveillance which protects personal privacy, intellectual property while at the same time enabling security agencies to protect societies against terrorism and crime," he said.

Attorney-General Mark ­Drey­fus said he would "await further advice from the departments and relevant agencies and comprehensive consultation" before proceeding with plans for a data retention regime.

In an interview with the ­Financial Review, former NSA and CIA director-general Michael Hayden defended the US government's data retention program as within every country's right.

"The French may do this a bit differently than the way we do it, and the Germans may do it a bit differently than the French," he said in the interview with the Financial Review .

"But every ­country has the right to go to their communications providers and collect information subject to the laws of that land."

Australian national security agencies became implicated in leaks from former National ­Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden recently when a new presentation revealed the ­locations of four data storage ­facilities used in conjunction with ­Australian and US authorities.


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