Thursday, January 12, 2012

That's a pretty clear "No" to Ferguson's NOSIC

Lots more photos and video will be available shortly, but Say No to NOSIC, today's Occupy Melbourne event at Martin Ferguson's electoral office, was a very positive coming together of disparate groups - all there to defend public interest protest against private interest spying.

I travelled by 86 tram with a group from the City Square, and it seemed an appropriate beginning that Melbourne City Council officials were there to request the removal of Occupy signage - please do not despair, minions, life can be more meaningful, as we were all about to demonstrate.

When we arrived at Martin Ferguson's Preston electorate office, an advance protest party was already there in force, as was a contingent of Victorian and Australian Federal Police with enough vehicles to give the strange impression of an outdoor law enforcement vehicle showroom.

I asked one besuited young officer if she was from ASIO. "Of course," she replied - rather wittily, I thought - before amending her answer: "No, Federal Police". Unfortunately, not all the officers present had so admirable a sense of humour, with reports of officers swearing at protesters who strayed onto the road to connect with the sympathetic passing traffic. Unfortunately, the AFP's own traffic-stopping antics created far more risk, and they were urged to move on by the crowd.

It was a cause of some amusement to the gathering that Ferguson's office had been closed in response to the protest on "occupational health and safety" grounds. It occurred to me then that if Ferguson is allowed to continue with his lust for burning and exporting fossil fuels, we might just have to close the planet. Fortunately, many worthy campaigners stand in the way.

Occupy Melbourne's Nick Carson did a great job on the microphone, speaking himself but also facilitating a series of speakers in a truly participatory spirit.

Among these was Quit Coal's Shaun Murray, recent author of a powerful opinion piece making the case for democratic protest against coal, and giving the lie to Ferguson's spin regarding the imaginary "risks" posed by protest groups.

Murray had earlier participated in a very funny Tuesday protest filmed to the accompaniment of music from Get Smart.

The addresses continued with Friends of the Earth's Dr Jim Green on Ferguson's complementary delusion that we should not only burn or sell all our coal, we should sell uranium too in a dangerous pretence of action on climate change.
Historian and ALP member Wil Wallace voiced his own disappointment at the party he has followed, a disappointment he has channelled into participatory democracy and protest.

Sadly, we also heard testimony of spying on lawful and peaceful coal protests, including on children, in Queensland and elsewhere - spying that simply isn't justified on any public interest basis - whether or not, as one speaker rightly pointed out, that spying is undertaken by government, or by private agencies directed by government, such as the National Open Source Intelligence Centre (NOSIC).

In accordance with the participatory nature of Occupy, everyone was afforded an opportunity to take a turn with the microphone, so I decided I would also say a few words, transcribed here from my notebook scrawls:
We are here today to Say No to NOSIC, the private firm engaged to spy on lawful and peaceful protesters under the direction of resources and energy minister Martin Ferguson, our local Batman MP.

The Australian Federal Police are here not to repel any real threat from us - we are lawful and peaceful protesters.

They are, however, here to defend a threat - to protect and perpetuate the threat of Martin Ferguson to our climate.

We are here today thanks to Occupy Melbourne, to Say No to NOSIC, to say no to spying on behalf of private interests against public interest campaigners seeking a safer climate. We are here to oppose those who work for the benefit of the 1% against the common good.

We are here to say no to that, and to send a message to Martin Ferguson and the Gillard Labor Government, that the 99% will be heard, that they will be heard on the globally urgent question of climate.
The protest wrapped up with a group photo and chalked messages on the footpath in front of Ferguson's office (my own, "Regards, DL-H"). This was a positive protest organised to communicate a very serious message, and I commend Occupy Melbourne for their democratic achievement.

P.S. Don't forget Friday is National Check in with Martin Ferguson Day. Please ensure your heart is in the right place, and report on yourself to help the government save money on spies!

Comments welcome.


  1. Just a quick semantic note...

    NOSIC stands for National Open Source Intelligence Centre.

    It sounds to me like the people behind this "Intelligence Centre" were desperate for a fancy acronym... because nothing about NOSIC is Open Source. Their software is not available to anyone, which is the definition of open source (the source code is available, openly), but even their information isn't public.

    The only vague interpretation anyone could make is that they collect openly available information.... perhaps that public information is considered the "source", which they claim to "open" to their clients.

    I'd suggest that this organisation is half arsed at best... probably all they have is some fancy keyword searching software. Any hackers out there? I reckon it wouldn't be hard to block these guys out... ;-)

  2. Thanks for your comment, Nick. I agree with your note on semantics. They are claiming to gather information from open - or publicly available - sources. That doesn't mean that's harmless, or that it should be permissible for governments to hire private firms to do that (or, indeed, to do it themselves).

    I make no judgment as to NOSIC's skill in doing what they do, and I don't really think it's necessary to. I just oppose what they're doing because it works against protesters pursuing the public interest.

    I note in this regard that representatives of NOSIC are most welcome to reply to your assessment of their competence, as per this blog's comments policy.

    Regarding hackers - even those engaged in blocking people out, as opposed to illegally breaking into sites - my comment is that they shouldn't be needed.

    Of course, taken broadly and not in reference to NOSIC, the question is how far online surveillance by Government really goes. If spying by Government extends to accessing private discussions regarding protest activity, or perhaps interfering technically with social media delivery, then that would be a dire state indeed!

    If you're watching, NOSIC, why not join the debate and tell us what you think?

  3. Technically, "open-source intelligence" is intelligence based on publicly-available information.

    I believe the term predates the use of "open source" to describe computer source code where the source code is publicly available and redistributable, and was invented independently, and not by NOSIC.

    None of this is to justify Marn wasting public money collecting information about groups conducting peaceful protest, even if collecting such information is legal.


Comments are most welcome on any of the posts at Northcote Independent. I encourage feedback - positive or negative. Feel free to disagree, but remember that posts are moderated to ensure they are on the topic and in the spirit of open debate, as outlined in my editorial policy.