WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has described the CIA as "dangerously incompetent,” in response to the US agency branding him a "friend of terrorists.” The war of words started after RT asked the CIA to comment on reports of its hacking exploits.
"Dictators and terrorists have no better friend in the world than Julian Assange, as theirs is the only privacy he protects,” CIA spokesperson Heather Fritz Horniak told RT in an email.
The scathing response came after RT asked the CIA to comment on the assessment of former agency analyst Ray McGovern. He suggested that the capability to falsify digital fingerprints, exposed by WikiLeaks as part of its ongoing Vault 7 disclosure, cast doubt on allegations against Russia in connection with the 2016 US presidential election.
"Could it be that the 'Russian hack' was really done by John Brennan of the CIA? If I were asked to bet on that, then I would bet that that was exactly the case,” McGovern told RT's Going Underground program.
"What does that mean? It means that these trumped-up charges against Trump, pardon the pun, are baseless,” McGovern added.
Brennan's successor as CIA director, Mike Pompeo, sparked concerns in April when he suggested that WikiLeaks, which he described as "a non-state hostile intelligence service,” could be prosecuted for the publication of confidential US documents. He also attacked Assange and his associates, branding them "demons.”
Critics said Pompeo was setting a dangerous precedent, which exposed any media outlet reporting on leaks or the accounts of whistleblowers. They also criticized his comment that Assange "has no First Amendment freedoms.”
When asked for comment, Assange reiterated his earlier criticism of the US intelligence agency.
"The CIA is the world's most dangerously incompetent spy agency. It has armed terrorists, destroyed democracies and installed and maintained dictatorships the world over,” he said in an email. "There are good men and women at the CIA but if our publications are any guide they work for WikiLeaks.”
CIA spokesperson Horniak also lashed out at RT for questioning the allegations of Russia's interference in the US election.
"The responsibility of the Russian intelligence services for the election-related hacking is an established fact, but it is not surprising that an identified propaganda outlet like RT would attempt to muddle those facts. No reputable news organization doubts Russian culpability,” Horniak claimed.
In response, RT's editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, said that such unquestioning obedience by the western mainstream media to the US establishment only leads to a decline in their popularity.
"The CIA & Co haven't bothered to present a shred of evidence besides their own claims, and are now actually boasting about how happy the ever-loyal press is to unquestioningly go along with the story,” Simonyan said, adding, "This is exactly why people have stopped trusting the mainstream media and are seeking out alternative sources of news and analysis.”
So far, no definitive evidence of the alleged hacking has been made public. A declassified report by the US intelligence community didn't state that such hacking took place, but rather said the agencies had "confidence” that it did.
The full episode of Going Underground featuring McGovern will be aired on Wednesday at 6pm Moscow time (15:00 GMT).