Assange names country targeted by NSA's MYSTIC mass phone tapping program

Not revealing the name of the country is censorship, Wikileaks' Julian Assange said

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been recording and storing nearly all domestic and international phone calls from Afghanistan, according to Wikileaks' front man Julian Assange.

Wikileaks revealed the name of the country after The Intercept reported Monday that the NSA was actively recording and archiving "virtually every" cellphone call in the Bahamas and one other country under a program called SOMALGET. The Intercept said it did not name the second country because of concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence.

The voice interception program is part of a broader program called MYSTIC revealed in March when the Washington Post published documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

MYSTIC is used to collect phonecall metadata and is used in Mexico, Kenya and the Philippines, according to The Intercept. SOMALGET enables the NSA to gather and store the contents of every conversation in an entire country, it said.

The program gives the NSA the capability to record and store the phone calls of an entire nation for up to 30 days, according to the Washington Post. The paper decided not to identify the countries affected on request of the U.S. government.

While The Intercept revealed the identity of five of the Mystic target countries, Assange said the decision not to name Afghanistan was "censorship."

"Such censorship strips a nation of its right to self-determination on a matter which affects its whole population," ="https://wikileaks.org/WikiLeaks-statement-on-the-mass.html">he said on Wikileak's site. "By denying an entire population the knowledge of its own victimization, this act of censorship denies each individual in that country the opportunity to seek an effective remedy, whether in international courts, or elsewhere," he said.

To protect his source, Assange did not disclose how Wikileaks confirmed the identity of the second country. However, he said, it can also be independently verified through forensic scrutiny of imperfectly applied censorship on related documents released to date, and through correlations with other NSA programs.

The censorship of a victim state's identity directly assists the killing of innocent people, Assange said. The U.S. has been using mass interception programs as a key component in its drone targeting program that has killed "thousands of people and hundreds of women and children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia in violation of international law," he added.

"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," he said.

U.S. intelligence officials defended the program in a presentation to the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in March, the day after the Washington Post ran its MYSTIC article. The surveillance program focused on overseas telephone and email communications is targeted and narrow, and not the bulk collection portrayed in numerous news reports, the officials said.

The U.S. government's claims lack credibility, said Assange.

"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," he said.

The U.S has had plenty of time to protect its assets, he said, adding that Wikileaks believes any ongoing perceived risks to be fanciful or willfully embraced by the U.S. government. "We also reject the implication that it is the role of the international press to protect U.S. assets from arrest for the mass infringement of the rights of another nation's people."

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securitywikileakslegalU.S. National Security Agency

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loek Essers

IDG News Service

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?