On Tuesday, it was announced by WikiLeaks that they have obtained almost 9,000 documents and files they have code-named “Vault 7.” Part of what they call the “Year Zero” Series, they go on to state that, “it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.”
Posted March 7th, the Wikileaks press release stated, “[r]ecently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized ‘zero day’ exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA.”
The unnamed source behind this new “collection” mentioned that the policy questions that this presents “urgently need[s] to be debated in public,” specifically, “whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency.” This source went further to state that they wish to ignite a public debate on the “security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
WikiLeaks goes on to say that they have redacted the identifying information which includes “ten[s] of thousands of CIA targets and attack machines throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States.” They went on to explain that this release, the first part of “Vault 7” has surpassed the first three years of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks.
Will this release have the effect that the alleged source intends? Will this lead to an in-depth public debate on the dangers of cyber-security and the overreaching powers of the CIA and the entire US intelligence community? Perhaps the more relevant question is whether the actual intention is an intense public debate or some good old-fashioned misdirection.
WikiLeaks is at the center of a flurry of speculation surrounding the Russian interference of the 2016 election and U.S. intelligence officials have alleged ties between WikiLeaks and the Russian intelligence agencies. and this release does raise some questions as to whether this is just added mud to the already murky waters of the Trump Presidency.
I wrote to Jeff Stein, a former Army intel case officer and highly respected national security columnist for Newsweek to get his thoughts on the latest WikiLeaks release. He stated, “at first glance it looks like another instance of ‘active measures’ by the Kremlin, designed to deflect attention away from Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the Russian connections of Trump and his associates.” Mr. Stein cautioned that his view was not based on any particular inside information regarding this latest leak.
A public debate on the scope and reach America’s intelligence apparatus is sorely needed, there is no doubt. The lack of accountability and the extreme challenges of public oversight for these very secret agencies must be brought to heel. Furthermore, the dangers that face our nation from cyber-attacks by foreign states, terrorist organizations as well as our own unleashed government are a serious threat to every individual of the free world. However, there are other more immediate discussions which require national attention. Until we can find some degree of trust and faith in our leadership, any debate on the powers we have or have not allowed them is just muddying these murky and darkened waters.
Featured image courtesy of The Guardian.