Journalist's Home Raided By AFP Over Spying Story
Federal police have raided the home of a journalist over a 2018 story detailing an alleged government proposal to spy on Australians.
Australian Federal Police officers produced a warrant to search the home, computer and mobile phone of Canberra-based News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst, The Daily Telegraph reports.
The story in question had included images of letters between the heads of the Home Affairs and Defence departments, discussing potential new powers for the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD).
The powers would have allowed the ASD's cyber sleuths to monitor Australian citizens and businesses on home soil, rather than being limited to gathering intelligence on foreigners, the story said.
The AFP said the raid is in relation to "alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security information" and that no arrests are expected on Tuesday.
"Police will allege the unauthorised disclosure of these specific documents undermines Australia's national security," the agency said in a statement.
Defence secretary Greg Moriarty, Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo and ASD director Mike Burgess were quick to release a joint statement after the story was published last year, rejecting its content.
"There is no proposal to increase the ASD's powers to collect intelligence on Australians or to covertly access their private data," they said.
They said ASD's cyber security function was being enhanced under laws establishing the organisation as an independent statutory agency within Defence.
But they argued its function entails "protecting Australians from cyber-enabled crime and cyber-attacks, and not collecting intelligence on Australians".
In a statement, News Corp Australia said the raid was a "dangerous act of intimidation" that goes to the heart of press freedom.
"The Australian public's right to know information about government laws that could impact their lives is of fundamental importance in our society. This raid demonstrates a dangerous act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths. The raid was outrageous and heavy handed," a spokesperson said.
"News Corp Australia has expressed the most serious concerns about the willingness of governments to undermine the Australian public's right to know about important decisions Governments are making that can and will impact ordinary Australian citizens. What's gone on this morning sends clear and dangerous signals to journalists and newsrooms across Australia. This will chill public interest reporting."