Hypocritical CIA Director Goes On Rant About Wikileaks, Free Speech
from the doesn't-seem-to-care-much-for-either dept
The current administration is back to threatening free speech. On his way to being elected, Trump's passion for bogus defamation suits led him to declare he would "open up" libel laws to make it easier for him to sue people for saying things he didn't like.
This continued after the election. Trump tweeted his opposition to "fake news," calling out pretty much any major network that wasn't Fox News and calling them "enemies of the people." His new CIA director, Mike Pompeo, is similarly threatening the First Amendment. In his remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Pompeo went on a rant about Wikileaks -- one no doubt motivated by the site's recent data dumps on CIA computer exploits.
WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service. It has encouraged its followers to find jobs at CIA in order to obtain intelligence. It directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information. And it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States, while seeking support from anti-democratic countries and organizations.
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.
This is an interesting change of heart for Pompeo. Last year, when he was running for re-election in Kansas, he seemed pleased with Wikileaks and its ability to obtain damning documents.
For posterity. Because Pompeo's hypocrisy today really undermined whatever he tried to achieve. pic.twitter.com/12qgpQlD4A
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) April 13, 2017
If you can't read/see the embedded, since-deleted tweet by Pompeo, it reads:
Need further proof the fix was in from Pres. Obama on down? BUSTED: 19,252 Emails from DNC leaked by Wikileaks.
So, Wikileaks is a non-hostile intelligence service when it serves Pompeo's ends, but not so much when it puts CIA hacking tools on public display. This was only part of Pompeo's rant, though. Once he was through being hypocritical, he went after the First Amendment. Here's Glenn Greenwald's take on Pompeo's comments:
Trump’s CIA Director stood up in public and explicitly threatened to target free speech rights and press freedoms, and it was almost impossible to find even a single U.S. mainstream journalist expressing objections or alarm, because the targets Pompeo chose in this instance are ones they dislike – much the way that many are willing to overlook or even sanction free speech repression if the targeted ideas or speakers are sufficiently unpopular.
Decreeing (with no evidence) that WikiLeaks is “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia” a belief that has become gospel in establishment Democratic Party circles – Pompeo proclaimed that “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” He also argued that while WikiLeaks “pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice,” but: “they may have believed that, but they are wrong.”
He then issued this remarkable threat: “To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.” At no point did Pompeo specify what steps the CIA intended to take to ensure that the “space” to publish secrets “ends now.”
Pompeo is now willing to go after publishers of secrets. No doubt he intends to go after whistleblowers and leakers as well, but he has publicly stated a desire to attack the messengers. Making this worse is Pompeo's hypocrisy, which means any targeting of publishers he attempts to engage in will be based on the content of the publications. Stuff he doesn't like will be targeted. Everything else will remain unaffected.
Of course, Pompeo's in the wrong branch of government to be engaging in First Amendment issues. The CIA is a foreign-facing intelligence agency. It should have nearly nothing to do with domestic whistleblower/leaker incidents, unless it happens to be CIA documents that are released. Even then, his agency won't be able to do anything more than an internal investigation. It's not a law enforcement agency, nor is it supposed to be engaged in domestic surveillance.
But Pompeo is the president's pick. He may think he's only speaking for himself and his agency, but his words echo the president's antipathy towards speech he doesn't like. And he has his president's hypocrisy: someone who loves Wikileaks when it's publishing documents that hurt the other team, but not so much when the leaks implicate people, parties, and agencies they hold dear.