Edward Snowden

WikiLeaks names Afghanistan as second country where NSA records all mobile phone calls

Hours after saying it would delay announcement, group identifies 'Country X'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 May, 2014, 1:22pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 May, 2014, 2:12am

WikiLeaks has announced that Afghanistan is the second country to have been targeted by the NSA's massive cellphone data spying programme, defying warnings that the revelation would endanger lives.

Julian Assange wrote on the whistle-blower site's page that the NSA "has been recording and storing nearly all the domestic [and international] phone calls".

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who first broke the Edward Snowden story and who now works with The Intercept website, had said his site would not reveal the name of the country for fear it would "lead to deaths".

The Washington Post has previously chosen not to disclose the name. In those reports, which revealed the Bahamas as one of "two or more" countries targeted by the NSA's powerful Somalget programme, the second was called "country x".

But Assange, who called the programme an "ongoing crime of mass espionage", opposed the alleged "censorship", which he said was made at the request of the US government.

"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," Assange wrote.

"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."

The WikiLeaks founder, who has been under asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, said they could not disclose how WikiLeaks confirmed it was Afghanistan. WikiLeaks is not believed to have full access to Snowden's leaked NSA documents.

Greenwald had said on Twitter that the decision not to reveal the name was made because "we were very convinced this would [lead to] deaths". In response, WikiLeaks set a 72-hour deadline in which it pledged to reveal the country's identity.

Assange, who is editor-in-chief of the whistle-blowing site, voiced scepticism over the argument that the disclosure would have deadly repercussions.

He cited WikiLeaks' massive leak of often embarrassing US State Department cables from diplomats around the world in 2010, which the US said would "place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals".

Assange said that "to this day we are not aware of any evidence provided by any government agency that any of our eight million publications have resulted in harm to life."