‘It was a bright, cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen’. Mike Pompeo stepped up to the podium at the CSIS in Washington DC:
1. Extracts from the speech:
“Good afternoon, it is a great pleasure to be here at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, home to some of the sharpest minds that Washington has to offer. I am honored to deliver my first public remarks as CIA Director at such a distinguished institution…
I am today surrounded by talented and committed patriots. These are men and women who signed up for a life of discretion and impact - for a career in service to their country.
These officers have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution...But they are not at liberty to stand up to these false narratives and explain our mission to the American people. Fortunately, I am…That is the reason I chose to speak here today.
As a policy, we at CIA do not comment on the accuracy of purported intelligence documents posted online. In keeping with that policy, I will not specifically comment on the authenticity or provenance of recent disclosures.
But the false narratives that increasingly define our public discourse cannot be ignored. There are fictions out there that demean and distort the work and achievements of CIA and of the broader Intelligence Community. And in the absence of a vocal rebuttal, these voices - ones that proclaim treason to be public advocacy - gain a gravity they do not deserve…
I inherited an Agency that has a real appreciation for the law and for the Constitution…while we have some truly awesome capabilities at our disposal, our officers do not operate in areas or against targets that are rightfully and legally off-limits to us…
…We also admit to making mistakes. In fact, because CIA is accountable to the free and open society we help defend, the times in which we have failed to live up to the high standards our fellow citizens expect of us have been catalogued over the years, even by our own government. These mistakes are public, to an extent that I doubt any other nation could ever match. But it is always our intention - and duty - to get it right.
And that is one of the many reasons why we at CIA find the celebration of entities like WikiLeaks to be both perplexing and deeply troubling. Because while we do our best to quietly collect information on those who pose very real threats to our country, individuals such as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden seek to use that information to make a name for themselves. As long as they make a splash, they care nothing about the lives they put at risk or the damage they cause to national security.
WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service…
It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia. In January of this year, our Intelligence Community determined that Russian military intelligence - the GRU - had used WikiLeaks to release data of US victims that the GRU had obtained through cyber operations against the Democratic National Committee. And the report also found that Russia’s primary propaganda outlet, RT, has actively collaborated with WikiLeaks…
Assange claims to harbor an overwhelming admiration for both America and the idea of America. But I assure you that this man knows nothing of America and our ideals…
No, I am quite confident that had Assange been around in the 1930s and 40s and 50s, he would have found himself on the wrong side of history.
We know this because Assange and his ilk make common cause with dictators today. Yes, they try unsuccessfully to cloak themselves and their actions in the language of liberty and privacy; in reality, however, they champion nothing but their own celebrity. Their currency is clickbait; their moral compass, non-existent. Their mission: personal self-aggrandizement through the destruction of Western values.
They do not care about the causes and people they claim to represent. If they did, they would focus instead on the autocratic regimes in this world that actually suppress free speech and dissent. Instead, they choose to exploit the legitimate secrets of democratic governments - which has, so far, proven to be a much safer approach than provoking a tyrant…
As for Assange, his actions have attracted a devoted following among some of our most determined enemies. Following a recent WikiLeaks disclosure, an al Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula member posted a comment online thanking WikiLeaks for providing a means to fight America in a way that AQAP had not previously envisioned.
AQAP represents one of the most serious terrorist threats to our country and the world. It is a group that is devoted not only to bringing down civilian passenger planes, but our way of life as well. That Assange is the darling of terrorists is nothing short of reprehensible…
No, Julian Assange and his kind are not the slightest bit interested in improving civil liberties or enhancing personal freedom. They have pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice. They may have believed that, but they are wrong…
So we face a crucial question: What can we do about this? What can and should CIA, the United States, and our allies do about the unprecedented challenge posed by these hostile non-state intelligence agencies?
…First, it is high time we called out those who grant a platform to these leakers and so-called transparency activists. We know the danger that Assange and his not-so-merry band of brothers pose to democracies around the world. Ignorance or misplaced idealism is no longer an acceptable excuse for lionizing these demons.
Second, there are steps that we have to take at home - in fact, this is a process we’ve already started. We’ve got to strengthen our own systems…
Third, we have to recognize that 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. It ends now.”
- Mike Pompeo, CIA Director, 13th April 2017.
The full speech is available here:
And there is a 5-minute video segment here:
2. Commentary and analysis:
Mike Pompeo describes his experience of Julian Assange’s actions as ‘perplexing and deeply troubling’. In contrast, I don’t find the CIA Director’s reaction to Assange perplexing in the slightest. His comments are entirely predictable sentiments coming from a political appointee whose allegiance is to the government he serves, rather than to the people that it is supposed to serve…an organisation that doesn’t…and hasn’t…lived up to its primary function, since the day that retaining it’s grip on power became the raison d'être for it’s actions.
The day that government ‘sold out’ is long gone, and identifying how or when it came about is not my purpose here. What is important is that the State’s obsession with its own ‘power’ remains unshaken, whomsoever sits in the White House - Democrat, Republican, or ersatz swamp drainer.
