Self-Censorship and Privilege on the Internet

Sloppy U.S. Spies Misused A Covert Network For Personal Shopping — And Other Stories From Internal NSA Documents by Micah Lee, Margot Williams, Talya Cooper.

From the post:

NSA agents successfully targeted “the entire business chain” connecting foreign cafes to the internet, bragged about an “all-out effort” to spy on liberated Iraq, and began systematically trying to break into virtual private networks, according to a set of internal agency news reports dating to the first half of 2005.

British spies, meanwhile, were made to begin providing new details about their informants via a system of “Intelligence Source Descriptors” created in response to intelligence failures in Iraq. Hungary and the Czech Republic pulled closer to the National Security Agency.

And future Intercept backer Pierre Omidyar visited NSA headquarters for an internal conference panel on “human networking” and open-source intelligence.

These stories and more are contained in a batch of 294 articles from SIDtoday, the internal news website of the NSA’s core Signals Intelligence Directorate. The Intercept is publishing the articles in redacted form as part of an ongoing project to release material from the files provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In addition to the aforementioned highlights, summarized in further detail below, the documents show how the NSA greatly expanded a secret eavesdropping partnership with Ethiopia’s draconian security forces in the Horn of Africa, as detailed in an investigation by longtime Intercept contributor Nick Turse. They describe the NSA’s operations at a base in Digby, England, where the agency worked with its British counterpart GCHQ to help direct drones in the Middle East and tap into communications through the Arab Spring uprisings, according to a separate article by Intercept reporter Ryan Gallagher. And they show how the NSA and GCHQ thwarted encryption systems used to protect peer-to-peer file sharing through the apps Kazaa and eDonkey, as explained here by Intercept technologist Micah Lee.

NSA did not comment for this article.

If you are interested in reporting based on redacted versions of twelve year old news (last half of 2005), this is the article for you.

The authors proclaim self-censorship and privilege saying:


The Intercept is publishing the articles in redacted form as part of an ongoing project to release material from the files provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

These authors can milk their treasure trove of unredacted SIDreports, giving them an obvious advantage over other journalists.

Not as great an advantage as being white and male but it is a privilege unrelated to merit, one violates any concept of equal access.

Other reporters or members of the public notice connections unseen by the Intercept authors.

We won’t ever know since the Intercept, along with other media outlets, is quick to call foul on the privileges of others while clinging to its own.

PS: The lack of efforts by intelligence agencies to stop the SIDtoday series is silent testimony to its lack of importance. The SIDtoday series is little better than dated office gossip and not a complete (redacted) account of the same.

Meaningful intelligence reporting derails initiatives, operations, exposes criminal excesses with named defendants and holds the intelligence community accountable to the public. Not to be confused with the SIDtoday series and its like.

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