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Beware of WikiLeaks founder’s devious game

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, right, with Ecuadorian Foreign

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, right, with Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino during a news conference in the Ecuadorian Embassy where he confirmed he "will be leaving the embassy soon," on Aug. 18, 2014 in London, England. Credit: Getty Images / WPA Pool

Like a bloodless villain in a vertiginous James Bond plot of surveillance and intrigue, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange alleged yesterday that the CIA has “lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal” of hacking tools.

The charge came two days after WikiLeaks disclosed that the CIA had tools allowing it to climb into an individual’s television set, smartphone or computer, essentially getting around any encryption security. Unlike previous WikiLeaks dumps of stolen information in the supposed service of transparency, Assange refused to release the actual software code that made the consumer electronic devices vulnerable. Instead, he ingratiatingly offered to work with technology companies to help them fix security flaws.

The companies should decline the offer to work with an organization that is seeking to undermine our nation — one that revels in stealing government secrets, violating individual privacy and working with the Russians. During the summer, WikiLeaks released hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff.

While Assange’s disinformation campaign is meant to sound the sirens of privacy, this is about a proxy war between Vladimir Putin and the United States, one designed to weaken our ability to keep our nation safe.

Assange’s claims — made in an online news conference from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he hides as a fugitive from accusations of rape in Sweden — are unverified but apparently authentic. The tech industry should waste no time eliminating these risks if they still exist. Maybe the CIA will help.

And if the CIA’s ability to do high-tech eavesdropping was compromised, it must be held accountable for losing these valuable intelligence tools, and possibly re-evaluate its dependence on outside contractors.

WikiLeaks, which on Tuesday claimed to have more than 8,700 CIA files and documents, says it obtained the trove from contractors who had access to it. The FBI is now investigating the unauthorized release of the information.

Just as concerning as WikiLeaks’ possession of the data, which it appears to have obtained a while ago, is the timing of the disclosure. On Tuesday, WikiLeaks made a point of saying the CIA has tools that can cover its tracks by making it seem that a hostile nation — read Russia here — is responsible for the espionage.

President Donald Trump has waged a pitched battle with the intelligence community since it disclosed that the Russians interfered with the 2016 election. There has been a cavalcade of media reports and congressional inquiries into contacts among Russia and Trump’s campaign and transition teams. Then last weekend, Trump claimed without evidence that his predecessor in the White House ordered the wiretapping of his Trump Tower telephones.

The timing of Assange’s disclosures suggests that his motive could very well have been to create the scenario that it is really the CIA, and not Russia, that is behind all these events.

Assange is not America’s friend. He is Putin’s stooge.

— The editorial board


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