WikiLeaks has accused the NSA and GCHQ of spying on it and its readers.
In a statement, WikiLeaks publisher and founder Julian Assange said that he “strongly condemns the reckless and unlawful behaviour of the National Security Agency” and called on the US Government to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the extent of the NSA’s criminal activity against the media.
According to documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden, Assange was added to a “manhunting” target list four years ago and GCHQ was able to collect the IP addresses of visitors in real time by exploiting its ability to tap into the fibre optic cables that make up the backbone of the internet.
Another document showed that the NSA wanted to designate WikiLeaks as a “malicious foreign actor” in order to expand the NSA’s ability to target WikiLeaks staff, associates and supporters. And a third document, from 2012, demonstrates that the NSA’s UK partner GCHQ also spied on WikiLeaks and its readers.
A third document from July 2011 contains a summary of an internal discussion in which officials from two NSA offices – including the agency’s general counsel and an arm of its Threat Operations Center – considered designating WikiLeaks as “a ‘malicious foreign actor’ for the purpose of targeting.” Such a designation would have allowed the group to be targeted with extensive electronic surveillance – without the need to exclude US persons from the surveillance searches.
If WikiLeaks were to be labelled as a “malicious foreign target”, it would mean that anyone communicating with the organisation for any reason could have their communications subjected to government surveillance. Being added to the “manhunting” target list would have put Assange on the same level as Al Qaeda terrorists.
Assange 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. The FBI’s paid informant, who attempted to sell information about me and my staff to the FBI, was imprisoned earlier this year.
“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.”