Julian Assange in 2011 after losing appeals against extradition to Swedenacidpolly/Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Efforts undertaken by the NSA and GCHQ to target groups including WikiLeaks, Anonymous and Pirate Bay using internet surveillance and prosecution have been detailed in an article published by The Intercept.
The latest documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA went to great lengths to target individuals associated with WikiLeaks, including founder Julian Assange and “the human network that supports it”.
One particular document revealed that GCHQ tapped into fibre-optic cables to monitor visitors to the site in real time by tracking their IP addresses. It also tracked the search terms that visitors were using to reach the site, all as part of an operation codenamed ANTICRISIS GIRL. This suggests that internet users from anywhere in the world who visited WikiLeaks regularly could potentially have become a target for the NSA.
The documents also reveal that the NSA labelled WikiLeaks “a malicious foreign actor”. The US government encouraged foreign regimes to press charges against Assange over WikiLeaks’ publication of Afghanistan war logs.
“WikiLeaks strongly condemns the reckless and unlawful behaviour of the National Security Agency,” said Julian Assange in a statement published on the WikiLeaks site. He called upon the Obama administration to conduct an investigation into the extent of the NSA’s activity regarding the media, including the WikiLeaks network. He also criticised the media-monitoring activities of GCHQ, saying it shows no respect for the rule of law.
“No entity, including the NSA, should be permitted to act against journalists with impunity. We have instructed our General Counsel Judge Baltasar Garzón to prepare the appropriate response. The investigations into attempts to interfere with the work of WikiLeaks will go wherever they need to go. Make no mistake: those responsible will be held to account and brought to justice.”
The Intercept — the new publication launched by ex-Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has headed up the reporting on the Snowden documents — points out that the WikiLeaks surveillance reveals just how far the NSA’s actions stray from its “self-proclaimed focus on terrorism”.
“The documents call into question the Obama administration’s repeated insistence that US citizens are not being caught up in the sweeping surveillance dragnet being cast by the NSA. Under the broad rationale considered by the agency, for example, any communication with a group designated as a ‘malicious foreign actor,’ such as WikiLeaks and Anonymous, would be considered fair game for surveillance,” the site points out.
The targeting of WikiLeaks, Anonymous and Pirate Bay follows earlier revelations that GCHQ used DDoS attacks to target hacker collectives Anonymous and LulzSec. These latest accusations do not reflect well on GCHQ, which maintains its stance that “all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight”. It’s hard to see how this would apply to the monitoring of citizens from the UK and abroad who might be doing nothing more than reading the WikiLeaks site.
Politics / 19 February 14 / by Katie Collins
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