CIA Director Mike Pompeo has doubled down on WikiLeaks and endorsed using antiquated espionage legislation to impede the website’s publication of classified U.S. documents.
“WikiLeaks will take down America any way they can and find any willing partner to achieve that end,” Mr. Pompeo said Thursday at a security summit in Aspen, Colorado, where questions concerning the website’s publications and the Trump administration’s intended reaction peppered an hourlong discussion on subjects ranging from WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange to Russia’s role in last year’s election and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
“This is the nature of these non-state hostile intelligence services,” he added. “I think our intelligence community has a lot of work in figuring out how to respond to them.”
Pressed for possibilities, Mr. Pompeo advocated curbing sensitive disclosures by invoking the Espionage Act, 100-year-old legislation initially used to prosecute spies in World War I. It was used this century against leakers including former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, as well as Reality Winner, a 25-year-old woman arrested last month for allegedly leaking classified documents to The Intercept news site.
“You said that we have to recognize that we can no longer let Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us,” New York Times columnist Bret Stephens asked Mr. Pompeo. “What does that in your mind imply, legislatively or operationally? Should we be enforcing the Espionage Act much more?”
“Yes,” Mr. Pompeo responded without hesitation.
When asked if publishers and journalists should be prosecuted for using state secrets, Mr. Pompeo answered: “There’s an old aphorism that says that the law is entitled to every man’s evidence, and I’ll leave it at that.”
The Obama administration began investigating WikiLeaks following its publication of Defense and State Department documents in 2010, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department is continuing to pursue related charges against Mr. Assange, an Australian citizen currently residing in Ecuador’s London embassy after being granted political asylum by Quito in 2012.
Mr. Trump previously praised WikiLeaks prior to taking office, and he widely hailed its publication of stolen documents last summer concerning his former rival, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, famously claiming: “I love WikiLeaks!”
“I don’t love WikiLeaks,” Mr. Pompeo said Thursday.
Mr. Assange did not respond privately to requests for comment Thursday but reacted to Mr. Pompeo’s latest claim in a series of tweets.
“What sort of America can be ‘taken down’ by the truth?” he tweeted.