Earlier this week, Pierre Omidyar’s national security blog, The Intercept, reported that the US is recording all telephone calls made in and out of the Bahamas and one other unnamed country.
The story, co-bylined byexplained that the Intercept had decided not to name that second “country X” due to the risk of increased violence in response.
As I wrote at the time, this decision prompted a furious response from former allies Wikileaks, which “condemn[ed] Firstlook for following the Washington Post into censoring the mass interception of an entire nation.”
Upping the stakes, Wikileaks also promised to name the redacted country withing 72 hours.
Late last night the organization made good on its promise, issuing a statement claiming that “country x” is Afghanistan…
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.
But Wikileaks wasn’t done there. Shortly afterwards, the organization dragged Google into the fight, pointing to a leaked cable apparently showing that “Google Idea’s director Jared Cohen was tasked with getting Afghan telcos to move towers to US bases when at DoS.”
Before joining Google, Cohen worked as an advisor to both Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, and was celebrated by the New York Times magazine for representing a new breed of tech-savvy bureaucrats.
Wikileaks appears to be suggesting that Cohen’s attempts to relocate Afghan cell towers within US bases may have had a clandestine motive. If true, the fact that Cohen is now working at Google might of course be incredibly troubling for privacy advocates. I’ve asked Cohen for comment and will update this article with anything I hear back.
For its part, the Intercept has published no official statement in response to Wikileaks’ claims. Instead, earlier today, Glenn Greenwald published a 1700 word response to a negative review of his book in the New York Times.