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WikiLeaks: US Intelligence Can Use Electronic Devices to Spy


FILE - WikiLeaks has published documents it says show how the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) collects information from electronic devices. In this 2016 file photo, a man holds his smart phone in Barcelona, Spain. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)


WikiLeaks has published documents it says show how the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) collects information from electronic devices.

The anti-secrecy group did not say how it received the 8,700 documents and files connected to the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence.

But WikiLeaks said the number is greater than the National Security Agency (NSA) documents provided by Edward Snowden in 2013. Snowden formerly worked as a contractor for the NSA.

Edward Snowden, center, speaks last year via video conference.
Edward Snowden, center, speaks last year via video conference.

VOA and other news media could not confirm if the documents released on Tuesday accurately describe CIA efforts to get information from smart phones, televisions and computers.

Jonathan Liu, spokesman for the CIA, said the agency does not comment on whether leaked documents are real.

One of the more sensational examples of hacking reported by WikiLeaks involved Samsung smart televisions.

WikiLeaks said the CIA infected some smart TVs with a computer virus known as “Weeping Angel.” The virus created a “fake off” button that left owners thinking the receiver wasn’t operating.

But while in the “off position,” the TV reportedly would record discussions and send the recordings over the Internet to a CIA computer.

WikiLeaks said the agency developed tools that could also work around security measures on Apple iPhones and Google’s Android phones.

Infected phones could be programmed to send the CIA the location of the user, along with messages and other information. The hack also activated the phone’s camera and microphone, WikiLeaks reported.

The website described one program it says has been tested against Microsoft’s Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 computer operating systems. It enters coding information that enables a hacker to gain use of the program’s memory and other controls.

All this happens, WikiLeaks said, without the knowledge of the computer’s owner.

WikiLeaks also said the CIA was looking into ways to infect control systems used on modern cars. The purpose is not known WikiLeaks suggested it could allow the agency to kill enemies and terrorists.

WikiLeaks said the CIA also collected information on how other countries, including Russia, do internet spying.

In addition to its main offices in Virginia, the agency also has an office in Frankfurt, Germany. It serves as a secret base for computer spying in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, WikiLeaks said.

Bob Ayers, a retired U.S. intelligence official, told the Associated Press that damage from WikiLeaks’ latest release is high.

But he said WikiLeaks has said it plans to release even more material, which could do even more damage.

WikiLeaks said the person or persons who provided the documents did so to start a discussion on whether the CIA is going beyond its official powers.

Sean Spicer, press secretary for President Donald Trump, would not comment on the WikiLeaks report.

The CIA seal on display in Langley, Va.
The CIA seal on display in Langley, Va.

WikiLeaks publishes secret information, often provided by people who do not want to be identified. It was founded in 2006 by Julian Assange.

Some U.S. intelligence officials have said that WikiLeaks provided information used to hurt former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections. Clinton was the Democratic Party’s candidate for president. Officials accused Russian intelligence agencies of using the information to help Donald Trump, the Republican candidate.

Trump won the election and now is in his 2nd month as president.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. His story is based on reports by VOA News, the Associated Press, Reuters and other sources. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

contractor - n. a person who is paid to perform work or to provide goods at a certain price or within a given time

determine - v. to find out information

accurately - adv. free from mistakes or errors

sensational - adj. causing very great excitement or interest with shocking details

hacking - n. to secretly gain use to the files of a computer or computer network in order to get information or cause damage

fake - adj. not real

microphone - n. a device into which people speak or sing in order to record their voices or to make them sound louder

coding - n. of or related to a series of directions for a computer

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