Snowden’s spying revelations win Pulitzer Prize


This video from the USA is called Journalists Awarded Pulitzer for Snowden Reports.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

Pulitzer Prize awarded for Snowden exposures of NSA spying

15 April 2014

Columbia University has given the most prestigious award in journalism, the Pulitzer Prize gold medal for public service, to the newspapers that published articles based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The Washington Post won for articles written by Barton Gellman and filmmaker Laura Poitras, while the British Guardian won for articles written by Glenn Greenwald, Ewan MacAskill and Poitras. All four journalists made extensive use of the material provided by Snowden, and Greenwald, Poitras and MacAskill met with Snowden in Hong Kong to begin the process of exposing illegal and unconstitutional spying by the NSA.

The citation from Columbia is a political slap in the face to the Obama administration and the US and British intelligence apparatuses. The US government is seeking to extradite Snowden for trial, imprisonment and possible execution as a traitor. Both it and the British government have harassed and sought to intimidate the journalists honored by the awards.

The public service medal is awarded “for a distinguished example of meritorious public service by a newspaper or news site.” It went to the Washington Post “for its revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security,” and to the Guardian US “for its revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy.”

A similar gold medal was awarded to the New York Times in 1972 for its publication of the Pentagon Papers, leaked by another whistleblower from within the national security apparatus, former Pentagon official Daniel Ellsberg.

Edward Snowden issued a statement Monday, through the Freedom of the Press Foundation, congratulating the two newspapers and calling the award a “vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government.”

He continued: “We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognizes was work of vital public importance.

“This decision reminds us that what no individual conscience can change, a free press can. My efforts would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion, and skill of these newspapers, and they have my gratitude and respect for their extraordinary service to our society. Their work has given us a better future and a more accountable democracy.”

The same four journalists received the George Polk Award for national security reporting, awarded last Friday at a Manhattan hotel. Greenwald and Poitras, both US citizens, returned to the United States to receive the Polk Award, their first visit home since they co-authored the reports on NSA spying and surveillance. Greenwald now lives in Brazil and Poitras in Berlin, to avoid US government interference in their journalistic work.

Both said they had not been stopped entering the country, and both spoke at the Polk Award ceremonies paying tribute to Snowden. “This award is really for Edward Snowden,” said Poitras. Greenwald added that “what he did, coming forward, was absolutely the right thing to do and merits gratitude and not indictments and decades of imprisonment.”

In his Polk acceptance speech, MacAskill pointed out that the Guardian has faced much harsher government attack in Britain than the Guardian US or Post have yet faced in the United States. At one point, British intelligence agents visited the Guardian offices to supervise the destruction of computer hard drives in a heavy-handed effort at intimidation.

Greenwald has not yet made a public comment on the Pulitzer prize, but Poitras said of the award, “I think this is amazing news. It’s a testament to Snowden’s courage, a vindication of his courage and his desire to let the public know what the government is doing.”

Poitras and Snowden also received the Ridenhour prize, named after the Vietnam veteran who worked with Seymour Hersh to expose the My Lai massacre.

Editors of the two newspapers issued statements praising both the journalists and Edward Snowden.

Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, said, “We are particularly grateful for our colleagues across the world who supported the Guardian in circumstances which threatened to stifle our reporting. And we share this honor, not only with our colleagues at the Washington Post, but also with Edward Snowden, who risked so much in the cause of the public service which has today been acknowledged by the award of this prestigious prize.”

Janine Gibson, the editor of Guardian US, said winning in the public service category was important. Referring to the Columbia citation, she added, “I think those words say something about what Edward Snowden did, and what the reporters and editors did, in the face of a lot of rhetoric and opposition.”

Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said the reporting exposed a national policy “with profound implications for American citizens’ constitutional rights” and the rights of individuals around the world. “Disclosing the massive expansion of the NSA’s surveillance network absolutely was a public service,” he said. “In constructing a surveillance system of breathtaking scope and intrusiveness, our government also sharply eroded individual privacy. All of this was done in secret, without public debate, and with clear weaknesses in oversight.”

He added that without Snowden’s disclosures, “we never would have known how far this country had shifted away from the rights of the individual in favor of state power.”

The parties in the German coalition government, the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), are attempting to prevent a German parliamentary committee from looking into NSA spying by questioning US whistleblower Edward Snowden: here.

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Cosmos, science and media from Carl Sagan to today


This video is called Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey (Part 1).

