‘Assange shouldn’t be confident of protecting WikiLeaks sources’ - CIA Chief Pompeo
The CIA’s official Twitter account tweeted Pompeo’s comments about the whistleblowing site from an interview he gave at the Reagan National Defense Forum Saturday.
“I never miss an opportunity when I’m with my officers to tell them the last thing we can tolerate is to have a secret that we’ve stole re-stolen,” Pompeo told moderator Brett Baier at the Los Angeles event.
“It is simply unacceptable. It is our duty to protect them,” he added. “It is our duty to go after those who stole them, and to prosecute them within the bounds of the law in every way that we can.”
Pompeo’s comments come nine months after WikiLeaks began releasing Vault7, a massive trove of classified CIA documents purportedly detailing the agency’s hacking capabilities. The documents include reports of the agency’s arsenal of malware and tech exploits, as well as its methods of infiltrating smartphones, TVs and laptops.
The CIA is believed to have lost control of this arsenal before WikiLeaks obtained it. The hacking capabilities were doing the rounds among government hackers, one of whom provided WikiLeaks with the collection, the whistleblowing site explained. According to WikiLeaks, the Vault7 source wanted to “initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
Some of the biggest revelations in Vault7 were the CIA’s ability to mask its hacking exploits to make them appear to be the work of other countries, namely Russia, China and Iran. It has raised questions about security firm Crowdstrike linking the Democratic National Committee email hack to Russian hackers.
“I sometimes hear comments from WikiLeaks and Mr Assange thinking that those who have provided him classified information are safe and secure,” Pompeo said. “He ought to be a bit less confident about that, because we’re going to go figure out how to protect this information. We owe it to the American people and our officers who dedicated to it.”
“Just to be clear, WikiLeaks is a national security threat in your eyes?” Baier asked Pompeo. “Yes. You can go no further than the release of documents by [Chelsea] Manning to see the risk that it presents to the United States of America,” the CIA chief responded.
Pompeo was referring to US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who released hundreds of thousands of documents from the military along with diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks in 2010.
While the release revealed the extent of civilian casualties in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and included reports from Guantanamo Bay and the infamous Collateral Murder video depicting a US helicopter attack killing two Reuters employees and injuring two children, a 2011 Department of Defense report published in June found the disclosure had no significant effect on US interests.
Pompeo has emerged as a staunch critic of WikiLeaks since becoming head of the CIA, describing the organization as a “hostile intelligence agency,” and dubbing Assange a “narcissist” and a “fraud.”
This is a departure from his position when he was a Kansas congressman and was tweeting about the WikiLeaks’ DNC email release.
The annual RNDF event has been dubbed“the Davos of defense.” Speakers at this year’s event include former CIA head Leon Panetta, national security advisor HR McMaster and a number of congressmen and representatives from defense corporations like Lockheed Martin.