Julian Assange is at it again. Fresh off of airing the Democrat National Committe’s dirty laundry with its release of John Podesta’s emails, Wikileaks is back with an even bigger haul of pilfered documents–and this time, the target is none other than Spooks-R-Us, the Central Intelligence Agency:
The initial release, which WikiLeaks said was only the first installment in a larger collection of secret C.I.A. material, included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments, many of them partly redacted by WikiLeaks editors to avoid disclosing the actual code for cyberweapons. The entire archive of C.I.A. material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code, the group claimed.
With this latest leak of documents, Assange is claiming to reveal the true extent of the CIA’s hacking programs, which up until now has been something of a mystery. Conventional wisdom has always placed the National Security Agency, which specializes in signals intelligence, at the forefront of the Unites States’ efforts at cyber-espionage. If Wikileaks is to be believed, however, the CIA has created a program that far surpasses any other:
By the end of 2016, the CIA’s hacking division, which formally falls under the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware. Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its “own NSA” with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.
Wikileaks is keeping the source of all these documents a secret, saying only that the source came to them over concerns that the CIA had simply become too powerful in its ability to hack computers, smartphones and even smart TV sets:
In a statement to WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say 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 wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.
Of even greater concern, though, is Wikileaks’ allegation that the hacking tools developed at CIA have already been loosed in the wild:
Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner.
If true, this would be the cyber-equivalent of having an arsenal of loose nukes floating around on the open market for anyone to buy and use. When you think about the kind of money that rogue governments would pay former CIA contractors for these hacking tools, the potential for disaster sends a shiver down your spine.
But how much truth is there to these leaks? Some analysis pegs them as part of an elaborate disinformation campaign by the Russians, which is a possibility (one has to wonder why Wikileaks never seems to spill the beans on Putin). It’s also possible that only some of the information is real, mixed in with bogus materials to make it impossible to tell what’s what. The CIA, of course, has declined to comment.
What’s seems inescapable, however, is that that the CIA has vastly expanded its powers and its reach over the course of the Obama administration. That in itself isn’t damning, given the growth of terrorism and other serious threats that face the country. There is, however, the question of oversight, and whether or not Obama’s CIA properly informed Congress about what was going on.
With the former president’s penchant for abusing the IRS and the Department of Justice, I have my doubts.