The EU armed force issue still prompts a heated debate. Speaking to Sputnik, European analysts have shared their views about the potential formation of a unified military structure in Europe and the possibility of the creation of a common EU-Russian defensive bloc.

The establishment of an EU-Russian defensive alliance is possible in case Moscow and European capitals create a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok — a concept proposed by President Vladimir Putin several years ago, German political scientist Alexander Rahr suggested, adding, however, that it’s not happening anytime soon.

“It is going to be decided in the next 25 years, if a perspective of a common Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok takes shape,” he told Sputnik. “Then there will be trust and understanding that we need to jointly resist the challenges of international terrorism and the collapse of the Middle East. In this case I see a great chance for Russia and Europe and Russia to combine their defense structures and form a pan-European security system. That would be perfect.”

German Bundeswehr soldiers (File)
© AP Photo / Matthias Schrader
Conspiracy Theory or Truth? Bundeswehr ‘Secretly Building a Common European Army’ Under Its Control

However, today there is little, if any, possibility to push ahead with this process: “Now Europe is integrating closer into the Transatlantic bloc, it is being embedded in it,” Rahr noted. According to the political scientist under these circumstances it is unlikely that Russia will be interested in a common defensive platform. “Perhaps the next generation of politicians will understand that we need to act together,” he presumed.On the other hand, he raises a question about the probability of the creation of a pan-European military structure.

According to Rahr, the Americans are covertly blocking and torpedoing the process of forming a potential alternative to NATO. The US’s view of European security could be described by the following: “Let the Europeans unite economically, but in no case create an alternative to NATO,” the scientist explained. “Therefore, there is no basis to claim that Europeans are capable of creating something in the military sphere without NATO.”

Commenting on the future of the potential European army, Rahr suggested that it would be an army of cutting-edge military equipment in the first place. He presumed that future warfare would involve artificial intelligence, drones, rockets and robots.

In this context the military industrial complexes of Russia and Europe would need to create a common anti-missile shield and defensive weapons against Islamists instead of working against each other, he said.

Mountain infantry soldiers stand in front of a troops transporter Boxer after an exercise of the mountain infantry brigade 23 of the German Bundeswehr near the Bavarian village Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany, on March 23, 2016
© AFP 2018 / CHRISTOF STACHE
Mountain infantry soldiers stand in front of a troops transporter “Boxer” after an exercise of the mountain infantry brigade 23 of the German Bundeswehr near the Bavarian village Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany, on March 23, 2016

Why Analysts Cast Doubt on EU Armed Force

For his part, Igor Delanoe, deputy director of the French-Russian Analytical Center Observo, reminded Sputnik that the European army project is rather old. “However, there is NATO, this organization has existed for a long time and operates quite efficiently,” he added.

Delanoe expressed skepticism about the prospects for the full-fledged EU military structure. “The already existing European corps, the Franco-German brigade is the maximum of what can take shape,” the scholar believes.

German Bundeswehr soldiers of the 122th Infantry Battalion take part in a farewell ceremony in Oberviechtach, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.
© AP Photo / Matthias Schrader
EU’s PESCO Pact: Viable Alternative to NATO or Much Ado About Nothing?

At the same time, the scholar does not exclude that Russia and the EU are able to team up in the sphere of defense. “Not at the moment, of course, but it could be a positive step towards normalization of relations between the EU and Russia,” he said, suggesting that the creation of a joint cyber center would bolster trust between “the actors of international politics.” However, mutual distrust still remains within the bloc. Speaking to Sputnik, a German Left Party lawmaker, Alexander Neu, opined that European nations have no desire to forgo something for the sake of their allies. It raises the question “whether Greece or Bulgaria will sacrifice their soldiers for the sake of France or Germany,” he said. “The EU is engaged in a number of new projects, but I have big doubts that they will lead to a full-fledged military integration.”

According to Neu, the creation of an EU army is unrealistic, while the formation of a unified EU military structure raises even more doubts.

