Material released by Edward Snowden reportedly shows that investigative journalists “who specialise in defence-related exposes” are of “specific concern” to GCHQ.
The Guardian today reports that “investigative journalists” are considered alongside terrorists and hackers in a hierarchy in a GCHQ “information security assessment”.
The newspaper also reports that the emails of its staff, as well as journalists from The Sun, BBC, Reuters, New York Times, Le Monde, NBC and the Washington Post, have been saved and made available to staff at the Government agency.
Analysis of Snowden documents reportedly shows that 70,000 emails, obtained during a ten-minute period in November 2008, were shared on the agency’s intranet as part of a test exercise by the Signals Intelligence Agency.
The Guardian reports there is nothing to indicate journalists were deliberately targeted, but that emails between “reporters and editors discussing stories” as well as PR emails were made available to “cleared staff on the agency intranet”.
It reported: “The mails appeared to have been captured and stored as the output of a then-new tool being used to strip irrelevant data out of the agency’s tapping process.”
The newspaper also reports on new evidence showing the threat of journalists listed alongside terrorists and hackers.
One restricted document for those in army intelligence warned that “journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security”.
It said: “Of specific concern are ‘investigative journalists’ who specialise in defence-related exposés either for profit or what they deem to be of the public interest.
“All classes of 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.”
It also reportedly warned staff that these approaches should be “immediately reported”.
A spokesman for GCHQ told the paper: “It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.
“All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK’s interception regime is entirely compatible with the European convention on human rights.”