The fog of cyberwar thickens.
Forty-six days into the Trump administration, WikiLeaks began posting files that may expose how the CIA secretly snares data from selected overseas targets.
This marks the first time on the new commander-in-chief’s watch that the self-described anti-secrecy organization touted a breach of highly strategic U.S. government data.
During last year’s election campaign, WikiLeaks’ role helped the GOP in general — and Trump in particular — as founder Julian Assange released embarrassing materials on Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
He and his fans had fun with it at rallies.
But in 2010 he said of WikiLeaks’ release of secret U.S. government information: “I think it’s disgraceful, I think there should be like death penalty or something.”
In early January, Trump quoted Assange to support his denials about Russian involvement in dirty tricks targeting the Democrats, after Fox News’ Sean Hannity interviewed Assange at the Ecuador embassy in London.
His Jan. 5 tweet: “Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked [campaign manager John] Podesta’ — why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!”
Trump backer Sarah Palin among others followed the same course. She went so far as to apologize to Assange, saying he had “exposed the truth” about “atrocious actions and attitudes on the left.”
But in 2010, the former Alaska governor demanded to know why Assange was “not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaida and Taliban leaders” — and said Assange endangered more than 100 Afghan information sources.
The self-serving logic of it is easy enough to understand: Call Assange an enemy of the American people when he potentially hinders the military — and a truth-teller when he vexes the rival party and its president.
Trump, like any president, will get a good long period to blame his predecessor for all that goes wrong. The relevant question, though, is how he plans to deal with this breach.
The president, who never before served in government or the military, has already looked at life from both sides.
He and aides long ago played to Americans’ suspicions of a manipulative “deep state,” including the CIA and NSA, exercising unelected power in the nation’s capital.
Once elected, however, Trump traveled to CIA headquarters and told its elite officers: “I love you guys, you’re the best,” and “I’m with you 1000 percent.”
Over the weekend, flamboyant Trump adviser Roger Stone stated on Twitter he “never denied perfectly legal back channel to Assange who indeed had the goods on #CrookedHillary.”
But Stone later deleted the message.
So what does Assange become in the lexicon of Trump, who is no longer a candidate and now a president?
A few tweets from Trump to stave off any perception of weakness won’t be enough to pierce the fog. From this perch, we the people can only watch from a distance as deceptions and counter-deceptions play out.