Obama-era intelligence officials tried to use their power to surveil journalists they didn’t agree with, a new report from Yahoo News states.
The crux of the report, co-written by notable Russia hoaxer Michael Isikoff, focuses on former CIA director Mike Pompeo’s approach to handling WikiLeaks. Isikoff and his co-authors maintain that Pompeo was “seeking revenge” on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that Pompeo’s CIA had serious “discussions over kidnapping or killing Assange” for leaking CIA data. The report notes “there is no indication that the most extreme measures targeting Assange were ever approved, in part because of objections from White House lawyers” but maintained that Pompeo labeled WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service” so U.S. officials could take action against the data leaker.
This campaign targeting WikiLeaks, the article eventually notes, stretches back to the Obama administration. At first, the report indicates that the Obama administration “restricted investigations into Assange and WikiLeaks” but shortly after infamous National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden left the U.S. with classified information, “the Obama administration allowed the intelligence community to prioritize collection on WikiLeaks,” recently retired counterintelligence official William Evanina indicated to Yahoo News.
Suddenly, the administration’s tune changed, and “U.S. intelligence worked closely with friendly spy agencies to build a picture of WikiLeaks’ network of contacts ‘and tie it back to hostile state intelligence services.'” The CIA also dedicated an entire group of analysts to the WikiLeaks case while “top intelligence officials lobbied the White House to redefine WikiLeaks — and some high-profile journalists — as ‘information brokers,’ which would have opened up the use of more investigative tools against them, potentially paving the way for their prosecution, according to former officials.”
In addition to targeting Assange, some in the Obama administration also sought to surveil columnist Glenn Greenwald who had reported on and shared documents from Snowden.
“I am not the least bit surprised that the CIA, a longtime authoritarian and antidemocratic institution, plotted to find a way to criminalize journalism and spy on and commit other acts of aggression against journalists,” Greenwald told Yahoo News.
The reporting also uncovers a CIA plot under Obama — during the height of the Snowden reporting — to classify myself, Laura Poitras and Assange as "information brokers" rather than journalists to justify surveillance of us and even imprisonment, rejected by the Obama DOJ. pic.twitter.com/QS876Elhqd
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 26, 2021
At the peak of the 2016 election season, when Democrat Party emails were leaked, intelligence agencies committed to fully spying on WikiLeaks under its new classification.
“The CIA now considered people affiliated with WikiLeaks valid targets for various types of spying, including close-in technical collection — such as bugs — sometimes enabled by in-person espionage, and ‘remote operations,’ meaning, among other things, the hacking of WikiLeaks members’ devices from afar, according to former intelligence officials,” the report states.