Following new revelations about the manner in which U.S. and U.K. spy agencies targeted the media outlet Wikileaks, the organization on Tuesday has announced its intention to legal action against the NSA and GCHQ in order to challenge what it calls an overt assault on journalism.
As The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher report, documents made available by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show "for the first time how the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom targeted WikiLeaks and other activist groups with tactics ranging from covert surveillance to prosecution."
The internal government documents, including slides of presentations given at an annual top secret surveillance conference between the two countries and internal agency correspondence, expose how the government targeted not only Wikileaks and its spirited leader Julian Assange, but also those people all over the world—including U.S. and British citizens—who may have accessed or viewed the public website.
As The Intercept reports: "In 2008, not long after WikiLeaks was formed, the U.S. Army prepared a report that identified the organization as an enemy, and plotted how it could be destroyed. The new documents provide a window into how the U.S. and British governments appear to have shared the view that WikiLeaks represented a serious threat, and reveal the controversial measures they were willing to take to combat it."
In light of the new revelations, Wikileaks' Assange expressed outrage, condemning what he called “the reckless and unlawful behavior of the National Security Agency” and GCHQ’s “extensive hostile monitoring of a popular publisher’s website and its readers.”
“News that the NSA planned these operations at the level of its Office of the General Counsel is especially troubling,” Assange told The Intercept via email. “Today, we call on the White House to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the extent of the NSA’s criminal activity against the media, including WikiLeaks, its staff, its associates and its supporters.”
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And in a public statement released on the Wikileaks wesbite, Assange continued:
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 organization. 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.’
The new reporting by Greenwald and Gallagher comes just one day after separate documents surfaced showing the further evidence of a secret sealed indictment of Assange by U.S. authorities.
As freelance journalist Alexa O'Brien states, those documents—which include official court orders and other materials—"shed light on the manner and scope of the criminal and intelligence probes into Julian Assange and civilians associated with the online publisher of censored material."