In his first public comments since a Yahoo News investigation uncovered discussions within the Trump administration in 2017 over the kidnapping or even the murder of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was “not apologizing” for the Trump administration’s actions to protect “real national security secrets.
“I make no apologies for the fact that we and the administration were working diligently to ensure that we were able to protect this important sensitive information, whether it was cyber actors in Russia, the military. Chinese or anyone who tried to take this information away from us. “
Pompeo declined to deny the individual allegations in the story, saying only that “Yahoo News sources did not know what we were doing.”
Pompeo, who was CIA director during the time these extreme options were being considered, led the campaign against Assange and WikiLeaks, former officials told Yahoo News.
“We’re going to become a much more vicious agency,” Pompeo said at an October 2017 conference at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, DC think tank.
Concerned about what they believed to be Russia’s plans to get Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder had lived since 2012, then in Moscow, CIA and Trump administration officials have also discussed the crash of a car in a Russian diplomatic vehicle carrying Assange. and snatching it away; potential shootings with Kremlin agents in the streets of London; and shot the tires of a Russian plane carrying Assange before it could take off, among other measures, according to former officials.
Pompeo did not respond to multiple Yahoo News interview requests, or a detailed request for comment, sent over a two-month period prior to the article’s publication.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki also declined to comment today on Trump-era talks on Assange’s kidnapping, referring questions to the Justice Department and the CIA.
Saying it was “all about a big, bold and strong First Amendment”, Pompeo said conservative media personality Glenn Beck on Monday that as director of the CIA he concluded that WikiLeaks was “one of the first hostile non-state intelligence entities” that “weren’t even engaged in shitty reporting” like Yahoo News, but instead worked “to steal secrets themselves and pay others to do the same.”
Pompeo disparaged one of the co-authors of the Yahoo News investigation during his interview with Beck and in response to a question about the history of Yahoo News during an appearance at Hillsdale College on Monday.
During his tenure as Director of the CIA, Pompeo spoke on several occasions about the threat he believed WikiLeaks posed. “We need to develop a structure, an analytical rubric and an operational methodology to eliminate these non-state intelligence services in the same way the CIA has perfected its ability to do so against those who are state actors,” Pompeo said during the press conference. a conference in October 2017 at the University of Texas at Austin. (Pompeo later clarified that by “withdraw” he meant “penetrate and report on” organizations like WikiLeaks.)
Pompeo’s characterization of Assange and WikiLeaks may deviate from the president he served under. In a statement to Yahoo News denying that he had ever discussed Assange’s murder, former President Trump appeared to express his sympathy for the WikiLeaks founder, saying he had “been treated very badly”.
Assange was indicted during the Trump presidency, after the Obama administration refused to do so.
Pompeo’s anger against WikiLeaks was sparked in March 2017, when the organization began publishing highly classified documents from the CIA’s hacking division, which WikiLeaks dubbed “Vault 7.”
Pompeo appeared to allude to the Vault 7 leaks in his interview with Beck on Monday. “We were very worried that we had bad actors stealing really, very sensitive material in the United States,” Pompeo said.
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