CIA director blames ‘Snowden worship phenomenon’ for rise in leaks of US secrets
“I think there is a phenomenon, the worship of Edward Snowden, and those who steal American secrets for the purpose of self-aggrandizement or money or for whatever their motivation may be, does seem to be on the increase,” Mike Pompeo said in an interview with MSNBC news.
The US intelligence and cyber security services now need to work overtime to keep American secrets safe. Despite past failures, for now, the US government agencies seem to be on top of things.
“We have an important obligation to perform counterintelligence that is protecting secrets that America steals from somebody stealing it back from us. And there have been failures,” Pompeo admitted.
“It’s tough. You now have not only nation states trying to steal our stuff, but non-state, hostile intelligence services, well-funded – folks like WikiLeaks, out there trying to steal American secrets for the sole purpose of undermining the United States and democracy,” Pompeo said, noting that President Donald Trump is committed to stopping the leaks.
Snowden, who leaked detailed National Security Agency documents on its global spying activities and how information is gathered on millions of Americans, has been residing in the Russian capital since June 2013, when his US passport was blocked en-route from Hong Kong to Latin America.
Snowden personally does not feel any “worship,” he said on Twitter, but finds it quite logical that people respect those who commit crimes less than those who expose the crimes.
“I think we’ll have some successes both on the deterrence side – that is stopping them from happening – as well as on punishing those who we catch who have done it,” CIA chief said.
Snowden’s leaks have been preceded by WikiLeaks publications, which began exposing secrets 10 years ago. To this day, WikiLeaks serves as a platform where secret information can be published by anonymous sources, while its co-founder, Julian Assange, remains holed up in the Ecuadorian mission in London, where he been since 2012, fearing extradition to the US.
WikiLeaks replied to the CIA director’s comments with a link to Assange’s April opinion piece in the Washington Post, where the Australian accused Pompeo of “waging a war” on whistleblowers.
Besides the threat from whistleblowers, the CIA director also spoke about other national security challenges and said Trump is particularly concerned about North Korea and Iran.
The Republican leader, Pompeo said, is an “avid consumer” of information which the intelligence community serves, and almost on a daily basis, asks about Pyongyang's activities which the CIA chief said represents a “very real danger.”
The North is getting “ever-closer to having the capacity to hold America at risk with a nuclear weapon,” the CIA chief noted.
Tehran, the intelligence boss stressed, poses a threat to the US as the “main sponsor of terrorism.” The Islamic Republic exerts “enormous influence… influence that far outstrips where it was six or seven years ago" Pompeo told MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt.
He then gave a glimpse of just how serious Washington perceives the Iranian threat to be by saying, that in the long term, Tehran might pose and even greater threat to the United States national security than the Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL).
And what is now fast becoming a staple for US officials, Pompeo then turned to the ever-present issue of Russia’s alleged meddling in the US elections and of Moscow’s efforts to subvert US democracy. He started by conceding that some of the news reports regarding the matter are simply incorrect.
“It is important that Americans understand what the Russians are doing. Frankly, sometimes what the Russians aren’t doing. I’ve read reports in the press they are just flat out wrong as well,” the CIA chief noted.
Pompeo then returned to the script by re-iterating that there was no doubt Russia “meddled” in last year’s US presidential election as part of a decades-long effort to “undermine American democracy.” Citing the widespread, yet untested claim, the CIA chief could not provide any additional evidence besides what’s already been “unclassified.”
“I can’t talk about the details of the intelligence, but we have, the intelligence community has said, that this election was meddled with by the Russians in a way that is frankly not particularly original,” he said. “They’ve been doing this for an awfully long time. And we are decades into the Russians trying to undermine American democracy.”