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Espionage or spying is the act of obtaining secret or confidential information without the permission of the holder of the information. Spies help agencies uncover secret information. Any individual or spy ring (a cooperating group of spies), in the service of a government, company or independent operation, can commit espionage. The practice is clandestine, as it is by definition unwelcome. In some circumstances it may be a legal tool of law enforcement and in others it may be illegal and punishable by law. Espionage is a method of intelligence gathering which includes information gathering from non-disclosed sources.

Espionage is often part of an institutional effort by a government or commercial concern. However, the term tends to be associated with state spying on potential or actual enemies for military purposes. Spying involving corporations is known as industrial espionage.

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The Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI was an activist group operational in the US during the early 1970s. Their only known action was breaking into a two-man Media, Pennsylvania office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and stealing over 1,000 classified documents. They then mailed these documents anonymously to several US newspapers to expose numerous illegal FBI operations which were infringing on the First Amendment rights of American civilians. Most news outlets initially refused to publish the information, as it related to ongoing operations and they contended disclosure might have threatened the lives of agents or informants. However, The Washington Post, after affirming the veracity of the files which the Commission sent them, ran a front-page story on March 24, 1971.
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One Veteran's Square, Media, PA
Stealing J. Edgar Hoover's Secrets, Retro Report, 13;36, January 7, 2014, The New York Times publisher.

"The complete collection of political documents ripped off from the F.B.I. office in Media, Pa., March 8, 1971" was published for the first time as the March, 1972 issue of WIN Magazine, a journal associated with the War Resisters League. The documents revealed the COINTELPRO operation, and led to the Church Committee and the cessation of this operation by the FBI. Noam Chomsky has stated:

According to its analysis of the documents in this FBI office, 1 percent were devoted to organized crime, mostly gambling; 30 percent were "manuals, routine forms, and similar procedural matter"; 40 percent were devoted to political surveillance and the like, including two cases involving right-wing groups, ten concerning immigrants, and over 200 on left or liberal groups. Another 14 percent of the documents concerned draft resistance and "leaving the military without government permission." The remainder concerned bank robberies, murder, rape, and interstate theft.

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Did you know...

From new and recently improved content by Wikipedia's WikiProject Mass surveillance in recognition of The Day We Fight Back:

Stop Watching Us

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Leaked helicopter video of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike in which Reuters journalists Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen were killed.

The "Collateral Murder" videos represent 39 minutes of footage showing an attack by the crew of an AH-64 Apache helicopter on a group of men, some armed, in the Iraqi city of Baghdad. The video was made available on SIPRNet where it was downloaded by Bradley Manning and transmitted to Wikileaks, which put out a public appeal for supercomputer time to assist in its decryption. Wikileaks called the video "Collateral Murder" because the helicopter continued to fire on Reuters journalist Saeed Chmagh after he appeared to be injured on the ground.

Selected biography

Barrett Brown 2007.jpg

Barrett Brown (born August 14, 1981) is an American journalist, essayist and satirist. He is often referred to as an unofficial spokesperson for the hacktivist collective Anonymous, a label he disputes.[1] He founded Project PM, an online distributed think tank, to facilitate analysis of the vast troves of hacked emails and other leaked information that may shed light on the sometimes questionable inner workings of the cyber-military-industrial complex.

He has spent over a year in a Texas jail and faces over a hundred more in federal prison as he awaits trial on an assortment of 17 charges filed in three indictments that include 15 years for sharing a http link to information publicly released during the 2012 Stratfor email leak on the ProjectPM Wiki, and five years for each of several counts of conspiring to publicize restricted information about an FBI agent and his family.[2][3][4] He is held under a gag order prohibiting him from discussing his case with the media.[5]

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The official logo of NROL-39, an American reconnaissance satellite operated by the National Reconnaissance Office and launched in 2013. This logo drew criticism following the ongoing surveillance disclosures; satirist Jon Stewart described it as the government "owning the fact that they are getting nefarious" with "a giant octopus sucking the face off North America". According to the NRO, the logo's "octopus [is] a versatile, adaptable, and highly intelligent creature" from which America's enemies cannot hide.

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Espionage in the news

23 May 2019 – Indictment and arrest of Julian Assange
The United States Department of Justice charges WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act, including provisions that prohibit a conspiracy to obtain, receive and disclose national defense information, attempting to crack computer passwords, and unlawful receipt of sensitive information such as State Department communications and Defense Department logs. (NPR)
17 May 2019 – China–United States relations
A former CIA officer, Kevin Patrick Mallory, is sentenced to 20 years in prison by a federal judge in Virginia for spying for China. (The New York Times) (BBC)
13 May 2019 – Iran–United Kingdom relations
An Iranian woman is sentenced to 10 years in prison for suspected spying for the United Kingdom. A judiciary spokesman alleged that she was recruited by the British Council's Iran desk. (Reuters)


Selected operation

RAF Menwith Hill, a site with satellite downlink capabilities believed to be used by ECHELON.

