WikiLeaks’ CIA hacking tools and documents dump – should you care?

Yes, you should care about WikiLeaks’ CIA hacking tools and documents dump.

And here’s why. 

Like you, I have been listening to a number of stories on the general media outlets about the WikiLeaks’ CIA hacking tools and documents dump and am surprised to hear interviewed security experts say the information in these dumps is of no concern to U.S. Citizens, because the CIA’s mission does not allow them to spy on U.S. citizens.

I disagree with this.

That the CIA would say this does not surprise me. What does surprise me is that few if any pundits bring up all of the times the CIA and similar U.S. Government spy agencies have been caught breaking this rule. In fact, the head of the Senate intelligence committee accused the CIA of improperly accessing the Senate’s own computers during the investigation of CIA misconduct just a few years ago. I list 7 other incidents reported by the media below – and these are just a select few. 

But First, Some Historical Context

The Patriot Act was rushed through the U.S. government at a time of shock and crisis (2001) and was created by leaders working on false information from the administration at the time. This act greatly reduced the rights and privacy of U.S. Citizens at a time when emerging digital technologies were already challenging citizens rights to personal information. Even with the new abilities given to government through the Patriot Act, many dozens of abuses have come to light that far exceed the expansive abilities granted through the Patriot Act.

Here are 7 reported incidents:

  1. The New York Times reported in 2005 that the NSA was tapping phone calls of U.S. Citizens without being granted, or even applying for warrants.
  2. The New York Times reported in 2005 that the NSA was Data Mining U.S. Citizens  – also without warrants.
  3. Justice Department’s Inspector General found the FBI issued hundreds of thousands of national security letters, a majority against U.S. persons, and many without any connection to terrorism at all. 
  4. The U.S. Government has been dismantling the Freedom of Information Act, by reclassifying data as “sensitive but unclassified”. 
  5. Government investigators are being refused the security clearances required to investigate illegal and unconstitutional NSA wiretapping programs.
  6. The Bush administration expressed interest in prosecuting journalists under the Espionage Act of 1917: essentially trying to quell the media’s role in exposing questionable, illegal and unconstitutional conduct, such as the NSA wiretapping program.
  7. Government agencies have conducted their own spying on innocent and law-abiding Americans. Through the Freedom of Information Act, the ACLU learned the FBI had been consistently monitoring peaceful groups such Quakers, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Greenpeace, the Arab American Anti-Defamation Committee and others. In August 2007 the Pentagon announced that it would be shutting down its TALON database program, which illegally gathered information on anti-war activists across the country. (See www.aclu.org/spyfiles)

It does not take much work to find credible verified cases in which the CIA, FBI, NSA and other government agencies have been routinely found to break the law and spy on U.S. citizens. We can also assume that we likely know of only a very small percentage of these cases. Whistle-blower programs in these agencies are renowned for being ineffective at best.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/intelligence-security-initiatives-have-chilling-effect-on-federal-whistleblowers-critics-say/2014/07/23/c9dfd794-0ea0-11e4-8341-b8072b1e7348_story.html?utm_term=.7facf4b84abc

Summing it up

If we could trust that the CIA operated in the spirit of the law and upheld the values of our founding fathers, then the WikiLeaks dump could be seen as a tragedy as it could potentially limit future CIA operations to catch terrorists. However, the evidence shows that without a trusted third-party oversight or even a viable whistle-blower program, abuse could be and is likely taking place. 

WikiLeaks’ CIA hacking tools and documents dump will likely help anti-malware companies provide solutions to U.S. citizens (and people from all countries), to reduce CIA spying. Unfortunately, under our current privacy and oversight laws, this is a good thing because U.S. citizens do need protection from our own government’s misdeeds. 

I hope that in coming years the citizens of the United States will bring a will to the government to put in place effective whistle-blower programs and oversight, so that we will not have to rely on WikiLeaks to protect our rights and privacy from the U.S. government. 

Take Action – Become Security Aware

If you wish to learn how to protect your privacy and the privacy of organizations you belong to, I encourage you to make sure you and your colleagues get quality, up-to-date Security Awareness Training. 

Note: the opinions in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of MAX Technical Training Inc.

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