ASIO creates wiretap hub

A telecommunications interception organisation has been created within the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to provide wiretapping advice to law enforcement agencies.

A telecommunications interception organisation has been created within the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to provide wiretapping advice to law enforcement agencies.

Wiretapped phone

(Completely tapped image by Byung Kyu Park, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The National Interception Technical Assistance Centre (NITAC) was created to help ASIO deal with the technological and legal problems of wiretapping online communications. It will operate as a two-year trial.

The agency said in a statement that the pilot will identify future requirements for all telecommunications interceptions.

"During this [trial] period, NITAC will provide technical advice and assistance to agencies dependent on their requirements and capabilities," an ASIO spokesperson said.

"Agencies will continue to be responsible for their own interception requirements."

ASIO would not release further details, or discuss the operations of the centre after the pilot.

Over the last two years there have been a number of amendments to related legislation, giving telcos the ability to capture user traffic, making it easier for law enforcement powers to obtain interception warrants and tap more devices, as well as force internet service providers to install wiretapping provisions in voice over IP services.

A centre for data retention?

A United Kingdom scheme by almost the same name was created in 2002 to intercept and decrypt electronic data, including captured web histories and emails.

If the NITAC were to mirror the UK office, it could play a role in the government's data retention proposal, which could in the future require internet service providers to capture and hold data on web searches and emails.

The proposal is being considered by the Federal Attorney-General's Office, the same department that houses the ASIO and NITAC.

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