- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2017

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange blamed the CIA’s “devastating incompetence” Thursday for allowing his website to acquire a trove of information involving the agency’s vast hacking capabilities, drawing fire from the U.S. intelligence community following its release this week of the so-called “Year Zero” files.

Mr. Assange credited the agency’s own ineptitude with causing details about its hacking techniques to recently become compromised during his first press conference since WikiLeaks’ disclosure Tuesday of previously unpublished documents devoted to the CIA’s stockpiling of computer exploits and cyberweapons.

“This is a historic act of devastating incompetence, to have created such an arsenal and then stored it all in one place and not secured it,” Mr. Assange said during an online press conference streamed live from his residence with the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

“It is impossible to keep effective control of cyberweapons,” he said. “If you build them, eventually you will lose them.”

Mr. Assange added that WikiLeaks has only published a portion of the documents it’s obtained from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, the likes of which has resulted in the release of thousands of files this week related to the agency’s ability to compromise and commandeer the world’s most widely-used electronic devices.

“This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA,” WikiLeaks said in a statement.

The CIA has declined to verify the authenticity of the documents, but acknowledged the agency’s mission involves the aggressive collection of foreign intelligence for national security purposes and said the disclosure was designed to damage its ability to protect “against terrorists and other adversaries.”

“As we’ve said previously, Julian Assange is not exactly a bastion of truth and integrity,” agency spokesman Jonathan Liu said Thursday in a statement to The Washington Times. “Despite the efforts of Assange and his ilk, CIA continues to aggressively collect foreign intelligence overseas to protect America from terrorists, hostile nation states and other adversaries.”

The FBI and CIA are both investigating the breach, CNN reported Wednesday, and multiple lawmakers in Washington have called for a congressional inquiry concerning the incident. WikiLeaks has for years been the subject of a separate Justice Department probe following its release in 2010 of military and diplomatic documents obtained from Pentagon and State Department computer systems by Chelsea Manning, an Army private who had been authorized to access the materials while deployed as an intelligence analyst during the Iraq War.

Mr. Assange, 45, was granted asylum by Ecuador in 2012. While not formally charged in the U.S., he has said he fear he’ll be arrested if and when he exit Ecuador’s embassy in London and ultimately tried for espionage over his role in Manning’s leaks and other disclosures.

• Guy Taylor contributed to this report

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