The Corner

National Security & Defense

Some Quick Thoughts on WikiLeaks’s Release of CIA Hacking Documents

According to press reports, WikiLeaks today released thousands of highly classified CIA documents on methods the CIA allegedly is using to conduct cyber warfare. If these documents are legitimate, this illegal release will ruin cyber programs worth billions of dollars that the CIA was using to do battle with America’s enemies, especially terrorist groups.

The CIA officer who took the law into his or her hands to release this material justified this release by claiming this data “urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency.” The source also said he or she “wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”

What nonsense. If the traitor truly believed this program violated U.S. law or endangered the privacy rights of America, there are numerous legal avenues he or she could have used, including the CIA inspector general and the House and Senate intelligence committees. CIA officers take an oath to protect classified national-security information. Such a massive illegal disclosure in violation of the CIA secrecy oath is not an act of courage or whistleblowing, it was “a Snowden” — an act of cowardice by a disgruntled individual who never should have been hired by the CIA.

This disturbing development raises three urgent questions about mismanagement of the CIA during the Obama administration.

‐ Why did CIA have a cyber-warfare office at all? I noted in a December 2016 NRO article that there are cyber-warfare offices in four separate intelligence agencies. I suspect this is because different intelligence agencies all wanted to cash in on funding opportunities on a high-profile topic. Such overlap is getting worse and make U.S. intelligence more bureaucratic and less efficient.

‐ The new leaker may very well have been hired as a result of CIA Director Brennan’s decision to lower standards for CIA hiring because he wanted to create a more diverse CIA workforce and Brennan rushed to staff his new cyber office. I wrote about this in Investor’s Business Daily in 2015. It also reportedly has been difficult for the U.S. government to find personnel to staff cyber offices who can meet the agency’s usual security requirements. This probably is why Edward Snowden was hired despite his lack of a college degree and how he was able to increase his access to classified material and move between intelligence agencies despite his poor performance.

‐ Did CIA learn nothing from the Snowden leaks on the urgency to compartment information on sensitive intelligence sources and methods? How could another disgruntled intelligence officer have been able to access and leak such a huge number of such documents?

Heads should roll over this leak. Major reforms also are needed to streamline America’s intelligence agencies to remove waste and duplication, undue ill-advised reforms implemented during the Obama administration, and vastly improve the U.S. Intelligence Community’s capability to produce the cutting edge and objective intelligence President Trump needs to protect American national security.

Fred Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy, served in 2018 as deputy assistant to the president and to the chief of staff of the National Security Council. He previously held national-security jobs with the CIA, the DIA, the Department of State, and the House Intelligence Committee staff. He is the editor of the 2020 book Defending against Biothreats.

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