Sunday, January 8, 2012

AFP spies targeting green activists |

AFP spies targeting green activists |

Documents released to the Herald under freedom of information laws confirm the police are "continually monitoring" anti-coal mining and other environmental groups. Much of the intelligence collection is carried out for the federal police by a private contractor, the National Open Source Intelligence Centre, in Melbourne.

The documents reveal that Mr Ferguson, prompted by lobbying from energy companies, has urged stronger criminal penalties against protests that disrupt "critical energy infrastructure".

The Greens leader, Bob Brown, condemned the surveillance, saying it was "intolerable that the federal Labor government is spying on conservation groups" and wanting to "criminalise political protest".

This surveillance of community groups is one-sided: it is not directed at companies who break the law. There is no surveillance of board rooms to find out what other plans they might have to use their resources to alter the political debate in Australia. Nor is it being used to detect breaches of environmental laws by these companies. It is directed against the very community which should be sovereign in a democratic system.

You won't be able to find out if your group or your emails have been spied on. This would be exempted from disclosure under s 37 of the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act. This means that the community will not be able to challenge the use of these covert powers in any specific instance.

The latest news follows revelations in 2008 that police have been infiltrating community groups and spying on them.

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