'The Biggest Theft of Classified Information in CIA History'

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'The Biggest Theft of Classified Information in CIA History'
February 9, 2024

“When exposing a crime is treated as committing a crime, you are being ruled by criminals.”
― Edward Snowden

Dear friends,

Last week, former CIA software engineer Joshua Schulte was sentenced to 40 years in prison after his convictions for what the government described as the "biggest theft of classified information in CIA history," according to an NPR article. Schulte was responsible for leaking classified CIA documents to WikiLeaks about the CIA's global covert hacking program, code-named "Vault 7."

While the 2017 leaks were largely inconsequential as they mostly contained instruction manuals for old hacking tools, the secrets revealed were quite stunning. Here are some of the most revealing findings from the Vault 7 WikiLeaks page:

  • By the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division ... had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other "weaponized" malware.
  • "Weeping Angel", developed by the CIA's Embedded Devices Branch (EDB) ... infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones.
  • As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations.
  • The CIA's Mobile Devices Branch (MDB) developed numerous attacks to remotely hack and control popular smart phones. Infected phones can be instructed to send the CIA the user's geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone's camera and microphone.
  • These techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking the "smart" phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.

It was Schulte's disclosures about Vault 7 that prompted then CIA director Mike Pompeo to begin discussing plans to abduct and assassinate WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. As Assange's US lawyer Barry Pollack told Yahoo News, "As an American citizen, I find it absolutely outrageous that our government would be contemplating kidnapping or assassinating somebody without any judicial process simply because he had published truthful information."

In light of Schulte's prison sentence, much of the mainstream media landscape has echoed the sentiments of U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, who said that Schulte "betrayed his country by committing some of the most brazen, heinous crimes of espionage in American history."

However, independent and alternative media platforms have captured a different perspective, pointing to the need for transparency about ongoing, unaccountable intelligence agency operations connected to some of the most lethal, criminal, unconstitutional, and abusive activities in history.

Given the excessive secrecy and scale of corruption within government institutions, we rely on whistleblowers, journalists, and leaked documents to reveal the truth about where some of our taxpayer money is spent. Yet most importantly, who benefits and pays the (often tragic) price for US covert military-intelligence activities being carried out under the guise of national security.

In the 1970s, Senator Frank Church was responsible for bringing many of the abuses of US intelligence agencies to light. Once revealed, the scope of these programs far exceeded anything the public had imagined. Domestic experiments funded by the CIA were taking place. Mind control and drug experimentation on humans and dogs, mafia connections, political assassination, and massive surveillance of US citizens and foreign allies became widely used tools in the organization. Electric pistols and poison pellets that can cause heart attacks were discovered.

Just by examining the history and rise of the CIA, it becomes clear that many stated national security objectives were more about preserving American economic-corporate interests and upholding US political and military superiority. And the CIA was willing to do anything to protect these interests, including supporting and collaborating with extremist groups as part of its foreign policy agendas.

Although the Leahy Law prohibits the US military from providing training and equipment to foreign security forces that commit human rights abuses, intelligence agencies are exempt from this law.

Clandestine CIA activities have led to violent overthrowing of democratic governments all over the world, including Iran, Guatemela, Congo, Chile, and various African countries. The CIA has backed Islamic extremist groups in war-torn Syria, with Pentagon-trained Kurdish militia group fighting with CIA-trained militia group Fursan al Haq (who fights alongside Al-Qaeda). And many may recall the CIA and Pentagon's long support of dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile, who was responsible for countless human rights abuses, including gruesome acts of torture and sexual abuse of tens of thousands of people.

Through Operation Paperclip, the CIA, NASA, and many other branches of government provided aliases for top Nazi officers and scientists to enter and be employed by the U.S. after World War II. More than 1,500 Nazis were secretly embedded in the US scientific community and intelligence establishment, and were given excellent jobs and healthy salaries. Operation Paperclip would flip the moral script in astounding ways. Nazi physicians and chemists worked with the CIA, the army, and the navy to test and develop various nerve agents, interrogation techniques, and extensive mind control programs under the code names of Bluebird, Artichoke, MKUltra, and more.

