Tough Antiterrorism Law Called 'Extreme'; Critics Warn of Innocent People Being Jailed

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Byline: Janeki Kremmer, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

SYDNEY, Australia - A new antiterrorism law, considered one of the toughest in the industrial world, has won broad backing from both ruling and opposition parties.

But much as in the United States, some of the law's provisions have alarmed civil libertarians who warn that it is likely to send innocent people to jail for years because they happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

"These are extreme measures, but necessary in the extraordinary times we live in," says Ross Babbage, a terrorism specialist at the Australian National University.

John Faulkner, the opposition party's point man on home affairs, said, "In a situation where there is a potential terrorist threat on public buildings or mass murders of people in Australia, these new powers for ASIO might help to prevent their actual occurrence."

ASIO is the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.

The Oct. 12 bombings in nearby Bali - which targeted a popular Australian tourist spot - stunned a nation whose geographic distance from the United States and Europe had previously afforded it a measure of protection from militant Islam.

The Bali blasts killed 202 persons. About half were Australians.

The head of ASIO, Dennis Richardson, recently told a parliamentary committee that the nation's intelligence system had failed in the Bali bombing. He has publicly supported the legislation. …