What others say: WikiLeaks no hero of transparency

  • By Wall Street Journal editorial
  • Sunday, March 12, 2017 9:39pm
  • Opinion

Tuesday’s WikiLeaks dump of a major chunk of what it claims is the CIA’s “hacking arsenal” ought to be an eye-opener for anyone still laboring under the delusion that WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange or former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden are not out to weaken the United States. This leak of CIA documents appears to disclose for America’s enemies a key advantage against the asymmetric threats of this new century: better technology that provides better intelligence.

WikiLeaks says the 8,761 documents and files were ripped off “from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence” in Virginia. It further says these documents were “circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors”_and that one of them shared the info with WikiLeaks. So far former government officials quoted in news reports say the leaked information looks genuine, and the WikiLeaks press release promised more to come.

Much of this WikiLeaks dump deals with ways the CIA has found to get into electronic devices such as iPhones and Android phones. These methods include_as Edward Snowden clarified in a tweet_end runs around the encryption of such popular apps as Signal or WhatsApp without having to crack the apps themselves.

The leaks also expose other areas of CIA interest such as an agency effort to hack into the control panels of cars and trucks. Another tool exposed by the leaks turned Samsung Smart TVs into microphones that could then relay conversations back to the CIA even when the owner believed the set was off.

The losses from this exposure are incalculable. These tools represent millions of dollars of investment and man-hours. Many will now be rendered moot as terrorists or foreign agents abandon traceable habits. Merely because America’s enemies are barbaric — think al Qaeda or Islamic State — does not mean they are stupid. One reason it took so long to hunt down Osama bin Laden is because he took pains to establish a sophisticated communications system to evade U.S. intelligence tracking.

The costs will also include the time and effort U.S. intelligence agencies will now have to expend investigating how the information was lost. This includes retracing any missed computer hacks and trying to find out who stole and released the secrets.

Some on the political left and right want to treat Messrs. Snowden and Assange as heroes of transparency and privacy. But there is no evidence that U.S. spooks are engaging in illegal spying on Americans. The CIA’s spying tools are for targeting suspected terrorists and foreign agents. As for WikiLeaks, note how it never seems to disclose Chinese or Russian secrets. The country they loathe and want to bring low is America.

— The Wall Street Journal,

March 7

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