By Bryan Dyne in the USA:

Cosmos reboot falls short of the mark

14 April 2014

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Cosmos) is a remake of the 1980 series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, hosted by astronomer Carl Sagan. Hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the new series comes after three and a half decades of scientific advances—sequencing of the human genome, discovery of the Higgs boson, quantification of conditions in the first moments of the Big Bang, and detailed spacecraft exploration of parts of the solar system. Yet, beyond some scientific generalities, little of this enormous progress would be apparent from watching the new series.

Alongside Tyson, the new series is being produced by Seth MacFarlane in collaboration with Ann Druyan (Sagan’s widow) and astronomer Steven Soter, both of whom worked on the original Cosmos series. It is being aired on ten 21st Century Fox networks and on the National Geographic Channel and being distributed across 170 countries and in 45 languages—one of the widest television distributions to date. So far, six out of 13 episodes have been aired, with an estimated 27 million viewers in the US.

In itself, the production of this new Cosmos is a welcome development. Almost without exception, US television is dominated by series promoting the police and military, the occult and mystical, and sometimes all of them at the same time. In contrast, Cosmos sets as its task the socially progressive work of portraying the world as it is objectively, examining natural laws before a mass audience, and placing human society within the context of the development of the universe.

This video is called Cosmos: A Personal Voyage – Episode 1 (Carl Sagan).

The original Cosmos derived much of its strength from its seriousness and the internal consistency and fidelity to the scientific method which the show promoted and defended. At times, the new series follows the original in that respect. The second episode features a wonderful sequence showing the development of the eye, as part of its discussion on natural selection. Using a split-screen technique, viewers see ocean life evolve over hundreds of millions of years on the left and a view of what those creatures actually saw on the right, starting with patches of light and dark and slowly getting clearer as each modification of the eye came along. Throughout the segment, Tyson explains that by tracing these developments through the fossil record, we can rule out claims of an “intelligent designer” for the eye. It evolved.

William Herschel

In another animated sequence, viewers are introduced to astronomer William Herschel (1738-1822), who observationally described binary stars in apparent orbit about one another, generalizing Newton’s theory of gravity from the movement of bodies within the Solar System to all celestial bodies. This was one of the critical demonstrations that established that natural laws discovered on Earth can be extrapolated to areas of the universe beyond direct human experience.

Another sequence worth noting revolved around the life of Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church. The Church has always asserted that this was for his heretical theology. Cosmos, on the other hand, explains that the true reason for Bruno’s execution was his ideas about scientific inquiry and how to understand the world. His methods led him to expand on Copernicus’ idea that the Earth revolved around the Sun, to say that the Sun and all the stars were the same, that the stars also had planets and that those planets could have life. To this day, Bruno’s writings are still on the Vatican’s list of forbidden texts.

But beyond a few such exceptions, the show is largely lacking in describing the development of science as a social process, or even in providing concrete examples of momentous discoveries and how they came about. A segment describing the development of Newton’s theory of gravity took as its focus petty personal frictions between Newton, Robert Hooke and Edmund Halley, rather than the vast upheavals of Enlightenment Europe, or the meticulous work of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler in acquiring the observational data which could be unified by Newton into a single theoretical framework.

Albert Einstein is discussed equally ahistorically, but in the opposite way: rather than his inspiration coming from conflicts, he is presented as the isolated genius who arrives at his unifying idea by virtue of his alienation. In reality, Einstein’s work temporarily sealed a rupture in physics which had erupted in the 1860s and which attracted work from many of its best minds. Taking as his point of departure the surprising results of Michelson and Morley in 1887 that the speed of light appeared to be the same to both stationary and moving observers, Einstein worked out the implications of a fixed speed of light using mathematics developed by Riemann, Lorentz, Poincare, and Weyl. That his most productive years occurred in Europe between 1905 and 1917, spanning a World War and two Russian revolutions, should be worthy of notice, but the news Cosmos makes no reference to this background.

Christiaan Huygens by Bernard Vaillant, Museum Hofwijck, Voorburg

In contrast, the original series depicted Christiaan Huygens, one of the foremost astronomers of the 1600s, as a product of his time. While viewers were given a glimpse of his work, such as early (and quite accurate) initial estimates of the distances from Earth to nearby stars, the focus was on the time and place in which he lived. One got a flavor of Huygens’ contemporaries, the character of 17th century Holland, the proliferation of free thought, the science and technology being done, the architecture, i.e. the culture as a whole.

The production also includes segments which are factually incorrect, misleading or empty. Tyson describes the proteins that help DNA to operate as “creatures” rather than molecules, which is what they actually are. His “ship of the imagination” dodges rocks in the asteroid belt per the science-fiction norm. Rather than discussing what is known about how life developed, Tyson blithely states that the origins of life are unknown, as if the decades of research into this topic have produced nothing. And the momentous imagery produced by robotic probes throughout the solar system (Voyager, Cassini, Galileo, numerous Mars missions, etc.) is by and large dispensed with in favor of computer graphics manufactured to order.

