New WikiLeaks Revelations CIA Spies May Also Operate in Frankfurt

WikiLeaks has published thousands of documents pertaining to CIA efforts at global surveillance, including a tool to transform smart-TVs into a powerful spying device. The documents indicate that some of the intelligence agency's spying may be done from Frankfurt.

CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia
Getty Images

CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia


The whistleblower platform WikiLeaks has published new material that appears to provide fresh insight into the spying practices of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Shortly after 2 p.m. Central European Time, 8,761 documents and files were made available pertaining to systematic CIA infiltration of computers around the world.

According to a WikiLeaks press release, the cache of documents, christened "Vault 7" by organization, provides an overview of the CIA's secret hacking arsenal, including malware, viruses, Trojans and the targeted exploitation of systemic weaknesses, referred to as "Zero Day Exploits" in the parlance. The documents indicate that the tools enable the CIA to breach Apple iPhones, Android devices from Google, Windows computers and even televisions.

The material published by WikiLeaks is from an anonymous source. According to the platform, the material has been circulating among former U.S. government hackers and contractors, which is how it found its way to the whistleblowing platform. According to a WikiLeaks statement, the source hopes the publication of the documents will trigger a debate on how the use of cyberweapons can be democratically legitimized and controlled.

WikiLeaks claims to have spent several months reviewing the documents. In contrast to past data dumps, WikiLeaks edited and redacted parts of the documents prior to publication.

Active in Frankfurt

WikiLeaks says the CIA has its own cyberwar division and that around 200 experts belonging to the division are able to infiltrate computers around the world using tools specifically developed to steal data. The CIA hackers work at the agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, WikiLeaks says, but adds that the agency maintains at least one base outside of the United States.

The documents indicate that the CIA hacking experts are also active in the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany, the largest American consulate in the world. According to WikiLeaks documents, the consulate grounds also house a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, a building that is only accessible to CIA agents and officers from other U.S. intelligence agencies. These digital spies apparently work independently of each other in the facility so as not to blow their cover.

There are apparent references in the documents to trips taken to Frankfurt by these CIA hacking experts, complete with what passes for humor in the intelligence agency: "Flying Lufthansa: Booze is free so enjoy (within reason)," one of the documents reads. There is advice for ensuring privacy in the recommended hotels: "Do not leave anything electronic or sensitive unattended in your room. (Paranoid, yes but better safe than sorry.)"

One of the tools described in the documents, codename "Weeping Angel," is specifically designed for hacking into Samsung F8000-Series smart televisions. According to the document, CIA agents are able to switch the televisions into "Fake Off," which fools their owners into thinking it has been switched off. But the hackers are nevertheless able to use the TV's microphone and webcam for surveillance purposes.

Critique from Snowden

More broadly, the documents indicate that the CIA does not want to leave cyberspace surveillance completely to the National Security Agency (NSA), which has its own vast collection of spying tools. WikiLeaks writes in its press release that the CIA has, in effect, developed its "own NSA."

It was almost exactly two years ago that then-CIA head John Brennan announced: "We must place our activities and operations in the digital domain at the very center of all our mission endeavors." In his announcement, he said the CIA would redouble its focus on the internet. A short time later, the Intercept revealed that the CIA was trying to spy on iPhones and iPads. The documents now released by WikiLeaks include more such details.

By editing and redacting the documents prior to publication, WikiLeaks has changed its erstwhile publishing practice of dumping files into the internet just as they had been received. This time, the names of CIA agents have been deleted and their email addresses and the IP addresses of their computers have been blacked out. Last year, WikiLeaks had been sharply criticized for not doing so in previous document dumps. None other than NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who also spent time working for the CIA, had demanded that WikiLeaks redact documents and files prior to publication.

With Reporting by Judith Horchert and Angela Gruber


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pwells1066 03/08/2017
1. Wow
What a range of tools the intelligence agencies have at their disposal. I am guessing that Germany, UK, India and Russia have similar and, in view of their electronic manufacturing expertise, I bet China has a host of data gathering items in use throughout the world. What a strange world we live it. It is strange only because humans have a capability of trusting others which makes such devices largely unecessary. However I guess humans also have the capacity for deceit and so such devices can be useful. Thank goodness I love and trust my wife and family. It saves us all a lot of time and money.
Inglenda2 03/09/2017
2. Na nun
States do not have friends, at the very most they have partners. Not all partners can be trusted and so they are spied upon, just as much as potentiel, or active enemies are. This is wrong, but nothing new, so why the surprise. The USA does not even trust itself, why should it then trust anybody else?
magnaseal14 03/10/2017
3. Cia
Again , naive Germans ! 'May be' operating in Frankfurt . The BND know very well that is the case . Just how much evidence to EU politicians need to stop US meddling and take control of their own affairs . Cicero was right Politicians are excreted no made!
fred_m 03/11/2017
4. Windows computers and linux computers
Quote: "The documents indicate that the tools enable the CIA to breach Apple iPhones, Android devices from Google, Windows computers and even televisions." Linux computers have not been mentioned. Just an oversight ?
afrikaneer 03/16/2017
5. Who Can Save Us From Ourselves?
There are a few things I am certain of, others are just dreams. For instance, the hacking or cyberattacks of personal & business computers is such a pervasive activity that if not stop now, it will adversely impact the way we will work and live in the future. I am also certain, that the trashing of our privacy rights by media companies has already diminished our community, and personal values. By comparison, the FDR Social Security Act- 1935, versus the Health care proposal to replace Obamacare leaving 24 Million of Americans uninsured (2017). This callous proposal represent an abysmal drop of American quintessential values shared by Europeans as well. My dream is that someday intelligent heroes would write an outer space communication platform (hacker-proof) with an encrypted new language and based in a new mathematical model. The world would communicate without reservation that dozens of spying agencies or hundred of personal data hunters would pry on us, and violate our family space or expose our innermost thoughts. The reality is, we live in a world where business maggots feel they have the right to profit with our personal information. The future would look brighter if such an application would put them all out of business. Gone is the time of "Peace Corp" mentality........greed, fun, has replaced altruism,......what a pity!- Who can save us from ourselves?
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