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Analysis and Comment (26)

Journalists face long jail terms for reporting information relating to ‘special intelligence operations’, as declared by ASIO, under the government’s proposed reforms. Journalists face long jail terms for reporting information relating to ‘special intelligence operations’, as declared by ASIO, under the government’s proposed reforms. AAP/Lukas Coch

National security bills compound existing threats to media freedom

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) will publish its report on the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 (Cth) sometime during this sitting of parliament…
You can do better. You can do better. Answer sheet via Wichy/Shutterstock

Ignore the IQ test: your level of intelligence is not fixed for life

We’re getting more stupid. That’s one point made in a recent article in the New Scientist, reporting on a gradual decline in IQs in developed countries such as the UK, Australia and the Netherlands. Such…
Intelligence agencies want greater access to metadata, but security wishlists must be tempered by the public interest in privacy and a balance between state power and citizens' rights. Intelligence agencies want greater access to metadata, but security wishlists must be tempered by the public interest in privacy and a balance between state power and citizens' rights. AAP/Lukas Coch

What is the meaning and what is the use of ‘metadata retention’?

Privacy and individuals’ ability to remain anonymous are important protections against persecution, bullying, intimidation and retaliation. These can be perpetrated by other people, private businesses…
The importance of public awareness of national security changes at the legislative stage is crucial as, once in force, these schemes are often shrouded in secrecy. The importance of public awareness of national security changes at the legislative stage is crucial as, once in force, these schemes are often shrouded in secrecy. AAP/Lukas Coch

National security bill gives ASIO more powers and a tighter gag

The Abbott government has unveiled the first in what is expected to be a suite of reforms aimed at strengthening Australia’s national security. The bill introduced into the Senate yesterday by attorney-general…
The role of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has long been subject to political debate and controversy. The role of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has long been subject to political debate and controversy. AAP/Andrew Brownbill

Persons of Interest revives Cold War politics and the ASIO debate

The screening of the documentary series Persons of Interest on SBS, in which former targets of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) surveillance examine their files, has prompted some…
Who’s viewing your metadata? Who’s viewing your metadata? Adam Fagen

Data surveillance is necessary, but we must have transparency

The latest intelligence documents published by The Guardian tell us that the US National Security Agency (NSA) is harvesting up to 200 million text messages a day under the DISHFIRE programme, and that…
Recent revelations of Australia’s intelligence practices have brought oversight issues into sharp focus. What mechanisms are there to hold these agencies to account? Recent revelations of Australia’s intelligence practices have brought oversight issues into sharp focus. What mechanisms are there to hold these agencies to account? AAP/Dan Peled

Intelligence oversight and accountability: who watches the watchers?

The recent revelations of alleged telephone interception of Indonesian politicians, espionage in East Timor and raids in Canberra have raised more questions than they have answered about Australia’s intelligence…
Tony Abbott argues his first duty is to advance the national interest, without telling us why acting in our own interests is always right or even permissible. Tony Abbott argues his first duty is to advance the national interest, without telling us why acting in our own interests is always right or even permissible. AAP/Daniel Munoz

The spying game: what a 15th-century Irish warlord can teach today’s politicians

Irish philosopher Richard Kearney visited Melbourne last year and, being the fine raconteur he is, told a great tale from his nation’s past. In 1492, Black James, nephew of the Earl of Ormond, and a group…
Should Tony Abbott follow Barack Obama’s example and apologise personally to Indonesia leaders over the spying scandal, as Obama did to Angela Merkel? Should Tony Abbott follow Barack Obama’s example and apologise personally to Indonesia leaders over the spying scandal, as Obama did to Angela Merkel? EPA/Andrew Harrer

Spying scandal: Obama, Abbott and why sorry is the hardest word to say

The contrast between Australian prime minister Tony Abbott’s self-defeating response to spying allegations with Indonesia and US president Barack Obama’s reaction to smooth its similar row with Germany…
It is sensible to keep an eye on our friends in order to manage risk. It is sensible to keep an eye on our friends in order to manage risk. Image from shutterstock.com

I spy, you spy, we all spy – but is it legal?

The specifics of whose phone was tapped and when may be new to Indonesia but the fact that Australia monitored its close friend’s activities will not be a surprise. Governments have been watching each…
For the Australian Signals Directorate – as with all organisations in the spying business – the secret of success is in keeping your success secret. For the Australian Signals Directorate – as with all organisations in the spying business – the secret of success is in keeping your success secret. AAP/Lukas Coch

Protecting secrets: inside Australia’s mysterious spy agency

Much like in the movie Casablanca, there is much huffing and shaking of heads about activities of the nation’s electronic spy agency, the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), after allegations emerged…
Australia’s intelligence agencies have allegedly set up listening posts in the Asia-Pacific to ‘spy’ on our nearest neighbours. But isn’t that what spy agencies are meant to do? Australia’s intelligence agencies have allegedly set up listening posts in the Asia-Pacific to ‘spy’ on our nearest neighbours. But isn’t that what spy agencies are meant to do? Takver

Calm down, Australian intelligence forces are just doing their job

Revelations about Australia’s alleged spy network in Asia and listening posts in our embassies across the Pacific might be diplomatically awkward. But it doesn’t mean intelligence agencies have “gone rogue…
Measuring animal intelligence is extremely complex, yet some animals may be smarter than we think. Measuring animal intelligence is extremely complex, yet some animals may be smarter than we think. Rader of Gin

Are animals as smart, or as dumb, as we think they are?

