News dropped this morning about another new Wikileaks dump, this time regarding the CIA and its massive cyber spying and warfare operations. The over 8000 pages released contain intimate details of things like cyber warfare locations, tools, and agency structure. Vault 7 as it’s called paints a picture of an agency with a near boundless capacity to listen in on and monitor the communications of others, both in the U.S. and abroad.
The documents discuss things such as the CIA’s ability to intercept and read messages on apps that many in the information technology community once considered secure such as Signal and WhatsApp. Another alarming aspect is the acknowledgement that phones, smart TVs, and other internet devices are easily tapped into and used as microphones. This confirms what some have long suspected, and paints a disturbing picture of a state with the ability to spy on most anyone at anytime.
Included in the trove are the details of scores of weaponized “cyberweapons” which include any number of different computer viruses, malware, and exploits. While these weapons may have uses in the battlefields of today, one of the pages admits these tools have been compromised and are “in the wild” outside the agency. Could these tools now be used by foreign powers against American citizens due to a lack of oversight and carelessness?
While an executive order forbids the CIA to spy on American citizens, the CIA can ask another agency to do the spying and provide the necessary tools. Page 4 of the order states that “The CIA is, however, permitted to ask another federal agency to perform special collection techniques in the United States under that agency’s legal authorities. The CIA may also provide technical equipment or knowledge to another federal agency…”
The parallels between George Orwell’s 1984 and modern day America are even more undeniable today than before on account of this new information. The U.S. is engaging in endless war with robots, with the potential for the state’s ears and eyes to be everywhere at anytime. Serious questions about, as the leaker himself is said to have stated, the “security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.” are unanswered. The leaker went further to question “whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency”. In addition to these questions, why is the CIA replicating capacity and work already assigned to the NSA? These are important questions for the republic to ponder as we the people consider the role of electronic privacy and personal civil liberties in our lives.