U.S. military officials confirmed to NBC News today that a 22-year old military intelligence analyst has been taken into custody for allegedly providing the document-posting website Wikileaks with classified gun-camera video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack that killed innocent civilians in Baghdad.
Specialist Bradley Manning of Potomac, Md., whose arrest was reported yesterday on Wired.com’s "Threat Level" blog, was reported to Army officials by former hacker Adrian Lamo, according to the tech website.
Manning allegedly bragged to Lamo that he had provided Wikileaks with the Apache video, three other classified gun-camera videos including a controversial bombing in Afghanistan, classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat and as many as 260,000 classified cables.
"Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack," Manning allegedly wrote in one e-mail.
Wikileaks is known for posting such controversial documents as the Army’s Guantánamo Bay procedures, Church of Scientology documents and contents from Sarah Palin’s e-mail account.
The website posted two versions of the now-infamous Baghdad airstrike video, a 39-minute unedited version and an annotated 18-minute version, on April 5, 2010. Titling it “Collateral Murder,” Wikileaks cited the video as evidence of a Pentagon coverup. Two Reuters employees and a Baghdad man were three of the more than a dozen killed during the attack. Two children were also seriously injured.
Wired.com reports that Manning was arrested nearly two weeks ago. Taken into custody by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division at Forward Operating Base Hammer, 40 miles east of Baghdad, where he was stationed, and is being held in Kuwait. A family member told the tech site that Manning has not yet been formally charged.
Lamo, a well-known former computer hacker who now works as a journalist and security analyst, reported Manning in late May. Renowned for exposing security flaws at The New York Times, Yahoo and Microsoft (as well as prison stint after hiding from the FBI) Lamo told BBC News that he was initially nonplussed when he first heard from Manning. "I'm contacted on a daily basis by all kinds of people who confess to all kinds of federal crimes," he said.
Reporting Manning was not an easy decision, Lamo told BBC News, and though he’s received other confessions and boasts of criminal behavior, he’s never turned anyone in before. This, however, was a matter of both personal and national security.
"I wanted to do this one by the book, by the numbers. I didn't want any more FBI agents knocking at the door," he said. Lamo turned over logs of his e-mail and instant message conversations with Manning to investigators. "What he described was a culture of insecurity with poor attention to information,” Lamo said of the conversations.
In a portion of the conversation logs published by Wired.com, Manning described how easy it was to copy and smuggle information:
“I would come in with music on a CD-RW labeled with something like ‘Lady Gaga,’ erase the music then write a compressed split file,” he wrote. “No one suspected a thing and, odds are, they never will.”
“[I] listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history,” he wrote in another message."Weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis … a perfect storm.”
Wikileaks has not confirmed that it received any content from Manning, but continues to respond to the Wired.com story via Twitter.
“Allegations in Wired that we have been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect,” read one tweet from the Wikileaks account. “We never collect personal information on our sources, so we are unable as yet to confirm the Manning story,” read another.
Wikileaks also used the microblogging site to call into question Lamo and Wired.com editor Kevin Poulson, who co-authored the Wired.com story, calling them “notorious felons, informers & manipulators.”
Lamo also continues to address the story via his Twitter account, defending his choice and expressing sympathy for Manning: “I know what it's like to be 22, scared, and in shackles too. I've been there. I hope none of you ever have to make a choice like this.”
According to Wired.com, the State Department was not aware of the arrest or 260,000 classified cables Manning allegedly claims to have provided Wikileaks, and the FBI was not prepared to comment.