Information from the private email account of CIA Director John Brennan is being made public, just days after hackers bragged they had broken in.
WikiLeaks on Thursday posted several documents from the account, including what appear to be drafts of papers about the challenges facing the U.S. intelligence community and recommendations for how the U.S. should deal with Iran.
The anti-secrecy website also posted a draft of Brennan’s security clearance application, which contained personal information, such as a Social Security number.
WikiLeaks defended its actions, saying Brennan “used the account occasionally for several intelligence-related projects,” adding that it planned to release additional documents in the coming days.
From left, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Adm. Michael Rodgers, and DIA Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, appear on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 10, 2015.
A CIA spokesman rejected the website’s claims.
“There is no indication that any of the documents released thus far are classified,” the spokesman said, describing them instead as “documents that a private citizen with national security interests and expertise would be expected to possess.”
The spokesman also called the hacking a crime.
“The Brennan family is the victim,” the spokesman said. “The private electronic holdings of the Brennan family were plundered with malicious intent and are now being distributed across the Web.”
The documents posted on WikiLeaks appear to have come from a high school student who told the New York Post earlier this week that he'd hijacked the CIA director’s personal email account to protest American foreign policy.
The documents posted by WikiLeaks on Thursday all date to a time before Brennan joined the administration of President Barack Obama.
One paper from 2007, titled “The Conundrum of Iran,” warns that Tehran’s ongoing use of terrorism is “particularly alarming and insidious,” but also bemoans “the gratuitous labeling of Iran as part of an 'axis of evil' by President Bush” following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on the U.S.
The draft paper recommends the next president of the United States “tone down” the rhetoric.
“Iran’s importance to U.S. strategic interests and to overall stability in the region necessitates the establishment of direct and senior-level dialogue,” Brennan wrote, suggesting Washington “hold out meaningful carrots as well as sticks.”
The paper also suggested naming former Secretary of State Colin Powell as a special U.S. envoy to Iran to facilitate the process.
WikiLeaks posted a 2008 letter from former U.S. Senator Kit Bond to other senators about Bond’s own proposal to curb CIA interrogation techniques. It also posted what appeared to be Bond's draft legislation.
“There’s unlikely to be any real geopolitical fallout,” said Patrick Skinner, a former U.S. intelligence official who is now director of special projects at the Soufan Group, a private intelligence firm.
“Other intelligence agencies would look for information to either blackmail or socially engineer a pitch, but the CIA director isn't a realistic target for those services,” Skinner said. “This is much more narrow and personal.”
Government officials and private experts say the incident also demonstrates the vulnerabilities of an environment in which a need for fast and easy communication has outpaced the ability of agencies and companies to safeguard information.
“It is one of the most critical threats right now,” said Saryu Nayyar, CEO of Gurucul, a company that provides identity-based threat detection.
“It’s happening many times a day at any organization,” she said. “Hackers get into an environment, behave like insiders and exfiltrate critical intellectual property and confidential data.”
Law enforcement officials say they are looking into the hijacking of the CIA director’s private email account.
“The FBI is investigating this matter jointly with the U.S. Secret Service,” the FBI said in a statement. “Because this is an ongoing investigation, we are restricted from commenting further.”