New documents leaked by Edward Snowden to The Guardian reveal that the British spy centre GCHQ collected email messages from major news outlets around the world, including the BBC, Le Monde, New York Times and the Washington Post.
The collection of the emails was a result of tests conducted by the spy agency, which was investigating ways to tap the fibre-optic cables that make up the backbone of the internet. In a 10-minute test in November 2008, agents at the GCHQ obtained over 70,000 emails. It’s not clear if individual journalists were singled out.
But regardless, the messages were retained at GCHQ and made “available to all cleared staff on the agency intranet”. While many were “simple mass-PR emails sent to dozens of journalists”, the Guardian notes that many were also sent between writers and editors discussing stories.
Elsewhere in the newly leaked documents, a GCHQ security assessment reveals that investigative journalists were listed as a threat to national security, alongside terrorists and hackers. That perhaps explains, if not justifies, the actions of the agency.
At a time when editorial freedom feels to matter more than ever, it’s a shame to see one of the world’s largest spy agencies keeping an active gaze on the communications of news organisations. But, by now, perhaps it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. [Guardian