The NSA created a “manhunt timeline” to get Julian Assange and destroy WikiLeaks and its supporters.
New revelations from The Intercept, the new publishing venture of Glenn Greenwald:
The NSA apparently planned a covert action campaign together with the British GCHQ to destroy Assange and the network of supporters around WikiLeaks.
As part of the effort, the GCHQ tracked in real-time any visitors to wikileaks.org, monitoring what they were searching for on the website.
The NSA also considered to designate WikiLeaks and other websites such as thepiratebay.org as “malicious foreign actors,” which would lift restrictions on spying on institutions and individuals inside the U.S that work with them. This might include international press agencies working in the U.S.
Watch an interview with Assange’s legal council Michael Ratner on DemocracyNow! here (it is the correct video, despite the image of Assange in the first frame):
In Ratner’s view, the persecution of whistleblowers and journalists parallels the U.S. government’s COINTELPRO program targeting radicals and “subversives” (such as Martin Luther King) between the late 1950s and the 1970s.
And here is Assange, from the same broadcast on DemocracyNow!:
The NSA , the CIA, and the GCHQ spy on computer games
As ProPublica reports, the American NSA and CIA, and the British GCHQ, or more specifically, private contractors working for them, have run programs looking for the communications of terrorists and criminals in Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft or Second Life. This new revelation comes from recently released leaks from Edward Snowden.
No terrorists found
But despite high costs paid to these private contractors, no case of terrorist activity has been discovered.
The whole scenario sounds as if it were lifted straight out of an episode of “Twenty-Four” or “Sleeper Cell.” It seems like an interesting idea, even though I doubt (based on pure speculation) that terrorist masterminds would communicate over insecure (read unencrypted) channels such as a game chat.
Slaying orks for national security?
It might also just be a brilliant excuse to play WoW at work for highly-paid security contractors. Who knows. But apparently, private security firms have long been lobbying the intelligence agencies for contracts in this line of work by playing up the threat from terrorism in video games.
A personal note on MMORPGing versus studying
I personally have never really gotten into MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, most of all because when these games became hugely popular, I was in the middle of my university studies. I suspected that if I committed my time to these obviously addictive games, this might seriously sabotage my academic education. So I decided to forgo the WoW phenomenon for the time being. Now I know that not only did that ‘abstinence’ probably save me a lot of juvenile, sexually-laden verbal insults, but also some spies listening to my (boring) chatter.
Read, hear, and see more:
[Podcast] Unfilter 78 “NSA Wargames.” (Jupiter Broadcasting, 2013/12/12) – “[T]he latest [NSA leaks] detail the infiltration of online gaming communities to conduct massive surveillance of gamers.” Plus speculations by a famous FBI officer about Snowden being a double agent for Russia.
“Spies’ Dragnet Reaches a Playing Field of Elves and Trolls.” (Mark Mazzetti and Justin Elliott, New York Times, 2013/12/10)
“Spooks of Warcraft: how the NSA infiltrated gamespace.” (Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing, 2013/12/09)
“World of Spycraft: NSA and CIA Spied in Online Games.” (Justin Elliott and Mark Mazetti, ProPublica, 2013/12/10)
“Xbox Live among game services targeted by US and UK spy agencies.” (James Ball, Guardian, 2013/12/10)
“Geheimdienste: Sie hassen unsere Freiheit.” (Sascha Lobo, SPIEGEL ONLINE, 10.12.2013) – Interessanter Punkt von Sascha Lobo: Der Satz “Sie hassen unsere Freiheit” aus einer Rede von George W. Bush nach dem 11. September 2001 trifft nicht nur auf islamistische Terroristen zu, sondern auch ganz besonders auf die totalitären Überwachungspläne der Geheimdienste.
“World of Spycraft: NSA hunts Terrorists in MMORPGs.” (Nerdcore, 09.12.2013)
UK Parliament questions Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger’s patriotism in anti-terrorism hearing
On December 3, 2013 the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger had to testify before the House of Commons of the British Parliament in a hearing on anti-terrorism.
One of the rather stunning questions asked by Chair Keith Vaz was whether Rusbridger “love[d] this country [the UK].”
We live in a democracy and most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country. I’m slightly surprised to be asked the question but yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can in this country discuss and report these things [emphasis mine].
With us or against us – the excluded middle
Behind the questioning of Rusbridger’s “patriotism” because he, as a journalist, does not agree with the government’s national security narrative, lies the logical fallacy of the excluded middle. Either you agree with total surveillance of the world’s citizens in the name of national security or the terrorists win.
The possibility that there might be excesses in the surveillance architectures of the so-called Global War on Terrorism (there are!) , that much of what is being done in this area has probably more to do with gaining illegitimate advantages through economic espionage, or that there might be approaches that actually help fighting terrorism without eroding civil liberties does not occur in this line of thinking.
An uninformed citizenry cannot correct its government
The elephant in the room is this: Had it not been for Snowden, we the people of the world would never have known about the extent of surveillance against innocent citizens. Democracies rely on an adversarial press to keep the government in check.
Since the summer of 2013, the Guardian has been releasing articles based on the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden, exposing the indiscriminate mass surveillance by the American NSA, the British GCHQ, and other intelligence agencies of the world’s citizens.
Read, see, and hear more:
[Audio and article] “Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger appears before MPs – live coverage.” (Paul Owen, Guardian, 2013/12/03) – Summary of the hearing and an audio recording can be found here.
“Highlights from Guardian editor’s Parliament hearing.” (Kristen Hare, Poynter.org, 2013/12/03) – Many more questions to and answers from Alan Rusbridger.
“MPs question Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s patriotism over Edward Snowden leaks.” (Ian Burrell, The Independent, 2013/12/03)
The progressive talk show The Young Turks reports on the hearing here: