Wikileaks source outed by former hacker

posted at 10:55 am on June 8, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

When Wikileaks published the video of a 2007 helicopter assault in Baghdad, it created a momentary storm of controversy over the rules of engagement in war zones.  Momentary indeed; eight days later, Stephen Colbert managed to conduct a surgical takedown on the dishonest presentation of the video that Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange used.  All it proved in the end is that tagging along with RPG-carry terrorists in a war zone is a bad, bad, bad idea for journalists concerned about their personal safety.

Today, though, it might also prove that leaking classified data is a dangerous pastime, especially if you don’t choose your friends more carefully than Army Specialist Bradley Manning did.  His contact, a former hacker, blew the whistle on Wikileaks’ source:

When Army Spec. Bradley Manning reached out to a stranger online — to tell him about the reams of classified documents he had obtained — he was looking for an ally.

Instead, his new contact, Adrian Lamo, turned him in.

On Monday, the U.S. military said it had detained Manning, an intelligence analyst from Potomac, for allegedly disclosing classified information. Officials said they were investigating whether Manning, 22, had leaked documents to, a secretive three-year-old Web site that allows whistleblowers to publicize sensitive material globally. …

Lamo, 29, a former hacker, acknowledged in an interview that he had informed authorities about Manning — and said he had done so in the name of national security. The files were said to include scores of classified State Department records, as well as video footage of a controversial helicopter attack that killed Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters employees, in 2007.

It proves something else, too.  It proves that the Obama administration actually does take leaks and classified material seriously.  This is the latest in a series of arrests in leak probes, although in Manning’s case, they didn’t have to do much digging after Lamo dropped a dime on Manning.

Having worked in the defense industry for a few Cold War years and having had some non-exotic security clearances, I have found these kinds of cases both fascinating and familiar.  Manning fits a profile of a security risk, someone who has become disaffected, somewhat arrogant, and … rather stupid.  People breach classified material usually for two reasons: profit or protest.  Manning falls squarely into the latter:

Manning reportedly said that he had come across documents and that he thought they contained “incredible things, awful things . . . that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington, D.C.”

“If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?” Manning asked.

Lamo said Manning felt mistreated by the military and wanted the Army to see “the futility” of its computer-security measures. He told Lamo how he once walked out of a classified document room at Forward Operating Base Hammer with data that he had copied onto a CD labeled as Lady Gaga music.

Manning told Lamo he had already leaked a video depicting a 2009 airstrike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks had acknowledged it had in its possession; a classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat; and a previously unreported breach of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables.

Anyone working with classified material knows the penalties for disclosure, whatever the motivation.  They also know the proper way to report abuses or crimes.  The first step is the chain of command.  If that doesn’t work, then there are other channels, including making contact with Congress.  There isn’t a step labeled “Call the New York Times” or “Publish on Wikileaks.”  There are a lot of reasons why those processes aren’t included in DISCO regs, but primarily it’s because an Army specialist (or a tech writer) doesn’t have the knowledge of the full scope of the classified programs to determine whether a release will endanger national security. That is the ultimate reason for securing information, and everyone with a security clearance knows it.

But if that’s foolishness, then this from Wikileaks is sheer stupidity:

A spokesman for Wikileaks declined Monday to say whether Manning had been a source and said the group was launching its own review into whether an arrest of a whistleblower violates laws in Sweden and Belgium, two countries in which the site operates.

Yes, that could certainly be relevant, if the leak happened in Sweden or Belgium.  Manning leaked it while in a theater of war that didn’t include either of those two countries, and the laws he broke were American.  Given the cerebral candlepower of everyone involved, it’s amazing that they managed to get this far without accidentally publishing Manning’s name before now.

Update: Fixed misspelling in headline.

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if the press shows up our forces should abort attacks?

this is what we are to take as reasonable, much less logical?

I mean, what if the press had a political agenda perish the thought?

Sonosam on June 8, 2010 at 5:31 PM

Funny, for a right wing guy you sure do sound like the typical leftist.

