CIA to WikiLeaks: We're doing our jobs by spying

The spying agency says "Americans deserve nothing less" than a CIA with the best spy tools. You're welcome, America.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
2 min read

The CIA said it's doing what it's supposed to when it spies on devices.

Pool, Getty Images

The CIA said it's just doing its job, whether or not it has a giant arsenal of hacking tools for phones, computers and smart TVs.

After WikiLeaks released thousands of documents claiming to show the CIA's tools for hacking into iPhones, Android phones, computers, cars and smart TVs, the US government agency is standing its ground in the spy vs. spy face-off.

While the CIA still will not confirm or deny if the documents are authentic, it argues that hacking and gathering intelligence is exactly what it should be doing.

"It is CIA's job to be innovative, cutting edge, and the first line of defense in protecting this country from enemies abroad," Jonathan Liu, a CIA spokesman said in an emailed statement. "America deserves nothing less."

The documents released with WikiLeaks' "Vault 7" include exploits for iOS, Android and operating systems like Windows, Linux -- pretty much anything with an internet connection. WikiLeaks claims that the CIA was able to get remote access to gadgets through these vulnerabilities, allowing them to bypass encryption on messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal.

If these documents are real, it would fire up the debate between privacy and national security again with the US government and the tech sector. CNET is unable to verify whether the documents are real or have been altered.

Watch this: How do WikiLeaks' CIA hacking claims differ from Snowden NSA?

Apple said its users should not be concerned if they have updated to the latest iOS, which patched a majority of the vulnerabilities. The CIA said Americans shouldn't be concerned, either. The CIA boasts having top-of-the-line hacking tools, but stressed that it's illegal for its agents to spy on American citizens. On the other hand, it's worth noting the NSA programs can legally scoop up exchanges between Americans and foreign spy targets, or when their internet data travels outside of the US, legal experts say.

The agency went on to criticize WikiLeaks for disclosing any information that could potentially jeopardize national security, whether it's true or not.

"Such disclosures not only jeopardize US personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm," the CIA said.

Experts believe the data leaks have harmed the US government's relationship with the tech sector, and damaged the nation's public trust with the CIA.

"We're all less safe today, and we're all more vulnerable," Scott Vernick, a data privacy and security attorney at Fox Rothschild said. "We don't know how it will unsettle and how it will destabilize relationships that are important to us."

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET's newsstand edition.

Life, disrupted: In Europe, millions of refugees are still searching for a safe place to settle. Tech should be part of the solution. But is it?