Disturbingly enough, these mind control techniques developed by Nazi physicians and CIA-funded, former president of the American Psychiatric Association Ewan Cameron were quite effective. They used these barbaric tools in prisoner-interrogation sessions. They trained Latin American rebel groups like the Contras with some of these techniques who targeted political activists challenging the CIA-backed violent coups through South and Central America. The CIA supplied the funds and the equipment, and provided intelligence and target lists.

The CIA's support for the Contras in Nicaragua also fueled the deadly War on Drugs ravaging US communities. The War on Drugs is a racket designed in part to increase the price of drugs so intelligence agencies can fund black budget projects. The illicit drug trade fueled by the US government will likely create serious blowback in the coming years as the deadly drug addiction epidemic marches on, impacting millions of lives across the country.

When Nixon first declared war on drugs in 1971, there were fewer than 500,000 hard-core addicts in the nation, most of whom were addicted to heroin. Three decades later, despite the expenditure of $1 trillion in tax dollars, the number of hard-core addicts is shortly expected to exceed five million.

The CIA and the Department of State were protecting more and more politically powerful drug traffickers around the world: the Mujihadeen in Afghanistan, the Bolivian cocaine cartels, the top levels of Mexican government, Nicaraguan Contras, Colombian drug dealers and politicians, and others. Media's duties, as I experienced firsthand, were twofold: first, to keep quiet about the gush of drugs that was allowed to flow unimpeded into the US; second, to divert the public's attention by shilling them into believing the drug war was legitimate by falsely presenting the few trickles we were permitted to indict as though they were major "victories," when in fact we were doing nothing more than getting rid of the inefficient competitors of CIA assets.

— 25-year veteran of the DEA Michael Levine

In light of the current Ukraine-Russia war, the agency’s latest covert action involves supporting Neo-Nazis in Ukraine since at least 2014, the year of the far-right coup that overthrew pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych and incorporated the Nazi group Azov Battalion into the country’s National Guard. Since then, declassified government documents show that Ukraine was systematically developed as a proxy for US war against Russia. A former CIA official reported that the US was training an insurgency of Ukrainians on how “to kill Russians” in a secret CIA training program that started in 2015 and operated for years. It also appears highly likely that the CIA has provided support to Azov Battalion. In 2016, Congress removed a ban on funding Ukrainian neo-fascist groups, effectively paving the way for American arms and weapons to fall in the hands of Ukraine’s Nazi organizations.

[The CIA] creates the myths that we believe. If we were allowed to understand the CIA, we’d realize it’s a criminal organization that’s corrupting governments and societies around the world. Nowadays, the only way you can discern what’s going on is by studying and understanding the historical arc of these bureaucracies. Where did the CIA come from? If you look at it historically, you can see beyond the spin and it becomes demystified.

— Douglas Valentine, journalist and author of The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World

Explore our comprehensive Military-Intelligence Corruption Information Center for an in-depth look into past and present intelligence agency corruption.

We can't shift the chaos we're in until we name it. When we can recognize what's pushing us — in our personal lives and as a society — we already have a degree of freedom from it. Challenging information like this can paradoxically remind us of the greater good. It is the courage of the people and the love for the common good that bring these injustices to light—fueling uncensored dialogue and constructive action.

With faith in a transforming world,
Amber Yang for PEERS and WantToKnow.info

Special note: Secrets of the CIA is a revealing 45-minute Turner Home Entertainment documentary available for free viewing. In this riveting exposé, five former CIA agents describe how their initial pride and enthusiasm at serving their nation turned to anguish and remorse, as they realized that they were actually subverting democracy and killing innocent civilians all in the name of "national security" and promoting foreign policy agendas.

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