Australian attorney-general accuses Snowden of endangering lives

Australian attorney-general accuses Snowden of endangering lives

Summary: Australian Attorney-General Senator George Brandis has told Senate Question Time that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is a traitor to the US who is putting lives at danger.


Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and the nation's Attorney-General Senator George Brandis have once again locked horns in Senate Question Time, with Ludlam today asking Brandis whether Australia needs any reforms to combat government surveillance.

"Does this government, and the attorney-general particularly, recognise the legitimate concerns of Australians about indiscriminate surveillance, or does he honestly believe that there are no reforms necessary here in Australia?" Ludlam said.

In answering the question, Brandis once again branded Edward Snowden as an American traitor, and said that the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor had put lives in danger.

"Senator Ludlam, you celebrate and you make a hero of this man, who through his criminal dishonesty and his treachery to his country has put lives, including Australian lives, at risk," Brandis said.

"And I wonder how you can sit in this parliament, Senator Ludlam, and hold your head up high when you celebrate a man who through criminal conduct and treachery, has put Australian lives at risk."

The attorney-general reiterated that Australia's intelligence agencies work under "a strong framework of surveillance, and under very strong statutory obligations, and accountability obligations".

With Senator Brandis' time to respond expired, Senator Ludlam once again had the call and thanked Brandis for the bluntness of his answer.

"What a chilling response," Ludlam said.

This is not the first time that Ludlam and Brandis have clashed in question time; in December last year, the pair engaged in a battle over the definition of metadata after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described metadata as essentially the "billing data".

"Metadata reveals mobile and landline phone records, a person's precise location, the source and destination of electronic mail, their entire social networks, your web history — could the attorney please give an undertaking to remind the PM of what this term actually means?" Ludlam asked at the time.

Brandis responded by saying that metadata is a term that means different things to different people, and that during the course of parliamentary inquiries in the last parliament, a number of different witnesses had delivered different definitions of the term metadata.

"I, myself, on the basis of having been informed by the evidence of those several witnesses during the course of the last parliament, thought that the prime minister's description of metadata as 'essentially billing details' was a perfectly accurate shorthand description of what is a contestable concept," the attorney-general said.

Brandis is not alone in the Australian government in sharing the view that Snowden is a traitor. Late last month, Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop accused Snowden of "unprecedented treachery".

"This represents unprecedented treachery; he is no hero," Bishop said.

"Snowden claims his actions were driven by a desire for transparency, but in fact they strike at the heart of the collaboration between those nations in world affairs that stand at the forefront of protecting human freedom."

Documents released by Snowden and handed over to journalists at the public broadcaster ABC showed that in 2009, Australia's Defence Signals Directorate tracked the mobile phone of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for at least 15 days, as well as targeting the president's wife and senior members of the Indonesian government.

Australia is a member of the Five Eyes agreement that provides a framework for the sharing of intelligence amongst the United Kingdom, the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

Topics: Security, Government AU, Privacy


Chris started his journalistic adventure in 2006 as the Editor of Builder AU after originally joining CBS as a programmer. After a Canadian sojourn, he returned in 2011 as the Editor of TechRepublic Australia, and is now the Australian Editor of ZDNet.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • A traitor for letting the people know?

    People should understand what this politician is saying.

    You are a traitor if you let your people know they are being surveilled, bugged, eavesdropped and wiretapped.

    Why didn't that Senator tell the people this before Snowden did? He had a chance to tell everyone, but decided not to.

    The Senator didn't explain why it is so necessary that the majority of the population is being monitored. He also didn't explain why he thinks they people should know know they are being surveilled.
    • yes, and who will sue the Government for injustice and murders?

      yes, and who will sue the Government for injustice and murders?

      "NSA surveillance does little to prevent terrorism, says think-tank report": "there was only one case out of the 225 that was initiated by NSA evidence. The case involved a cab driver named Basaaly Moalin who was convicted of sending money to Somalian terrorist groups. While successful, the case did not involve any direct threat of attack"

      So the only conclusion is the USA want to keep YOU and ALLIES under CONTROL, nothing else.
      Jiří Pavelec
      • So what do I need to do to get hauled off to Gitmo?

        Apparently, it's not enough to simply badmouth the President. People where I live do that all the time and will until the next Republican President takes office.
        John L. Ries
        • Republican President?

          Republican President? President is just a puppet of the real governors. They are politically independent so it does not matter if there is a Republican or Democrat, still trying to abuse your freedom for money and power.

          the only solution is to create and vote some politically independent party, which hires managers and professionals independent on the elected party
          Jiří Pavelec
          • So you say

            Secret government conspiracy theories have been floating around for over 30 years. I once heard a spokesman for the Christic Institute discuss his organization's claims (this was in the old days when the interview format was the norm for talk shows). They're remarkably similar to the ones propounded today. But why should I believe it? What historical precedent is there for a secret authoritarian government, the identity of whose members is largely unknown? When the Communists governed the Soviet Union, everybody knew who was in charge. When Nazis governed Germany, everybody knew who the Fuehrer was. I know of no historical counterexamples (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy doesn't count).
            John L. Ries
          • yes, but...

            "Secret government conspiracy theories have been floating around for over 30 years."

            "Mass government surveillance" were tin foil hat theories too (now actually a proven fact thanks to Mr Snowden).
          • Secret government conspiracy theories??

            just facts from print, don't lie here!

            The US government conducts a surveillance of all the US citizens, EU officials (Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff etc.) and all the people in the world to keep power. The reason can not be terrorism. Or are the chancellor of Germany and the brazilian President terrorists?

