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    Dinah PoKempner, left, general council for Human Rights Watch, listens as Edward Snowden speaks on a television screen via video link from Moscow during a news conference to call upon President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden before he leaves office, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, in New York.

    CIA Director Mike Pompeo: 'Worship' of Edward Snowden to Blame for Rise in Leaks

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    CIA Director Mike Pompeo says leaking of confidential information is on rise and he has blamed the "worship" of Edward Snowden. He said more needed to be done to stem the leakage of state secrets by whistleblowers.

    In 2013 Snowden, a National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, leaked classified documents on mass surveillance practices carried out by US authorities around the globe.

    A chair is pictured on stage as former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
    © REUTERS / Svein Ove Ekornesvaag/NTB Scanpix
    A chair is pictured on stage as former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

    Snowden fled to Hong Kong, then to Russia, which granted him asylum. In 2014, he was given a temporary residence permit for three years by Moscow, which was renewed until 2020. 

    Another former NSA contractor, Reality Winner, following in Snowden's footsteps, was charged in early June with leaking classified information about alleged Russian election hacks.

    In February this year, Harold Martin, a US government contractor who worked for different federal agencies including the NSA, was charged with 20 counts of theft and continued possession of highly classified defense information. 

    Investigators say they seized enough information to fill 200 laptop computers.

    "In some ways, I do think it's accelerated. I think there is a phenomenon, the worship of Edward Snowden, and those who steal American secrets for the purpose of self-aggrandisement or money or for whatever their motivation may be, does seem to be on the increase," Mr. Pompeo said.

    His comments suggested he had no grasp of Snowden's real motivations — to expose the United States government's widespread hacking of emails and tapping of phones, including that of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel. There has never been any evidence that Snowden profited financially from the leaks.

    Mr. Pompeo is a hawkish former Republican congressman from Kansas, who was nominated by President Donald Trump and took over earlier this year from John Brennan, who said last year Snowden should voluntarily return to the US from Russia and face trial.

    Mike Pompeo
    © AFP 2019 / SAUL LOEB
    Mike Pompeo

    A declassified 2016 Department of Defense inspector general report identified that until the Snowden leaks, the US had no idea how many people had access to its top secret files.

    Mr. Pompeo said the US needed to increase its efforts to stop leaks of classified information. 

    "It's tough. You now have not only nation states trying to steal our stuff, but non-state, hostile intelligence services, well-funded — folks like WikiLeaks, out there trying to steal American secrets for the sole purpose of undermining the United States and democracy." 

    WikiLeaks recently released its Vault 7 files — nearly 8,000 documents it says reveal secrets about the CIA's cyberespionage tools for breaking into computers.

    They previously published 250,000 State Department cables and revealed embarrassing details about US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

    Bradley Manning, the US Army private who leaked more than 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks, was jailed in 2013.

    Now living as a woman and known as Chelsea Manning, she was released earlier this year after outgoing President Barack Obama commuted her sentence.

    Chelsea Manning, the US soldier imprisoned for leaking the largest trove of classified documents in US history, has proposed, and drafted, a bill to strengthen protections for journalists reporting on government secrets.
    Chelsea Manning, the US soldier imprisoned for leaking the largest trove of classified documents in US history, has proposed, and drafted, a bill to strengthen protections for journalists reporting on government secrets.

    Ms. Manning has always said she leaked the documents to raise awareness about the Iraq war's impact on innocent civilians. 

    Mr. Pompeo said the Trump administration was focused on stopping leaks of and pursuing perpetrators.

    "I think we'll have some successes both on the deterrence side, that is stopping them from happening, as well as on punishing those who we catch who have done it," he said. 

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    leaks, spying, whistleblowers, leaked documents, WikiLeaks, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), Mike Pompeo, Edward Snowden, John Brennan, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, United States, Russia, Hong Kong
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