Federal investigators suspect a vetted member of the U.S. intelligence community supplied WikiLeaks with the trove of previously unpublished CIA documents released by the anti-secrecy group last month.
A joint investigation launched by the CIA and FBI in the wake of last month’s WikiLeaks publication has given way to a manhunt within the federal government, sources familiar with the probe told this week.
The material released by WikiLeaks was “classified and stored in a highly secure section of the intelligence agency,” and had likely been compromised by an individual with physical access to the documents, such as a CIA employee or contractor. Beginning March 7, WikiLeaks has steadily released documents detailing the CIA’s previously undisclosed offensive cyber capabilities, including materials suggesting American spies can compromise a wide range of devices from televisions to automobiles.
Investigators are reviewing the names of hundreds of people would have had physical access to the files. While the CIA has declined so far to confirm the documents’ authenticity, the agency’s newly appointed director blasted WikiLeaks recently in the aftermath of its latest disclosure.
“As long as they make a splash, they care nothing about the lives they put at risk or the damage they cause to national security,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said last week in his first public remarks since taking office. WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange fired back: “History shows the danger of allowing the CIA or any intelligence agency, whose very modus operandi includes misdirection and lying, to be the sole arbiter of what is true or what is prudent. Otherwise every day might see a repeat of the many foolish CIA actions which have led to death, displacement, dictatorship and terrorism.”
WikiLeaks said previously that its purported CIA cache includes “8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence,” an elite hacking unit involved in the agency’s offensive eavesdropping operations.
The U.S. Department of Justice began investigating WikiLeaks following its publication of classified State and Defense Department materials in 2010, and reportedly widened that probe in the aftermath of last month’s disclosure. The source of those documents, Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, was ultimately convicted of espionage, but is expected to be released from military prison in less than a month after being pardoned in January by former President Obama.
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