Is WikiLeaks journalism or intelligence porn? FBI director says Assange 'crossed a line'

James Comey stands by the belief that WikiLeaks is a ''known outlet'' of foreign propaganda.

FBI Director James Comey waits to testify to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on 'Russia’s intelligence activities' on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on 10 January 2017Joshua Roberts/Reuters
Assange: 'Now it’s acceptable to look into policies of the White House and the Pentagon.'Reuters/Valentin Flauraud

FBI director James Comey has brushed off the suggestion that WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing platform, is a legitimate news organisation and instead believes its ongoing spate of leaks and publications is nothing more than "intelligence porn."

This week (3 May), Comey was questioned by US Senator Ben Sasse during a much-publicised Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. During the session, he told the politician that he stands by the belief of the intelligence community that WikiLeaks is a "known outlet" of foreign propaganda.

He said its releases over the years – which include thousands of emails stolen from both the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and US diplomatic cables – have put both American lives and national interests at risk. Comey dismissed all merits of journalism.

Advertisement

He said: "To my mind, it crosses a line when it moves from being about trying to educate a public and instead just becomes about intelligence porn, frankly.

"Just pushing out information about sources and methods without regard to interest without regard to the First Amendment values that normally underlie press reporting, and simply becomes a conduit for the Russian intelligence services or some other adversary [...] to push out information to damage the United States. Reasonable people as you said, struggle to draw a line.

"But surely, there's conduct that so far, to the side of that line that we can all agree there's nothing that even smells journalistic about some of this conduct."

Recently, rhetoric from the Trump administration regarding WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange has spiked. The director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, branded it a "hostile intelligence service" while attorney general Jeff Sessions said his arrest had become a "priority."

The comments were met with backlash from commentators, human rights groups and journalists. Critics said prosecuting Assange would set a dangerous precedent as much of his platform's reporting mirrors revelations that routinely emerge from mainstream newspapers.

But during his senate appearance, Comey stressed WikiLeaks is not considered a media publication.

He said: "In my view, a huge portion of WikiLeaks's activities has nothing to do with legitimate newsgathering, informing the public, commenting on important public controversies, but is simply about releasing classified information to damage the United States of America.

Advertisement

"American journalists do not do that. They will almost always call us before they publish classified information and say, is there anything about this that's going to put lives in danger, that's going to jeopardise government people, military people or innocent civilians anywhere in the world."

After his statement, Assange, via his official Twitter account, hit back: "James Comey just mislead the Senate while under oath when said WikiLeaks 'doesn't call us'. We did over #Vault7 and I know he knows it." He was referencing the most recent leaks of CIA documents.

Assange remains in the Ecuadoran Embassy, London, where lives under political asylum. He is wanted for questioning in Sweden for accusations of rape, however has long said if he travels to the country he will be swiftly extradited to the US to face trial for leaking secrets.

© Copyright 2017 IBTimes Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.