EU Army is Being Formed Little by Little

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has long been one of the proponents of the EU defense union.

“By 2025, we need a functioning European defense union. We need it, and NATO would like us to have it,” Juncker said in mid-September 2017 while delivering an annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament.

Portuguese soldiers serving in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR) stand at attention before the arrival of the NATO secretary general during his visit to Pristina on January 23, 2015
© AFP 2018 / ARMEND NIMANI
‘Not a European Army’: PESCO is About ‘Cooperation, Not Integration’ – General

In the same month, in his two-hour speech at the Paris-Sorbonne University, French President Emmanuel Macron highlighted the necessity to create joint Rapid Reaction Forces, form a single defense budget and a common doctrine for action.The idea of a unified military structure was enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty of 2007. The prototype of the European armed force was called the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).

In November 2017, 23 EU states including non-NATO members — Austria, Cyprus, Finland and Sweden — officially notified Brussels that they were going to kick PESCO off.

“It was important for us that we Europeans stand up independently, especially after the election of the US president. Nobody will solve our security problems for us. We have to do it ourselves,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said, commenting on EU defense ministers signing a joint notification on PESCO on November 13.

For his part, Juncker tweeted on December 11 that European security “cannot be outsourced,” welcoming the first operational steps taken by EU members “to lay the foundations of a European Defense Union.”

​In late March, the EU presented a plan to increase its military mobility within the PESCO framework. This indicates that the European army is being formed little by little.

The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, April 23.

Kommersant: Russia ready to bury the cyber hatchet if US agrees, Putin adviser says

Moscow will not make any unilateral statements regarding cybersecurity, nor acquiesce to taking the blame for allegations that are being pinned on Russia, Putin’s special representative for international cooperation in the field of information security Andrei Krutskikh said in an interview with Kommersant daily. “We are ready for (cybersecurity – TASS) talks any time, in the event that they are serious and substantial, and we will wait if needed,” he vowed. “If any agreements are reached, (they should be) based on mutual guarantees, and even better – on broad guarantees and regulations like the ones proposed by Russia for many years. We will not abide by someone’s ultimatums, demands or provide unilateral guarantees,” he emphasized.

When asked whether Krutskikh considers it possible to apply cyber deterrence mentioned recently by US National Security Adviser John Bolton, he replied that this is extremely dangerous logic. “Those are various peculiar fields, with no patterns here. On the contrary, forceful competition by great powers should not be in focus in cyberspace, but rather boosting confidence, transparency and cooperation, involving as many as possible countries,” he said. According Russia’s representative, Moscow and Washington could lead those processes. “A situation when two cowboys are aiming ‘cyber’ pistols at each other is abnormal. We are ready to put down our ‘six-shooters’ if they are as well. However so far, tensions are only rising, whereas it is necessary to reach agreements and share this experience to others,” he said.

Particularly, Moscow’s proposal planned to be announced at a US-Russia meeting on cybersecurity in Geneva scheduled for the end of February 2018, was aimed at striking an agreement, “envisioning information exchange and direct and regular collaboration between departments,” the official mentioned. “Such an accord on cyberspace would increase transparency and predictability. We could not only notify each other about any suspicious things, but also undertake joint efforts to solve arising problems,” he said. “We arrived in Geneva with a high-profile delegation, with 17 high-ranking experts, and expected a similar team from the US. The agenda of consultations had been approved, and we were going to discuss all pressing issues and draft ways out of the deadlock,” Krutskikh added. As reported earlier the consultations failed to take place through the US administration’s fault, which prompted Moscow to postpone the strategic stability talks in Vienna on March 6-7.

