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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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2017 @ 10:56pm

    > 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.

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