Comey: Wikileaks crosses a line when it becomes 'intelligence porn'

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse asked FBI Director James Comey during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday why Americans should not treat the self-described transparency organisation Wikileaks as a legitimate news organisation.

Comey replied that, while “all of us care deeply about the First Amendment,” publishing sensitive or classified information “crosses a line when it moves from being about trying to educate the public, to intelligence porn that’s just about pushing out information about sources and methods” and is designed to harm the US.

“Reasonable people can struggle to draw a line” between Wikileaks and real journalism, “but there’s nothing that even smells journalistic” about Wikileaks’ conduct, Comey added.

Sasse then asked what the difference is between Wikileaks publishing classified information and investigative journalists who seek out sources in the intelligence community to give them that same information.

“A huge portion of Wikileaks has nothing to do wih legitimate newsgathering and is simply about releasing classified information to damage the United States,” Comey said. “American journalists do not do that.”

Comey explained that when journalists come across classified or sensitive information, they almost always call the FBI and ask if there is anything about the data that could put American lives in danger.

“They then work with us to try to balance their journalistic” duties while at the same time ensuring that no lives “are put at risk,” Comey said.

Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, has long been a thorn in the side of the US intelligence community. The organisation’s ties to Russia — Assange once had his own show on the state-owned news agency Russia Today — came under renewed scrutiny last summer when it began releasing hacked emails from Democratic organisations that had been stolen by Russian hackers.

The organisation recently leaked a trove of CIA hacking tools, prompting CIA director Mike Pompeo, who was once a defender of the organisation, to describe it as a “hostile intelligence service” in his first speech as CIA director last month.

He added that Assange was a “narcissist” and “a fraud — a coward hiding behind a screen.”

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