WikiLeaks has unloaded another giant batch of documents, these ones concerning the techniques the US Central Intelligence Agency uses to spy on anybody and everybody in its covert surveillance operations around the globe.
The 8,761 leaked documents are codenamed ‘Year Zero’, which WikiLeaks says are from an “isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence” in Langley, Virginia.
It says they are but the first tranche of a much larger series of leaked documents, which it has branded ‘Vault 7’. Its description of the documents’ source throws some light onto the way WikiLeaks operates:
“Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponised ‘zero day’ exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation,” said WikiLeaks in a statement.
“This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former US government hackers and contractors in an unauthorised manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.”
New leaks 'just the beginning'
WikiLeaks says these Year Zero leaks are just the beginning, and many more documents to come will show the full scope and direction of the CIA's global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of attacks against a wide range of US and European company products.
These, include the Apple's iPhone, Google Android and Microsoft Windows. It says even Samsung smart TVs can be turned into covert microphones for surveillance purposes.
The leaks come at a time when US President Trump is virtually at war with his security agencies, accusing them of leaking information designed to harm him. The leak of this latest group of documents is likely to further embarrass the CIA, which can rightly be accused of not even being able to keep its own secrets secret.
Let's remember Julian
WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange has been holed up for nearly five years now in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, just around the corner from Harrod’s department store. The platinum blonde Australian may be given his marching orders after the second round of the Ecuadorian presidential elections next month, but right now he remains editor of WikiLeaks and its most public face.
“There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber weapons,” he said with the release of the Year Zero documents. “Comparisons can be drawn between the uncontrolled proliferation of such weapons, which results from the inability to contain them combined with their high market value, and the global arms trade.
“But the significance of ‘Year Zero’ goes well beyond the choice between cyberwar and cyberpeace. The disclosure is also exceptional from a political, legal and forensic perspective.”
WikiLeaks, long regarded as traitors by many, has had something of a reputational issue lately. Its disclosure of private emails from the Hilary Clinton during the US election campaign were welcomed by the US Republican Party, and proved very damaging.
In what was a very close election, the leaks may even have swung the balance. And the actions of the biggest US internal criminal agency, the FBI, in its on-again off-again probe into her actions immediately before the polls, certainly had an effect.
The FBI, the CIA, and WikiLeaks have become central players in Trump presidency. But the real issue is even bigger.
This latest round of leaked documents is significant further evidence of level to which governments are prepared to spy on their own people.
Recent disclosures that the Australian government’s new data retention laws are being used by agencies that were not initially supposed to be able to access the data, just as critics warned would happen, has raised scarcely an eyebrow.