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WikiLeaks Embarrasses CIA Director, Posts Documents from Hacked AOL Account

Documents from CIA director John Brennan’s personal AOL email address have been released by WikiLeaks. Brennan’s email account was hacked on October 12.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been embroiled in scandal over her use of an AOL email account. This latest hack raises questions about why any official or individual pursuing a position in government would keep their private AOL account active.

An announcement posted by WikiLeaks indicated “Brennan used the account occasionally for several intelligence-related projects.”

Prior to becoming CIA Director in March 2013, Brennan was an Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism– or a national security adviser. He was the president of an intelligence and analysis firm called The Analysis Corporation (TAC) from 2005 to 2008. And from 1980 to 2005, Brennan worked for the CIA.

The published documents reveal a letter from Arthur L. Passar of the Office of General Counsel at the CIA. The letter [PDF] is “protected material” that is only to be released in accordance with a Government Accountability Office (GAO) protective order. It shows Brennan’s intelligence firm pursued a contract with the CIA and became embroiled in a dispute.

The contract involved software for a CIA watch list. Essentially, in 2007, TAC complained that the process for competing for a CIA contract was not fair.

The Office of General Counsel found TAC’s effort to obtain a contract to be disingenuous and determined the firm was unqualified. TAC had obtained “inside information” from a subcontractor, BAE, from a former senior government official on staff, and from other participants in handling the watch list program. But it made claims it did not have appropriate information to properly answer questions in order to obtain the contract.

A draft of an electronic questionnaire [PDF] Brennan filled out contains a detail about Brennan’s private consultation with United Arab Emirates officials prior to becoming CIA director:

For context, UAE obtained nearly $200 million worth of U.S.-manufactured Predator drones in 2013. This procurement, according to the Los Angeles Times, was the “first time a non-NATO country” obtained drones.

UAE has been part of an alliance of Gulf countries, which has increasingly engaged in coordination with the U.S. on military and foreign affairs over the objections of human rights organizations.

A draft position paper [PDF] reflects some of Brennan’s views about the national security apparatus in the United States. He explicitly advocates for a change in how directors of the CIA and the Director for National Intelligence are appointed, including that each become ten-year appointments.

Brennan also advocates more relations between private security corporations and national security agencies.

“The security of our nation will be best protected when we truly have a ‘national’ security architecture that knits together the capabilities and requirements of all levels of government as well as those of the private sector,” Brennan wrote.

Finally, a draft of a paper on Iran provides some insight on Brennan’s views.

The paper was published in an academic journal in 2008. [*Remarkably, NBC News granted anonymity so a former Pentagon official could joke, “If WikiLeaks would release his paper, it might actually cause some people to read it.”]

An unnamed CIA spokesperson reacted, “The private electronic holdings of the Brennan family were plundered with malicious intent and are now being distributed across the web. This attack is something that could happen to anyone and should be condemned, not promoted.”

However, cognizant of the fact that people might wonder if his personal email contained classified information, which would demonstrate he had committed a security breach, the spokesperson added, “There is no indication that any the documents released thus far are classified. In fact, they appear to be documents that a private citizen with national security interests and expertise would be expected to possess.”

WikiLeaks has only begun to post documents yet NBC News has already preemptively declared there are no “bombshells.”

The media outlet describes the posting of emails as a “dump” when, in fact, that is not what happened. It stands in sharp contrast to the posting of emails from the Stratfor private intelligence firm, which WikiLeaks published as the “Global Intelligence Files.” Even NBC News notes, as of now, no emails were posted. Only documents culled from his personal email have been released.

While it has not been confirmed, the widespread suspicion is that the contents of his email account were provided to WikiLeaks by a teenager who recently boasted about hacking into Brennan’s account and Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnsen’s account.

This teenager tricked “workers at Verizon into providing Brennan’s personal information” and duped “AOL into resetting his password.” He told The New York Post he was motivated to take this action because he opposes U.S. foreign policy and supports Palestine.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."