ECHELON, originally a code-name, is now used in global media and in popular culture to describe a signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection and analysis network operated on behalf of the five signatory states to the UKUSA Security Agreement[6] (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, referred to by a number of abbreviations, including AUSCANNZUKUS[6] and Five Eyes).[7][8][9] It has also been described as the only software system which controls the download and dissemination of the intercept of commercial satellite trunk communications.[10] It was created in the early 1960s to monitor the military and diplomatic communications of the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies during the Cold War, and was formally established in the year of 1971.[11][12]

By the end of the 20th century, the system referred to as "ECHELON" had evolved beyond its military/diplomatic origins, to also become "... a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications."[13]

The system has been reported in a number of public sources. One of the earliest reports to describe the program, code-named "ECHELON", was Duncan Campbell's 1988 article, "Somebody's listening", published in the New Statesman.[14] The program's capabilities and political implications were investigated by a committee of the European Parliament during 2000 and 2001 with a report published in 2001,[13] and by author James Bamford in his books on the National Security Agency of the United States.[10] The European Parliament stated in its report that the term ECHELON is used in a number of contexts, but that the evidence presented indicates that it was the name for a signals intelligence collection system. The report concludes that, on the basis of information presented, ECHELON was capable of interception and content inspection of telephone calls, fax, e-mail and other data traffic globally through the interception of communication bearers including satellite transmission, public switched telephone networks (which once carried most Internet traffic) and microwave links.[13]

Bamford describes the system as the software controlling the collection and distribution of civilian telecommunications traffic conveyed using communication satellites, with the collection being undertaken by ground stations located in the footprint of the downlink leg.


  1. ^ Patrick McGuire (2013-03-01). "We Spoke To Barrett Brown From Prison". VICE. Retrieved 2013-11-11.
  2. ^ David Carr (2013-09-09). "A Journalist-Agitator Facing Prison Over a Link". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-19.
  3. ^ Peter Ludlow (2013-06-18). "The Strange Case of Barrett Brown". The Nation. Retrieved 2013-12-19.
  4. ^ Kristin Bergman (2013-08-06). "Adding up to 105: The Charges Against Barrett Brown". Digital Media Law Project. Retrieved 2013-12-13.
  5. ^ By Fruzsina Eördögh. "The US Government Just Upheld Barrett Brown's Gag Order". Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  6. ^ a b Given the 5 dialects that use the terms, UKUSA can be pronounced from "You-Q-SA" to "Oo-Coo-SA", AUSCANNZUKUS can be pronounced from "Oz-Can-Zuke-Us" to "Orse-Can-Zoo-Cuss".
    From Talk:UKUSA Agreement: Per documents officially released by both the Government Communications Headquarters and the National Security Agency, this agreement is referred to as the UKUSA Agreement. This name is subsequently used by media sources reporting on the story, as written in new references used for the article. The NSA press release provides a pronunciation guide, indicating that "UKUSA" should not be read as two separate entities. (The National Archives) (National Security Agency)
  7. ^ "UK 'biggest spy' among the Five Eyes". News Corp Australia. Retrieved 19 October 2013.
  8. ^ Google booksEchelon by John O'Neill
  9. ^ "AUSCANNZUKUS Information Portal". Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  10. ^ a b Bamford, James; Body of Secrets, Anchor, ISBN 0-385-49908-6; 2002
  11. ^ "Q&A: What you need to know about Echelon". BBC. 29 May 2001.
  12. ^ Nabbali, Talitha; Perry, Mark (March 2004). "Going for the throat". Computer Law & Security Review. 20 (2): 84–97. doi:10.1016/S0267-3649(04)00018-4. It wasn't until 1971 that the UKUSA allies began ECHELON
  13. ^ a b c Schmid, Gerhard (11 July 2001). "On the existence of a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications (ECHELON interception system), (2001/2098(INI))" (pdf – 194 pages). European Parliament: Temporary Committee on the ECHELON Interception System. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  14. ^ Campbell, Duncan (12 August 1988). "Somebody's Listening". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 2007-01-03. Retrieved 16 September 2013.

Featured literary collection

Orwell pictured by the National Union of Journalists in 1933
Orwell pictured by the National Union of Journalists in 1933

The bibliography of George Orwell includes journalism, essays, books, and fiction written by the British writer Eric Arthur Blair (pictured), pen name George Orwell. Orwell first achieved widespread acclaim with his fictional novella Animal Farm and cemented his place in history as a novelist with the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four shortly before his death. While fiction accounts for a small fraction of his total output, these two novels are his best-selling works, having sold almost fifty million copies in sixty-two languages by 2007—more than any other pair of books by a twentieth-century author. In addition, Orwell wrote book-length investigations of poverty in Britain in the form of Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier and one of the first retrospectives on the Spanish Civil War in Homage to Catalonia. The impact of Orwell's large corpus is manifested in additions to the Western canon and the adoption of "Orwellian" as a description of totalitarian societies. (Full list...)

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