New Edward Snowden leaks released by The Guardian show British intelligence agency GCHQ actively hacked journalists and news organisations, putting investigative journalists on the same threat level as terrorists.
The leak came as part of a 2008 report from GCHQ on a ten-minute test focused on obtaining information from news organisations across the globe, including the BCC, Le Monde, Washington Post and The New York Times. GCHQ was able to collect 70,000 emails in the ten minute period.
GCHQ worked on penetrating fiber optic cables, the backbone of most business internet. Most organisations use fiber optic, allowing for much faster data speeds than the typical home network.
It is not clear if GCHQ had a particular target in mind, but the work in 2008 allowed more focus groups to deploy surveillance and attacks against journalists, restricting their freedoms. The GCHQ could use information from private emails to alert governments on potential news stories.
The scariest thing to come from the leak is the fact the GCHQ put investigative journalists on the same level of threat as terrorists and hackers. Even the latter is scary, since the most severe hacker can be limited to cyber attacks, while terrorists tend to be a presence in the real-world and far more dangerous.
Having investigative journalists on that level undermines the idea of "free speech" and "freedom of the press", both removed when the GCHQ actively hacked and surveyed different news organisations at length.
The GCHQ has kept a quiet profile whenever leaks start cropping up about the agencies foul tactics, and we expect the agency will crawl back into its cave of 'do not disturb' until all of this has blown over.
These new leaks on the GCHQ's programs also show the complete disregard for social freedoms by Prime Minister David Cameron, who last week claimed internet encryption should be illegal and police should be able to bypass this encryption.