The head of the CIA lumped WikiLeaks with al Qaeda and the Islamic State and said his agency is working toward reducing the “enormous threat” posed by each of them.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo placed the antisecrecy website in the same category as terrorist organizations while speaking Thursday at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies’ National Security Summit in D.C.
“I talked about these non-state actors, and it’s not just Wikileaks. Indeed I may have overemphasized them — they are an enormous threat, we are working to take down that threat to the United States as well, to reduce the threat from all of it,” Mr. Pompeo said. “But Hezbollah, [the Islamic State], al Qaeda, none of them sit at the U.N., these are all non-state actors, each of which has not only cyber capacity, but they look and feel like very good intelligence organizations.
“All the tradecraft that you read about from the excellent work that the agency’s done and that our state competitors have done for decades and decades, you now see it being adopted by these non-state agencies,” Mr. Pompeo continued. “They run assets; they run counterintelligence program; they lure dangles — all the tradecraft that you read about from the excellent work that the agency’s done and that our state competitors have done for decades and decades, you now see it being adopted by these non-state agencies. “
WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange scoffed at the CIA chief’s remarks.
“All serious news organizations develop and protect sources with the intent of publishing what they find,” Mr. Assange told The Washington Times. “To suggest that media organizations are intelligence agencies is as absurd as suggesting that CIA employees are journalists. This ridiculous claim has a transparently insidious purpose: to gain the legal authority to treat journalists and publishers as terrorists for simply doing their job, holding the CIA to account.”
When reached for clarification, CIA spokesman Dean Boyd told The Washington Examiner that Mr. Pompeo’s remarks “described the counterintelligence threats posed by WikiLeaks and other non-state hostile intelligence services — including Hezbollah and ISIS — and the need to counteract the counterintelligence efforts that these groups employ against the United States.”
WikiLeaks launched in 2006 and has since published more than 10 million documents, by its own accounting, including classified Pentagon and State Department materials as well as a trove of CIA hacking tools released earlier this year.
The Justice Department began investigating WikiLeaks and its staff in 2010, and members of the Trump administration including Mr. Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have endorsed escalating that probe and arresting Mr. Assange, an Australian citizen currently residing in London after receiving political asylum from Ecuador.
Mr. Assange took refuge inside Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012 while wanted for questioning in Sweden regarding allegations of sexual assault. Swedish prosecutors dropped that probe this year, but Mr. Assange has refused to leave the embassy over fears he’ll be arrested by British authorities and subsequently extradited to the U.S. and charged in connection with WikiLeaks publishing state secrets.