 

 

Kommersant: Russia set to launch supplies of S-300 air defense systems to Syria

The issue of delivering the S-300 Favorit air defense systems from Russia to Syria, which “used to be primarily a political angle,” has almost been resolved as Russia is about to start its supplies, Kommersant writes with reference to military and diplomatic sources. Damascus struck contracts on those supplies back in 2010, though the agreement was later halted under Israel’s request. This time around, Favorit’s delivery is planned on a non-repayable basis as part of military and technical assistance to Syria. They will be used as a basis for the creation of a layered air defense system in the country as quickly as possible to counteract potential strikes by the US-led coalition and Israel, the newspaper says.

No official response on Russia’s plans to supply the S-300s to Syria has come from Israel yet, though some expect a knee-jerk reaction from Tel Aviv, the publication says. According to Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Director Ruslan Pukhov, Moscow “most likely chose the option of providing demonstrative support to Bashar Assad after the April strike, which required a certain response from Russia due to the US and its allies.”

Meanwhile, Russia assumes that deployment of the S-300s in Syria will help stabilize the environment in the country and prevent Israel and the US-led collation from freely eliminating civil and military infrastructure. Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee for Defense and Security Viktor Bondarev believes that “the presence of efficient defense equipment in any sovereign country will sober up some loose cannons not just among NATO military and high-ranking officers.” Initially, plans are to keep Russian military advisors on the ground to coordinate actions of their Syrian counterparts, sources told Kommersant, adding that if, for example, Israel decided to attack the S-300s’ locations, the consequences “will be catastrophic for all sides.”

 

Vedomosti: Gazprom to build $20-bln gas processing plant near Baltic Sea

Russia’s top gas producer plans to construct a gigantic gas processing plant on the Baltic Sea in collaboration with RusGasDobycha, a company previously owned by businessman Arkady Rotenberg, Vedomosti writes with reference to sources in the industry. The cost of the project with annual capacity of up to 45 bln cubic meters of gas is preliminarily estimated at around $20 bln, sources said. Gazprom’s representative confirmed to the newspaper that the project is being hammered out. If implemented it may become the company’s second-biggest project in terms of investment expenditures after the Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline project.

Part of gas from the plant, which is planned to be constructed in the suburbs of St. Petersburg, close to Ust-Luga, will be supplied to the Baltic LNG for liquefaction. The remaining gas will be exported via the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, sources told the newspaper. Gazprom and RusGasDobycha signed a memorandum of intent in the area of gas processing and gas chemical production in May 2017. However, Rotenberg’s spokesman told Vedomosti that the businessman has no connection to the company now.

Director at Fitch Ratings Dmitry Marinchenko believes that the development of oil and gas chemical production is crucial for diversification of exports both for Gazprom and the Russian economy in general. “Many global oil and gas companies, from the [oil] giant Shell to the relatively small Hungarian MOL are preoccupied with beefing up the share of petrochemicals in the revenue structure,” he told the paper, adding that from this viewpoint this Gazprom project is in line with the global trend. “Moreover, the project in Ust-Luga could help Gazprom resolve another challenging task – to maintain the amount of capital investment program at a reasonable level regarding both the company itself and its key contractors,” the analyst explained. Only 2-3 years are left before its main projects envisioning pipeline construction in Russia, including the Power of Siberia, will be completed, he added.

 

RBC: Business tired of state involvement, expects no major privatization deals, survey says

Around 90% of large Russian companies highlight mounting government involvement in the economy, a poll conducted by the Adizes Institute, a global consultancy, under RBC’s request showed. The bulk of respondents consider the state’s share to be extremely large, but expect no major privatization deals in the future, the paper writes. Both independent economists and government officials have been pointing to growing nationalization of the Russian economy as one of the main issues. Chief of the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) and ex-Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who drafted President Putin’s economic program, suggests working to reduce the state’s share as one of the nation’s key structural reforms. According to the CSR’s data, the state sector’s share grew from 39.6% in 2006 to 46% in 2016. The Federal Antimonopoly Service has provided even more dramatic statistics, saying that in 2015, around 70% of the economy was under state control, up from 35% in 2005.

