According to the spies, their job is protectign the public from "terrorism". Which obviously is why Britain's GCHQ has been capturing email traffic to and from journalists:
GCHQ’s bulk surveillance of electronic communications has scooped up emails to and from journalists working for some of the US and UK’s largest media organisations, analysis of documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.
Emails from the BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, the Sun, NBC and the Washington Post were saved by GCHQ and shared on the agency’s intranet as part of a test exercise by the signals intelligence agency.
The disclosure comes as the British government faces intense pressure to protect the confidential communications of reporters, MPs and lawyers from snooping.
The journalists’ communications were among 70,000 emails harvested in the space of less than 10 minutes on one day in November 2008 by one of GCHQ’s numerous taps on the fibre-optic cables that make up the backbone of the internet.
The communications, which were sometimes simple mass-PR emails sent to dozens of journalists but also included correspondence between reporters and editors discussing stories, were retained by GCHQ and were available to all cleared staff on the agency intranet. There is nothing to indicate whether or not the journalists were intentionally targeted.
Even if uninetentional, the threat to press freedom and their ability to do their job of holding those in power to account is obvious. And given that this was a test six years ago, that threat is now almost certainly fully operational.
At this stage its worth remembering that GCHQ considers investigative journalists a "security threat" alongside hackers and terrorists. Two of those groups are really about controlling information released to the public, which really makes you wonder who they're really protecting: us, or themselves?