Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies today, CIA Director Mike Pompeo went off on WikiLeaks. Pompeo is pretty mad about that whole Vault 7 hacking tools data dump, it looks like. “WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service,” he declared Thursday. I think he means that it’s a hostile intelligence service!
The declaration marked the Trump intelligence appointee’s first public appearance since taking over at the CIA, as well as a major departure from Trump’s unequivocal “I love WikiLeaks” campaign attitude. Prior to his current role at the head of the CIA, Pompeo was quite happy to cite WikiLeaks to support his hyper-partisan cause du jour, which Maine Senator Angus King brought up during his confirmation hearing earlier this year:
Now, Pompeo’s tune has changed:
“It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia. In January of this year, our Intelligence Community determined that Russian military intelligence—the GRU—had used WikiLeaks to release data of US victims that the GRU had obtained through cyber operations against the Democratic National Committee. And the report also found that Russia’s primary propaganda outlet, RT, has actively collaborated with WikiLeaks.”
Pompeo went on to equate Assange’s slapdash WikiLeaks approach with Edward Snowden’s carefully considered and by most accounts legitimate whistleblowing, which naturally he dismissed as “treachery” because it wasn’t “discreet” enough. He went on to mutter some misleading stuff about Snowden’s relationship with Russia:
“When Snowden absconded to the comfortable clutches of Russian intelligence, his treachery directly harmed a wide range of US intelligence and military operations. Despite what he claims, he is no whistleblower. True whistleblowers use the well-established and discreet processes in place to voice grievances; they do not put American lives at risk.”
Pompeo’s definition of a “true whistleblower” aside, he’s mad enough about this leaking business to propose a mostly fangless multi-pronged plan to combat Assange and his ilk.
First, he intends to “[call] out those who grant a platform to these leakers and so-called transparency activists” (we’re not quite sure what that means). Second, he wants to improve “internal mechanisms” for counterintelligence, to be “as clever and innovative as the enemies we face” (okay). Third, he proclaimed that “we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us” (again, what this looks like in practice against a foreign entity is anyone’s guess). And lastly, he wants to deepen the trust between citizens and the CIA, which honestly is probably a good starting place!
Pompeo’s sickest Assange burns, which are mostly hard to argue with:
- “Assange is the darling of terrorists.”
- “Assange is a narcissist who has created nothing of value.”
- “[His] currency is clickbait; [his] moral compass, nonexistent.”
- “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.”
Still, in perhaps the most remarkable moments of Pompeo’s speech, he called The Washington Post and The New York Times “legitimate news organizations” and went on to cite criticism of Assange published on The Intercept, one of the most U.S. government-hostile publications of all. Because today is opposite day or a day to look strong on Russia but also those pesky “leakers” (except the ones who do you favors!) or a good day to cover your ass, or really we’re not sure why, it’s just what happened.