The latest revelations from the Edward Snowden trove of documents says that the NSA and GCHQ kept track of the people who visited the Wikileaks site, as part of its international campaign to put pressure on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. This appeared in an article by Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher in their new news medium The Intercept.
The system used by GCHQ to monitor the WikiLeaks website – codenamed ANTICRISIS GIRL – is described in a classified PowerPoint presentation prepared by the British agency and distributed at the 2012 “SIGDEV Conference.” At the annual gathering, each member of the “Five Eyes” alliance – the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – describes the prior year’s surveillance successes and challenges.
In a top-secret presentation at the conference, two GCHQ spies outlined how ANTICRISIS GIRL was used to enable “targeted website monitoring” of WikiLeaks (See slides 33 and 34). The agency logged data showing hundreds of users from around the world, including the United States, as they were visiting a WikiLeaks site –contradicting claims by American officials that a deal between the U.K. and the U.S. prevents each country from spying on the other’s citizens.
The IP addresses collected by GCHQ are used to identify individual computers that connect to the Internet, and can be traced back to specific people if the IP address has not been masked using an anonymity service,
The article also describes the problem the US government faced with their ambition to prosecute WikiLeaks and Assange that they now also face with prosecuting Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and others involved with the Snowden leaks.
In November 2013, The Washington Post, citing anonymous officials, reported that the Justice Department strongly considered prosecuting Assange, but concluded it “could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists” who had partnered with WikiLeaks to publish the documents. According to the Post, officials “realized that they have what they described as a ‘New York Times problem'” – namely, that any theory used to bring charges against Assange would also result in criminal liability for the Times, The Guardian, and other papers which also published secret documents provided to WikiLeaks.
I love the phrase ‘New York Times’ problem. It captures so perfectly the ambiguous relationship that the major establishment media have with government and which has been exploited so brilliantly by Snowden and his allies.
Incidentally, since I have visited the WikiLeaks site many times ever since I became aware of it, and have contributed money to it, I may well be on the NSA’s radar. Not that I care.