Former Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus was given a secret briefing on the US PRISM spy program two months before the widespread interception efforts were publicly revealed.
Heavily redacted documents obtained by the ABC's AM program under Freedom of Information laws revealed Dreyfus was in the Attorney-General seat for six weeks before receiving the briefing from his department on the US National Security Agency's global spying program.
The Department refused to release details of the 21 March briefing titled “Protected Briefing to the Attorney-General”, citing “national security, defence or international relations” concerns.
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The briefing was given two months before news broke in The Guardian of the NSA's PRISM program, which was revealed in a series of ongoing disclosures by former US defence contractor Edward Snowden.
His disclosures alleged the NSA, through its numerous spy programs, had tapped international communications cables; inserted a backdoor into an encryption standard; sifted through emails, and pressured the world's largest technology and social media companies to provide access to user accounts.
In June, Fairfax reported that Australia was using information collected under the program, according to anonymous intelligence officials. One source claimed Australia was "overwhelmingly dependent on intelligence obtained by the NSA''.
Information on the impact that PRISM would have on the privacy of Australians and an analysis of media reporting on the program sought by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam was completely redacted within the FOI documents.
Ludlam told SC he was informed only that a response had been made but not of any details of PRISM's use in Australia.
Ludlam and South Australian senator Nick Xenophon have pressed the former Labor government for information about how PRISM was used in Australia but have been told only that communications interception in the country was carried out in accordance with the law.