What Is WikiLeaks’ Vault 7? Photos & Clues

Julian Assange (Getty)

After releasing a series of very cryptic #Vault7 messages in early February, WikiLeaks has finally released a file that contains the mysterious Vault 7. The file won’t be readable until tomorrow, when WikiLeaks releases a passphrase at 9 a.m. Eastern. However, WikiLeaks released a new clue about Vault 7, hidden in its tweet. Here’s everything we know about Vault 7 so far, along with theories about what might be waiting for us in the morning.

And by the way, according to a tweet WikiLeaks sent out later, this is the first in a series of releases related to Vault 7:

[UPDATE: WikiLeaks released the passphrase an hour early. We now know that Vault 7 is about the CIA. Read an updated story all about Vault 7 here.]

Here’s what you need to know about Vault 7.

There’s a Hidden Photo in WikiLeaks’ Tweet

WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 tweet contained a hidden message, because the background isn’t just a black frame. In fact, it’s a photo that has been darkened.

Lighten it a little and you see this:

The photo says “Prefecture” beneath the world “Vault.” Some think it reads Prefecture 333, but it actually reads Prefecture 353. We found the source of the photo. But first, here are the guesses that were wrong:

Some believe that the photo appears to be of Kryptos, a sculpture outside the CIA headquarters in Langley. The sculpture, by James Sanborn, includes four encrypted messages. Since it was dedicated on November 3, 1990, three out of four of the messages have been solved. Here’s a photo of the sculpture below. However, this is not the sculpture in WikiLeaks’ photo.

(Jim Sanborn)

Others say the photo is actually this sculpture in the D.C. Convention Center.

We found out what it actually is. The photo is “Lingua,” one of two art pieces at the registration area of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. This is the photo that WikiLeaks used, courtesy of Flickr’s open source library:

As you can see, WikiLeaks did not edit the Prefecture part into the photo. The sculpture already reads “Prefecture 353 A.D.” So no, unlike what some theories have surmised, this is not related to China’s 333 prefecture-level cities.

What happened in 353 AD? There was the Battle of Mons Seleucus, where Emperor Constantius II defeated Magnentius, who committed suicide in Gaul to avoid capture. Constantius then reunified the Roman Empire. Constantius II sent his official, Catena, to Britain to kill opponents supporting Magnentius. Martinus committed suicide after failing to kill Catena.

As far as the Year Zero part of the tweet, some surmised that it could mean that the information is so huge that it could feel like “restarting” part of history once it’s released. However, according to a later tweet by WikiLeaks, it actually means that it’s the first in a series of releases that WikiLeaks plans for Vault 7.

Vault 7 Is About a CIA Global Hacking Program

WikiLeaks summarized some important points in a press release about Vault 7. These are a new series of leaks on the CIA and “the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency,” WikiLeaks explained. This first part in the series has 8,761 documents and files from a high-security network at Langley. WikiLeaks explained that it didn’t hack the CIA. Somehow, the CIA lost control of most of its hacking arsenal (malware, viruses, trojans, etc.) — amounting to several hundred million lines of code — in an archive that was circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors. WikiLeaks was given “portions” of the archive.

According to WikiLeaks’ press release, “Year Zero” exposes the CIA’s covert hacking program, including exploits against products like iPhone, Android, Windows, and Samsung TVs. The CIA has an extensive hacking division, WikiLeaks said, which is composed over over 5,000 registered users and more than a thousand hacking systems and malware. WikiLeaks’ press release adds that its source is questioning the scope of the CIA’s hacking and if it exceeds mandated powers. The leak, WikiLeaks said, was meant to “initiate public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation, and democratic control of cyberweapons.”

Read even more about Vault 7 in the story below:

WikiLeaks Released Six Cryptic Tweets About Vault 7

In February, WikiLeaks released six cryptic tweets about Vault 7. The first was this:

The tweet features a photo of the Svalbard Seed Vault. The seed vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in a remote Arctic archipelago. The vault was started by Cary Fowler and the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research to preserve plant seeds and make sure there are always spare copies of seeds around the world, in case of a global or regional crisis. What you see above the entrance to the vault, in the photo, is an illuminated public artwork. It was made by Dyveke Sanne and is called “Perpetual Repercussion.”

The second tweet was this:

It asked “Where is #Vault7?” The photo in the tweet shows Nazi gold stored in Merkers Salt Mine (it’s referenced in this Wikipedia article.)  According to the National Archives, the mine contained gold bullion, gold Reichsmarks, British gold pounds, French gold francs, American gold pieces, gold and silver coins, additional foreign currency, silver bars, platinum bars, artwork, and more. Nazi gold was allegedly transferred by Nazi Germany to overseas banks during World War II, as part of a strategy involving looting victims’ assets to fund the war. Authors and conspiracy theorists have long guessed about what happened to the Nazi gold that disappeared. In fact, a group of Holocaust survivors even brought a civil suit against the Vatican Bank over it, filed in November 1999. The case was dismissed in 2003, but then reinstated in part in 2005. Various parts of the case were dismissed again in 2007-2009.

