By Warren Strobel and Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Thursday called WikiLeaks a non-state “hostile intelligence service” often abetted by state actors, such as Russia during last year’s presidential campaign.
“WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service,” Pompeo told an audience at a Washington think tank.
Russia’s GRU intelligence service had used the anti-secrecy group to distribute hacked material during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, he said.
WikiLeaks released Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential campaign that U.S. intelligence agencies say were hacked by Russia to try to tilt the election against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in favor of Republican Donald Trump, the eventual winner.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the release was not intended to influence the election.
In March, WikiLeaks published documents describing secret Central Intelligence Agency hacking tools and snippets of computer code, but did not publish the full programs that would be needed to conduct cyber exploits against phones, computers and internet-connected televisions.
Intelligence and law enforcement officials said contractors likely breached security and handed the documents to WikiLeaks.
Contractors have been revealed as the source of sensitive government information leaks in recent years, most notably Edward Snowden and Harold Martin, both employed by consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton while working for the National Security Agency.
Assange said in March the group would provide technology companies with exclusive access to the CIA hacking tools it had so they could patch software flaws.
Assange, a native of Australia, has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012, after taking refuge there to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape, which he denies.
(Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by Eric Beech and Bill Trott)