Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Well, So Much For "Protecting The Kids"

Not sure how many of you know, but various Australian ISPs have been 'voluntarily' imposing censorship for a while now. At the behest of the government. To 'protect the kiddies', naturally.

And of course, it was never, ever about politics, nor suppressing dissent. Nope.

I'm on a Telstra account. When I saw this link:

on a news site, I was curious. There was a note that said the US government had sought to trial a nerve agent on Australian soldiers, and requested the Aus government's co-operation and silence. I'm skeptical, so I thought I'd read it.

I clicked the link. (Have you done so yet?) And I got a Google broken-link message. (I use Chrome as my browser. On Firefox, it 'times out'.)

Did I mention I'm skeptical? I'm also cynical. I promptly went to a very quick-and-simple proxy site called Workdodger, in the UK, and input that self-same link. And got this:

C O N F I D E N T I A L CANBERRA 000685      SIPDIS    STATE FOR EAP AND PM  SECDEF FOR OSD J.POWERS  PACOM ALSO FOR POLAD    E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/07/2018  TAGS: MOPS PINS PREL AS SUBJECT: GUIDANCE REQUEST: ALLEGATION USG SOUGHT TO TEST  NERVE GAS ON AUSTRALIANS    Classified By: Charge D'Affaires Daniel A. Clune.  Reasons: 1.4(b),(d)    1. (U)  This is an action request - please see paragraph 4  below.    2. (SBU) Australian newspapers, quoting recently declassified  Australian government documents, carried stories over the  July 4 weekend alleging the U.S. Government had asked the  Australian government in 1963 to permit aerial testing of VX  and GB sarin nerve agent on Australian troops in Queensland.  According to the stories, the U.S. proposal included a  request that the GOA conceal the nature of the testing,  including from the troops on whom they would be conducted.  The Australian government at the time did not respond to the  U.S. request, according to the press stories.    3. (C) At the Embassy's request, staff of Defence Minister  Joel Fitzgibbon, currently in Hawaii and en route to  Washington, provided a background paper used to brief the  Defence Minister that includes further details (see full text  at para 5 below.)    4. (C) ACTION REQUESTED:  Embassy requests guidance for  possible use in responding to media inquiries.  Defence  Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has indicated he will raise this  issue during his forthcoming visit to the United States,  possibly including during his July 8 call on PACOM Commander  Keating and during his call next week on Secretary Gates.  In  addition, although no press had contacted the U.S. Embassy as  of COB July 7, we anticipate the need for guidance to respond  to press inquiries over the coming days, particularly for a  previously-arranged radio interview of the Charge in Adelaide  July 9 on a range of topics.    5. (C) Following is the text of the background paper provided  by Defence Minister Fitzgibbon's staff:    Begin text:    Nerve Gas test plans    Regarding widespread reporting - The Australian, SMH, Sunday  Program, Advertiser 07/07/08 - that recently declassified  National Archive documents reveal an American plan to test  Nerve Gas on Australian Defence Force members during the Cold  War.    Background    Recently declassified documents held by the National Archives  contain information that the US wanted to test Nerve Gas on  Australian soldiers at the height of the cold war.    The Australian reports that under the plan, 200 Australian  combat troops, presumably wearing 1960s-era chemical  protection suits, were to be subjected to aerial bombardment  in the Iron Range rainforest near Lockhart River in far north  Queensland.  The Australian also reports that the plan is not  believed to have been acted upon.    The nerve agents were to include VX and GB, better known as  sarin nerve gas.  The aim of the tests was to gauge the  effectiveness of nerve agents in jungle warfare at a time  when US military involvement in Vietnam was intensifying.    The US proposal is alleged to have made by US defence  secretary Robert McNamara in July 1963, according to Defence  Department and Prime Minister's Office documents.    The documents stated that of the 200 troops to be used in the  tests, "only four to six would need to know the full details  of the operation".    The US proposal is reported to have recommended that the  Australian government keep the nerve agent tests secret,  describing them as either "equipment testing" trials or "land  Qdescribing them as either "equipment testing" trials or "land  reclamation" experiments.    The Australian reports that the Australian government is  believed to have not responded to the initial US proposal in  1963, but in 1966 Washington approached the new prime  minister, Harold Holt, with a request to drop tear gas on  Australian troops.  Reports say that again, Canberra quietly  ignored the request.    A former Holt staffer told the Sunday Program that the then  Government was concerned that its Cold War alliance with the  US would be damaged if it refused to allow the tests.    Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who was Minister for  Army from 196668, denied knowledge of the US requests.    COMMENTS BY MINISTER FITZGIBBON - 06/07/08    "(It is) difficult to believe any such request came forward,  but if it did, surely it would have been rejected by the  conservative government of the day out of hand".    "I have asked Defence for an urgent and full briefing on this  matter. I can certainly rule out any such testing in the  future."    New lines for the Minister:    --I am aware of reports that the United States sought to test  nerve gas in Australia during the 1960s.    --I am advised that the United States did seek Australian  agreement to conduct experiments using chemical agents in Far  North Queensland, as they had no suitable sites available in  areas under their control.    --I am advised that in 1964, the Cabinet agreed it was not  appropriate to allow such trials to be carried out in  Australia and agreed to advise the United States of this  decision.    --I am advised this information is available on the public  record. Relevant cabinet papers were released in the  mid-1990s under the provisions of Archives Act, 1983.    --I am advised the United States was made aware of the  pending release of this information in 1994.    --I have asked the Department of Defence for an urgent and  full briefing on this matter.    End text.    

Don't take my word for it. Try it for yourself.

So. Is there anybody out there who still thinks the government's censorship of the 'Net is about 'protecting the kiddies'? Because if so, I've got a lot of money in Nigeria you can have if you just send me a few thousand dollars to cover administrative costs...


1) Different results have been reported to me from different ISPs - well, yes. I'd expect that. Conroy's Great Big Firewall hasn't been implemented, but a number of ISP's have agreed to censor voluntarily. They're supposedly listening to Interpol, but there's nothing that says they're all censoring the same stuff the same way... and there's nothing to say that Telstra, for example, isn't taking quiet instructions from our government.

2) A later check allowed me to reach the Wikileaks site. But the cable was simply not there. On the other hand, it was still accessible via the English proxy. This was about five hours after the first couple of checks, which occurred across a period of about an hour to an hour and a half.

3) According to Twitter sources, Wikileaks.org has been under cyberattack today. Well, maybe. On the other hand, I can't quite see why a cyberattack would block an inquiry from a Telstra ISP, but let an inquiry from an English proxy go straight through.

Something's not straight, folks.

FINAL EDIT: And now, as of 2220, I can get straight through from my Telstra ISP to the cable itself.

So what happened? Did a cyberattack somehow block access from Telstra while leaving open access via an English proxy? And did that cyberattack somehow later refine itself, allowing access to Wikileaks, but blocking the one cable in question? Or is it merely my computer (and two others in this house that can access the 'net, of course... naturally I tried them.) which has somehow slipped a gear?

This isn't the first time I've noticed problems with accessing portions of the Web using Telstra. This is, however, the first time it's really pissed me off. I'm going to keep watching this, with interest.

1 comment:

  1. Like most of the net users never thought it was about 'won't someone think of the children'.

    As you pointed out the evidence was there, even as to how easily it can be dodged