With the state’s share in the economy mounting, the number of dependent companies also surges, Peter Shtrom, Adizes Institute’s Vice President says, adding that this trend in inevitable and most companies find it challenging to establish relations with the state. Meanwhile, Kirill Nikitin, PwC’s partner, a government and public sector expert, believes that “the state’s involvement in the economy does not affect operations of companies that understand how to cooperate with state bodies properly.” Without this skill, it is still difficult to enter the market in many sectors of the economy, he added. Meanwhile, business finds it easier to cooperate with private partners, as the research found out, with 100% of the respondents saying so. Three-quarters of those polled acknowledged that they have to work with private partners more often than with state companies, enterprises and public bodies.

 

Izvestia: Lunar exploration impossible without Moon research vehicles

Russia’s State Scientific Center for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics located in St. Petersburg is designing a new moon research vehicle to be managed from the Russian segment of the International Space Station for a space experiment, Director and Chief Designer of the Center Alexander Lopota told Izvestia. “It is impossible for carry out a full-fledged exploration of the Moon’s surface without mobile robotic vehicles. Though this is the next stage of lunar exploration, we should thinking about it right now,” he stressed.

According to Lopota, it is necessary not only “to define the types of future Moon research vehicles and their design, but also to develop technologies of communication with satellite vehicles located far away from the management center.” “A great variety of robotic platforms will be required at the lunar exploration stage. The Scientific Center for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics is designing a robotic geologist, which will explore a route of around 400 kilometers and the surface layer with soil experiments, carry out seismologic tests, and set up an automatic observation station for long-term monitoring,” he explained.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews

Kinzhal (‘dagger’) hypersonic missile being test-fired by the Russian military.

For the past 500 years European nations-Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain, France and, briefly, Germany-were able to plunder much of the planet by projecting their naval power overseas. Since much of the world’s population lives along the coasts, and much of it trades over water, armed ships that arrived suddenly out of nowhere were able to put local populations at their mercy.

The armadas could plunder, impose tribute, punish the disobedient, and then use that plunder and tribute to build more ships, enlarging the scope of their naval empires. This allowed a small region with few natural resources and few native advantages beyond extreme orneriness and a wealth of communicable diseases to dominate the globe for half a millennium.

The ultimate inheritor of this naval imperial project is the United States, which, with the new addition of air power, and with its large aircraft carrier fleet and huge network of military bases throughout the planet, is supposedly able to impose Pax Americana on the entire world. Or, rather, was able to do so-during the brief period between the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of Russia and China as new global powers and their development of new anti-ship and antiaircraft technologies. But now this imperial project is at an end.

Prior to the Soviet collapse, the US military generally did not dare to directly threaten those countries to which the USSR had extended its protection. Nevertheless, by using its naval power to dominate the sea lanes that carried crude oil, and by insisting that oil be traded in US dollars, it was able to live beyond its means by issuing dollar-denominated debt instruments and forcing countries around the world to invest in them. It imported whatever it wanted using borrowed money while exporting inflation, expropriating the savings of people across the world. In the process, the US has accumulated absolutely stunning levels of national debt-beyond anything seen before in either absolute or relative terms. When this debt bomb finally explodes, it will spread economic devastation far beyond US borders. And it will explode, once the petrodollar wealth pump, imposed on the world through American naval and air superiority, stops working.

New missile technology has made a naval empire cheap to defeat. Previously, to fight a naval battle, one had to have ships that outmatched those of the enemy in their speed and artillery power. The Spanish Armada was sunk by the British armada. More recently, this meant that only those countries whose industrial might matched that of the United States could ever dream of opposing it militarily. But this has now changed: Russia’s new missiles can be launched from thousands of kilometers away, are unstoppable, and it takes just one to sink a destroyer and just two to sink an aircraft carrier. The American armada can now be sunk without having an armada of one’s own. The relative sizes of American and Russian economies or defense budgets are irrelevant: the Russians can build more hypersonic missiles much more quickly and cheaply than the Americans would be able to build more aircraft carriers.

