Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, made some interesting comments Thursday about Wikileaks, calling the anti-secrecy organization a “non-state hostile intelligence service” — despite his own past public support for the group as a congressman during last year’s presidential race.
Pompeo, who said Thursday that “WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service, and talks like a hostile intelligence service,” also appeared to ridicule comments from another member of President Donald Trump’s inner circle, adviser Kellyanne Conway, and her recent comments on spying via microwave ovens. CIA officers, Pompeo said, “quietly go about their work and try not to get too worked up over the headlines, including the fanciful notion that they spy on their fellow citizens via microwave ovens.”
With regards to Wikileaks’ government sponsorship, or lack thereof, Pompeo qualified his statement, saying the group is apparently “often abetted by state actors like Russia.” Nevertheless it is significant that he is labeling the organization as a “non-state” actor. Given ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. election and possible collusion with Trump campaign officials, Pompeo’s stance could obviously be posturing to protect the administration he now serves, if Wikileaks is, in fact, nothing more than a Russian intelligence front. In any case Pompeo has certainly shifted from his past position on Wikileaks.
Though he reportedly said in January that he “never believed that Wikileaks was a credible source of information,” he actually previously tweeted a link to an article about last year’s Democratic National Committee leaks by Wikileaks from his official Twitter account, along with a rhetorical question as to whether anyone would “need further proof that the fix was in from Pres. Obama on down?”
Interestingly, despite Pompeo’s revised position on Wikileaks’ credibility, nothing has yet emerged to suggest that the group’s latest document release, dubbed “Vault 7” and purporting to expose CIA capabilities to hack into all kinds of devices — or any of its other releases, for that matter — have been fake. “Pompeo declined to address the authenticity of CIA hacking tools that WikiLeaks has posted on its website,” Politico reported, noting, however, that “the documents appear legitimate.”
It is also worth noting that after dubbing Wikileaks a “non-state” actor, in the context of the Russian election interference allegations, Pompeo reportedly “added that the U.S. government has ‘not done nearly enough’ to take down nonstate actors.”
If the Trump administration is looking for a scapegoat to punish as a distraction from its own alleged ties to the Russian government, what better way than to go after a relatively weak opponent (compared to the Russian intelligence services) such as Wikileaks? Labeling the group a “hostile intelligence service” seems to be an attempt to do just that. Conceivable next steps could include labeling the organization’s leader, Julian Assange, (who Pompeo described Thursday as a “fraud,” a “coward,” and a “narcissist”) as a “cyber combatant,” a possibility I’ve discussed in a previous post.
“I love Wikileaks,” then-candidate Trump declared in October, before winning the presidency. CIA Director Pompeo did not seem to mind the group’s anti-secrecy antics at the time very much, either.
Now, however, the tables have turned, and the honeymoon is over. The unelectable underdog is now not only the president of the United States, he is accused of getting to that position with active assistance from one of America’s most viable rivals on the world stage, thus (allegedly) cementing a new-and-improved world order, uniting East and West into a single massive establishment. Wikileaks, which appeared to revel in sowing political chaos during the 2016 election, may now find itself at the receiving end of an aggressive effort to enforce and maintain that new order.
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