WASHINGTON, DC — The transparency advocate group Wikileaks has made plenty of enemies in the U.S. government over the years, but yesterday’s events likely earned them several more.
Wikileaks’ recent publication of the “Vault 7” files details the CIA’s technological capabilities, including its arsenal of sophisticated hacking tools and its ability to turn every Internet-enabled consumer electronic device into a listening device. The U.S. government has decided to respond by “preparing a major mole hunt” to track down the suspected leaker who provided the “Vault 7” documents to Wikileaks.
According to inside sources cited by the Washington Post, Wikileaks’ latest release “rattled government and technology industry officials” who spent much of yesterday attempting to confirm the authenticity of the leaks and assessing the potential damage they and upcoming leaks may cause. Former CIA Director Mike Hayden told MSNBC that he had not extensively investigated the “Vault 7” releases, but said the leaks “would be very, very damaging” if proven accurate.
Wikileaks has been intentionally vague about its source in order to protect his or her identity. In the “Vault 7” press release it stated that the material came from “an isolated, high-security network” within the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia. Beyond that, little information has been revealed regarding the source, leading to speculation that it could have been a rogue employee, a federal contractor working for the CIA or a hacker who gained access to a government server.
The source, like previous leakers such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, appeared to have decided to provide Wikileaks with the documents due to concerns about government overreach and possible criminal behavior. The source of the leaks told Wikileaks in a statement that he or she wished to “initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyber-weapons.” The leaker also detailed “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.”
It remains unclear if the CIA has formally reported the leak to the Justice Department, as the agency declined to comment on the leak or its planned response. Whatever response is chosen will likely mirror government responses to previous leaks.
For example, in the case of the Manning leaks, the Obama administration prosecuted Manning and created the National Insider Threat Task Force to help government workers spot potential leakers. The administration did nothing to correct the wrongdoings exposed by the leaks. Similar efforts were realized following Edward Snowden’s exposure of NSA surveillance.
Given the broad scope of this latest leak, it seems likely that the U.S. government will continue to ignore the ethical concerns it has raised, instead redirecting public attention toward the threats – real or imagined – that the leak could pose to national security.
Check out more of our coverage of “Vault 7”: CIA’s UMBRAGE program allows the agency to carry out “false flag” cyber attacks.