February 20, 2014 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Leaked documents show how US authorities hounded WikiLeaks

Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the US government’s persecution of WikiLeaks. Secret documents published by journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher show how the US and British intelligence agencies, the NSA and GCHQ, were used against the news leaks website and its founder, Julian Assange. These classified documents, leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveal that the NSA and GCHQ went far beyond their responsibilities as security agencies in order to serve political interests that violate freedom of information. “The NSA’s surveillance, the US government’s attempts to bring judicial proceedings against WikiLeaks and the criminalization of the website’s publisher, Julian Assange, constitute a violation of freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “WikiLeaks cannot be prosecuted for exercising the right to gather and publish information, a right guaranteed by the First Amendment.” One of these secret documents shows how GCHQ used its TEMPORA surveillance system to monitor all visits to a WikiLeaks site, acquiring the IP addresses of the visitors and even the search terms they used to get there. Another document describes how the United States pressured its allies to treat Assange as a criminal. The same document lists, country by country and year by year, the efforts deployed by the United States and its allies to locate, pursue, capture and kill terrorists, drug traffickers and other enemies of the state. The document reveals that, after WikiLeaks published the Afghan War Logs, “the United States on August 10 urged other nations with forces in Afghanistan, including Australia, United Kingdom, and Germany, to consider filling criminal charges against Julian Assange.” It refers to him as the “founder of the rogue WikiLeaks Internet website and responsible for the unauthorized publication of over 70,000 classified documents covering the war in Afghanistan.” According to a third classified document, the US government considered designating WikiLeaks as a “malicious foreign actor,” which would allow it to be subjected to much more extensive electronic surveillance. From his refuge in the Ecuador embassy in London last September, Assange condemned the US government’s persecution and announced that WikiLeaks’ lawyers had filed a criminal complaint in Sweden accusing US authorities of “unlawful interference” in its journalistic activities and “unlawful seizure” of its property. The persecution of WikiLeaks has included the suspension of transfers to its accounts in October 2010 by Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and other online payment services, undermining its finances. Members of the WikiLeaks network have been subjected to abuse of authority within the United States. They include WikiLeaks informant Jeremy Hammond, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison last November for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Jacob Appelbaum, a WikiLeaks representative since July 2010, was the target of US government spying on the website’s volunteers in 2011. On 4 January and 15 April 2011, the government obtained secret court orders forcing Google and to surrender the IP addresses and email addresses of all of his contacts since November 2009. The United States and United Kingdom are ranked 46th and 33rd respectively in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. The United States’ 13-place fall from its position in the 2013 index was due above all to its excessive and abusive use of national security grounds to curtail of freedom of information.