I missed something when I wrote about the revelation that the NSA was collecting pretty much all the cell phone calls made in the Bahamas. In The Intercept report by Glenn Greenwald that I cited, there was one paragraph that said:
The Intercept has confirmed that as of 2013, the NSA was actively using MYSTIC to gather cell-phone metadata in five countries, and was intercepting voice data in two of them. Documents show that the NSA has been generating intelligence reports from MYSTIC surveillance in the Bahamas, Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines, and one other country, which The Intercept is not naming in response to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence. The more expansive full-take recording capability has been deployed in both the Bahamas and the unnamed country.
What was this unnamed country? WikiLeaks is now reporting that it is Afghanistan. They make a compelling case for revealing the name, saying that they think that the people of Afghanistan have a right to know that they are being subjected to this mass spying by the US.
Both the Washington Post and The Intercept stated that they had censored the name of the victim country at the request of the US government. Such censorship strips a nation of its right to self-determination on a matter which affects its whole population. An ongoing crime of mass espionage is being committed against the victim state and its population. By denying an entire population the knowledge of its own victimisation, this act of censorship denies each individual in that country the opportunity to seek an effective remedy, whether in international courts, or elsewhere. Pre-notification to the perpetrating authorities also permits the erasure of evidence which could be used in a successful criminal prosecution, civil claim, or other investigations.
We know from previous reporting that the National Security Agency’s mass interception system is a key component in the United States’ drone targeting program. The US drone targeting program has killed thousands of people and hundreds of women and children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia in violation of international law. The censorship of a victim state’s identity directly assists the killing of innocent people.
Although, for reasons of source protection we cannot disclose how, WikiLeaks has confirmed that the identity of victim state is Afghanistan. This can also be independently verified through forensic scrutiny of imperfectly applied censorship on related documents released to date and correlations with other NSA programs (see http://freesnowden.is).
We do not believe it is the place of media to “aid and abet” a state in escaping detection and prosecution for a serious crime against a population.
Consequently WikiLeaks cannot be complicit in the censorship of victim state X. The country in question is Afghanistan.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange responded to questions as to why WikiLeaks did this, though he declined to reveal how WikiLeaks got the information.
Assange, who is editor-in-chief of the whistle-blowing site, voiced scepticism over the argument that the disclosure would have deadly repercussions.
He cited WikiLeaks’ massive leak of often embarrassing US State Department cables from diplomats around the world in 2010, which the US said would “place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals”.
Assange said that “to this day we are not aware of any evidence provided by any government agency that any of our eight million publications have resulted in harm to life.”
So we now have the situation where Greenwald is being accused of self-censoring. This raises some interesting questions: For whose benefit was this censorship? Who are the people deserving of the protection of secrecy: Private individuals? Public individuals like high government officials? Troops? Americans? People of other nations?
I think it would be good for Greenwald and the others doing the Snowden stories to delineate clearly what criteria they use to determine what gets revealed and what remains hidden. Otherwise they will stand accused of doing what they accuse the mainstream media of doing, self-censoring to protect government interests.