After studying previously unpublished documents received from whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Guardian revealed yesterday that the British signals intelligence agency GCHQ described journalists as a “potential threat to security” and that the emails of many journalists were among the 70,000 emails it intercepted in a brief exercise in November 2008.
Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) clearly has a strange view of journalism. “Journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security,” said a GCHQ memo discovered by The Guardian. Reporters Without Borders points out that freedom of information is protected by many international treaties and is a keystone of democracy and the rule of law because it protects the existence of the other fundamental freedoms. The emails of journalists with Le Monde, The Guardian, New York Times, The Sun, NBC and The Washington Post were among the 70,000 emails that GCHQ managed to intercept in the space of just ten minutes in a test exercise mentioned in one of the documents leaked by Snowden. Any authorized employee could have read them on the GCHQ intranet. Given the volume that was intercepted in such as short space of time, Reporters Without Borders wonders how many journalists’ emails have been intercepted in the past six years. Reporters Without Borders hopes that this view of the work of journalists is not reflected in the new anti-terrorism bill that was due to go before the House of Lords yesterday. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to step up data surveillance and interception if reelected in May. In a recent meeting in Nottingham, he said: “The question remains: are we going to allow a means of communications where it simply is not possible to do that? My answer to that question is: no, we must not.” Reporters Without Borders condemned GCHQ’s disastrous impact on freedom of information in its 2014 “Enemies of the Internet” report, and added GCHQ to its list of “Enemies of the Internet.” In the light of The Guardian’s revelation, it clearly should have been added in 2008.