WikiLeaks' release of thousands of web pages detailing tools the CIA uses to spy on targets around the world is a bigger deal than Edward Snowden's revelations in 2013, according to intelligence officers.
On Tuesday 7 March WikiLeaks released 7,818 web pages and 943 attachments showing how the CIA exploits holes in the computer code of devices like cell phones, smart TVs, and automobiles to gain control of them.
"It's like handing our biggest cyber guns over to anyone with an internet connection," an anonymous US intelligence officer told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday. "This is, if you look at the big picture, worse than Snowden. What he released led to big headlines and put a few lives in danger. What we have here could potentially put thousands of people in danger in countries around the world."
In 2013 National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the US government's digital spying and the fact that American communications were being gathered up en masse. Snowden also revealed collaborations in spying with American allies, including Britain, Canada, and New Zealand. It has never shown anyone was harmed by his leaks.
Yet the new WikiLeaks revelations "are extremely dangerous" the US intelligence officer said because "they reveal details about our methodology and practices which we don't want our adversaries knowing about, let alone mimicking!"
WikiLeaks says it has an archive of computer code that would allow anyone to pick up and use the hacking tools the CIA has developed over a period of years. The documents date from 2013 to 2016 and were leaked by a former US government hacker or contractor. WikiLeaks prides itself on its track record of document authenticity.
"The potential to have this turned around and used against us and our allies is enormous. In my mind this is worse than what Snowden released," Jonna Mendez, former high-ranking CIA officer in the agency's Office of Technical Service told BuzzFeed.
When asked whether the Trump administration is worried about the leaks, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said: "I think obviously that's something that has not been fully evaluated, and if it was, I would not comment from here on that."
During the 2016 election campaign President Donald Trump championed WikiLeaks as they released the emails of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. "WikiLeaks! I love WikiLeaks!" Trump proclaimed at a rally in Pennsylvania in October as Clinton's campaign emails were being released. US intelligence agencies concluded the emails came from Russian intelligence-linked hackers.
House intelligence committee, Rep Devin Nunes, said he was very concerned about the new WikiLeaks release and has sought more information about it.
Senator John McCain said the White House needs to focus on cybersecurity and take it seriously after Trump claimed that a child or 400lb person in their basement could have hacked Clinton. "I'd like to see a greater emphasis, to tell you the truth," McCain said. "I really would. I'd like to see a greater emphasis."