Getting it out of the way early, the country in question, the one that has caused weeks of debates between privacy advocates, military generals, and high-ranking security officials, is Afghanistan.
After months of deliberation between journalist Glenn Greenwald and the online whistleblowing operation WikiLeaks, the identity of the final country listed on the MYSTIC program has been revealed, and to be honest, it’s not that big of a surprise.
One would expect a country that is at war with another country to perform counter-surveillance, and when you have the kind of capability paid for and provided by an agency like the NSA, it would be a tactical/strategic error not to use that machine for it’s intended purpose.
Julian Assange has a bad habit of hyping up the press for less-than-revealing announcements like this, and one wonders why Greenwald was so opposed to the publication of this data in the first place. He claims it was to avoid increased violence in the region, but as one of the most already-violent and least-connected regions on Earth, one has to wonder how much damage he thought the release of this information could really cause in the long run.
The country is already torn to shreds by war, and according to the website Internet WorldStats,even has access to the web in the first place, let alone those who read daily updates on the goings on of the National Security Agency or their pet project MYSTIC.
“Both the Washington Post and The Intercept stated that they had censored the name of the victim country at the request of the US government. Such censorship strips a nation of its right to self-determination on a matter which affects its whole population. An ongoing crime of mass espionage is being committed against the victim state and its population.
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. Pre-notification to the perpetrating authorities also permits the erasure of evidence which could be used in a successful criminal prosecution, civil claim, or other investigations.”
It’s been just under half a day since the news hit the wires, and as of yet there haven’t been any reports of increased violence or new attacks in the region. This could change in the next several days of course, but as of now there hasn’t been any indication that Greenwald’s fears were based on anything tangible.
It’s easy to suspect that the fame-hungry Assange may have seen his website WikiLeaks and their influence on the media start to fade, and decided to drum up as much controversy as possible to keep his organization relevant in the wake of one of the largest leaks of confidential information in American history.
Now that people know they’re being watched from every angle imaginable, it’s hard to get excited over the comparatively tame revelations that Assange has spent the better half of this decade building his reputation on. Without much left to shock the people of the United States and the EU, the international fugitive has resorted to media manipulation (a tactic he’s been known for since he first broke out on the whistleblowing scene in 2007), in order to draw in viewers and, for lack of a better term, resort to the VICE-perfected art of “clickbaiting” as many reads per article as possible.
By creating a fervor around a topic weeks in advance, you’re able to get more and more publications talking about something before the information itself is ever revealed, essentially creating a “story about the story”, which oftentimes can pull in more ad-revenue for those websites than the actual news itself.
“The Intercept stated that the US government asserted that the publication of this name might lead to a ’rise in violence’. Such claims were also used by the administration of Barack Obama to refuse to release further photos of torture at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.
While one might seriously question the moral exceptionalism which would deny another nation and its people the right to react to a mass rights infringement in a manner of its own choosing, such claims of risk by the US government have in any event consistently fallen short.”
To his credit, it seems Assange is aware of this tactic, and at least to a certain extent, shamelessly accepts his role in the cycle of it all. He tells us that the claims of “increased violence” on behalf of the state department is little more than a government trying to cover its own behind wherever possible, and that although there is certainly a risk to publishing this information, the actual impact of it has been wildly overstated both by the perpetrators and the media who is as careful as they can be not to bite the hand that feeds them.
So there you have it everyone, the last nation to be named in the MYSTIC scandal is a country we’ve actively been fighting against for the past ten years. Try not to catch any flies in your mouth during the inevitable gasp of astonishment.