The Australian Senate has passed the biggest changes to the powers of the nation’s intelligence agencies in 35 years.

The Abbott government’s first national security bill, also supported by Labor, increases the powers of agencies to gather intelligence.

The bill creates a new offence, punishable by up to 10 years in jail, for anyone who discloses or publishes information about “special intelligence operations”.

These operations are a new category of covert activity in which officers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) are granted immunity from criminal or civil liability as long as the conduct does not involve causing death or serious injury, sexual offences or ‘significant’ damage to property.

It also seeks to toughen penalties for intelligence agents for removing or leaking sensitive information.

(Source: The Guardian)

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