The US National Security Agency has been recording nearly every phone call made in Afghanistan, according to WikiLeaks. The recordings are being made as part of the same program that was reported earlier this week to be capturing nearly every call in the Bahamas, as well as phone records from Mexico, Kenya, and the Philippines. That report, made by The Intercept, declined to disclose the name of a second country where — like the Bahamas — recordings of nearly all domestic and international phone calls were being captured as of 2013, saying that it had chosen to withhold it "in response to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence."
"An ongoing crime of mass espionage is being committed."WikiLeaks now says that it's learned the second country is Afghanistan, and it is essentially choosing to disclose it because it believes the government's claim that disclosure may lead to a rise in violence is a bluff. WikiLeaks says the government has given similar reasoning in the past, and that it has seen no such ill effects in the aftermath of a disclosure.
"WikiLeaks has years of experience with such false or overstated claims made by US officials in their attempts to delay or deny publication," writes WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. "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."
In disclosing the supposed name of the second country, WikiLeaks does not give any further details on the program, referring back to prior reports from The Intercept and The Washington Post, which explained that the program could record up to 100 percent of a country's phone calls and play them back for up to a month after they were made. In the Bahamas, the program was deployed to find "international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers" — making the targets unconnected to terrorism. It's not stated what the NSA's goal is in Afghanistan.
While tensions between the US and the Middle East make it fairly obvious why government officials don't want the program's activity in Afghanistan disclosed, WikiLeaks argues that a country has the right to know of the activity and that it is not the job of the press to protect the US. "An ongoing crime of mass espionage is being committed against the victim state and its population," Assange writes. "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"