#Prism: Australia gets ‘deluge’ of US secret data

from apperspective.net: The Australian government has been building a state-of-the art,
secret data storage facility just outside Canberra to enable
intelligence agencies to deal with a ”data deluge” siphoned from the
internet and global telecommunications networks.

The high-security facility nearing completion at the HMAS
Harman communications base will support the operations of Australia’s
signals intelligence agency, the top-secret Defence Signals

Privately labelled by one Defence official as ”the new black
vault”, the data centre is one of the few visible manifestations of
Australia’s deep involvement in mass surveillance and intelligence
collection operations such as the US National Security Agency’s PRISM program revealed last week by US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

Fairfax Media has confirmed Australian intelligence agencies receive
what Defence intelligence officials describe as ”huge volumes” of
”immensely valuable” information derived from PRISM and other US
signals intelligence collection programs.

Australian agencies assist the US to target foreign nationals
and Australian citizens who are of security and intelligence interest
to both countries.

”We are overwhelmingly dependent on intelligence obtained by
the NSA and the US intelligence community more broadly,”
an official
said on condition of anonymity.

Australian officials note that PRISM has been described in
leaked documents as the most prolific contributor to President Barack Obama’s daily intelligence brief.

”Given that the US shares so much with us, it should be no
surprise that this reporting is critical to Australian intelligence,”
one official said, adding that included ”what goes into the ONA
[Office of National Assessments] briefs for Prime Minister Julia
Gillard and the National Security Committee of Cabinet”.

Officials cite intelligence relating to North Korea’s
military threats, information relating to Australian citizens involved
in fighting in Syria, missile technology acquisition efforts by Iran
and Chinese internal political and economic developments as recent
examples of the benefits of Australia’s intelligence ties with the US.

US data collection programme has ripples across the Pacific

US signals intelligence is also described as ”absolutely critical”
to Australia’s diplomatic campaign to win a seat on the United Nations
Security Council.

”Without intelligence support, overwhelmingly provided by US
capabilities, we would not have won the seat,” one Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade officer recently said.

The DSD’s website says Australia ”benefits immeasurably”
from co-operation with the NSA, Britain’s Government Communications
Headquarters, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment and New
Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau – an international
network known informally as the ”five eyes”.

Media reports have suggested both Britain and the Netherlands, another close US intelligence partner, also enjoy access
to reporting from PRISM.

Officials estimate that Australia’s intelligence capabilities
contribute between 5 and 8 per cent of the intelligence collection
efforts of the five-eyes community.

Australian signals intelligence efforts, including the DSD’s
satellite communications interception facilities at Geraldton in
Western Australia and Shoal Bay near Darwin, are focused on south and
south-east Asia, east Asia and the Pacific.

Officials add that Australia ”contribute[s] actively” to
the targeting of US intelligence gathering, including ”identification
of specific individuals of security concern”.
But they also emphasise
that the DSD complies with legal requirements and ministerial
guidelines that limit reporting in relation to Australians, other than
those of specific security or foreign intelligence interest.

They are also confident in adherence by the US to agreements
similarly limiting intelligence collection and reporting concerning
citizens of allies, including Australians.

The most recent report of the Inspector General of
Intelligence and Security Vivienne Thom indicates that, in 2011-12,
there were ”a low number of incidents where the privacy rules were not
applied” by the DSD and most involved ”a presumption of nationality
(that has later been found to be incorrect) or minor administrative

Australian officials describe PRISM and ”similar
capabilities” in relation to internet service providers in Australia
as ”an inevitable response to the digital communications revolution”
with ”major challenges in terms of data storage and processing”.

The DSD’s large headquarters, sometimes referred to as ”the
factory”, is at Russell Hill in Canberra and the agency has expanded
into another high-security building near Canberra Airport.

However, the rapidly expanding volume of data and
intelligence from US and Australian capabilities, described by
officials as a ”data deluge”, has required construction of the
high-security communications and data centre at nearby HMAS Harman.

The $163.5 million HMAS Harman Communications Facility
Project includes an extension to the existing Defence Network
Operations Centre, the central hub of Australia’s third-largest
telecommunications network, and the construction of what is described
as ”a co-located but stand-alone communication/data-room facility”.

Due to its complexity and expansion of requirements, the
project is 80 per cent over its original budget and five years behind
schedule, but is now near completion.

In April 2009, the Labor government exempted the project from
review by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on the
grounds that scrutiny ”would not be in the public interest”.

On Tuesday, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus declined to say
whether US intelligence agencies have shared information gained through

”I don’t provide comment on intergovernmental arrangements
we have in the intelligence area and I don’t provide comment on
operational matters arising in the intelligence sector,” he said.

*Original article from Sydney Morning Herald

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