Does my dog only think of eating, sleeping and chasing squirrels? Does my girlfriend’s cat really have the capacity to plot my accidental death? Are cows just walking hamburgers and pigeons intent on world…
Not so dumb-o. Not so dumb-o. Anna Smet

Elephants get the point when it comes to making gestures

As humans, we point all the time. It’s an action we do almost without thinking: even one-year-old infants use pointing and understand what pointing means when an adult does it for them. It’s a really simple…
A lot cleverer than he looks. A lot cleverer than he looks. vpickering

We’ve been looking at ant intelligence the wrong way

How intelligent are animals? Despite centuries of effort by philosophers, psychologists and biologists, the question remains unanswered. We are inclined to tackle this question using a top-down approach…
What matters more when it comes to intelligence: nature or nurture? What matters more when it comes to intelligence: nature or nurture? Brain image from www.shutterstock.com

Are genes really the reason more poor kids do badly at school?

A news report recently informed readers that the reason children from poorer backgrounds struggle is due to genetic “inherited abilities”. According to the article, a new Productivity Commission report…
Terminate your concerns. Terminate your concerns. San Diego Shooter/Flickr

Super intelligent machines aren’t to be feared

Fear of machines becoming smarter than humans is a standard part of popular culture. In films like iRobot and Terminator, humans are usurped. Throughout history we can trace stories about humankind overreaching…
The aftermath of the Bali bombing in 2002 that killed dozens of Australians. Do our intelligence services need further investment to prevent such tragedies from occurring again? The aftermath of the Bali bombing in 2002 that killed dozens of Australians. Do our intelligence services need further investment to prevent such tragedies from occurring again? AAP/Dean Lewins

Not so smart: the Coalition intelligence review repeats old mistakes

The Coalition has promised it will “rebuild” Australia’s frontline national security agencies if it wins government at the upcoming election. Shadow attorney general spokesman George Brandis has laid out…
The role of unconscious influences on behaviour has long been a contentious issue in psychology. The role of unconscious influences on behaviour has long been a contentious issue in psychology. ssri

Does thinking about professors make you more intelligent?

What roles do unconscious influences play on your behaviour and decision-making? The answer might not be as simple as you think. Imagine I showed you a list of words one by one on a computer screen and…
It might seem like a natural corporate fit, but will politics get in the way of the merger between defence behemoths BAE Systems and EADS? It might seem like a natural corporate fit, but will politics get in the way of the merger between defence behemoths BAE Systems and EADS? AAP

Arms deals: making sense of the EADS-BAE super merger

It would be the world’s largest aerospace and defence contractor. Bigger than Lockheed Martin. Bigger than Northrop Grumman. And even bigger than the current global No. 1 defence corporation, Boeing. The…
What can brain imaging reveal about human intelligence? What can brain imaging reveal about human intelligence? PraveenbenK

Brain imaging: the smart way to predict intelligence?

When it comes to intelligence, what factors distinguish the brains of the exceptionally smart from those of average humans? New research by post-doctoral fellow Michael Cole and colleagues suggests as…
For some, the theory of multiple intelligences is a source of frustration rather than illumination. For some, the theory of multiple intelligences is a source of frustration rather than illumination. kidpixo

What’s ability got to do with it? Why we should be mindful of measuring intelligence

We have had the Singing Detective. Now we can have singing intelligence. We can also have the circular argument that grounds it: we can sing because we have singing intelligence, and we have singing intelligence…
Children should be taught to play music themselves rather than just listening to it. Children should be taught to play music themselves rather than just listening to it. Naruco

Monday’s medical myth: play Mozart to boost your baby’s IQ

What parent can pass up the chance to boost their child’s intelligence by putting on some nice classical music? The popular idea that IQ scores can be raised by listening to Mozart is a case study in how…
The humble pigeon mightn’t look smart, but it’s no bird-brain. The humble pigeon mightn’t look smart, but it’s no bird-brain. Seamoor

Are pigeons as smart as primates? You can count on it

We humans have long been interested in defining the abilities that set us apart from other species. Along with capabilities such as language, the ability to recognise and manipulate numbers (“numerical…
Spy agencies in Australia have a big job, but does the job match the budget? Spy agencies in Australia have a big job, but does the job match the budget? Flickr/ocularinvasion

Cloak and dollar: how much do security agencies in Australia really need?

In an era of evolving threats, judgment calls will continue to rely on the provision of accurate, timely intelligence. But this intelligence does not come cheap. In order to be well-prepared and well-organised…

Research and News (1)

Research Briefs (5)

Lizards not so dumb after all

Puerto Rican anoles have challenged the scientific stereotype that reptiles have limited cognitive abilities, passing a test…