CIA’s Pompeo calls out WikiLeaks at UT; Assange responds via Twitter


Speaking in Austin, CIA Director Mike Pompeo explained why he singled out WikiLeaks as a non-state threat.

Pompeo likened WikiLeaks to Hezbollah, which drew a mocking tweet from WikiLeaks founder Juian Assange.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo, speaking at the University of Texas Thursday, called WikiLeaks a hostile non-state intelligence agency bent on the destruction of the United States, and also identified Hezbollah as another “perfect example” of a non-state threat that has to be defeated.

As Pompeo was answering questions at the 2017 Texas National Security Forum at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center Ballroom, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, responded to an American-Statesman tweet reporting Pompeo’s comment, with his own tweet mocking Pompeo’s likening his organization to the Shiite militant group and political party based in Lebanon.

“Trump CIA head Pompeo says that publishing details of CIA incompetence and illegality is the same as having 20k troops and 150k missiles pointed at Israel. Yes, our staff are just that good. Go team!” Assange tweeted.

WikiLeaks, which has published secret CIA documents in the past, is at the center of claims about Russian attempted interference in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Donald Trump’s campaign

At an October 2016 rally in Pennsylvania, Trump, pleased with WikiLeaks’ release of Hillary Clinton emails, told the crowd, “I love WikiLeaks.”

READ: What will happen if President Trump decertifies the Iran nuclear deal?

Pompeo, a former Republican member of Congress from Kansas, had also once spoken favorably about disclosures by WikiLeaks.

But in his first speech as CIA director in April, Pompeo identified WikiLeaks as a stateless hostile intelligence unit ready to do the bidding of Russia and other adversaries of the United States.

He also described Assange, who has found sanctuary living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, as a narcissist, a fraud and a coward.

In the question-and-answer portion of what was a rare public appearance by the CIA boss, Stephen Slick, director of the Intelligence Study Project, which hosted the event together with the Robert Strauss Center and the Clements Center for National Security, asked Pompeo why he singled out WikiLeaks.

“You went out of your way to single out the WikiLeaks organization, its founder and very precisely describe them as a hostile intelligence service,” Slick said.

“It seemed to many of us that was very precise,” Slick said. “What’s the meaning that attaches to this organization, that regards itself as a media outlet. I would be the last one to take up their brief for any purpose, but that’s what they claim to be.”

“Yet you and others in the administration are keen to give them this designation,” Slock said. “What does the mean in a practical and legal and operational sense?”

“For an awful long time the CIA’s adversaries were nation states and nearly exclusively nation states,” Pompeo said. “That’s simply no longer the case. So much of our structure, and a good deal of our legal authority, was built around the idea that we would collect intelligence against actors of nation states.”

“Today, there’s another category of intelligence service that has done and continues to work to destroy the United States of America,” Pompeo said. “And you mention WikiLeaks, they are one of several. In fact, in my remarks I regret I focused on them a bit too much, I singled them out in a way that doesn’t do justice to all the other bad actors that I intend to take on as well.”

Pompeo said he was identifying this new breed of enemy because, at the CIA, “We need to develop a structure, an analytical rubric, and an operational methodology to go take down these non-state intelligence services in the same way the CIA has perfected its ability to do it against those who are state actors.”

Who else aside from WikiLeaks is on that list?

“How about this perfect example — Hezbollah,” Pompeo said. “Not U.N.-recognized as a state, it has an incredibly capable counterintelligence effort against the United States of America. We have to beat them.”

“Every place we find organizations of that nature, state or not state, we are going to take them on and that was the message of the day,” he said, referring to his maiden speech as director.

Slick asked whether he meant that it was the CIA’s mission to “take down” organizations like Hezbollah, or rather to “penetrate and report on” them. Pompeo said it was the latter and while, “I used the term, `take down,’ I’ll try to strike that from my vocabulary.”

“They present a threat. They are trying to steal our stuff, so we do have to take down their capacity to do intelligence against us,” Pompeo said. “We need a robust CI — counterintelligence effort — against them in addition to against our hostile intelligence services who are state actors.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Police: Woman shot, man found dead after SWAT standoff in San Marcos

SAN MARCOS Police: Woman shot, man found dead after SWAT standoff Authorities said a man shot a woman in a San Marcos home before turning the weapon on himself Monday morning. The woman, who authorities did not identify, had been shot in the face and was taken to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center with injuries not expected to be life-threatening...
Credit card skimmers found at Austin gas station off I-35
Credit card skimmers found at Austin gas station off I-35

Credit card skimmers were found Monday at five gas pumps at a 7-Eleven gas station in North Austin off Interstate 35, state officials said. Texas Department of Agriculture inspectors responded to a complaint at the 7-Eleven at 7114 N. I-35 and found five skimmers at pumps 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9.  Police have since removed the devices, state officials...
UT ramps up security measures after Austin bombings
UT ramps up security measures after Austin bombings

University of Texas officials are increasing security measures in the wake of recent bombings in Austin. After the fourth bomb this month detonated in a Southwest Austin neighborhood Sunday, the last day of spring break, UT Police Chief David Carter and interim Associate Vice President of Campus Safety and Security James Johnson sent a campus-wide...
Wear: Austin bombings, D.C. area sniper attacks and everyday terror
Wear: Austin bombings, D.C. area sniper attacks and everyday terror

At first, just as with the initial bombing in Austin, police, the press and the public in the Washington, D.C. area did not grasp what the sniper shooting of a 55-year-old man at a discount store portended. A bullet cut through the window of a Michael’s craft store in Aspen Hill, Md., a couple of miles north of the Beltway, just after 5 p.m....
JUST IN: Critically injured man rescued from Lake Austin after jumping into shallow water, EMS officials say
JUST IN: Critically injured man rescued from Lake Austin after jumping into shallow water, EMS officials say

A critically injured man was rescued from Lake Austin on Monday afternoon after he jumped into swallow water, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. Firefighters and medics rescued the man, estimated to be in his 20s, from Lake Austin near the Pennybacker Bridge around 2:30 p.m. Medics took him to Dell Seton Medical Center, EMS officials said. His...
More Stories