In his first public speech since becoming the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo blasted Julian Assange and his website WikiLeaks, insisting they amounted to a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”
Speaking to an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday, Pompeo said that Assange’s claims of being a freedom fighter were outrageous. In reality, he said, Assange was a “fraud” with no “moral compass,” and he’d sold his soul to the likes of Vladimir Putin. Pompeo put a fine point on it, saying that the WikiLeaks founder was a “narcissist who has created nothing of value.”
Pompeo said that people like Assange and Edward Snowden liked to pat themselves on the back for their leaks, but they were only using “that information to make a name for themselves” and cared “nothing about the lives they put at risk or the damage they cause to national security.”
After the Snowden revelations, Pompeo said, intelligence gathering became much more difficult.
“The bottom line is that it became harder for us in the intelligence community to keep Americans safe,” he said. “It became harder to monitor the communications of terrorist organizations that are bent on bringing bloodshed to our shores. Snowden’s disclosures helped these groups find ways to hide themselves in the crowded digital forest.”
Pompeo’s comments will find a comforting home with both Democrats and Republicans, who appreciate the change in tone when it comes to WikiLeaks. Republicans have always considered Assange and Snowden to be threats to national security, and Democrats blame WikiLeaks in part for costing Hillary Clinton the election. But there was a divergence last year when Trump, whose campaign benefitted from the WikiLeaks revelations, took a practical stance on Assange. Was he great for the U.S.? Trump wouldn’t go that far, but he wasn’t shy about using the DNC/Podesta emails to his advantage.
As president, of course, Trump must put the protection of the state above his political fortunes, and that generally accounts for the sudden turnaround on WikiLeaks. Trump would be in abdication of his job to embrace Assange, especially after the CIA leaks that were published last month. That doesn’t mean he’s “changed his mind,” like so many of his critics are saying. It means his interests have changed. Or, rather, they’ve been superseded by America’s interests.
We can debate all day long about whether Assange’s site is good or bad for the U.S., but you can’t seriously expect the U.S. to officially condone the exposing of state secrets. And Trump, who has been plagued with government leaks since taking the oath, may have reached his limit when it comes to classified information slipping out to the public.
Obama chose not to lean on Ecuador and secure Assange’s extradition.
If Trump gets his dander up, he may choose another course of action.