Aussie security agencies given power to access encrypted messages

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-05 10:27:52|Editor: Li Xia
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CANBERRA, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Australian law enforcement agencies have been granted the power to access encrypted messages of suspected criminals.

The governing Liberal National Party (LNP) and Opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) reached an agreement to support the new laws on Tuesday night after the ALP previously threatened to vote against the legislation in Parliament.

Christian Porter, the attorney-general for Australia, said the new laws, which global technology giants such as Google, Apple and Facebook have argued against, would give law enforcement a "fighting chance" in the fight against terrorism and organized crime.

"(This) gives them a fighting chance against the most serious offenders - terrorists, child-sex offenders, people who've committed homicide in various Australian jurisdictions," Porter told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday night.

The LNP and Prime Minister Scott Morrison made securing support for the encryption laws its top priority in the last Parliamentary sitting week of 2018 after security agency bosses declared that the need for the new power was urgent.

Labor withdrew its support late in November to seek a compromise that would exclude state police from the powers.

It marked the first time since 2013 that the ALP has withheld support on a matter of national security.

"At the beginning of this week, the situation that we faced was a proposal from the opposition for an interim bill that would have removed state police completely from a system designed to assist us with encryption," Porter said.

Under the new laws, law enforcement agencies will have to get a warrant before they can remotely access a suspect's encrypted messages.

Mark Dreyfus, the ALP's legal affairs spokesperson, said that the party decided to support the legislation on the grounds of protecting Australians.

"Let me be clear - this bill is far from perfect and there are likely to be significant outstanding issues," he said.

"But this compromise will deliver security and enforcement agencies the powers they say they need over the Christmas period."