CIA Director Mike Pompeo believes that the public worship of intelligence leakers like Edward Snowden is at least partly responsible for the rise in intelligence leaks.
“In some ways, I do think it’s accelerated,” Pompeo said in a Saturday interview on MSNBC. “I think there is a phenomenon, the worship of Edward Snowden, and those who steal American secrets for the purpose of self-aggrandizement or money or for whatever their motivation may be, does seem to be on the increase.”
Pompeo acknowledged the difficulties of keeping classified information on lockdown, given non-state actors like WikiLeaks.
“It’s tough. You now have not only nation states trying to steal our stuff, but non-state, hostile intelligence services, well-funded — folks like WikiLeaks, out there trying to steal American secrets for the sole purpose of undermining the United States and democracy,” Pompeo said.
Nevertheless, Pompeo affirmed that the Trump administration is working hard to stop leaks and punish those responsible.
“I think we’ll have some successes both on the deterrence side — that is stopping them from happening — as well as on punishing those who we catch who have done it,” Pompeo said.
In 2013, intelligence contractor Edward Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents from the NSA to journalists, which revealed the extent of the NSA’s global surveillance activities and capabilities, prompting many to label him a hero.
Chelsea Manning, who had access to extensive information while serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, also leaked more than 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks. Manning was convicted in 2013 at a court-martial, but President Barack Obama stepped in as one of his last acts as president to commute Manning’s 35-year sentence.
Aside from periodic document dumps from WikiLeaks, the most recent example of leaking came from a 25-year-old Air Force veteran named Reality Winner, who used her top secret security clearance and position with defense contractor Pluribus International Corporation to send classified information to the Intercept.
Winner’s social media history indicated she disliked Trump and applauded Snowden. If Winner is convicted under the Espionage Act, she’ll serve 10 years in prison.
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