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Police Cybersnooping Proposal Open To Abuse

Forwarded on behalf of GATT Watchdog

Information and Associate Justice Minister Paul Swain's proposed expansion of Police powers to allow them to lawfully intercept emails is wide open to abuse.

"If approved by Cabinet, this could be used to justify further spying on lawful political organisations and individuals," says GATT Watchdog organiser Aziz Choudry.

"In May a wide range of groups and organisations endorsed a call for a select committee inquiry into the role of the Police Criminal Intelligence Service's (CIS) surveillance and information-gathering on political organisations and activists. This followed legal cases against the SIS and the Police which found that both agencies had acted unlawfully during operations around the 1996 APEC Trade Ministers Meeting in Christchurch. I understand that the Justice and Electoral Select committee will consider that request after the conclusion of their inquiry into last year's policing operations during Jiang Zemin's visit.

"The Police's CIS seems to have great trouble distinguishing between lawful political activity and criminal activity in the real world. I fail to see how they will make that distinction in cyberspace."

"While a host of important concerns remain unaddressed about the role of the CIS, I believe it is particularly inappropriate to be proposing an expansion of Police powers to intercept email communications."

"Important privacy considerations aside, expanding Police powers to allow the legal interception of emails will give them a carte blanche to spy on the email communications of a wide range of community groups, political organisations, trade unions, and individuals 'of interest' to the CIS because of their political beliefs and sympathies. And recent history suggests that the usual glib official assurances that such organisations and people will not be snooped on by state security and intelligence agencies to be worthless."

For further comment, ph Aziz Choudry (03) 366 2803

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