Tyson’s career may play a role in these weaknesses. He is not a full-time scientific researcher and has published little, serving mainly as a media popularizer involved in publishing books, TV appearances, the Hayden Planetarium and sitting on science panels for the Bush and Obama administrations. He seems somewhat disconnected from the science he once practiced. However, it is not simply that Tyson the media figure is missing something essential compared to Sagan the working scientist. Rather, there has been a shift in intellectual life over the past 35 years, particularly among the liberal intelligentsia. No longer is Western society, and science along with it, flush with resources and expanding at a high rate. American capitalism is on the decline, and this is felt in the official treatment of science. The new Cosmos had a chance to challenge its audience, seeking to raise popular understanding of science. Instead, Tyson largely appeals to the lowest common denominator.

One of the many ways this has manifested is in the exposition of the scientific method. To the show’s credit, Cosmos explains the relationship between observations and theories that model those observations and make predictions. In the third episode, it shows how the observations of comets over centuries transformed them in common understanding from harbingers of doom to predictable celestial phenomena, based on the work of Halley, Hooke and Newton.

But rather than asserting the growing superiority of science over religion in explaining how the world works, the show muddles the two. There are constant concessions to religious language. The highly accurate predictions of the astronomers are referred to constantly in the program as “prophecies.” In the fourth episode, Tyson similarly refers to the fact that the speed of light is always constant as a “commandment” of the universe, rather than explaining the underlying physics.

Given the advances since 1980, it is long past time for the presentation of what has been learned and the process of how this has been learned to a mass audience. Sadly, the weaknesses of the new Cosmos in this respect overshadow its strengths.

The author also recommends:

Carl Sagan (1934-1996): An appreciation
[13 January 1997]

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German nazis abuse Sesame Street Cookie Monster


This video is called Modern Nazi Murderers in Germany (Full Documentary).

After British nazis abusing an anti-fascist song by the Manic Street Preachers … and abuse of Sesame Street music for torture in Guantanamo Bay … now this.

From NBC News in the USA:

Cookie Monster Corrupted by Neo-Nazis to Lure Kids

MAINZ, Germany — Cookie Monster is being used by two neo-Nazis in eastern Germany to spread right-wing ideology among students in a local high-school, according to police.

“After months of investigation, we were able to arrest a well-known right-wing extremist dressed in a Cookie Monster costume, while he and an accomplice were handing out leaflets that read “To Be German is Cool’ at a local school in Senftenberg,” Ines Filohn, a police spokeswoman in the state of Brandenburg, told NBC News.

Following the incident, police searched the homes of the two extremists in the cities of Cottbus and Schwarzheide and confiscated computers with other neo-Nazi material. Pending official charges and further investigations, the two men –– both in their thirties — were released by police.

According to reports in Britain’s Daily Mail, one image found on one of the suspect’s computers included a picture of the Sesame Street character Cookie Monster standing next to Adolf Hitler with the caption “Who ate my cookie?”

“We are presently trying to identify whether the two men can be linked to 20 other incidents that involved the Cookie Monster,” Filohn said.

Since the end of September, German police have been searching for the makers of short comic-like Internet videos showing the Cookie Monster and were investigating at least one case in which unknown suspects had plastered posters on school walls that read: “In 2030, the last Germans.”

Experts say that neo-Nazi groups and individual extremists have been searching for new ways to draw attention to racist ideologies and in particular are promoting their “Volkstod,” or “National Death” campaign, which is used by right-wing extremists to describe what they perceive as the degradation of the German race in a multicultural society.

The police spokeswoman in Cottbus expressed concern over the manipulation methods used by the neo-Nazi duo.

“These extremists are trying to trivialize their dangerous ideology by using simple language, by creating ironic cartoons and by increasingly using social media to reach adolescents,” Filohn said.

“The hardcore extremist scene is small, but very well connected,” Filohn added. “And, they are cleverly using this type of provocation to gain broader attention, especially in the media.”

- Andy Eckardt

First published April 8th 2014, 4:40 pm

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Bahraini dictatorship and Formula One racing


Bahraini pro-democracy demonstrators. A Bahraini protester raises a sign against the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix during a protest in Saar, Bahrain, Friday, April 4, 2014. Tens of thousands of Bahraini anti-government protesters carrying signs and images of political prisoners waved national flags and signs against the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix, which is being held Sunday in the Gulf island kingdom. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

From Associated Press:

Thousands rally in Bahrain ahead of auto race

April 4, 2014 2:59 PM EDT

MANAMA, Bahrain — Thousands have marched in the streets of Bahrain to voice their opposition to this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix auto race.