I do find some of the Director’s comments deeply troubling however; particularly the ones I’ve marked above in bold. But let’s start with the spurious, move to the laughable, then onto the hypocritical, and work our way up to the dangerous:
a) The Spurious:
‘In January of this year, our Intelligence Community determined that Russian military intelligence - the GRU - had used WikiLeaks to release data of US victims that the GRU had obtained through cyber operations against the Democratic National Committee’
There has been no evidence presented, credible or otherwise, to support this ‘determination’. This contrasts with the leaked information itself, which showed egregious behaviour on the part of the DNC, designed to ‘rig’ the outcome of the Democratic Primary Process.
b) The laughable:
“I am quite confident that had Assange been around in the 1930s and 40s and 50s, he would have found himself on the wrong side of history…we know this because Assange and his ilk make common cause with dictators today”
Lovers of stand-up comedy will enjoy the following link - a picture of Mike Pompeo in Riyadh on 10th February 2017, cracking one of his best jokes as he issues the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia with the George Tenet Medal “in recognition of the outstanding intelligence work in combating terrorism and his immense contributions to global security for the last two decades”.
Comedy at its best Mike.
c) The hypocritical:
“Following a recent WikiLeaks disclosure, an al Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula member posted a comment online thanking WikiLeaks for providing a means to fight America in a way that AQAP had not previously envisioned.
AQAP represents one of the most serious terrorist threats to our country and the world. It is a group that is devoted not only to bringing down civilian passenger planes, but our way of life as well. That Assange is the darling of terrorists is nothing short of reprehensible…”
Perhaps it would be churlish of me to remind Mr Pompeo of the immediate praise heaped on his boss by terrorist cells in Syria, who felt just peachy about his recent terror tantrum…the one where he threw 59 Tomahawk missiles out of his cot. But when it comes to the CIA’s history of recruiting, training and arming terror groups like the Mujahedeen (which became al Qa’ida), and then al Qa’ida itself (which became al-Nusra), all of which spawned ISIS…I think I’ll let my churl express its first amendment rights…which brings me to…
d) The Dangerous:
“No, Julian Assange and his kind are not the slightest bit interested in improving civil liberties or enhancing personal freedom. They have pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice. They may have believed that, but they are wrong… we have to recognize that 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. It ends now.”
If we have gotten to the stage where the constitutional and legal framework of the United States of America is re-interpreted, re-directed or announced, not by the Supreme Court, not by the Attorney General, not even by Congress, but by the Chief Spook…then we are in serious doo-doo. Here’s Glenn Greenwald writing in The Intercept:
‘But it is Pompeo’s threatening language about free speech and press freedoms that ought to be causing serious alarm for journalists, regardless of what one thinks of WikiLeaks. Even more extreme than the explicit attacks in his prepared remarks is what the CIA Director said in the question and answer session that followed. He was asked about WikiLeaks by the unidentified questioner, who queried of “the need to limit the lateral movements such as by using our First Amendment rights. How do you plan to accomplish that?” This was Pompeo’s answer:
“A little less Constitutional law and a lot more of a philosophical understanding. Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges. He is not a U.S. citizen. What I was speaking to is an understanding that these are not reporters doing good work to try to keep the American Government on us. These are actively recruiting agents to steal American secrets with the sole intent of destroying the American way of life.
That is fundamentally different than a First Amendment activity, as I understand them. This is what I was getting to. We have had administrations before that have been too squeamish about going after these people, after some concept of this right to publish. Nobody has the right to actively engage in the theft of secrets from America without the intent to do harm to it” – Mike Pompeo
Given how menacing and extreme this statement is, it is remarkable – and genuinely frightening – that it received so little notice, let alone condemnation, from the U.S. press corps, most of which covered Pompeo’s speech by trumpeting his claim that WikiLeaks is an agent of an enemy power, or noting the irony that Trump had praised WikiLeaks and Pompeo himself had positively tweeted about their revelations.’ – Glenn Greenwald
Greenwald's full article is here:
And there is an 16 minute video of him being interviewed on 'Democracy Now', here:
How did we get here? Slowly, and step-by-step. Every new ‘temporary’ power that is introduced, but never removed, brought us here; each new precedent set has transferred power from the individual to the government. The power is taken slowly, never returned…until it’s too late to stop it…and then comes upheaval and usually bloodshed. Governments never relinquish power voluntarily.
The founding fathers understood this. America was born from this understanding. So does Julian Assange, so does Glenn Greenwald, and so does Edward Snowden. Mike Pompeo does not. Liberty is a 'state of being', not a set of 'rules'; which is why the Bill of Rights is expressed in the negative not the positive – it restricts the State’s ability to interfere, rather than specifying what the individual is allowed to do. Like the common law from whence it came it is based upon ‘innocent until proven guilty’. The desire for liberty originates from human nature, from within each individual; and a government’s job is to protect it, within a rule of law equally applied to all – that’s it. Alas this is something the poor dears never understand, they just can’t help themselves – which is why we need a free media.
The process of evolution and ‘human nature’ has produced organisations like Wikileaks…because the creatures that have hitherto occupied that niche – the media – are not doing their job – they do not speak truth to power. In the ‘old’ days we had John Pilger’s books and Bob Woodward’s articles etc. – now we have Wikileaks and The Intercept and a few others. We have them because outfits like the FT, the NYT, and the WaPo are run by people who bring 15 years at a top private school, 3+ years at an Ivy League/Oxbridge university, a very impressive address book…and no spine.
Finally, many of you will know that the opening sentence of this piece, along with the title reference ‘The Minitrue’ (Ministry of Truth), are drawn from George Orwell’s classic ‘1984’. Orwell chose that date by reversing the last 2 digits of the year he wrote it – 1948. The date is largely irrelevant however - suppression of the people by their government can happen anytime, anywhere, and has done on many occasions throughout history. Nobody sees it coming…unless of course they do. When the press sees governmental overreach, and fails to challenge it, or even question it, they are in effect, choosing it. Silence is complicity…and that is how you get to 1984.