Documents don’t support contention that CIA impersonates other countries to mask provenance of its cyberattacks
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said he has additional information about ways the CIA tries to mask its attacks. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/Zuma Press
WASHINGTON—The “Vault 7” trove of documents released Tuesday by WikiLeakshas been cited by commentators to claim that the Central Intelligence Agency may have been masquerading as other foreign states while conducting its cyberhacks.
The documents being cited, however, offer no smoking gun.
The idea that the CIA posed as foreign actors has gained currency among people who are using the WikiLeaks disclosure to question the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman last year in order to help elect President Donald Trump. These political commentators and outlets are implying the campaign hacks could have been a CIA operation.
“CIA uses techniques to make cyberattacks look like they originated from enemy state. It turns DNC/Russia hack allegation by CIA into a JOKE,” internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom wrote after the release in a tweet picked up by ZeroHedge, a financial blog known for its antiestablishment worldview. Mr. Dotcom, who founded the file-sharing website Megaupload, is wanted in the U.S. on charges including criminal copyright infringement, money laundering and conspiracy to commit racketeering.
Decision to withhold information underscores deep mistrust between intelligence community and president
President Donald Trump speaking at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., on Jan. 21. Photo: Olivier Doulier/Press Pool
U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.
The officials’ decision to keep information from Mr. Trump underscores the deep mistrust that has developed between the intelligence community and the president over his team’s contacts with the Russian government, as well as the enmity he has shown toward U.S. spy agencies. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump accused the agencies of leaking information to undermine him.
In some of these cases of withheld information, officials have decided not to show Mr. Trump the sources and methods that the intelligence agencies use to collect information, the current and former officials said. Those sources and methods could include, for instance, the means that an agency uses to spy on a foreign government.
A White House official said: “There is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening.”
A U.S. Predator drone on the tarmac at the Kandahar military airport in southern Afghanistan in 2010. The U.S. has been using drones more and more frequently since the Sept. 11 attacks. They have been highly effective on the battlefield, but have raised legal and ethical issues. Massoud Hossaini /AP
Today in the skies over New Mexico, Air Force students are practicing for the kill.
They sit at terminals at Holloman Air Force base, watching grainy images from a drone video feed. Thousands of feet below, at a desert training range, role players portray civilians and fighters inside a village. The students must find the proper target, then with a push of a button, they unleash a simulated airstrike.
This new world of aerial combat began in the early morning hours of Oct. 7, 2001. Air Force Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula was inside a Saudi Arabia command center, also watching a drone video. It showed Taliban leader Mullah Omar and his top aides outside Kandahar, Afghanistan.
“They left a compound and then they move into a series of very small adobe huts,” recalls Deptula.
The U.S. decided not to use a 1,000-pound bomb to destroy the buildings, and potentially kill innocents..
Amaryllis Fox’s secret life in the CIA taught her one lesson: Listen to your enemy. As she begins the process of having her CIA cover rolled back, this is the first time she has spoken publicly about working undercover.
A breakdown of terrorist and civilian deaths.
A breakdown of terrorist and civilian deaths.
A senior White House aide said Monday that the White House will soon disclose how many terrorism suspects the U.S. has killed via drone strikes since President Obama took office, marking the first such disclosure surrounding the controversial program.
Lisa Monaco, a counter-terrorism and homeland security adviser to President Obama, said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations Monday that the increased transparency will help shore up public support for the administration’s use of lethal drone strikes. While there’s no set date for the release of the data—which tallies drone deaths going back to 2009—it will happen in the “coming weeks.”
“Not only is greater transparency the right thing to do, it is the best way to maintain the legitimacy of our counter-terrorism actions and the broad support of our allies,” Monaco said. She also noted that the report will continue annually, though with less than a year left in office, it remains unclear if the next administration will continue the practice.
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Official data surrounding the use of lethal drone strikes by the U.S. Air Force and the C.I.A. has been virtually non-existent in the years since the attacks of September 11, 2001 when drone strikes became an accepted and now often common method of striking at terrorism suspects abroad. Human rights groups have long called for two U.S. administrations to release more data about the drone program, including how decisions are made with respect to approving targets and how many civilians have been killed as a consequence of the strikes.
In a February 2016 interview with 60 Minutes, John Brennan, director of the CIA, mentioned that the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) has, in a number of instances, “used chemical munitions on the battlefield.” This came a few days after James Clapper, director of the United States Intelligence Community, said to a congressional committee that ISIS “has also used toxic chemicals in Iraq and Syria, including the blister agent sulfur mustard.” Specifically, ISIS used such munitions in an August 2015 attack on the Kurds in Kobani, although reliable measures of the extent of the damage and casualties are not available.
It wasn’t the first time that such accusations have been raised against ISIS. In early 2015, the journalist Adam Withnall reported on Australian intelligence assessments that ISIS had “seized enough radioactive material from government facilities to suggest it has the capacity to build a large and devastating ‘dirty’ bomb.” In ISIS’ own magazine, Dabiq, John Cantlie, the kidnapped British war correspondent, telegraphed a warning that, with “billions of dollars in the bank,” ISIS could request that its operatives in Pakistan purchase a nuclear weapon, take it to Nigeria, and then smuggle it into the United States through Mexico by using existing drug- and human-trafficking networks. That might sound implausible, but the article at least indicated that ISIS is thinking along these lines.