British spy agency GCHQ has intercepted the emails of journalists at dozens of top media organisations including the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Le Monde, the Sun, and NBC, according to a new report from the Guardian.
The British newspaper says that it analysed documents provided by exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden, and has determined that the emails of numerous international media organisations were intercepted in 2007. The collection was part of a fibre-optic cable tap “test exercise,” and it’s not clear whether any of the journalists were deliberately targeted — more than 70,000 emails were swept up.
“The mails appeared to have been captured and stored as the output of a then-new tool being used to strip irrelevant data out of the agency’s tapping process,” the Guardian reports.
Even if media organisations weren’t targeted deliberately, the revelation may still worry journalists. It comes alongside the revelation that GCHQ considers journalists a “real threat,” and are ranked in a risk hierarchy alongside terrorists and hackers.
The news comes in the context of a major campaign by British newspapers to protect confidential communications from spying. Surveillance powers introduced in Britain under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) have been routinely abused, claim its detractors. This includes police using the anti-terror laws to spy on journalists not suspected of any criminal wrongdoing. In another incident, a council used RIPA powers to spy on a journalist investigating allegations of wrongdoing — ruining the investigation.
A spokesperson for GCHQ told the Guardian that they “do not comment on intelligence matters,” and that their work “is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight” from a variety of bodies.;