            The USA = murders for fun in Afghanistan, New York Post: "President Bush inexplicably censored 28 full pages of the 800-page report (9/11). Text isn’t just blacked-out here and there in this critical-yet-missing middle section. The pages are completely blank, except for dotted lines where an estimated 7,200 words once stood (this story by comparison is about 1,000 words). A pair of lawmakers who recently read the redacted portion say they are “absolutely shocked” at the level of foreign state involvement in the attacks."

            The USA = murders for power, General Wesley Clark, retired 4-star U.S. Army general: "We’re going to take out 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan & Iran.." (about ten days after 9/11: “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?” He said, “No, no.” He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said, “I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”)
            Jiří Pavelec
  • Make your case, Counsel

    If James Bamford (considered to be one of the world's leading experts on the NSA) is to be believed, the mass metadata collection program turned up exactly one legitimate lead.
    John L. Ries
  • English Rejects!

    The Americans and the Australians are a bunch of terrorists and criminals, they should give their stolen lands back to the natives.
    • And go where?

      I don't think the UK really wants us back; especially since the combined population of the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is much larger than that of the UK, and the latter is much smaller in area.

      I agree that my ancestors did some very bad things to the natives, but the clock can't be turned back. Germans invaded Britain 1500 years ago, renamed the areas they settled "England"; and drove the pre-existing Celtic populations to the north and west of the island, and across the Channel to what is now Brittany. Should the English therefore vacate the lands their ancestors stole and resettle in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark?
      John L. Ries
    • pot kettle

      Are you serious? The aboriginal people came from other lands and colonised this land. So to follow your logic, aboriginals have a canoe ride ahead.

      While I agree many of the things that happened in the past are regrettable, you simply cannot un-ring a bell.
  • Traitor to whom?

    I still haven't heard much from Snowden that is so surprising. Anyone doing a quick search on the NSA or any country's spy agency (including quasi-spy agencies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft) would know that modern communications leads to the creation of loads of data and the mining of that data can be abused. If it CAN be abused, EXPECT IT TO BE ABUSED! Snowden's revelations are nothing new. The Europeans got upset about Echelon several years ago. If you use the internet or a phone, data will be logged. If you don't like it, create a new form of communications that doesn't require logging of information. As for Brandis, I'd be afraid - very afraid - but not afraid enough to toss him and his mob out at the next election. If he uses government surveillance in any way to rig an election, then we'd have a right to revolt. Otherwise, secure your communications if you really want to, but there's too much hype from both sides of this debate to really worry.
  • Brandis embarrised once again.

    Brandis was caught with his grubby little hands in the till when he rorted his entitlement expenses attending a friends wedding. Brandis was caught out giving permission to ASIO and the likes to break into and steal documents from a solicitor representing East Timor at the Haig International Court regarding the spying and bugging by Australia on East Timor. This was brought to light by Snowden as well as the intercepting of data from the Indonesian president, his inner circle and his wife's mobile phones.
    No wonder George "the thief" Brandis has his nose out of joint. He said Snowden was a traitor who put Australian lives at risk. His government under Howard sent our ADF to war with Iraq based on a massive lie endangering thousands of Australians and actually causing a huge number of serious injuries and many of our solders to perish. Who's the traitor here.
    For a government to be so secretive and non transparent as the Abbott government, who have also lied on many occasions in only 4 months of being in office, how could we trust or believe anything they said about the controls and safe guards on intelligence gathering in this country.
    If Brandis want to call Snowden a traitor, that's his call but he should also hold the US just as accountable for endangering Australian lives as they allowed all this and much more, yet to be releases sensitive information to be taken so easily from their so called "security agencies."
  • The LNP need to stop lieing

    Snowden has been charged with espionage, fraud and stealing government property, he has NOT been charged with treason...
  • Edward snowden.

    Everyone couldn't trust whose betray its own country. Today they come to you but tomorrow they will turn the face opposes against. Mr. Edward Snowden steals the US top national secrets and provided to the counterparts and enemies, he always protects himself as the democratic activity and he gains the endorsement of some one.
    Mr. Edward Snowden has no where to live, despite Russia is as a temporarily place, a day after the lemon squeezed empty juice, they will deport and extradite to US. The asylum seeker is as him couldn't be caused the trouble into the diplomacy and conflict the national interest, that reason, German used him for a while, but Chancellor Angela Merkel has no decision to accept Snowden as asylum seeker.
    The spying says:" when the hunter recognizes his dog couldn't be able to help, the hunter has to know how to eat dog's meat". The fate of Edward Snowden being uncertain, his future should be dark. The traitor could pay the consequence.
    Hoa Minh Truong.
    ( author of 3 books: the dark journey, good evening Vietnam & from laborer to author)
    hoa minh truong
    • What was that all about?

      Hope you haven't written your books in English.
  • Brandis should have polished up his act.

    The reason I call for him to polish up his act is because I just realised how much he resembles Mr Sheen, the character on the TV commercial for furniture polish a number if years ago.
    Maybe if he polishes up his act up he will shine bright amongst his dimwit LNP colleagues.
  • Live at risk! really? who? Where?

    Yep I know who, it is the Australian Navy personnel in Indonesian waters. But the all happened after Snowdon so no that can't be it. But the Indonesians are pissed

    Australian's in Indonesia because the Australian Government Bugged the Indonesian President. Nope, long time ago. None dead. But the Indonesians are pissed.

    All of Asia as pine gap and other US installations in Australia is continuing surveillance of electronic communications of the whole region. Perhaps. Nothing like pissing off your trading partners. Really good for business!

    So what life is Snowdon Threatening? I only ask for one, but your government likes to use the ambiguous plural. Is Geoge Brandis to stupid to have an original thought and he is simply parroting when the US government sent him as talking points. Your government is long on rhetoric and assumption and glaringly short on facts.

    Tony the continual harping about a whistle blower in the US and how he is killing Australians is simply rubbish. Put up or shut up and direct your clown cabinet to do the same.