Even before the Espionage Bill was introduced to parliament, Australia was well down the path of legislating prison terms for journalists reporting in the public interest.

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Just half an hour’s drive north-east from Washington DC, the well-paved dual highway passes a forest before a final line of trees gives way to more open ground.

As the road swings round, on the left, looking like a sprawling shopping complex that has outgrown its site, the National Security Agency (NSA) appears. This is the headquarters of the most powerful intelligence-gathering organisation the world has ever seen.

It is the centre of a network that straddles the Earth. From the spy base at Pine Gap with its array of antennas pointing skywards against the sunset red of the Australian outback, to Menwith Hill on the green undulating farmland of Yorkshire in the north of England, the NSA is connected to satellites circling overhead, and undersea surveillance systems tapping into transcontinental telephone cables. …

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