Julian Assange, the founder of whistleblowing outfit WikiLeaks, has branded the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as "incompetent" following the revelation it allegedly lost control of a number of so-called cyberweapons used to hack into smartphones and computers.
"The Central Intelligence Agency has proven again and again over the years that it is a very incompetent organisation," Assange said during an interview with Deutsche Welle, published on 22 March, when asked if the public should be concerned about such hacking.
"That incompetence is evidenced by the fact it lost control of the entire cyberweapons arsenal," he continued, referencing WikiLeaks 'Vault7' leaks.
He added: "Can you imagine if the US lost control of its entire nuclear weapons arsenal and every teenager in the world could have it?
"When we deal with secret bureaucracies we are dealing with a system in which incompetence can flourish because incompetent acts are usually kept secret and covered up. Therefore, the amount of professionalism that evolves in those services has a limit."
The Vault7 disclosure, first released earlier this month, contained a cache of over 8,000 documents detailing alleged technical capabilities of the CIA's hackers. The source of the leak remains unknown, however WikiLeaks claimed it came from a "high-security network" at Langley, Virginia.
The FBI is now spearheading an operation is locate the leaker. It was claimed in the publication that the agency has the ability to infiltrate Apple iOS and Android operation systems. Later, Assange offered major technology firms "exclusive access" to the tools in order to create fixes.
This was met with a somewhat tepid response.
Nevertheless, speaking to Deutsche Welle, Assange said his release will create a "market pressure" for these companies to demonstrate to users their computer systems are secure.
He noted: "What's very interesting is some of the companies in Europe have responded immediately and are working on that [...] but a number of really big companies including Google, Microsoft and Apple have not yet responded other than to say they received our letter."
He said the responses are likely "stuck in their legal departments" due to the fact such firms often have lucrative government contracts.
"Their proximity to the US government means that so far they are not able to properly secure their users from attacks conducted by the CIA, or the NSA," he said.
Yet this brought up an interesting clash: if the agency is so incompetent, why should anyone worry about its ability to hack anything at all?
"They have the technology to do it, some of the technicians are competent in that sense," Assange countered. "If you throw billions of dollars at a technical problem that in theory can be solved you will find most organisations can solve that, and the CIA is one of those organisations.
"But when you combine the technical with the political, which of course is what the CIA's role is within the US empire, it's not able to really couple those together in a competent manner."
The WikiLeaks founder, live streaming from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he lives under political asylum, teased that his website has a "lot of major publications" still to come. Previously he claimed the initial Vault 7 release was "less than 1%" of the full trove.
"It's a big year for WikiLeaks," he promised.
For its part, the CIA has not officially confirmed the authenticity of the leak. In a statement on its website, it said: "It is CIA's job to be innovative, cutting-edge, and the first line of defence in protecting this country from enemies abroad. America deserves nothing less.
"The American public should be deeply troubled by any WikiLeaks disclosure designed to damage the Intelligence Community's ability to protect America against terrorists and other adversaries." White House spokesperson, Sean Spicer, advised tech firms against working with Assange.