Recent statements by the CIA and White House, coupled with the FBI's investigation into the source of the leaked CIA documents published by WikiLeaks, serve as admissions that the disclosures are genuine.
In the wake of the WikiLeaks revelations about the CIA’s secret (and possibly illegal) hacking operation, the agency is scrambling for cover and damage control. And even as the CIA and many in the mainstream media give the impression that the documents and files released by WikiLeaks may not be genuine, the FBI has launched an investigation into the source of the leak. Moreover, at least one current and one former intelligence official have indicated that the documents either came from a server operated by a CIA contractor or from a CIA employee. And an official statement by the CIA also indictaes that the information is valid.
“Investigators say that the leak was the work not of a hostile foreign power like Russia but of a disaffected insider, as WikiLeaks suggested when it released the documents Tuesday,” the New York Times reported. “The F.B.I. was preparing to interview anyone who had access to the information, a group likely to include at least a few hundred people, and possibly more than a thousand.”
Citing an unnamed “intelligence official,” the Times report also said that “the information, much of which appeared to be technical documents, may have come from a server outside the C.I.A. managed by a contractor.” Neither that unnamed intelligence official nor an unnamed “former senior intelligence official” could say that the source was not a CIA employee.
And the CIA published a statement Wednesday that began by stating that the agency has “no comment on the authenticity of purported intelligence documents released by Wikileaks or on the status of any investigation into the source of the documents.” The statement then went on to defend the agency’s efforts to “aggressively collect foreign intelligence overseas to protect America from terrorists, hostile nation states and other adversaries.” While neither explicitly confirming nor denying the validity of the “purported” documents and files, the statement condemns WikiLeaks’ disclosure of the information, saying that it is “designed to damage the Intelligence Community’s ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries.” The statement added, “Such disclosures not only jeopardize U.S. personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm.”
Let’s unpack that just a bit, because it says more than the CIA likely intended to say.
If — as the CIA would have the American public believe — the authenticity of the leaked documents and files is questionable, how could their disclosure possibly “jeopardize U.S. personnel and operations” or “equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm”? Add to that the germane fact that — in a departure from previous leaks published by WikiLeaks — the whistle-blower organization chose to redact the documents and files before publishing them on its website for the express purpose of keeping those tools and that information from harming anyone. The software tools (read: cyber weapons) WikiLeaks reported on were not released to any and all, but were made available only to the manufacturers of hardware and software affected by those “tools,” so that the manufactures could develop and release security patches to nullify the effectiveness of those weapons.
The CIA — in an attempt to demonize WikiLeaks — has, by its own words, admitted that the disclosures are genuine. But that is what happens when — after being caught developing tools to turn computers, mobile devices, televisions, and other electronic devices against their users — the agency then attempts to duck and cover by talking out of both sides of its face.
The White House — in an about-face from the praise the Trump campaign lavished on WikiLeaks in the wake of the Podesta e-mails — has also condemned both WikiLeaks and the source of the leak. At a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said it is not the policy of the government to confirm the authenticity of leaked intelligence documents, but he added that the American people should be “outraged” by the disclosures. “This should be a major concern to people in terms of the leaks that are coming out and the desire to get to the bottom of them,” he said, adding:
I think the idea that we are having these ongoing disclosures of national security and classified information should be something that everybody is outraged about in this country. This is the kind of disclosure that undermines our country, our security and our well-being. You've seen over the past two years, depending on the leak, it depends on the outrage.
Set aside for the moment the fact that Trump (as a candidate) was not only not outraged, but was in fact supportive of WikiLeaks (“I love WikiLeaks”) when its disclosures of e-mails and documents were harmful to the Clinton campaign and thereby helpful to his campaign. What was conspicuous in Spicer’s statement was the absence of any idea that the American people should be outraged at the fact that the CIA even developed these weapons in the first place. Instead of focusing his “outrage” at the agency’s malignancy, Spicer condemned WikiLeaks for disclosing it.
Spicer also said that President Trump is “extremely concerned” about these disclosures and that “anybody who leaks classified information will be held to the highest degree of law,” adding, “We will go after people who leak classified information. We will prosecute them to the full extent of the law.” As mentioned above, the FBI is currently investigating this leak. And while some in Congress are calling for an investigation into the CIA’s hacking program, it appears that the White House and the Justice Department are putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable by going after the messenger while ignoring the message.
That message — if the documents and files published by WikiLeaks are genuine — is two-fold: (1) The CIA has sought (and found) ways to use vulnerabilities in operating systems and other software (including the firmware embedded into the hardware of many devices) to allow hackers to defeat the security that users have put in place to protect their privacy; and (2) the CIA subsequently allowed the cyber weapons it developed to fall into the hands of others. And the fact that the FBI is investigating the leak, coupled with the statements above from both the CIA and the White House, serve as evidence that the documents are genuine.
Whichever ways the political winds are blowing, and regardless of who “loves” or feels “outraged” at WikiLeaks at any given moment, the simple fact is that the anti-secrecy website has again provided documented truth to combat the growing surveillance state. Anyway you slice it, that is a good thing.