The third tweet was this:



It asked “When Is #Vault7?” The photo in the tweet was from 2010, taken at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, while running a test on a Pratt and Whitney F119-PW-100 jet engine. The jet inspections look for any objects that could damage blades inside the engines. The article that the picture is from talks about soundproof hush houses that are used for jet engine testing. These are sometimes called “vaults.” The type of engine fed more theories that Vault 7 was about 9/11, because F119 is 911 backwards.

Here’s the fourth tweet:

The photos are part of a series of spy posters created by the U.S. government. You can see all of the posters in the series at the Center for Development of Security Excellence’s website. Beneath Snowden’s photo the poster reads: “Spilled the Beans and Ran.” Beneath Assange’s it reads: “The Hack Behind WikiLeaks.” Beneath Manning’s it reads: “Leaked the Largest Cache of Classifieds.”

Here’s the fifth tweet:

In “Why is #Vault7?”, a reverse image search reveals this photo to be from an article posted by Whiteman Air Force Base. The caption of the photo reads: “Staff Sgt. Adam Boyd, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron structural supervisor, welds a box blade for a snow plow, Feb. 27. Structures Airmen perform jobs such as this one to save the Air Force from having to possibly spend money on parts made by civilian companies.” This photo fed more theories that these tweets are about 9/11.

The sixth tweet read: “How did #Vault7 Make Its Way to Wikileaks?” Here it is:

This photo can be found in several locations, including Open Society Foundations’ “Images from the Secret Stasi Archives” here. The caption reads: “When mailboxes were being observed by Stasi agents, every person posting a letter was photographed. Some films found in the Stasi archives also show persons dressed in civilian clothing emptying the mailbox after the conclusion of the surveillance action.” It’s part of a series of photos of people at mailboxes. Stasi is The Ministry for State Security, which was the official state security service of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany.) Wikipedia cites several sources as saying Stasi was often referred to as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies to have existed.

George Soros is the founder and chairman of Open Society Foundations, the source of this photo.

Theories About Vault 7 Ranged from the CIA to 9/11 to Clinton Emails And Even a ‘Shadow Government’

There were so many theories about Vault 7, it’s hard to keep track. Here are just a few. Ultimately, Vault 7 ended up being about the CIA’s covert global hacking program.

Clinton Emails

One of the top theories was that this was about a seventh “vault” of FBI emails, since the FBI had released six sets of Clinton emails at the time that the tweets were published. But this seems less likely now, since the FBI just released Part 7 of its Clinton vault here. Others believed that it was related to Clinton’s missing 33,000 emails. However, the Vault 7 file is just about half a gig in size, so it likely doesn’t contain Clinton’s missing 33,000 emails. (Although, as some have pointed out, it could just be “part one” of a series of leaks.)


Because of the latest photo, some believe this is about the CIA. And the people who subscribed to this theory were correct.


Others theorize this is somehow related to a longstanding conspiracy theory about “pizzagate,” which involves the idea that high-ranking politicians are involved in a pedophile ring. So far no conclusive evidence has been found to support this theory.

September 11, 2001

Still others believe it’s related to September 11, 2001, because several pictures can be interpreted as hinting at that. In the third tweet, the engine was an F119. Theorists also reference Building 7, which has been the source of many 9/11 conspiracy theories, including a theory that there was a “vault of gold” beneath the building. (This conspiracy theory is often incorrectly ascribed to Building 7, but it’s actually about Building 6.) The fifth tweet features a photo of someone welding, which some believe is a reference to a conspiracy theory about an angled cut on a World Trade Center beam. The “box blade” he’s welding, some say, might also be a reference to box cutters used on 9/11.

George Soros & Democrats

Others believe it has something to do with George Soros and the Democrats, since his website was the source for one of the photos.

Government Spending or Military Involvement

A new theory, derived from the fifth tweet, is that WikiLeaks is going to release something related to government spending or military projects. The fifth tweet referenced a photo from Whiteman Air Force Base, which talked about government spending. In addition, the host unit for the base is the 509th Bomb Wing, which operates the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber. Whiteman is the only permanent base for the B-2. B-2 bombers were used in October 2001 in Afghanistan.

Extinction of Animals or Climate Change

In several WikiLeaks Reddit discussions, some have said that it might be a reference to the next mass extinction event following the sixth, which some scientists say we are already in the middle of. This theory is connected to the first tweet, which showed the seed vault, and proposes that #Vault7 has something to do with climate change.

Shadow Government

CNBC reported in October that a new FBI release featured claims of a “shadow government” composed of high-ranking state officials, whom some referred to as “The 7th Floor Group.” So some believe that Vault 7 is somehow connected to this.

Additional Clue

EmbassyCat, a Twitter account “run” by Assange’s cat, only posted one thing possibly related to Vault 7.

On Twitter, @gal_deplorable provided a translation of the comic:

It talks about how the Papyrus proved that Caesar was lying and all Gaul was not conquered. The “whole empire will tremble” when the scandal comes out. The year 353 AD was referenced in WikiLeaks’ tweet about Vault 7’s release, which also relates back to Gaul, so there could be a connection there. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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