In the wake of Wikileaks’ “Vault 7” bombshell, FBI and CIA investigators are now questioning a handful of contractors formerly engaged by the nation’s top intelligence agency. According to those familiar with the case, the contractors in question may have leaked sensitive information because they were upset over losing their jobs.
This is part of an unfolding investigation into how the documents came into Wikileaks’ possession. The FBI started looking into the matter last week, starting with attempts to determine whether the leaks came from within the CIA itself, or from outside. Although the CIA has not yet confirmed the authenticity of the documents dating back over three years, former CIA director Michael Hayden expressed serious concerns.
Speaking to the BBC, he said,
“This seems to be an incredibly damaging leak in terms of the tactics, techniques, procedures and tools that were used by the Central Intelligence Agency to conduct legitimate foreign intelligence…in other words, it’s made my country and my country’s friends less safe.”
That may be debatable, considering the slapdash way in which spy agencies reportedly operate, but it is shaping up to be a huge embarrassment.
This entire affair comes at the same time that U.S. intelligence agents are embroiled in an escalating conflict with the Trump Administration. It also highlights the infighting that has been ongoing among factions in the intelligence community. An anonymous source told media outlets that there is “bad blood” among CIA contractors after their jobs were eliminated. For example, one group of contractors who had been working abroad were supposed to have been given projects here at home, but instead, those jobs wound up being cut. “There were definitely disgruntled people,” the anonymous source said.
It won’t be the first time in recent years that sensitive intelligence information has been leaked. In 2013, former CIA contractor Edward Snowden released NSA documents on how that agency was monitoring the communications of American citizens while spying on U.S. allies. Early in 2016, a hacking group calling itself “Shadow Brokers” got hold of a number of NSA hacking tools and offered them for sale online. Last summer, a contractor for a consulting company was arrested for stealing thousands of classified documents from that agency. This marks the fourth time in as many years that U.S. intelligence agencies have been compromised.
Ironically, everyone who has been questioned up to this point hold top-level security clearance – as did those responsible for earlier leaks.
One thing seems to be clear: if investigators are correct, this latest information breach wasn’t about terrorists trying to undermine U.S. security, nor was it motivated by any desire to expose potential invasions of Americans’ privacy by a secretive intelligence agency in the name of keeping them “safe.” This was personal vindictiveness on the part of disgruntled workers. It also raises serious questions about just how “safe” the intelligence community is really keeping us.
After all, they’ve gotten it wrong before.