The GCHQ and its role in gathering signals intelligence came to light following the document leaks by Edward Snowden. GCHQ is basically the NSA’s counterpart in the United Kingdom and in some reports the agencies are said to have a close relationship. A latest report from The Guardian, based on new documents leaked by Snowden, claims that the GCHQ intercepted emails from journalists belong to some of the biggest media organizations in the world.

Documents released by famed whistleblower Edward Snowden, seen by The Guardian, reveal that GCHQ’s bulk surveillance picked up emails from journalists belonging to major media organizations based in both the U.S. and UK. Organizations named in the report include the BBC, The Guardian, The New York Times, Reuters, Le Monde, The Washington Post, NBC and The Sun.

Apparently these emails were picked up in a test exercise and then made available on GCHQ’s internal network where they would be accessible to anyone with clearance to log in. It doesn’t look like this was a deliberate intelligence gathering exercise targeted at journalists but nonetheless doesn’t cease to be a violation of privacy.

The report explains that these emails were gathered from fibre-optic cables that the agency is tapped into. Over 70,000 emails were pulled in less than 10 minutes. The ones that were retained by GCHQ had passed through a filter that the agency was testing to keep irrelevant data out of its tapping process.

For its part the GCHQ says that it has a longstanding policy of not commenting on intelligence matters, but does say that its work is “carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework.”

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