Mike Pompeo, in his first speech as director of the CIA, chose to declare war on free speech rather than on the United States’ actual adversaries. He went after WikiLeaks, where I serve as editor, as a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” In Pompeo’s worldview, telling the truth about the administration can be a crime — as Attorney General Jeff Sessions quickly underscored when he described my arrest as a “priority.” News organizations reported that federal prosecutors are weighing whether to bring charges against members of WikiLeaks, possibly including conspiracy, theft of government property and violating the Espionage Act.
All this speech to stifle speech comes in reaction to the first publication in the start of WikiLeaks’ “Vault 7” series. Vault 7 has begun publishing evidence of remarkable CIA incompetence and other shortcomings. This includes the agency’s creation, at a cost of billions of taxpayer dollars, of an entire arsenal of cyber viruses and hacking programs — over which it promptly lost control and then tried to cover up the loss. These publications also revealed the CIA’s efforts to infect the public’s ubiquitous consumer products and automobiles with computer viruses.
When the director of the CIA, an unelected public servant, publicly demonizes a publisher such as WikiLeaks as a “fraud,” “coward” and “enemy,” it puts all journalists on notice, or should. Pompeo’s next talking point, unsupported by fact, that WikiLeaks is a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” is a dagger aimed at Americans’ constitutional right to receive honest information about their government. This accusation mirrors attempts throughout history by bureaucrats seeking, and failing, to criminalize speech that reveals their own failings.