One guy acting strangely is a nut. A bunch of people doing the same thing is called a church. - Shawn Mahaney
UNITED STATES AND BRITISH spying agencies the National Security Agency (NSA) and Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) are digging into the lives of Wikileaks supporters and visitors to other contentious websites, according to documents released by communications surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Classified documents released by The Intercept website show that the agencies have an interest in Wikileaks and its visitors. The NSA documents refer to the people it targets because they access the Wikileaks website as "the human network that supports Wikileaks."
The documents reveal that GCHQ was able to tap into Wikileaks through the fibre optic network, which it presumably can surveil at will. Once in, it was able to look at real time use and see what kinds of Google searches were driving visitors to the website.
So concerned are the agencies about the Wikileaks website and its users that it was almost dubbed as a "malicious foreign actor", a term that is usually reserved for alleged terrorist organisations. Designating the website in that way would have given the US agency the right to warrantlessly monitor anyone, US citizen or otherwise, who visited the website.
The takeaway from the collection of three documents is that Wikileaks had both spy agencies rattled, and they reveal that the US Army called it an enemy and plotted ways of destroying it.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange expressed his thoughts about the documents and the support that they have provided for the organisation's legal team. He remained defiant and released a statement through the Wikileaks website.
"WikiLeaks strongly condemns the reckless and unlawful behavior of the National Security Agency. We call on the Obama administration to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate the extent of the NSA's criminal activity against the media including WikiLeaks and its extended network," he said.
"The NSA and its UK accomplices show no respect for the rule of law. But there is a cost to conducting illicit actions against a media organisation. We have already filed criminal cases against the FBI and US military in multiple European jurisdictions.... 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."
Also revealed in the documents is the eye that was turned onto other websites, that while less obviously threatening, still managed to concern sophisticated surveillance agencies.
Included here is The Pirate Bay, which also came close to being designated as a malicious foreign actor. It was viewed appropriate to monitor the website, even if it might have had US users. A later note added that mistakenly monitoring a US citizen anywhere must be reported, but was "nothing to worry about".
Also targeted was the hacktivist group Anonymous. NSA lawyers responded to the question of whether it was right to "target the foreign actors of a loosely coupled group of hackers ... such as with Anonymous" positively by saying, "As long as they are foreign individuals outside of the US and do not hold dual citizenship." µ
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