Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo on Thursday denounced WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” and he singled out Russia as one of the anti-secrecy organization’s top collaborators. Pompeo is the latest top official in the Trump administration to note that Russia hacked into the emails of Democratic staffers with the intention of influencing the 2016 presidential election. Thousands of those emails were subsequently released by WikiLeaks. The intelligence community has concluded this operation was mounted with Vladimir Putin’s approval and was done to benefit Donald Trump.
Pompeo’s remarks were particularly striking because Trump praised WikiLeaks during the campaign and repeatedly referenced the emails it made public. In other words, Pompeo was saying that his boss encouraged an entity he now considers “hostile” to the United States. Trump has repeatedly referred to the Russia scandal as a hoax, yet Pompeo’s comments are predicated on the assumption there is nothing hoax-y about the Russian attack on the 2016 campaign.
Pompeo’s attack on WikiLeaks was also a touch awkward given that during the 2016 campaign, he cited WikiLeaks to attack the credibility of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party—which was just what Russia wanted. This led to an awkward moment in January, when Pompeo testified before the Senate Intelligence committee:
Pompeo was also caught in a hack-related contradiction. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the committee, pointed to a tweet Pompeo sent out in July declaring, “Need further proof that the fix was in from Pres. Obama on down? BUSTED: 19,252 Emails from DNC Leaked by Wikileaks.” King didn’t say this, but his point was obvious: With this tweet, the incoming CIA chief had helped a secret Russian intelligence operation to change the outcome of the presidential election. King did ask Pompeo, “Do you think WikiLeaks is a reliable source of information?” Pompeo replied, “I do not.” So, King inquired, why did he post this tweet and cite WikiLeaks as “proof”? Pompeo was busted. Pompeo repeated that he had never considered WikiLeaks a “credible source.” King pushed on and asked Pompeo how he could explain his tweet. Pompeo stammered and remarked, “I’d have to go back and take a look at that.” Uh, right.
In his remarks Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Pompeo said that “WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service.” He then cited various examples of WikiLeaks working against the interests of the United States, including working with Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents in 2010.
“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,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo’s remarks coincide with an apparent shift in the Trump administration’s approach to its relationship with Russia. The White House abruptly adopted a tough stance on Russia’s alliance with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad following Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians last week. The foreign policy reversal comes amid multiple investigations examining Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible ties between Trump associates and Russians.
During the election, Trump praised WikiLeaks and frequently referred to the organization in his attacks against Hillary Clinton.
Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2016
“I love WikiLeaks,” he told supporters during an October rally.