WikiLeaks Threatens to Reveal NSA-Targeted Country Despite Warnings
WikiLeaks is at it again. The transparency-touting organization has announced that it will soon reveal the name of a country that the NSA records every single phone call in, despite warnings that it could lead to innocent deaths.
The move comes amidst a spat between WikiLeaks head honcho Julian Assange and journalist Glenn Greenwald, editor of First Look's The Intercept and voice of the Edward Snowden leaks. The Intercept recently published a story divulging NSA habits that include recording every phone call in the Bahamas as part of a top-secret program named SOMALGET. The revelations are based off documents from Snowden.
The same Intercept report also shows that the NSA records full audio from one (as-of-yet) unnamed country and metadata from Mexico, Kenya, and the Philippines. Soon after publication, the WikiLeaks Twitter account, believed to be run by Assange, lashed out at the censorship.
We condemn Firstlook for following the Washington Post into censoring the mass interception of an entire nation https://t.co/jTKVNCK5BJ
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 19, 2014
Of course, when it comes to national security matters, the need to publish needs to outweigh any potential deadly reprecussions. Greenwald answered on Twitter, saying that "there was a very convincing probability in that 5th country for how innocent people would die which we all accepted."
What resulted is a very public spat on Twitter, with Assange accusing Greenwald of beating around the bush (even comparing him to the Bush administration) and Greenwald explaining the necessity to keep innocent people out of the line of fire.
WikiLeaks has not yet retracted its decision to announce the fifth country soon.
"The fact that the U.S. government works with other nations, under specific and regulated conditions, mutually strengthens the security of all," the NSA said in a statement to TIME. "The Agency collects data to meet specific security and intelligence requirements such as counterintelligence, counterterrorism, counterproliferation, cyber security, force protection for U.S. troops and allies, and combating transnational crime."
SOMALGET is part of a broader NSA program called MYSTIC and can "vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country." The value in storing dialogue, despite the privacy implications, lies in the fact that the NSA then does not have to act on real-time metadata to make a decision. If something pops up later, or makes a convincing case down the line, the agency can then go back and confirm through their archives and build a case.
"[W]e buffer certain calls that MAY be of foreign intelligence value for a sufficient period to permit a well-informed decision on whether to retrieve and return specific audio content," said an NSA official in a 2012 memo.
Assange is currently under investigation by United States officials.
What do you think? Should WikiLeaks reveal the unnamed country despite warnings from Greenwald that innocent people could die? Let us know in the comments section below.
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