Equally significant is the development of new Russian air defense capabilities: the S-300 and S-400 systems, which can essentially seal off a country’s airspace. Wherever these systems are deployed, such as in Syria, US forces are now forced to stay out of their range. With its naval and air superiority rapidly evaporating, all that the US can fall back on militarily is the use of large expeditionary forces – an option that is politically unpalatable and has proven to be ineffective in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is also the nuclear option, and while its nuclear arsenal is not likely to be neutralized any time soon, nuclear weapons are only useful as deterrents. Their special value is in preventing wars from escalating beyond a certain point, but that point lies beyond the elimination of their global naval and air dominance. Nuclear weapons are much worse than useless in augmenting one’s aggressive behavior against a nuclear-armed opponent; invariably, it would be a suicidal move. What the US now faces is essentially a financial problem of unrepayable debt and a failing wealth pump, and it should be a stunningly obvious point that setting off nuclear explosions anywhere in the world would not fix the problems of an empire that is going broke.

Events that signal vast, epochal changes in the world often appear minor when viewed in isolation. Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon was just one river crossing; Soviet and American troops meeting and fraternizing at the Elbe was, relatively speaking, a minor event-nowhere near the scale of the siege of Leningrad, the battle of Stalingrad or the fall of Berlin. Yet they signaled a tectonic shift in the historical landscape. And perhaps we have just witnessed something similar with the recent pathetically tiny Battle of East Gouta in Syria, where the US used a make-believe chemical weapons incident as a pretense to launch an equally make-believe attack on some airfields and buildings in Syria. The US foreign policy establishment wanted to show that it still matters and has a role to play, but what really happened was that US naval and air power were demonstrated to be almost entirely beside the point.

Of course, all of this is terrible news to the US military and foreign policy establishments, as well as to the many US Congressmen in whose districts military contractors operate or military bases are situated. Obviously, this is also bad news for the defense contractors, for personnel at the military bases, and for many others as well. It is also simply awful news economically, since defense spending is about the only effective means of economic stimulus of which the US government is politically capable. Obama’s “shovel-ready jobs,” if you recall, did nothing to forestall the dramatic slide in the labor participation rate, which is a euphemism for the inverse of the real unemployment rate. There is also the wonderful plan to throw lots of money at Elon Musk’s SpaceX (while continuing to buy vitally important rocket engines from the Russians-who are currently discussing blocking their export to the US in retaliation for more US sanctions). In short, take away the defense stimulus, and the US economy will make a loud popping sound followed by a gradually diminishing hissing noise.

Needless to say, all those involved will do their best to deny or hide for as long as possible the fact that the US foreign policy and defense establishments have now been neutralized. My prediction is that America’s naval and air empire will not fail because it will be defeated militarily, nor will it be dismantled once the news sinks in that it is useless; instead, it will be forced to curtail its operations due to lack of funds. There may still be a few loud bangs before it gives up, but mostly what we will hear is a whole lot of whimpering. That’s how the USSR went; that’s how the USA will go too.

About the author

Dmitry Orlov is an engineer and author of several books, including The Five Stages of Collapse. His website is Club Orlov, and his Patreon page is here.

I recently wrote a rather long article on the potential dangers of new metadata retention laws to the fabric of our society and the functioning of our democracy. There is no issue I feel more passionate about in our society today, as it affects literally every one of us. We are witnessing the creation of the greatest weapon of oppression in the history of man, to quote Edward Snowden, and as individuals, citizens of a democracy, and human beings, we owe it to ourselves and each other to do what little we can to stall and hopefully stop this legislation from passing into law.

To that end, I’ve prepared an open letter to the politicians of this country outlining the failings of the legislation and other relevant information around metadata collection and the relation thereof to human rights.

