Mystery country X revealed

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

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.


  1. DsylexicHippo says

    I think it is pretty much understood as par for the course that just about everyone in Afghanistan is being spied on. As for this specific instance of self-censorship by Greenwald, I find that quite out of character. It would be interesting to know why.

  2. ShowMetheData says

    You can see there is major difference between Branning/Wikileaks data-dump and the Snowden/Greenwald calculated series of focused revelations. The Snowden/Greenwald has had broader support because the security establishment + servile mainstream media cannot hide behind the “emboldening/aiding” terrorists schtick.

    We can ask Snowden/Greenwald what happened – but sometimes it’s about good politics.

  3. Dean Gilbert says

    I’m very curious still about what this bombshell ‘final big story’ is that was teased a few weeks ago. I have two hopes.

    One is that it’s the unreleased CIA torture memo…though that’s just me hoping, and it’s not something I can see being really related to what the NSA is doing.

    The other is a massive reveal on everyone who the NSA has been spying on, and a lot of the information that they’ve been getting. Naming names…including hundreds of millions of Americans. And then released in a form that you can do a search of your own name and see some of the stuff that the NSA has been gathering on YOU. It’s something I can see taking a long time to deal with…you want to inform the public on just how bad it is, demonstrate directly how bad it is…but not actually reveal private information that people might not want to reveal.

  4. says

    It doesn’t seem that puzzling to me. Presumably the censorship would be protecting the contractors who set up the ability for the NSA to do this in the first place.

  5. says

    One is that it’s the unreleased CIA torture memo

    It almost certainly won’t be. The NSA and CIA do not cooperate; the only way the NSA’d have that would be if they stole it from the CIA, which would be … interesting.

    My money is on that the grand finale will be something like the complete communications of Senator Feinstein, or Angela Merkel or Bob Woodward or someone like that.

    Meanwhile, we can see how helpful all the surveillance is — look how spectacularly the US won in Afghanistan.

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