The fallout from WikiLeaks’ disclosure of alleged CIA hacking secrets stretched around the world Thursday, as Chinese officials accused the U.S. of “stealing secrets” and German prosecutors continued to investigate claims about a major American cyber-spying base in Frankfurt.
While stateside investigators hunted the source of the leaks -- a trove of more than 8,000 documents that WikiLeaks claims is the ‘entire hacking capacity of the CIA’ -- foreign officials were examining what the release revealed about the CIA’s interests abroad. Routers produced by Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE were named as devices targeted by CIA hackers, Reuters reported, prompting a rebuke from Beijing.
"We urge the U.S. side to stop listening in, monitoring, stealing secrets and internet hacking against China and other countries."
- Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang
"We urge the U.S. side to stop listening in, monitoring, stealing secrets and Internet hacking against China and other countries," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Thursday.
Thousands of miles away, federal prosecutors in Germany were looking into WikiLeaks-derived allegations that the CIA operated a hacking hub out of the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt.
“We will initiate an investigation if we see evidence of concrete criminal acts or specific perpetrators,” a spokesman for the prosecutor's office told Reuters. "We're looking at it very carefully."
The probe may not end at Germany’s border. In a release explaining its document dump on Tuesday, WikiLeaks noted that “once in Frankfurt CIA hackers can travel without further border checks to the 25 European countries that are part of the Shengen open border area -- including France, Italy and Switzerland.”
The Frankfurt allegations represent the second awkward disclosure this decade regarding possible U.S. spying on its European ally. A previous WikiLeaks release showed the NSA had snooped on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government in 2011.
One of the more startling revelations divulged by WikiLeaks is an alleged CIA ability to turn Samsung smart televisions into microphones, technology the anti-secrecy website says was developed in tandem with Britain’s intelligence services. South Korea-based Samsung released a statement Wednesday saying it was “urgently looking into the matter.”
WikiLeaks said its Tuesday release was less than 1 percent of the total documents it possesses.
During a question-and-answer session that was streamed online Thursday morning, WikiLeaks head Julian Assange said the group would work with some of the affected tech companies "to give them some exclusive access to some of the additional technical details we have so that fixes can be pushed out and people can be secured."
Meanwhile, those at CIA headquarters are reportedly “irritable” and “frustrated” as the agency enters its third day of damage control while simultaneously hunting the mole who gave the files to WikiLeaks. A CIA spokesperson on Wednesday sent an unprompted statement stressing the agency’s mission was “to aggressively collect foreign intelligence overseas” and that the organization was “legally prohibited from conducting electronic surveillance.”
“They’re not developing these capabilities so they can turn them on to us,” former CIA covert operations officer and Fox News contributor Mike Baker said. “There’s this uniquely American notion that we all live these interesting lives and the government is so interested in what we do. Is it ‘1984’? No. It’s not. We do it ‘cause every other country out there is doing it.”