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Comey: WikiLeaks is ‘intelligence porn,’ not journalism

FBI Director James Comey told a Senate Committee hearing on Wednesday that WikiLeaks is nothing more than “intelligence porn” often intended to harm the United States. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

FBI Director James Comey dismissed WikiLeaks as a legitimate news outlet Wednesday, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing that it is nothing more than “intelligence porn.”

Comey made the statement when Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) asked him to explain why he does not consider the site, which is published by Julian Assange, to be a worthy news publication.

“To my mind,“ the FBI director said, “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 … without regard to the First Amendment values that normally underly press reporting, and simply becomes a conduit for the Russian intelligence services.”

Comey, who said he cares “deeply” about press freedom, further remarked that WikiLeaks pushes out “information to damage the United States.”

“Reasonable people can struggle to draw the line” between WikiLeaks and legitimate press coverage, “but there’s nothing that even smells journalistic” at Assange’s outfit, Comey told Sasse.

At the Nebraska senator’s request, Comey then explained why an investigative journalist is different from WikiLeaks. He told Sasse that “a huge portion of WikiLeaks has nothing to do with legitimate news gathering and is simply about releasing classified information to damage the United States.”

“American journalists do not do that,” Comey said.

Instead, the FBI leader indicated, when journalists encounter classified data, they typically contact the bureau to ensure that releasing the information would not put any American lives in danger.

Assange took to Twitter to push back against Comey’s comments, saying the FBI chief “mislead the Senate while under oath.”

WikiLeaks rose to prominence during the 2016 presidential election, when it published hacked emails from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and emails from John Podesta, who was at the time serving as the chairman of then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

More recently, the website leaked a wellspring of CIA hacking tools, leading the agency’s director, Mike Pompeo, who at one time supported WikiLeaks, to last month condemn the outlet as a “hostile intelligence service.”

“WikiLeaks walks like a foreign intelligence agency and talks like a foreign intelligence agency,” Pompeo said at the time, describing Assange as “a fraud” and “a coward hiding behind a screen.”

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