Intelligence Committee Pins A 'Surveil Me' Sign On Wikileaks' Back In Latest Authorization Bill

from the mood-affiliation-legislation dept

President Trump seemed to think Wikileaks was a fine establishment while on the campaign trail. As long as Wikileaks kept serving up DNC documents, it could do nothing wrong. Since his election, however, things have changed. The administration is plagued by leaks. Even though Wikileaks hasn’t played a part in those leaks, it has continued to dump CIA documents — something the White House isn’t thrilled with.

Back in April, the new DOJ — under the leadership of 80s throwback AG Sessions — announced it had prepared charges to arrest Julian Assange. This was something Obama’s administration talked about, but never actually got around to doing. Pursuing Assange and Wikileaks for publishing leaked documents would set a dangerous precedent, paving the way for domestic prosecutions of news agencies.

Fortunately, nothing has moved forward on that front yet. But it appears at least a few Senators would like to further distance Wikileaks from any definition of journalism. As Spencer Ackerman reports for The Daily Beast, the Senate Intelligence Community wants to redefine Wikileaks as a hostile entity.

The committee… wants Congress to declare WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” which would open Julian Assange and the pro-transparency organization – which most of the U.S. government considers a handmaiden of Russian intelligence – to new levels of surveillance.

On Friday, the committee quietly published its annual intelligence authorization, a bill that blesses the next year’s worth of intelligence operations. The bill passed the committee late last month on a 14-1 vote, with Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon as the lone dissenter, owing to what he calls the “legal, constitutional and policy implications” that the WikiLeaks provision may entail.

The latest intelligence authorization bill runs nearly 60 pages. Perhaps the committee members adding this toxic little pill thought no one would read it all the way to the end. The very last section of the bill (Section 623 to be precise) is titled “Sense of Congress on Wikileaks.” It asks for legislators to take an official stance on the group.

It is the sense of Congress that WikiLeaks and the senior leadership of WikiLeaks resemble a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such a service by the United States.

As Ackerman points out, the language in the bill channels CIA head Mike Pompeo, who is understandably (and continually) incensed by Wikileaks’ publication of documents pertaining to CIA surveillance tools. Pompeo himself is a fair-weather friend of transparency, having tweeted his praise for Wikileaks while it was still dumping DNC documents.

This could put Wikileaks under (even more) surveillance and would likely allow site visitors, donors, and correspondents to become surveillance targets themselves.

“It would allow the intelligence community to collect against them the same way they collect against al-Qaeda,” [former House Intelligence Committee staffer Mieke] Eoyang said. “If you think you’re helping WikiLeaks to aid a transparency organization, the US government fundamentally disagrees with you and you could find yourself on other end of NSA scrutiny.”

As is usually the case when the Senate Intelligence Committee offers up questionable or terrible proposals, Senator Ron Wyden was the sole committee member to vote against the authorization bill.

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Comments on “Intelligence Committee Pins A 'Surveil Me' Sign On Wikileaks' Back In Latest Authorization Bill”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The purpose of the 1st Amendment

It sure is a good thing that the Intelligence Committee is not hampered with something pesky like Probable Cause or Evidence. Double standards on the other hand…

First they came for Wikileaks, then they came for the NY Times, Washington Post, LA times…oh wait, those are (for at least some part) government stenographers now. Just where is the free press that actually acts as the Fourth Estate is supposed to? Wikileaks is trying, some others are not. Where are those others?

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Weak headline.

Given that Congress cannot make a law relaxing the first amendment short of amending the constitution, and the NSA/CIA are at least as bound to obey federal law as any private citizen is, I don’t see how Congress defining a news agency as hostile changes anything or frees federal agencies to act in illegal ways.

Aaron Walkhouse (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Defining them as a hosile intelligence agency does exactly
that, by explicitly quashing the definition of journalist.

Though it remains to be seen that the novel concept of a
“non-state hostile intelligence service” survives a court
challenge, it deliberately strips away constitutional
protections from these journalists and all Americans
who donate or leak to them.

Until a court rules against this novel legal maneuver, which
may take decades to play out, the NSA and CIA may begin
to carry out all sorts of previously illegal actions.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

No shock

With Julian Assange hiding out from the boogieman, Wikileaks already looks really, really bad.

Then the 2016 election came and they went even worse, seeming intent on releasing information timed to cause the most harm, and not to inform. They looked way too much like they were playing for outside forces (aka Russia or China).

Wikileaks as an idea is good. In execution, it’s terrible, because rather than just posting the info and being done, they have politial motivations and time releases to cause the most problems. They withhold information until it’s the best time for Wikileaks to benefit from it’s release. That’s not transparency, that is the very worst use of information possible.

As soon as Wikileaks decides to hold something back, even for a day, they stop being transparent and start being political. Since they are clearly not working for anything pro-US, they are clearly on the other side – or their own side. Either way, they merit a lot more attention, and shining a light on their covert links to certain governments would be an improvement.

Transparency (like free speech) starts at home. If you are not transparent yourself, holding everyone else up to a higher standard is bullshit at it’s very best.

Shame on Wyden for supporting Assange in any manner.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: No shock

You clearly don’t know what you are talking about. Wikileaks has been instrumental in exposing wrongdoing and even leading to change in many countries from Africa to South America (cases I have read about or closely followed because it happened in my own country).

There have been times where I disagreed on how they (Wikileaks) dealt with something and Assange’s personality isn’t what I’d call nice but I feel the same about quite a few news outlets all around. And if Congress can say who is and who isn’t considered to be practicing journalism then you are already screwed and the 1st has been violated.

Wyden is the one that should be praised.

Aludra says:

Re: No shock

Since they are clearly not working for anything pro-US, they are clearly on the other side – or their own side.

The US government is not "the US", my friend. The US is its people. Informing the US people of what their government is doing behind their backs is not anti-US, it is pro-US. If Wikileaks wanted to be anti-US it would secretly provide information directly to foreign governments instead of releasing it to the public.

Anonymous Coward says:

> As Spencer Ackerman reports for The Daily Beast, the Senate Intelligence Community . . .

This may have been a typo, but it’s also very accurate. With the way (most of) the intelligence committee behaves, providing breathless support to instead of meaningful oversight of the intelligence community, the former may as well be part of the latter.

slarabee (profile) says:

Nobody like the CIA... Until you need them.

I would remind every U.S. citizen, that even though the CIA is evil, it is a necessary evil. Now if they would spend a little less time spying on U.S. citizens and U.S. allies and a little more time spying on hostile foreign governments, maybe they would actually prevent a “Nuclear North Korea” rather than just tell us about it after it happens. Of course that would require that they put down their coffee, turn off the computer, leave the office, spend time in hostile territories and develop assets there… nah, that sounds like a lot of DANGEROUS work, lets just play solitaire, then scan the dbase for keywords.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nobody like the CIA... Until you need them.

I would remind every U.S. citizen, that even though the CIA is evil, it is a necessary evil.

It doesn’t have to be evil. There are a great many good people in the CIA, but there are some not-so-good ones also. Unfortunately, the not-so-good ones are the ones that seem to bubble up the ranks the fastest.

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