On Saturday, German paper Der Spiegel reported that it had viewed a document obtained by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, in which the agency wrote that it had spied on Qatar-based Arab news broadcaster Al Jazeera. This appears to be the first confirmation that the NSA has used its powers to secretly monitor media outlets.
Spiegel did not publish any of the documents in question, but noted that one was dated March 23, 2006 and showed that, “the NSA’s Network Analysis Center managed to access and read communication by ‘interesting targets’ that was specially protected by the news organization. The information also shows that the NSA officials were not satisfied with Al Jazeera’s language analysis.” Spiegel also reports that in one of the documents, the NSA refers to this operation as a “notable success” because the targets of the operation had “high potential as sources of intelligence.”
It is not clear whether the surveillance is ongoing, or whether the operation was a one-off. The extent to which journalists and managers at Al Jazeera were spied on is also not clear from the Spiegel report.