CIA Director Mike Pompeo calls WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”(WikiLeaks)
CIA Director Mike Pompeo spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday, and he did not mince words about WikiLeaks.
“WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service and has encouraged its followers to find jobs at the CIA in order to obtain intelligence,” Pompeo said during the discussion on national security. “It directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information. And it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States while seeking support from anti-democratic countries and organizations. It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is, a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
Earlier in the week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wrote in The Washington Post that his organization seeks to reveal the truth, but Pompeo called Assange a “fraud” and “a coward hiding behind a screen.”
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“I am quite confident that had Assange been around in the 1930s and 40s and 50s, he would have found himself on the wrong side of history,” Pompeo said.
He also blasted Edward Snowden, accusing the former National Security Agency staffer and whistleblower of “treason.”
Pompeo added that Assange and Snowden “seek to use ... information to make a name for themselves” and “care nothing about the lives they put at risk or the damage they cause to national security.”
The former Republican representative from Kansas also explained what the CIA does, stressing the agency does not spy on American citizens.
We’re a foreign intelligence agency. We focus on collecting information about foreign governments, foreign terrorist organizations, and the like – not Americans. A number of specific rules keep us centered on that mission and protect the privacy of our fellow Americans. To take just one important example, CIA’s legally prohibited from spying on people through electronic surveillance in the United States. We’re not tapping anyone’s phone in my hometown of Wichita.
Now, I know they’ll always be skeptics, and we need to build trust with them. But I also know firsthand from what I saw as a member of a congressional oversight committee, and from what I see now as the director, the CIA takes its legal restrictions and responsibilities with the utmost seriousness. We have stringent regulations, an engaged and robust Office of the General Counsel, and an empowered independent Office of Inspector General to make sure of that.
Moreover, regardless of what you see on the silver screen, we do not pursue covert action on a whim and without the approval or accountability. There’s a comprehensive process that starts with the president, consists of many levels of legal and policy review. Let me assure you: When it comes to covert action, there is oversight and accountability every step of the way. And I inherited an agency that has deep respect for the rule of law and the Constitution. It’s embedded in the very fiber of the people that work at the CIA.
Read the transcript of Pompeo’s talk here, or watch the video below.
Since March, WikiLeaks has released “Vault 7,” more than 8,761 documents revealing secrets about CIA hacking tools to break into computers, phones and smart TVs. According to WikiLeaks, Vault 7 was “the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.” Assange discussed the release in a Democracy Now! interview this week.
Wired reported that according to the security firm Symantec, some CIA hacking tools have been used by North American hackers. “Spying tools and operational protocols detailed in the recent Vault 7 leak have been used in cyberattacks against at least 40 targets in 16 different countries by a group Symantec calls Longhorn,” Symantec wrote on its official blog Monday.
After Pompeo spoke, WikiLeaks used Twitter to comment on the CIA director’s charges. See the Twitter stream here.
On Tuesday, Assange published an op-ed in The Washington Post titled “WikiLeaks has the same mission as The Post and the Times.” He cited President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous farewell address—a warning against the rise of the military-industrial complex—and discussed Vault 7:
Our most recent disclosures describe the CIA’s multibillion-dollar cyberwarfare program, in which the agency created dangerous cyberweapons, targeted private companies’ consumer products and then lost control of its cyber-arsenal. Our source(s) said they hoped to initiate a principled public debate about the “security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
The truths we publish are inconvenient for those who seek to avoid one of the magnificent hallmarks of American life — public debate. Governments assert that WikiLeaks’ reporting harms security. Some claim that publishing facts about military and national security malfeasance is a greater problem than the malfeasance itself. Yet, as Eisenhower emphasized, “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Quite simply, our motive is identical to that claimed by the New York Times and The Post — to publish newsworthy content. Consistent with the U.S. Constitution, we publish material that we can confirm to be true irrespective of whether sources came by that truth legally or have the right to release it to the media. And we strive to mitigate legitimate concerns, for example by using redaction to protect the identities of at-risk intelligence agents.