Maybe on this specific issue I am a leftist. People aren’t one-dimensional clones of party platforms, shocker.

If you guys had any sense you’d realize what I’m advocating would have helped the army – they look proactive, honorable, regretful for the innocent loss of life, which I’m sure they are.

But, they did it your way. And now we have a website called “Collateral Murder” editorializing the footage and putting a spin on it before the army even has a chance to respond. Meanwhile, terrorists are using it as a propaganda tool.

Instead of getting all bothered that I’m criticizing one of our armed forces – something not right wing, granted – maybe you should be looking at how different the end result would be if they did what I’m suggesting? The army would be much better off, both strategically and in the media.

triple on June 8, 2010 at 5:47 PM

Have you noticed the many reasoned arguments some posters have made in response to your thinking? You must be a very difficult person to live with or hang out with when you apparently don’t have the ability to consider that you might be wrong on this one.
That is why I believe you are a liberal. I’ve known plenty of them and never ever—ever do they say “yeah you might have a point on that.”

arnold ziffel on June 8, 2010 at 6:00 PM

arnold ziffel on June 8, 2010 at 6:00 PM

He’s one of those wikileaks freaks. Waste of time talking. They are one-dimensional zealots with no ability to discriminate between justified and criminal.

eaglesdontflock on June 8, 2010 at 6:10 PM

triple on June 8, 2010 at 5:47
You still are making a false argument. You use words like proactive, come clean, honorable etc..You continue to put our armed forces at fault and make it some huge conspiracy. They did not do anything wrong in this situation, they did what they were supposed to do, save fellow soldiers and followed ROEs. As far as the website “Collateral Murder” goes, that would still be there had they went with your way and to think otherwise is beyond naive! They did no do anything wrong that needed a cover up or major PR campaign. Most Americans watch that video and understand that instinctively and you do not. Are you worried the man on the ground in the middle east was upset, they hate us either way and it would be an issue no matter how it was handled. Your whole argument seems to be designed to get someone to agree with your PR argument which then has them agreeing our men did something wrong, which they did not!

bluemarlin on June 8, 2010 at 6:25 PM

Again, I’m simply saying it would be a better idea to release the video outright.

And I’m not entirely sure how the following works.

On one hand, you argue soldiers followed the ROEs, protected their fellow soldiers, and the video proves they were justified and in the right.

But then if that’s true.. what exactly is the argument against releasing the video in the first place?

triple on June 8, 2010 at 7:14 PM

That is why I believe you are a liberal.

On some issues I am. I’m an atheist, for one. But so is AP, and.. you’re currently reading his blog.

triple on June 8, 2010 at 7:16 PM

with data that he had copied onto a CD labeled as Lady Gaga music.

That should be a waterboarding offence right there.

Big John on June 8, 2010 at 7:39 PM

Seriously Triple, are you an idiot?

“The army screwed up?”
“why did a cover-up exist in the first place?”

You mean the “cover-up” that was done by CNN reporting this incident the day it happened?

You call that a cover up?

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — At least 17 people were killed Friday when U.S. and Iraqi forces battled “rogue” Shiite militia members in Karbala after a raid, the U.S. military said.

A hospital official said earlier that the dead included two women and that 25 people were wounded in the fighting, including women and children.

But trouble started when attackers fired small arms, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades at departing U.S. and Iraqi troops, the military said.
The U.S. and Iraqi forces killed five attackers in the firefight that followed, the military said. A helicopter that was called in to help also came under fire, it said.
“U.S. Special Forces called in precision aerial fires that resulted in approximately a dozen insurgents killed. No Iraqi civilians were present in the area while the strike was performed,” the military said.

What cover up Triple?

DSchoen on June 8, 2010 at 9:14 PM

Can you read your own posts? jw

“U.S. Special Forces called in precision aerial fires that resulted in approximately a dozen insurgents killed. No Iraqi civilians were present in the area while the strike was performed,” the military said.

Obviously that’s not what happened.

triple on June 8, 2010 at 9:43 PM

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