LONDON (AP) — The Guardian has reported that British spy agency GCHQ saved emails from journalists at BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major news organizations.
The newspaper said Monday its information was based on an analysis of documents provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The paper said the journalists' emails were among 70,000 emails gathered in less than ten minutes in November, 2008. It said the information was gleaned from a GCHQ tap on fiber optic cables used for Internet communications.
The newspaper said GCHQ also intercepted emails from Reuters, the Sun, NBC and the French newspaper Le Monde, and that the journalists' emails were available on the spy agency's intranet site. It did not say if the journalists were specifically targeted.
The Guardian said some emails included correspondence between editors and reporters discussing stories.
The newspaper made the disclosures as British editors are challenging the government's call for increased Internet surveillance in a bid to prevent terrorism. Media companies and their lawyers are seeking more access to information and protection from government snooping.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Security Services chief Andrew Parker have said in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France that Britain needs to strengthen its monitoring of Internet communications so it can learn of and disrupt terrorist plots.
They also said encryption technologies are making their task more difficult. Britain's national terror threat level is set as "severe," indicating that police and intelligence agencies have evidence that an attack is highly likely.
The increase in the threat level has been linked to the return to Britain and western Europe of hundreds of battle-hardened jihadis who have traveled to Syria to support Islamic extremists there.
GCHQ told the newspaper its actions meet strict legal guidelines.