By Jeremy Scahill
WIKILEAKS FOUNDER JULIAN ASSANGE is hitting back at Trump’s CIA director Mike Pompeo following a speech last week in which Pompeo accused WikiLeaks of being a “hostile nonstate intelligence agency” operating outside of the protections of the First Amendment. “We can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us. To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for,” Pompeo declared, adding an ominous assertion: “It ends now.”
Speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been living since June 2012, Assange said Pompeo appeared to be issuing a threat. “So how does he propose to conduct this ending? He didn’t say. But the CIA is only in the business of collecting information, kidnapping people, and assassinating people. So, it’s quite a menacing statement that he does need to clarify,” said Assange.
Assange made the remarks during an exclusive interview for the Intercepted podcast. “The reason why Director Pompeo is launching this attack, is because he knows we’re in this series exposing all sorts of illegal actions by the CIA,” Assange said, referring to WikiLeaks ongoing publication of secret CIA hacking documents as part of its “Vault 7” project. Pompeo, he said, is “trying to get ahead of the publicity curve and create a preemptive defense.”
When he watched Pompeo’s speech, Assange said he was struck by what he perceived as a lack of gravitas. “We thought it was quite a weak speech in that it put Director Pompeo, it put the CIA, in a position where they looked like they were frightened and worried that we were the better intelligence service,” Assange said.
Regarding Pompeo’s declaration that WikiLeaks was not entitled to First Amendment rights, Assange said: “For the head of the CIA to pronounce what the boundaries are, of reporting or not reporting — is a very disturbing precedent. The head of the CIA determining who is a publisher, who’s not a publisher, who’s a journalist, who’s not a journalist, is totally out of line.”