Please send this to as many members of parliament as you can, and please share this template on your social media walls and any political groups you may be a part of. The more people that know that this is happening and that recognise that they are personally implicated in it, the more chance we have of stopping this draconian imposition on the freedoms of all Australians, rich and poor, powerless and powerful, male and female, old and young.

With your help, I sincerely believe we can make a positive difference.

An Open Letter to the Politicians of Australia on the Potential Adverse Effects of Proposed Metadata Retention Legislation on Human Rights and the Functioning of Our Democracy

This letter contains many references to the Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation, where there is a number or text enclosed in brackets like so: (5.17), refer to the appropriate section of the report.

[Politician’s name],

I am writing to you to express my deep and sincere concern with regards to the proposed Metadata Retention legislation that the government wishes to pass by the 27th of March 2015.

This legislation represents, contrary to the claims of those with vested interests in seeing the legislation pass, a grave threat to the right to privacy, freedom of speech and association that is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy.

You may not be aware of what the legislation addresses, or what the “telecommunications data” it refers to actually entails.

Nicola Roxon, in a statement to the Attorney General, describes telecommunications data as: “Telecommunications data is information about the process of communication, as distinct from its content. It includes information about the identity of the sending and receiving parties and related subscriber details, account identifying information collected by the telecommunications carrier or ISP to establish the account, and information such as the time and date of the communication, its duration, location and type of communication. (5.7)

The proposed legislation, based on the definitions above, would give the Australian government unprecedented access to nearly every aspect of the online activity of it’s citizens, and the ability to infer a disturbingly accurate “pattern of life” from the collected data.

For example, you may have your cellphone’s GPS services enabled to use Google Maps. That data, in conjunction with your phone records and timestamps on the above data could clue in a security agency as to your most likely whereabouts on any given day. This poses an enormous risk to freedom of the press, as governments could use these capabilities to track journalists and their sources to frequented meeting places, limiting concerned parties’ abilities to bring sensitive information to the public for democratic review.

“The database will contain every page they accessed – every article they’ve read on a newspaper site, any online political activity, any purchases on ebay, books bought from amazon, Facebook pages visited etc.” – Ian Quick

In the words of former NSA/CIA Director Michael Hayden:

“We kill people based on metadata.”

Fears about the above stated powers and the implications thereof have been echoed by several EU countries.

The Romanian Court, with regards to local metadata retention, held that a “continuous legal obligation” to retain all traffic data for six months was incompatible with the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. (5.26)

In Germany, the Constitutional Court described metadata retention as a “serious restriction of the right to privacy” and stated that a “retention period of six months [was] at the upper limit of what should be considered proportionate”. (5.27)

The Czech Constitutional Court, in analogous statements, described misgivings about the potential abuses of these powers: “Individual citizens had insufficient guarantees against possible abuses of power by public authorities.” (5.28)

The EU Court of Justice found that the 2006 European Data Retention Directive violated citizens “fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data”.

With such strident international condemnation, it seems to go without saying that any committee responsible for review of similar legislation would be given express access to details of the proposed changes and sufficient resources to complete a sincere and detailed examination of the material. Oddly enough, these criteria were not met: “Having commenced the inquiry at the beginning of July 2012, the Committee was asked to report if at all possible by the end of the calendar year. This afforded the Committee a highly compressed and unachievable time frame of less than six months to examine what is an extensive list of potential reforms, some of which are far reaching.” (Introduction, Page 3)

It seems that the government also failed to provide the committee with the relevant draft legislation, leaving those involved to rely on speculation and inference rather than an appraisal of the raw data: “The Government sought the Committee’s views on a mandatory data retention regime. The Committee did not have access to draft legislation. Furthermore, the inadequate description of data retention in the terms of reference and discussion paper also impaired both the public discussion and the Committee’s consideration of the data retention issue.” (1.29)

The question of how efficacious metadata retention is in solving and preventing crime is a raging debate.

