June of 2013 was the first time the media began reporting on Edward Snowden, then a 29-year-old employee of the Central Intelligence Agency and a computer professional who stole and leaked top secret documents from the NSA regarding government spying and surveillance. Since then, Snowden has left the country to avoid media scrutiny and any legal consequences that he would inevitably be faced with. Now, after Wikileaks began releasing thousands of pages of documents about the CIA, the feds are looking for a new Snowden.
U.S. officials told CNN on Wednesday that a criminal investigation has been opened into Wikileaks’ hacking and publication of CIA documents. Both the CIA and the FBI are coordinating reviews of the matter. More specifically, the investigation will examine how the CIA information was obtained in the first place and who obtained it. It will also determine whether or not there are other documents currently in the possession of Wikileaks that have yet to be published.
Ryan Tripani, a spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency, said that the agency had “no comment on the authenticity of purported intelligence documents released by Wikileaks or on the status of any investigation into the source of the documents.”
Though officials are not yet sure whether the documents have been altered in any way, they reportedly explained to CNN that the documents that have been published thus far have mostly been legitimate.
Tripani explained that the primary concern of the CIA is that specific data may eventually be released that teaches and invites other hackers to participate in the same practice. “The American public should be deeply troubled by any Wikileaks disclosure designed to damage the intelligence community’s ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries,” said the CIA spokesman. “Such disclosures not only jeopardize U.S. personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm.”
Indeed, there is a fragile balance between transparency and security. On the one hand, these leaks may provide us with critical information regarding our rights and any corruption that may be taking place behind closed doors. Already, the first 8,761 pages of the Wikileaks information dump revealed a project called Umbrage, which could potentially allow the CIA to launch cyber attacks and make it appear as if they originated from any country on earth, including Russia.
Wikileaks described Umbrage further on their website: “The CIA’s Remote Devices Branch’s UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation. With UMBRAGE and related projects, the CIA can not only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the ‘fingerprints’ of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.” (RELATED: Is the CIA spying on you?)
On the other hand, though, national security is critically important; as a matter of fact, its one of the central roles of the federal government. If information regarding the practices and operations of the Central Intelligence Agency is revealed to the public, outside individuals or organizations could obtain that information and use it against the CIA, or worse, against the United States in general.
Ryan Tripani stressed the fact that everything the CIA has done and will continue to do is legal. He added that the CIA is “legally prohibited from conducting electronic surveillance targeting individuals here at home, including our fellow Americans, and CIA does not do so.” Further explaining the primary purpose of the Central Intelligence Agency, Tripani noted that the “CIA’s job is to be innovative, cutting-edge, and the first line of defense in protecting this country from enemies abroad.”