Witnesses say protesters Friday carried banners and chanted slogans against the government and the Formula One race, the tiny island kingdom’s biggest international event of the year. Practice runs for Sunday’s race went ahead amid tight security.

Groups of anti-government activists clashed with police following the largely peaceful rally outside the capital, Manama, hurling gasoline bombs and blocking roadways with tires.

Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. The country has witnessed more than three years of unrest following a Shiite-led uprising calling for reforms and greater political freedoms from the Sunni monarchy.

Journalism in Bahrain

From the Bahrain Center for Human Rights:

4 April, 2014

Joint Statement – Bahrain: Bahrain Racing in Circles

Press freedom campaign launch timed to Formula One race in Bahrain

New York and Paris, April 3[tk], 2014—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have launched a joint social media campaign calling on the Bahraini government to allow journalists to work freely during the Formula One Grand Prix race in Bahrain on April 6, 2014. Using the social media tool Thunderclap, the “Bahrain Racing in Circles” campaign participants will call for press freedom in Bahrain at the exact start of the Formula One race. As of April 2, the campaign had gained a potential audience of 2.6 million people, twice the population of Bahrain.

“It’s clear that it’s not only F1 cars that are racing circles in Bahrain, as we see the same cycle of protests, repression, and censorship every year,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Every year, the Bahraini government hopes the roar of Formula One cars will drown out criticism of the regime’s human rights violations,” said Soazig Dollet, head of RSF’s Middle East and North Africa desk. “This year, we’re calling on everyone to join our F1 campaign to make sure that does not happen.”

CPJ and RSF have documented a consistent attempt by the Bahraini government to censor the press since the launch of a mass protest movement on February 14, 2011. Most recently, on March 26, freelance photographer Ahmed Humaidan was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on charges of attacking a police station in 2012. Humaidan was at the station to document the incident as part of his coverage of unrest in the country.

To get more information and to join the campaign, please visit the campaign website here.

### CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
Reporters Without Borders promotes and defends the freedom to be informed and to inform others throughout the world

Media contacts:

New York, USA:
Samantha Libby
Communications Associate
Committee to Protect Journalists
slibby@cpj.org
212-300-9032. Ext 124

Paris, France:
Soazig Dollet
Head of Middle East and North Africa Desk
Reporters Without Borders
Tel: 33 1 44 83 84 78
Email: moyen-orient@rsf.org

On the morning of the Grand Prix race which will take place today at 6pm in Sakhir; BCHR (Bahrain Center for Human Rights), BIRD (Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy) and BYSHR (Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights), note their concern for the growing violations against civilians in Bahrain: here.

Thousands Protest for Democracy in Bahrain: here.

Bahrain: Shooting Victim Sentenced to 15 Years; Attacker Enjoys Impunity: here.

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Bahrain, Formula One racing and human rights violations


This video is called Former CNN journalist Amber Lyon & Joe Rogan talk about Bahrain dictatorship.

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Bahrain racing in circles

By Jason Stern/CPJ Middle East and North Africa Research Associate

Thursday, the official Bahrain News Agency announced the “final 30-day countdown [to] the Formula One extravaganza” to take place the first week of April. Every year the race acts as a lightning rod for criticism of the Bahraini government, which seeks to use high-profile international events like the F1 to gloss over human rights violations in the country.

So perhaps it’s all too predictable that another journalist was arrested in Bahrain only a few hours before the BNA article went to press. Freelance photojournalist Sayed Baqer Al-Kamil was arrested at a checkpoint west of Manama sometime in the early morning hours, according to news reports and his colleagues. It is not clear why he was arrested, but Al-Kamil has meticulously documented the protest movement in Bahrain.

In another recent case, Bahraini security forces arrested photographer Sayed Ahmed Al-Mosawi and his brother in a house raid the morning of February 10, according to news reports.  Al-Mosawi was transferred to the Dry Dock prison after several days of interrogation about his work. The journalist, who has won international recognition for his photographs, told his family in a phone call from prison that he had been tortured through beatings and electrocution, according to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

Al-Kamil and Al-Mosawi join at least three other journalists behind bars in Bahrain, the second worst country in the world for journalists imprisoned per capita, according to CPJ research.

The blast came as Al Sinan was covering clashes between riot police and protesters from a funeral procession of a Bahraini inmate who died last month in custody. The government said the inmate, Jaffar Al-Durazi, died from complications of sickle cell anemia, but opposition groups said he was subjected to torture and medical negligence.

