British Spy Agency Swept Up Emails of Major U.S. and UK Media Outlets; Investigative Journalists Viewed as Threat

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
(photo: Hasan Jamali, AP)

Britain’s cyber intelligence agency collected emails from numerous media outlets from Britain, the United States and other countries while also declaring in internal communications that investigative reports should be considered a threat to government operations.


With documents provided by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Guardian reported that Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) intercepted emails from journalists working for American and European news sources. Those affected by the email sweep included the BBC, Reuters, The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, The Sun, NBC and The Washington Post.


The email collecting, totaling 70,000 in just 10 minutes of work by GCHQ, was reportedly part of “a test exercise by the signals intelligence agency,” according to The Guardian. Some of the media emails revealed messages between editors and reporters about stories.


The NSA documents did not indicate if any journalists were intentionally targeted. However, other documents revealed that the British spy agency considered “investigative journalists” a threat, putting them in “a hierarchy alongside terrorists or hackers,” James Ball reported at The Guardian.


A classified document directed to army intelligence stated “journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security.”


“Of specific concern are ‘investigative journalists’ who specialize in defense-related exposés either for profit or what they deem to be of the public interest,” the document added.


Military officials were warned that “journalists and reporters may try either a formal approach or an informal approach, possibly with off-duty personnel, in their attempts to gain official information to which they are not entitled.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

GCHQ Captured Emails of Journalists from Top International Media (by James Ball, The Guardian)

NSA and GCHQ Infiltrated OPEC’s Computer Network (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Justice Dept. Secretly Obtained Phone Records of Associated Press…Obama Crosses the Freedom of the Press Line (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

FBI Violated Law in Obtaining Phone Records of Journalists and Others (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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