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WikiLeaks statement on the mass recording of Afghan telephone calls by the NSA


The National Security Agency has been recording and storing nearly all the domestic (and international) phone calls from two or more target countries as of 2013. Both the Washington Post and The Intercept (based in the US and published by eBay chairman Pierre Omidyar) have censored the name of one of the victim states, which the latter publication refers to as country “X”.

Both the Washington Post and The Intercept stated that they had censored the name of the victim country at the request of the US government. Such censorship strips a nation of its right to self-determination on a matter which affects its whole population. An ongoing crime of mass espionage is being committed against the victim state and its population. By denying an entire population the knowledge of its own victimisation, this act of censorship denies each individual in that country the opportunity to seek an effective remedy, whether in international courts, or elsewhere. Pre-notification to the perpetrating authorities also permits the erasure of evidence which could be used in a successful criminal prosecution, civil claim, or other investigations.

We know from previous reporting that the National Security Agency’s mass interception system is a key component in the United States’ drone targeting program. The US drone targeting program has killed thousands of people and hundreds of women and children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia in violation of international law. The censorship of a victim state’s identity directly assists the killing of innocent people.

Although, for reasons of source protection we cannot disclose how, WikiLeaks has confirmed that the identity of victim state is Afghanistan. This can also be independently verified through forensic scrutiny of imperfectly applied censorship on related documents released to date and correlations with other NSA programs (see http://freesnowden.is).

We do not believe it is the place of media to “aid and abet” a state in escaping detection and prosecution for a serious crime against a population.

Consequently WikiLeaks cannot be complicit in the censorship of victim state X. The country in question is Afghanistan.

The Intercept stated that the US government asserted that the publication of this name might lead to a ’rise in violence’. Such claims were also used by the administration of Barack Obama to refuse to release further photos of torture at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

While one might seriously question the moral exceptionalism which would deny another nation and its people the right to react to a mass rights infringement in a manner of its own choosing, such claims of risk by the US government have in any event consistently fallen short.

WikiLeaks has years of experience with such false or overstated claims made by US officials in their attempts to delay or deny publication.

In 2010, the US State Department falsely claimed that WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables would “place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals.” The Pentagon also repeatedly made such false claims.

To this day we are not aware of any evidence provided by any government agency that any of our eight million publications have resulted in harm to life.

In 2013 US officials admitted under oath that they had been unable to find any such evidence. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted that the US government’s reaction to our publications had been “significantly overwrought”.

The United States government’s claims to the media lack credibility. Not only has it not bothered to contact WikiLeaks pre-publication in this matter, it has been aware of the material obtained by Edward Snowden for almost a year. Almost every office in Washington DC has specifically been aware of the material relating to the censored victim country since at least March 18, 2014, when the Washington Post issued a front page story on the subject (with the identity of Afghanistan censored). It is the US government’s “responsibility” to protect its assets. It has had an egregious amount of time to do so. Given the above we believe any ongoing perceived risks to be fanciful or willfully embraced by the US goverment. But we also reject the implication that it is the role of the international press to protect US assets from arrest for the mass infringement of the rights of another nation’s people.

Julian Assange
Editor in Chief

 

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