By Tom McTague
British spooks intercepted emails from US and UK media organisations and rated ‘investigative journalists’ alongside terrorists and hackers as potential security threats, secret documents reveal.
Internal advice circulated by intelligence chiefs at the Government spy centre GCHQ claims ‘journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security’.
Intelligence documents leaked by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden also show that British security officers scooped up 70,000 emails in just 10 minutes during one interception exercise in 2008.
Among the private exchanges were emails between journalists at the BBC, New York Times and US network NBC.
The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is Britain’s eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
The disclosure comes amid growing calls for the security services to be handed more power to monitor the internet following the Paris terror attacks.
Internal security advice, shared among British intelligence agencies, scored journalists in a table of potential threats.
One restricted document, which according to the Guardian was intended for those in army intelligence, warned that ‘journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security’.
It continued: ‘Of specific concern are “investigative journalists” who specialise in defence-related exposés either for profit or what they deem to be of the public interest.’
The document adds: ‘All classes of journalists and reporters may try either a formal approach or an informal approach, possibly with off-duty personnel, in their attempts to gain official information to which they are not entitled.’
It warns staff that ‘such approaches pose a real threat’, adding it must be ‘immediately reported’.
One table scored journalists a ‘low’ information security risk – compared to terrorists who are seen as a ‘moderate’ threat.