WikiLeaks on Thursday released 287 documents of what it called “the Spy Files,” a trove of files exposing the reach of the global surveillance industry.
The documents – brochures, manuals, catalogs and other literature – offer a glimpse into the clandestine world of spying technology used by governments and the companies that supply them.
While some of the information was previously published in a Wall Street Journal piece about the burgeoning retail market for surveillance tools, Thursday's release in conjunction with six other organizations paints a composite of just how difficult it is for the world's citizens to truly protect their privacy.
One video from the release shows a promotion by the Hacking Team, which advertises a remote control "stealth system for attacking, infecting and monitoring computers and smartphones."
The whistle-blower site said Thursday’s release was just the beginning of data from more than 160 intelligence contractors.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post, one of the organizations with which WikiLeaks said it was working to uncover the surveillance market, wrote in detail about a spy tech bazaar. It was dubbed the Wiretappers’ Ball and held in a Bethesda, Maryland, hotel in October. It was attended by representatives of 43 countries and several U.S. government agencies, including the FBI, the Secret Service, the IRS and even the Fish and Wildlife Service. They reportedly came as customers.
While “lawful interception” techniques are being debated in America, many of the same techniques and more robust means of surveillance are being fervently traded over public but strictly controlled channels, according to the newspaper.
“People are morally outraged by the traditional arms trade, but they don’t realize that the sale of software and equipment that allows oppressive regimes to monitor the movements, communications and Internet activity of entire populations is just as dangerous,” Eric King of Privacy International, a UK advocacy group in favor of limited state surveillance, told the Washington Post.
In October, WikiLeaks announced that it was temporarily stopping publication to "aggressively fundraise."
Since publishing a cadre of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables late last year, the site has been crippled by a financial blockade enacted by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union.
The latest WikiLeaks data-dump comes days before the site’s founder, Julian Assange, is scheduled to appear before the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The hearing would be the third stage of the 40-year-old Australian's appeal against extradition to face allegations of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion by two women he met on a visit to Stockholm in August 2010.