Trump’s CIA boss blames Edward Snowden ‘worship’ for rise in leaks of America’s secrets
Mike Pompeo said more needed to be done to stem what he called an increase in the leaking of state secrets to ‘undermine the United States and democracy’
Mike Pompeo, the director of the CIA, has blamed the “worship” of leakers such as Edward Snowden for a rise in the public disclosure of US intelligence.
US President Donald Trump’s pick to head the intelligence agency said more needed to be done to stem what he called an increase in the leaking of state secrets.
“In some ways, I do think [leaking has] accelerated,” Pompeo told MSNBC in an interview broadcast on Saturday.
“I think there is a phenomenon, the worship of Edward Snowden, and those who steal American secrets for the purpose of self-aggrandisement or money or for whatever their motivation may be, does seem to be on the increase.”
Pompeo added: “It’s tough. You now have not only nation states trying to steal our stuff, but non-state, hostile intelligence services, well-funded – folks like WikiLeaks, out there trying to steal American secrets for the sole purpose of undermining the United States and democracy.”
Snowden is a former CIA employee who in 2013 revealed the extent of surveillance programmes of ordinary citizens by the National Security Agency, leaking documents to media outlets including the Guardian and South China Morning Post.
Snowden, who now lives in Moscow after briefly hiding in Hong Kong, has been hailed by some as a whistle-blower who exposed a system that intruded on people’s private lives to a degree that blunted genuine national security efforts.
Pompeo, along with many other Republicans and some Democrats, has taken a dimmer view of the revelations. Last year, he called for Congress to “pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata”.
In a National Review op-ed published in December 2015, he wrote: “To share Edward Snowden’s vision of America as the problem is to come down on the side of President Obama’s diminishing willingness to collect intelligence on jihadis.”
WikiLeaks, meanwhile, has been a thorn in the side of the US government for some time. In 2010 Chelsea Manning, a former US army private who was recently released after being convicted by court marshal in 2013, gave Wikileaks more than 700,000 documents and diplomatic cables.
In March 2017, WikiLeaks revealed information on CIA activities, releasing nearly 8,000 documents that it said showed how the agency accesses computers. Speaking in April, Pompeo said: “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.”
During the 2016 election, WikiLeaks published Democratic party emails procured in a hack US intelligence agencies including the CIA believe was carried out by Russian actors seeking to help the Trump campaign.
Links between Trump aides and Moscow are now the focus of FBI and congressional investigations. The Trump White House has made attacks on those who leak confidential information a central plank of its response to those investigations.
In his MSNBC interview on Saturday, Pompeo predicted the Trump administration will have success in deterring leakers “as well as punishing those who we catch who have done it”.
The CIA director said Trump was an “avid consumer” of intelligence material. “Our goal is that he has the facts, the truth,” he said.
On other issues, Pompeo said:
● North Korea poses a “very real danger” to US national security. “I hardly ever escape a day at the White House without the president asking me about North Korea and how it is that the United States is responding to that threat. It’s very much at the top of his mind.”
He said the North Koreans are “ever-closer to having the capacity to hold America at risk with a nuclear weapon.”
● Pompeo said US national security also is threatened by Iran, which he described as the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.
“Today, we find it with enormous influence, influence that far outstrips where it was six or seven years ago,” said Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas.
“Whether it’s the influence they have over the government in Baghdad, whether it’s the increasing strength of Hezbollah and Lebanon, their work alongside the Houthis in Iran, the Iraqi Shias that are fighting along now the border in Syria - certainly the Shia forces that are engaged in Syria. Iran is everywhere throughout the Middle East.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press