- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Documents released by WikiLeaks alleging the CIA’s ability to compromise and commandeer the world’s most popular electronic devices appear to be authentic examples of its vast but “reckless” hacking prowess, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said Tuesday.

As questions emerged Tuesday following WikiLeaks‘ publication of “Year Zero” – a cache of documents purportedly obtained from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, its elite hacking division – Mr. Snowden indicated he was inclined to believe the leaked files were legitimate.

“Still working through the publication, but what @Wikileaks has here is genuinely a big deal. Looks authentic,” Mr. Snowden, 33, tweeted to his nearly 3 million Twitter followers on Tuesday. 

Though best known for supplying journalists with a trove of National Security Agency documents obtained during his employment at Booz Allen Hamilton, an intelligence contractor, Mr. Snowden’s résumé also includes a two-year stint at the CIA where he reportedly worked as a top technical and cybersecurity expert.

The “Year Zero” leak includes documents that contain CIA information that “only a cleared insider could know,” Mr. Snowden tweeted, including the names of previously undisclosed programs and offices.

Mr. Snowden used Twitter to discuss the leaks for several hours Tuesday as researchers and journalists scoured through documents that appear to show how the CIA has amassed an arsenal of offensive cyber-weapons designed to give the government access to the world’s most widely-used operating systems and smartphones, among other targets.

The documents suggest the U.S. government is “developing vulnerabilities in U.S. products, then intentionally keeping the holes open” so that authorities can exploit those flaws at a later time.

Notably, Mr. Snowden said the documents include the “first public evidence” to indicate the U.S. government is “secretly paying to keep U.S. software unsafe.” Specifically, he cited a purported CIA document included in the leak that suggests a “remote exploit” affecting Apple iOS devices was “purchased by the NSA.”

“Why is this dangerous? Because until closed, any hacker can use the security hole the CIA left open to break into any iPhone in the world,” Mr. Snowden tweeted, calling the alleged practice “Reckless beyond words.”

At Langley, the CIA declined to comment on the WikiLeaks release. Across the Potomac, White House press secretary Sean Spicer similarly refused to discuss the matter when asked during a scheduled press briefing Tuesday.

Mr. Snowden was among a chorus of security and privacy advocates who sounded an alarm Tuesday following WikiLeaks‘ publication over the U.S. government’s apparent stockpiling of cyberweapons, vulnerabilities and other malware, particularly since the revelations indicate authorities have hoarded the means to hack devices used by domestic and international audiences alike.

In 2013, Mr. Snowden leaked classified documents detailing the U.S. intelligence community’s surveillance operations. He was subsequently charged with espionage, but was granted asylum by Russia that year and has avoided trial ever since.

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