Information about purported CIA cyberattacks was “passed around” among members of the U.S. intelligence community and contractors before it was published by WikiLeaks this week, Julian Assange says.
The CIA “lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal,” the WikiLeaks editor in chief said during a press conference Thursday. “This is a historic act of devastating incompetence, to have created such an arsenal and stored all in one place and not secured it.”
Assange declined to name the source who gave the information to WikiLeaks, but he seemed to suggest the 8,700-plus documents, purportedly from an isolated CIA server, came from an insider source.
WikiLeaks discovered the CIA documents because they were being shared among a “number” of people in the U.S. intelligence community “in an unauthorized fashion,” he said.
Assange questioned whether former President Barack Obama or current President Donald Trump had been informed that the CIA had lost control of the cyberweapons documents.
The documents show the CIA has developed attacks for iPhones, Android phones, smart TVs, and major computer operating systems. Vendors say they are looking into the vulnerabilities described in the documents, with Apple saying it has already fixed most of the iOS vulnerabilities described.
WikiLeaks will work with tech vendors to help them fix vulnerabilities described in the documents, Assange said Thursday, repeating an earlier promise.
The CIA has declined to confirm the authenticity of the documents. Asked about Assange’s claim that the documents were passed out, Dean Boyd, director of the agency’s Office of Public Affairs, said: “As we’ve said previously, Julian Assange is not exactly a bastion of truth and integrity.”
The CIA also noted that its surveillance is aimed at intelligence targets outside the U.S.
The CIA’s mission is to “aggressively collect foreign intelligence overseas to protect America from terrorists, hostile nation states, and other adversaries,” agency spokeswoman Heather Fritz Horniak said by email. “It is CIA’s job to be innovative, cutting-edge, and the first line of defense in protecting this country from enemies abroad. America deserves nothing less.”
While not confirming the documents’ authenticity, the U.S. public should be troubled by any WikiLeaks’ disclosure “designed to damage the intelligence community’s ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries,” she added. “Such disclosures not only jeopardize U.S. personnel and operations but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm.”
WikiLeaks’ press conference was broadcast on Periscope with Twitter users encouraged to tweet questions. Several viewers of the broadcast called on Obama and former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to be arrested, with others encouraging WikiLeaks to publish information on the disproven Pizzagate conspiracy theory.
“Do you have #pizzagate intel and if so, when will you release it! We need to save these children sooner rather than later,” one participant tweeted.
Another participant asked: “My question: Can you ask your friends at Guccifer to hack & spill the beans on the Trump admin?”