As the masterful drip-drip-drip strategy employed by Edward Snowden drops bomb after bomb on the National Security Agency’s formerly secret Panopticon, we are getting closer to the central purpose of what the world’s most famous whistleblower dubbed "the architecture of oppression."
The latest revelations, reported by Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher, show that "the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom targeted WikiLeaks and other activist groups with tactics ranging from covert surveillance to prosecution." We knew they were after WikiLeaks, although the specifics were cloudy, but what catches my eye is the part about "other activist groups." Further on we discover that this refers in part to the "hacktivist" group known as Anonymous and the Pirate Bay website, but the new documents also refer to targeting "the human network that supports WikiLeaks" – a description that certainly fits Antiwar.com After all, when the authorities launched their witch-hunt and tried to take down Assange’s site, we put up a "WikiLeaks Finder" – it’s still up there – as well as publishing a constant stream of material calling for an end to the government’s illegal campaign.
More significantly, when we discovered the FBI had launched a "preliminary investigation" into myself and our webmaster, Eric Garris, it was noted that the initial memo authorizing the probe was based on FISA-related materials – that is, so-called signals intelligence supposedly linking us to "terrorism." Their conclusion: a strong possibility that we are "agents of a foreign power." This granted them a blank check to authorize comprehensive surveillance of emails and other communications, including telephony – and we are still trying to find out how they took advantage of that.
In the WikiLeaks case, Greenwald and Gallagher note the US government apparently designated the whistleblowing site "’a ‘malicious foreign actor’ for the purpose of targeting.’ Such a designation would have allowed the group to be targeted with extensive electronic surveillance – without the need to exclude U.S. persons from the surveillance searches." We can assume the same applies to Antiwar.com – which means not only that the Antiwar.com staff and associated persons could have been "legally" targeted for deep surveillance, but also quite possibly visitors to our site, i.e. you. Working with their allies in the British GCHQ, the NSA spied on WikiLeaks’ readers, collecting their IP addresses and god knows what else.
A sinister note is added to the proceeding with a new NSA document entitled "Manhunting Timeline," which describes an international effort to prosecute not only WikiLeaks but potentially anyone who spoke out in Assange’s defense.
Lest anyone assume this was just the speculative babble engaged in by lower level officials, Greenwald and Gallagher report:
"The entry aimed at WikiLeaks comes from credentialed officials within the intelligence community. In an interview in Hong Kong last June, Edward Snowden made clear that the only NSA officials empowered to write such entries are those ‘with top-secret clearance and public key infrastructure certificates’ – a kind of digital ID card enabling unique access to certain parts of the agency’s system. What’s more, Snowden added, the entries are ‘peer reviewed’ – and every edit made is recorded by the system."
The NSA-GCHQ collaboration is especially useful in that the former was (and is) no doubt deploying the latter to get around the remaining legal obstacles to spying on and otherwise disrupting the legal constitutionally protected activities of American citizens. After all, there is no British version of the Bill of Rights, and, as we have seen, the British government is far less constrained – either by law or the politics of the matter – from engaging in activities modeled on the behavior of the East German Stasi. Indeed, a British court is about to declare Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, a "terrorist."
The new documents also detail efforts by the NSA to target two American IP addresses if the contact is facilitated by "a malicious foreign proxy," i.e. WikiLeaks or an "agent of a foreign power" as the feds dubbed Antiwar.com. Queried as to whether this is permissible, the NSA lawyers responded: Go right ahead – you might even use XKeyscore (the NSA program that "collects nearly everything a user does on the Internet" and subjects it to close analysis) but the lawyers noted that they’ll get back to our eager-beaver spies with "further clarification."
There is no record of what the legal eagles eventually decided, but one senses the NSA’s institutional bias regarding crossing the fine line between crime prevention and their own criminality was and is remarkably casual:
"If WikiLeaks were improperly targeted, or if a US citizen were swept up in the NSA’s surveillance net without authorization, the agency’s attitude seems to be one of indifference. According to the document – which quotes a response by the NSA’s Office of General Counsel and the oversight and compliance office of its Threat Operations Center – discovering that an American has been selected for surveillance must be mentioned in a quarterly report, ‘but it’s nothing to worry about.’"
Targeting not only the personnel behind "rogue" websites, but also the users is crossing the Rubicon. If engaged in by the Ukrainian, Russian, or Chinese governments, you’d see Uncle Sam getting up on his high horse denouncing it as a violation of human rights and calling on the offending parties to cease and desist: this would be the signal for the Washington press corps to commence an orgy of tyrant-shaming.
Thanks to Snowden, we now know how the NSA and attendant law enforcement agencies here and internationally targeted WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. We here at Antiwar.com are still pressing the US government to release all documents relating to what looks to be a very similar effort to target and destroy Antiwar.com. Given their treatment of WikiLeaks, as revealed in these new documents, that’s a possibility, but we just don’t know yet. Of the hundreds of pages they’ve released through the Freedom of Information Act, most of these were almost entirely redacted – and that’s not counting the even larger volume of material they omitted entirely and listed as too "sensitive" to make public even on an extremely limited basis.
All of which brings us a bit closer to showing that the central purpose of the NSA’s activities has zero to do with real terrorism, rationally defined, and everything to do with going after "rogue" actors, such as WikiLeaks and yours truly, who are engaged in what we used to call journalism. They don’t care all that much about, say, al-Qaeda in Syria as they do about Assange’s personal life or what my "real name" is (as they put it in an April 2004 memo)..
What more evidence do you need that Antiwar.com has been an effective tool in the effort to build resistance to the Warfare State than this outrageous attack? What more do I have to say to convince you that this website is worth saving and fighting for? We aren’t intimidated by their thuggery, and if you’re the kind of reader at all inclined to support us then neither are you.
We’ve been banging away at this fundraiser for what seems an eternity, but the key to defeating the War Party and its authoritarian vanguard in the "mainstream" media is defending the journalists who are now their greatest and most effective enemies. The Snowden revelations have these scum on the run, but we can’t continue to chase them out of respectable society without your financial support. The NSA and the FBI have all the resources at our government’s command, and we have – you. That’s it: just you.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.