Of course the fight between them was already on; I’ll get to that in a moment.
President Trump’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo:
CIA Director Mike Pompeo, in his first speech since taking over the agency, lambasted WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange — calling the group a “non-state hostile intelligence service” that is often abetted by “state actors like Russia.”
Speaking Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Pompeo called Assange a “fraud,” someone with no “moral compass” and a “narcissist who has created nothing of value.”
He asserted that Assange and former National Security Agency staffer and famed leaker Edward Snowden “seek to use that information to make a name for themselves” and they “care nothing about the lives they put at risk or the damage they cause to national security.”
Asked why he would focus on WikiLeaks rather than other issues, Pompeo said he felt it was vital to inform the American people about the threat they pose.
There’s more. RTWT.
Some of Pompeo’s claims are absurd, and others are all too real. First, the absurd: That Snowden did it to make a name for himself.
The guy is almost a prisoner – in Russia, of all places. If he comes back to the U.S., he faces trial. Snowden agrees that he should face trial, and says that he will do so – when he is allowed to mount a public-interest defense (presenting his side of it, that he acted in the public interest when he revealed masses of NSA classified info). But I digress. The point is: Snowden has given up so much to reveal what he revealed, that saying he did it for the fame is ridiculous.
Similar thoughts would apply to Assange, who is almost a prisoner in Ecuador’s embassy in London. While no one is ever perfect, both of these men have acted from their ideals. In denying that so crudely, Pompeo counts on his audience to be stupid.
As to what’s real in Pompeo’s speech: There is no question that both Snowden’s revelations and WikiLeaks make the job of U.S. intelligence agencies much harder. That has to be a bad thing, in many respects. The question is whether, in some other respects, it might also be a good thing?
What has been revealed, first by Snowden and more recently by WikiLeaks Vault 7, is: massive surveillance programs whereby U.S. intelligence agencies spy not only on enemies, but on allies and on ordinary Americans. Really unconstitutional programs and capabilities. So unconstitutional and invasive that they destroy U.S. moral authority and make us understandably hated by the rest of the world.
Until recently, Pompeo’s boss, President Trump, was pro-WikiLeaks (see here – Trump literally said “I love WikiLeaks!”). And against excessive surveillance, such as the Obama administration’s surveillance on Trump before, during and after the 2016 election. Likewise with Pompeo himself. But their love for WikiLeaks was before the Vault 7 revelations and more to come, which could be ugly enough to destroy the CIA as an institution.
In the past, I’ve blogged on my ambivalence about Snowden (example, see here). But, in the last year, I’ve come more to his side; glad that he and Assange did what they do. The more so because of news headlines in the last 5 months: I believe that some leaders of the U.S. intelligence community have tried to damage (if not overthrow) a duly elected President, with a campaign of “intelligence leaks” that are so empty and misleading as to be lies-in-effect. That would be a separate issue. But one that proves the said leaders’ bad faith and anti-constitutional intentions.
In short, we’re at a sad juncture where several issues point to the same conclusion: the U.S. intelligence community is way out of control and in great need of investigation and cleanup.
As always, feel free to disagree or state your view, in the comments. (As always, I’m looking for “agreeable disagreement” and exchange; don’t expect me to come instantly to your viewpoint.)