CIA Director Mike Pompeo still believes Russia was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee, the agency said Tuesday amid reports that Pompeo met a skeptic at President Trump’s urging.
William Binney, who worked more than three decades at the National Security Agency before stepping down as technical director in 2001, met with Pompeo on Oct. 24 to discuss a July report he co-authored suggesting DNC emails were leaked, rather than hacked.
“I thought it was a pretty good hourlong meeting,” Binney told the Washington Examiner. “He said that the president said I should talk to you for facts.”
Binney believes U.S. spy agencies “took a wild ass guess” in January when they blamed Russia for hacking the DNC and that "if they had any evidence, they would show it." The report he co-authored says download speeds make it likely someone leaked DNC files after downloading them locally, rather than hacked them over the internet.
“He just wanted to know the facts that we could explain to him,” Binney said about the meeting. “It seemed to me that was his entire objective. In other words, he wasn’t getting the facts from the intelligence agencies.”
Pompeo, however, was unswayed. “The Director stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment entitled: Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections,” CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement.
Boyd declined to confirm that the meeting happened, but the Intercept, which first reported it, cited an unnamed official confirming that it happened at Trump’s request.
Binney was not told the subject of the meeting before it happened. He said he was first contacted by CIA staff in early October, while he was at his new consulting business’ office in the Netherlands.
“We kind of dropped our jaws and said, ‘What is this for?’” recalled friend and business partner J. Kirk Wiebe, also a veteran of the NSA. Wiebe told the Washington Examiner he was in the room when Binney's wife called to relay the request.
“Pompeo wouldn’t know Bill Binney from an oak tree, but he obviously heard from someone he was good to talk to,” Wiebe said.
During the meeting, Binney said the CIA director asked him if he also was willing to meet with the FBI and NSA, but that meetings have not yet been scheduled. Two special assistants to Pompeo took notes, he said.
Binney brushed off Pompeo’s Tuesday statement standing by the January intelligence assessment blaming Russia, saying, “he’s an ex-politician, right? He’s in the government and a member of it. So I’m sure he feels he has to stand by until he can prove otherwise.”
In addition to discussing the report focused on download speeds, Binney said he mentioned to Pompeo claims made by others contrary to the official account.
Binney said he told the CIA director that WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange claimed no government was involved in sharing the DNC files and that Assange-associated former U.K. ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray claimed to have participated in a physical handoff of files in the woods behind American University. Binney said he also raised the theory that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich had some involvement, though Binney said he’s not sure if there’s anything to that scenario.
A spokesman for the White House National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the meeting.
It’s unclear if Trump, who has questioned the official explanations of Russia’s actions and motives during the 2016 election, will request that U.S. spy agency leaders meet with other people who question official accounts, such as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., whose attempt to discuss a pardon for Assange was stymied by White House chief of staff John Kelly.