The self-described transparency organization WikiLeaks is a "non-state, hostile intelligence service" that is often "abetted by state actors like Russia," CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Thursday.
"WikiLeaks walks like a foreign intelligence agency and talks like a foreign intelligence agency," Pompeo said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He added that "it's time to call out WikiLeaks what it is."
He then blasted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as "a fraud" and "a coward, hiding behind a screen," and he criticized National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden for championing "nothing but his own celebrity."
“Our defense will not be static" against WikiLeaks, Pompeo said. "We need to be as clever and innovative as the enemies we face."
Early last month, WikiLeaks dumped thousands of documents that it said detailed the hacking tools and techniques used by the CIA for foreign espionage in what appeared to be the largest leak of CIA documents in history.
The CIA released a rare public statement afterward, saying "the American public should be deeply troubled by any WikiLeaks disclosure designed to damage the Intelligence Community's ability to protect America against terrorists or other adversaries."
Pompeo's speech Thursday came six months after then-candidate Donald Trump praised WikiLeaks for publishing emails stolen by Russian hackers from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The US intelligence community concluded in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin "ordered" the election-related hacking in an effort to undermine Americans' faith in the election and help elect Trump — and was aided by WikiLeaks and Russia's state-sponsored news agency, Russia Today.
"RT’s editor-in-chief visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2013, where they discussed renewing his broadcast contract with RT, according to Russian and Western media," the report said. "Russian media subsequently announced that RT had become 'the only Russian media company' to partner with WikiLeaks and had received access to 'new leaks of secret information.'"
Over the summer, when WikiLeaks was releasing daily batches of emails stolen from John Podesta's inbox, many journalists noted that Russia Today and Sputnik — another state-run Russian news agency — frequently shared the leaked documents on Twitter before WikiLeaks did.
Assange released a statement about the US election via WikiLeaks on Election Day, standing by his organization's decision to publish hacked documents related to the Clinton campaign throughout the final weeks of the campaign.
"The right to receive and impart true information is the guiding principle of WikiLeaks," wrote Assange, who currently resides in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He insisted that neither he nor WikiLeaks had "a personal desire to influence the outcome of the election."
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