In the latest bit of information to come from documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, Germany’s Der Spiegel reports that the NSA spied on Al Jazeera. The NSA hacked into the Qatar-based channel’s “internal communications system,” reports Der Spiegel, a feat it seemed to be particularly proud of because the agency listed it as a “notable success.” But while the documents reviewed by Der Spiegel make it clear the channel’s communications system was hacked, they do not specify “to what extent the intelligence agency spied on journalists or managers of the media company, or whether the surveillance is ongoing.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post also publishes a scoop based on Snowden documents, revealing the United States carried out 231 “offensive cyber-operations” in 2011. It marks the latest evidence that intelligence officials “infiltrate and disrupt foreign computer networks” to a degree that is “far broader and more aggressive than previously understood,” write Barton Gellman and Ellen Nakashima. The Snowden documents broadly illustrate how the United States has shifted its cyberwar efforts away from solely defensive efforts to prevent attacks and has moved quickly into offensive operations. Under one effort that goes by the code name GENIE, experts attempt to break into foreign machines to plant malware and put them under the surreptitious control of U.S. officials. Officials insist these efforts are solely related to security threats and that U.S. employees are expressly forbidden from carrying out any kind of economic espionage.