It is not clear who carried out the attack on the security forces, with at least two groups claiming responsibility on Facebook, according to Bahrain scholar Marc Owen Jones. Bahrain’s major opposition and human rights groups condemned the attack and urged Bahrainis to end the cycle of violence.

In a photograph of the attack captured by EPA photojournalist Mazen Mahdi, riot police grimace from tear gas as one of their comrades lay wounded in the street. A few days prior, on February 26, Mahdi accused the police of aiming deliberately at journalists after he had been shot in the leg by a teargas canister while covering protests in Daih. He was not seriously injured.

Mahdi and other journalists have faced consistent harassment from security forces attempting to limit coverage of opposition demonstrations, according to CPJ research. The independent Bahrain Press Association reported that Associated Press photographer Hassan Jamali has been unable to cover protests since his press credentials were confiscated by security forces on February 12.

None of this is new for Bahrain. In the past three years, CPJ has documented the arrest, torture, assault and sadly even death of journalists. …

Yet the pace of violations seem to be accelerating, especially as the Bahrain government collects more local freelance journalists in its prisons and frustration on the street grows stronger. As Gulf expert Christopher Davidson recently tweeted, “Bahrain looking more tense now than for a long time.” With a political solution no closer, despite repeated rounds of political dialogue since 2011, I fear those tensions will lead to even greater restrictions on the press.

It appears not only F1 cars are racing in circles in Bahrain.

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NSA, GCHQ spies inflitrating online groups


This video from the USA is called Defying Threats to Journalism, Jeremy Scahill & Glenn Greenwald Launch New Venture, The Intercept.

By Nick Barrickman:

Snowden documents show US, UK spy agencies infiltrate online groups

27 February 2014

British and US intelligence agencies are systematically employing deceptive tactics to monitor, manipulate and subvert the activities of individuals in various online activist organizations who have never been charged with crimes, according to a report on Glenn Greenwald’s website, the Intercept.

The report is based on a 50-page presentation by the British spy agency GCHQ to the NSA and other agencies, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations.” The document expands on details of methods used by GCHQ and its previously secret unit, the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), reported in previous leaks from Snowden.

Greenwald notes that JTRIG is engaged in “online covert action” (OCA) against individuals and groups in an effort “to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets,” as well as “to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable.”

The aim of these operations, as with the basic mission of the NSA and its partners, is not to combat “terrorism,” but to target anyone considered a threat to the internal and geopolitical interests of the British and American ruling class.

Greenwald notes that the targets “extend far beyond the customary roster of normal spycraft: hostile nations and their leaders, military agencies, and intelligence services.” They are primarily directed against “people suspected (but not charged or convicted) of ordinary crimes or, more broadly still, ‘hacktivism,’ meaning those who use online protest activity for political ends.”

One slide, headlined “Disruption Operation Playbook” lists a number of tactics, including “infiltration operation,” “ruse operation,” “false flag operation” and “false rescue operation.” Another, under the headline “Discredit a target,” lists suggestions including “set up a honey-trap,” “change their photos on social networking sites,” “write a blog purporting to be one of their victims” and “email/text their colleagues, neighbours, friends etc.”

“Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in false flag operations to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that,” Greenwald writes.

Also discussed in the document is the infiltration of online groups with the intent to undermine and disrupt them. The use of a “Human Science Operations Cell, devoted to online human intelligence and strategic influence and disruption,” is intended to disrupt groups through the manipulation of ideological differences, competition, personal power, and other such conflicts.

As a member of the “Five Eyes” alliance with other English-speaking countries, the GCHQ has developed its methods in close collaboration with intelligence counterparts in the US and elsewhere. Covert actions are implemented with the assistance of local authorities, the report notes.

The report comes on the heels of another detailing a “dirty tricks” campaign used by JTRIG to lure targets into compromising situations via the promise of sexual acts, also known as “honey traps.”

The methods employed by JTRIG echo the campaign used to attack and discredit organizations such as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently seeking refuge from British and US authorities in the embassy of Ecuador in Britain. Members of the Swedish parliament leveled claims of rape against Assange in an attempt to discredit him as well as his organization, with the ultimate goal of silencing the whistleblower.

The report exposes the phony efforts of the Obama administration to enact so-called “reforms” of the NSA. Greenwald mentions Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein, previously the head of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, as an early advocate of covert online activity to target activist groups. Sunstein was later appointed by Obama to a NSA review panel that proposed minor, cosmetic reforms aimed at ensuring that the agencies illegal activities continued.

The author also recommends:

Obama defends police state spying
[18 January 2014]

Leaked documents detail NSA surveillance operations against WikiLeaks
[19 February 2014]

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