At the same time that other elements of the Trump administration are toughening up their rhetoric toward Russia, Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, in his first public speech in that position, took the opportunity to tie the Kremlin to the self-styled whistleblower organization WikiLeaks, and to criticize both for their interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is — a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” Pompeo said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Pompeo said that WikiLeaks, which published emails and other material stolen from people involved with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in a weeks-long effort to embarrass and discredit the Democratic presidential nominee, “walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service.”
He pointed out that it has openly called for people to seek jobs at the CIA in order to gain access to classified information that can then be leaked, and he noted WikiLeaks “overwhelmingly focuses on the United States, while seeking support from anti-democratic countries and organizations.”
Pompeo also reiterated the finding of the combined U.S. intelligence agencies about Russia’s cooperation with WikiLeaks in releasing materials damaging to Clinton, saying that Russian intelligence services “used WikiLeaks to release data of U.S. victims that the GRU [Russia’s largest foreign intelligence service] had obtained through cyber operations against the Democratic National Committee. And the report also found that Russia’s primary propaganda outlet, RT, has actively collaborated with WikiLeaks.”
The CIA director’s full-throated denunciation of WikiLeaks and its cooperation with Russia is at least a little bit problematic for Trump, who spent months, both before and after his election, ridiculing the idea that Russia had been involved in stealing information from groups connected to his Democratic rival.
No less awkward is that Trump proclaimed his love for WikiLeaks during the presidential campaign.
But Trump, who has reversed course so completely on so many issues without significant consequences in his brief political life, probably assumes that one more about-face on a major issue won’t matter much to his supporters. And he’s probably right.