New documents leaked by former NSA employee turned whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA and GCHQ consistently spied on WikiLeaks in the past years, recording information regarding the people who accessed the site in the process, regardless of their citizenship. The Intercept has seen documents that reveal the extent of WikiLLeaks-related spying that targeted “the human network that supports WikiLeaks” including readers.
For example, U.K.’s GCHQ was able to “secretly monitor visitors to a WikiLeaks site,” and “collect the IP addresses of visitors in real time, as well as the search terms that visitors used to reach the site from search engines like Google.
Furthermore, the NSA considered designating WikiLeaks as “a ‘malicious foreign actor’ for the purpose of targeting” with such a designation allowing the agency to target the site “with extensive electronics surveillance – without the need to exclude U.S. persons from the surveillance searches.” Similarly, in 2008, the U.S. Army identified WikiLeaks as an enemy, plotting “how it could be destroyed.”
A meeting between NSA’s Office of the General Counsel and the Oversight and Compliance Office of the agency Threat Center explains that labeling a target as a “malicious foreign target,” would let the agency conduct surveillance operations on anyone communicating with the target, including American citizens.
Similar surveillance activities have been considered for targeting Pirate Bay users (for copyright-related purposes,) as well as Anonymous hackers (to counter their attacks against U.S. targets).
Assange posted a message on WikiLeaks, calling for “the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate the NSA, after documents show U.S. spying on WikiLeaks and its supporters.”
“These documents demonstrate that the political persecution of WikiLeaks is very much alive,” former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who now represents the organization, told The Intercept. “The paradox is that Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks organization are being treated as a threat instead of what they are: a journalist and a media organization that are exercising their fundamental right to receive and impart information in its original form, free from omission and censorship, free from partisan interests, free from economic or political pressure.”