WikiLeaks: Helping Russia and terrorists?
“Finding clever ways to spy on people is what spy agencies are supposed to do,” said Julian Sanchez in TheAtlantic.com. What they’re not supposed to do is let the whole world know about them. When WikiLeaks last week released some 9,000 confidential documents detailing the agency’s techniques for hacking into smartphones, smart TVs, and other devices, it was a major embarrassment for the CIA and the entire intelligence community. Despite some initial paranoia, the leaked documents yielded no evidence that the CIA was hacking the devices of U.S. citizens or other inappropriate targets. Far more damning for the intelligence community “is the fact of the leak itself,” which suggests that it cannot safeguard its own hacking tools. That kind of carelessness makes it far more likely that foreign intelligence or malicious hackers could use our government’s most sophisticated snooping tools on Americans.
The WikiLeaks dump was “an unbridled attack on U.S. intelligence,” said Fred Kaplan in Slate.com. The leaked documents are “a how-to guide for hackers of all stripes,” including “criminals, terrorists, and foreign agents.” They’ll find stepby- step instructions for tracking a device’s calls, texts, and other communications; logging its key-strokes; and stealing its passwords. The release is also a major propaganda victory for Russia. At a time when Russia is taking heat for hacking into a U.S. election, Russians “can point to these documents and say, ‘See? The Americans do this, too.’” WikiLeaks’ goal is clearly to “cripple U.S. intelligence operations of any kind, against any foe,” said Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post. The group “claims to be devoted to exposing and undermining centralized power.” Yet why has it never gone after the aggressive intelligence operations of the dictatorships in Moscow and Beijing, which brutally repress their own citizens?
For the intelligence community, these leaks come at a bad time, said Cory Bennett and Martin Matishak in Politico.com. Congressional authorizations of several surveillance programs come up for renewal at the end of 2017, and critics on both sides of the aisle, including “libertarian-leaning Republicans and privacy-minded Democrats,” have already been pushing for more restrictions on the agencies’ ever-expanding intelligence-gathering activities. “WikiLeaks dropped a bomb” into this debate. As Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain put it: “It’s going to cause a real fundamental evaluation of everything we do.” ■