Electronic Freedom Australia noted that it was “highly questionable” whether data retention would aid in the investigation of terrorism, organised crime or other serious illegal activities:

“It is worth noting that determined criminals will have little difficulty disguising or anonymising their communications. There are many relatively simple and effective tools available that allow for the protection of communications from surveillance.” (5.167)

This is an excellent point. The proposed legislation is no secret. Those in the criminal world will have no doubt heard of the potential for their activities to be monitored and have likely already taken steps to anonymise their online behaviour. Even in the event that the scope of the metadata retention reforms is so broad that it includes tools for opening encrypted chats and messaging services, it is not unlikely that tech savvy individuals on the wrong side of the law will be developing tools to combat this unwanted intrusion, rendering the legislation effectively useless in dealing with its raison d’être: combating terrorism and serious crime.

An unintended consequence of the introduction of metadata retention could be the opposite of what it is designed to achieve: a progressive opacification of the internet, with more and more users turning to encrypted browsing and communication, thereby shrinking the usable pool of data.

“Why do we imagine that the criminals of the greatest concern to our security agencies will not be able to use any of numerous available means to anonymise their communications or indeed choose new services that are not captured by legislated data retention rules?”

This quote from Communications Minister Macolm Turnbull, in addition to his recently revealed use of the messaging app Wickr, which provides a platform for anyone to send and receive self-deleting encrypted messages, seems to indicate that the reforms are likely to bring about little change in the positive ability of law enforcement agencies to stop criminal activity.

Add to this comments made by Blueprints for Free Speech, indicating that “there is no evidence to suggest data retention would assist with the prevention of crime or terrorism. A 2011 study of Germany’s Data Retention Directive found it had no impact on either the effectiveness of criminal investigation or the crime rate. Further, the study specifically found that countries without data retention laws are not more vulnerable to crime.”

Make no bones about it, metadata retention is mass surveillance. It can be used to form a dataset, a pattern of life indicating your movements, interests, affiliations and beliefs. You will be paying for this intrusion of privacy through rises in service bills, a kind of “tele screen tax” if you will. You will be at a higher risk of identity theft through the creation of ‘honeypots’ of data, irresistible to organised criminals and foreign actors. Your basic rights to privacy, to freedom of speech, to live as a dignified human person, are being infringed upon in ways that do not preclude a broadening of the scope of these abuses.

Even the supporters of the legislation don’t buy into their own rhetoric, with members of the Liberal party using Wickr on a daily basis, showing the world that privacy is of the utmost importance even to those who adamantly maintain that it isn’t.

With unanimous condemnation from leading human rights groups around the world, with a public backlash on a scale almost never witnessed, with the potential for so much to go horribly wrong, we simply must put a stop to this.

Tony Abbott has made statements that he wants a parliamentary inquiry into the legislation to be scrapped. I think it’s our responsibility as members of our democracy to ask why anyone would want a piece of legislation with so many potential avenues for abuse to pass without appropriate scrutiny.

I implore you, with the utmost sincerity and urgency, to do whatever is within your power to oppose this legislation at the very least until it is put before an independent NGO and reviewed in depth, with all the aspects of the legislation made available for public review and scrutiny.

Thank you for your time and your consideration, I hope that we, together, can make history and bring our society forward into an age of social egalitarianism, where the ideals of freedom of speech and thought, freedom of association and transparency of government are enshrined as they once were, as the foundations of a working democracy.

Sincerely,

______

For more information on the legislation you can refer to the Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation, which you can find here: http://www.aph.gov.au/parliamentary_business/committees/house_of_representatives_committees?url=pjcis/nsl2012/report.htm

An independent summary/opinion piece on the legislation can be found here: https://wideeyedandhopefullywild.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/metadata-and-you/

——

For the sender of this email: you can find the contact addresses of your parliamentarians at these links:

http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members

http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/03%20Senators%20and%20Members/32%20Members/Lists/MemList.pdf
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