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. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Aug 2017 @ 9:25am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2017 @ 10:29am

    Weak headline.

    Intelligence Committee Snipes At Wikileaks In Latest Authorization Bill

    FTFY.

    This may pass: it's not binding, just literally a "feel angry" sentiment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2017 @ 10:52am

    I like how those in Government likes Wikileaks when their opposition is suffering but when those same people suffer the same fate as their foes, Wikileaks is Evil/Bad/Satan/Terrorists/evil thing of the week.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2017 @ 11:00am

    Truth is a hostile entity.

    To some.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 24 Aug 2017 @ 11:04am

    Re: Weak headline.

    What it does is frees the CIA and NSA from constitutional
    safeguards that held them back from these journalists and
    thousands of americans who donated or contributed to WikiLeaks.

    The Constitution IS binding and makes them uncomfortable. ‌ ;]

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2017 @ 11:33am

    I can't find the video, but Assange has been referring to Wikileaks as an intelligence service rivaling states' since its inception.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2017 @ 12:35pm

    Seems appropriate to me

    Given that Wikileaks is now acting as part of the FSB, it seems like a very good idea to subject them to the same scrutiny as any other Russian intelligence agency.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 24 Aug 2017 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Seems appropriate to me

    Some evidence may be required to prop up that minor assertion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous, 24 Aug 2017 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Seems appropriate to me

    Until the animal farms start investigating domestic political leaders the corruption will continue until morale improves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    KeillRandor (profile), 24 Aug 2017 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Truth is a hostile entity.

    Civilization just gets in the way, you know...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2017 @ 2:38pm

    Re:

    Except it seeks to expose corruption and war crimes - instead of facilitating them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2017 @ 2:41pm

    Re: Seems appropriate to me

    "I will splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the wind" —John F. Kennedy

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 Aug 2017 @ 3:11pm

    [Citation Needed]

    'They are making a US agency look bad' does not automatically equal 'Therefore they are a member of a foreign intelligence agency and/or working with them', so going to need some evidence to back up that assertion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2017 @ 6:04pm

    Re: Re: Seems appropriate to me

    "I will splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the wind" —John F. Kennedy

    Citation, please.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    MyNameHere (profile), 24 Aug 2017 @ 8:44pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    nigel cairns, 25 Aug 2017 @ 12:02am

    Re: The purpose of the 1st Amendment

    Well said.Our govt is creepy (and so are most people) so we must applaud WikiLeaks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 12:20am

    I would have thought that if the US government wanted to consider anyone a 'handmaiden of Russian intelligence', the best one would be Trump himself!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 4:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Seems appropriate to me

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    drew (profile), 25 Aug 2017 @ 5:36am

    I feel sorry for Ron Wyden. I hope they provide a pad for his bit of table.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    Ninja (profile), 25 Aug 2017 @ 6:03am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Aludra, 25 Aug 2017 @ 6:07am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 6:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Seems appropriate to me

    Unsubstantiated claims in opinion pieces do not make very good citations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    slarabee (profile), 25 Aug 2017 @ 7:00am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2017 @ 7:41am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    Bergman (profile), 27 Aug 2017 @ 4:35pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 28 Aug 2017 @ 6:12am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2017 @ 8:33am

    Re: No shock

    Ah, right. You mean like the transparency the NSA showed then pissed and moaned when Snowden found otherwise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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