CIA chief John Brennan cautions US government over counterattack against Russian hacking
CIA Director John Brennan at the third annual Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington, DC on 8 September 2016 Reuters/Gary Cameron

President-elect Donald Trump's comparison of the CIA to "Nazi Germany", and allegations that it leaked an unverified dossier filled with salacious stories about Trump's connection to Russia, stains the memory of dead agents, says the CIA's outgoing director.

Trump's accusations that his agency leaked the dossier are "repugnant", CIA Director John Brennan said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Monday (17 January 2017). "Tell the families of those 117 CIA officers who are forever memorialised on our wall of honour that their loved ones who gave their lives were akin to Nazis," he said.

"Tell the CIA officers who are serving in harm's way right now and their families who are worried about them that they are akin to Nazi Germany," Brennan added. "I found that to be very repugnant, and I will forever stand up for the integrity and patriotism of my officers who have done much over the years to sacrifice for their fellow citizens."

Trump has blamed the American intelligence community for the publication of the dossier on 10 January, compiled by a former British spy hired by Republicans and Democrats, which alleges the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

The dossier, however, was widely circulated throughout Washington, DC since July. Republican Senator John McCain possessed a copy along with many large news organisations and the FBI.

On 11 January, Trump tweeted: "Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?" Trump later took aim at Brennan when he questioned Trump's approach to Russia after Trump said he would lift sanctions on the country. "Was this the leaker of fake news?" Trump wrote in a tweet directed at Brennan on Monday (16 January).

"I do take great umbrage at that, and there is no basis for Mr Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly," Brennan said the day before in an interview on Fox News on Sunday (15 January). He called it outrageous to equate the US intelligence community with Nazi Germany.

Brennan speaks Arabic fluently and has served in the CIA for 25 years in various positions under US presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama.

"When there are allegations made about leaking or about dishonesty or a lack of integrity," Brenan told the Wall Street Journal, "that's where I think the line is crossed."