The Wikimedia Foundation announced that it is filing a lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Justice of the United States of America. The lawsuit challenges the NSA’s mass surveillance program, and specifically its large-scale search and seizure of internet communications.
The Wikimedia Foundation also joins eight other organizations, which includes The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA,Pen American Center, Global Fund for Women, The Nation Magazine, The Rutherford Institute, and Washington Office on Latin America, and will be represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Wikimedia foundation said that it had begun conversations with the ACLU about the possibility of filing suit against the NSA and other defendants on behalf of the Foundation, its staff, and its users in 2014.
“Wikipedia is written by people from around the world who often tackle difficult subjects. Very frequently they choose to remain anonymous, or pseudonymous. This allows them to freely create, contribute, and discover, without fear of reprisal. Surveillance might be used to reveal sensitive information, create a chilling effect to deter participation, or in extreme instances, identify individual users. Pervasive surveillance undermines the freedoms upon which Wikipedia and its communities are founded,” the foundation explained on its blog.
Leaks revealed by whistle-blower Edward Snowden showed that that the NSA specifically identifies Wikipedia and websites such as CNN.com, Gmail and Facebook. The agency said that monitoring these sites can allow NSA analysts to learn “nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet.” (pdf).
India’s involvement with the NSA
India may be working with the NSA to intercept email, chat, VPN data, VoIP and voice call records among others. This is based on documents that were newly released by Edward Snowden to Danish newspaper Dagbladet Information and The Intercept.
According to these documents, India is an “Approved SIGINT partner” with the NSA. SIGINT is a common term used in intelligence circles that stands for signals Intelligence, and refers to capturing of communication between two people. Decrypting of messages, traffic analysis etc are also part of SIGINT. The agency then taps these SIGINT partnerships for creating two major programs called RAMPART-A and WINDSTOP for collecting data in transit between the source and the servers, as opposed to collecting data from each Internet company (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo) separately. Considering WINDSTOP only partners with second parties, primarily the UK, to access communications into and out of Europe and Middle East, third-party partner like India should fall under RAMPART-A.