WikiLeaks releases CIA director’s emails

The whistleblowing group published six documents Wednesday, said to be accessed from John Brennan's 'non-government email account.' It is not clear whether they were obtained from this weekend's reported breach.

Yuri Gripas/Reuters/File
CIA Director John Brennan listens to remarks by President Barack Obama at the Director of National Intelligence Office to mark its 10th anniversary, in McLean, Virginia on April 24, 2015. The FBI and the Secret Service are investigating reports that CIA Director John Brennan's personal email had been hacked, although no classified information had been accessed, CNN said.

WikiLeaks, the organization best known for publishing classified documents such as those leaked by Chelsea Manning, has released documents it says came from CIA Director John Brennan’s email account.

“We have obtained the contents of CIA Chief John Brennan’s email account and will be releasing it shortly,” the group said on Twitter Wednesday.

Later that afternoon, WikiLeaks posted a total of six documents to its website.

Here’s what the files are said to include:

  • Brennan’s SF86, an application for top-secret security clearance
  • Brennan’s recommendations made in 2007 on “the conundrum of Iran”
  • Brennan’s 2007 paper on the “unprecedented” national security challenges facing the United States in the 21st century, in which he states “the Intelligence Community must never be subject to political manipulation and interference”
  • A 2008 letter from Vice Chairman of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Christopher S. Bond proposing to “preclude” the use of specific interrogation techniques that are prohibited under the Army Field Manual

The leak comes just days after the Secret Service and FBI said it was investigating reports of a hack of Director Brennan’s personal account.

On Sunday, an anonymous user claiming to be a high school student said he managed to break into the personal email accounts of Director Brennan and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, The Christian Science Monitor previously reported.

His Twitter account, @phphax, links to files that he says are Brennan's contact list, as well as former CIA deputy director Avril Haines’s phone logs.

“The good news for Mr. Brennan is that so far, no classified information appears to have been revealed,” wrote The New York Times. “For John O. Brennan, the director of the CIA, perhaps the worst part of the attack on his private email account was the revelation that until very recently, he used an AOL account.”

The high-profile cyberattack, however, raises concerns that go beyond questions about how secure – or hip – these top government representatives are.

It also points to the moral and political motivations often fueling these breaches, such as those said to be behind Team Impact, the group responsible for hacking the servers of Ashley Madison, a website facilitating extramarital affairs for its users, this summer. As it exposed the names and sensitive information of people who were allegedly being unfaithful to their spouses, the group was celebrated by some as an example of “moral vigilantism.”

For his part, the teenage hacker revealed on Sunday said that his motivations stem from an opposition to American foreign policy and a support for Palestine.

It is not yet clear whether the personal emails obtained by this hacker are tied to the ones WikiLeaks have just released, though the group has said the documents were accessed through a “non-government email account.” 

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