Australian govt briefed on PRISM before Snowden leaks

Summary:The Australian Attorney-General's Department briefed ministers on the NSA's spying program known as PRISM two months before the leaks from former contractor Edward Snowden.

Documents released under Freedom of Information show that the Australian Attorney-General's Department prepared a briefing for the minister on the secret NSA spying program known as PRISM more than two months before information about the program was leaked by contractor Edward Snowden .

The documents (PDF), obtained by the ABC's AM program, show that on March 21, 2013, the department issued a "protected brief to the attorney-general", then Labor MP Mark Dreyfus. The document itself was censored by the department, stating that it would affect national security, defence, or international relations.

In June, Snowden leaked to The Guardian slides from an NSA presentation showing that the NSA claims to be able to collect, in real time, user data from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple, and PalTalk.

At the time, then-Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr said that the government would assess the impact on security and privacy for Australians.

A talking points document prepared by the department at the end of June about the impact of the PRISM program on the privacy of Australians was also almost completely censored, as well as a departmental summary of media reporting on the scandal.

A section on the policy of the then-Labor government regarding the proposed government response to the parliamentary review on telecommunications security legislation was also censored by the department.

It is unclear whether the new government, and Attorney-General George Brandis, will push ahead with the former government's proposed changes to telecommunications security legislation. Prior to the election, Brandis told ZDNet that the Coalition had yet to consider any proposals.

Topics: Security, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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