Wikileaks is a non-profit organization for whistle-blowers to submit sensitive information out into the public without ruining their name and status. The site, which has been active since about 2006, has previously achieved recognition before for their leaks. One of the bigger stories that alerted the writer to their presence was the climategate leaks, which was published in The Aerial last year. In the year 2010 alone, Wikileaks has published various "War Diaries" about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
These diaries revealed new information such as the U.S. government has lied about their estimates for civilian deaths and a harrowing video from 2007 titled Collateral Damage. The video features a feed of an Apache helicopter gunning down on two figures who "appeared to be carrying AK-47s and a rpg" in the middle of the day in public. The figures, while walking down a mildly busy street, were, in fact, Reuters employees with camera equipment. The Apache asks for permission to fire, receives it, and fires a few shots at the journalists. Over the course of approximately 40 minutes one is able to view the chaos on the ground, and the destruction of their rescuers' van while the crew . Needless to say, it paints the United States in a very bad light.
Perhaps this public undressing of nations is what's causing the controversy among the world diplomats. The latest leaks, named as "cablegate" scandal, was leaked both online and also sent directly to some of the biggest newspapers in international media, namely the New York Times, Britain's The Guardian, France's Le Monde, Germany's Der Spiegel, and Spain's El Pais. Shortly afterwards, the leaks were published as news stories and world leaders around the world were embarrassed to be caught with their pants down, especially when it is known that the whistle-blower was an lowly private in the US military.
Private Bradley E. Manning, the source of the leaks, has had an interesting back story leading up to his detainment by the US Military. Manning, a duel citizen of the US and the UK, has always been interested with the military, who talked about joining the military at a very young age. When he was 13, his parents divorced and his mother, Susan Fox, took him back to her native country in Wales There, he developed a bit of a righteous streak during his high-school days.
For instance, Welsh schoolmate Tom Dryer remarked that "He's always had this sense that 'I'm going to right a big wrong'. He was like that at school, if something went wrong, he would speak up about it if he didn't agree with something. He would even have altercations with teachers if he thought something was not right."
During this time, he developed his computer skills after being alienated at Tasker Milward School, quite possibly due to his homosexuality. Nonetheless, after his exams and graduations, he moved back to the US where he worked in a few small scale jobs in corporate companies such as F.Y.E and Starbucks.
He enlisted in the army in mid-2007, doing his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and after graduating in April 2008, he moved to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where he trained as an intelligence analyst. In October 2009, Manning was sent to Iraq to work for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division, based at Contingency Operating Station Hammer, near Baghdad. There, he was able to access the numerous computer networks in the US Military due to the fact that he had specialist training in computer analysis.
However, Manning became distraught in the military, being demoted to Private for assaulting a fellow soldier. Facebook statuses and other sources show that he was distraught and upset about something, quite possibly a breakup. By January 2010, Manning was already in communication with Wikileaks. The first "test document" submitted to Wikileaks was the so called "REYKJAVIK13".
The document's official summary is as follows:
¶1. (C) Summary. CDA met with Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Permanent Secretary Einar Gunnarsson and Political Advisor
Kristjan Guy Burgess January 12 to discuss Icesave. After
presenting a gloomy picture of Iceland's future, the two
officials asked for U.S. support. They said that public
comments of support from the U.S. or assistance in getting
the issue on the IMF agenda would be very much appreciated.
They further said that they did not want to see the matter go
to a national referendum and that they were exploring other
options for resolving the issue. The British Ambassador told
CDA separately that he, as well as the Ministry of Finance,
were also looking at options that would forestall a
referendum. End Summary.
Manning was pleased with the work of Wikileaks and his ensured privacy and sent them the cablegate files, the afghan/iraq war diaries in the same moth and the "Collateral Damage" video in February. For a while, it seemed Manning was protected and his information was getting out there. However, in May of 2010, the narrative shifts to a more distraught route.
In that month, Manning began chats with former hacker Adrian Lamo, who was convicted of various cyber crimes against AOL in 2004. Even then, Lamo had just been unreleased from a mandatory stint in a nine day psychiatric hold under a California state law which allowed the temporary forced hospitalization of those judged dangerous or unable to care for themselves. At Woodland Memorial Hospital, Lamo was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a mild form of autism. He was released to his parents house by May 7th. On May 21st, Manning contacted Lamo and initiated a series of instant messaging conversations.
The chats, which are only about 1/4th of the transcripts Lamo has between himself and Manning, was published to Wired.com in June 2010. Portions of the available chats can be seen below.
Manning introduces himself
(1:41:12 PM) Bradley Manning: hi
(1:44:04 PM) Manning: how are you?
(1:47:01 PM) Manning: im an army intelligence analyst, deployed to eastern baghdad, pending discharge for “adjustment disorder” [. . .]
(1:56:24 PM) Manning: im sure you’re pretty busy…
(1:58:31 PM) Manning: if you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?
Manning confesses his feelings regarding the information he submitted to Julian Assange, the person in charge of wikileaks.
(1:39:03 PM) Manning: i cant believe what im confessing to you :’(
(1:40:20 PM) Manning: ive been so isolated so long… i just wanted to be nice, and live a normal life… but events kept forcing me to figure out ways to survive… smart enough to know whats going on, but helpless to do anything… no-one took any notice of me
(1:43:59 PM) Manning: im self medicating like crazy when im not toiling in the supply office (my new location, since im being discharged, im not offically intel anymore)
(1:44:11 PM) Manning: you missed a lot…
(1:45:00 PM) Lamo: what kind of scandal?
(1:45:16 PM) Manning: hundreds of them
(1:47:36 PM) Manning: im sorry, there’s so many… its impossible for any one human to read all quarter-million… and not feel overwhelmed… and possibly desensitized
(1:48:20 PM) Manning: the scope is so broad… and yet the depth so rich
(1:48:50 PM) Lamo: give me some bona fides … yanno? any specifics.
(1:49:40 PM) Manning: this one was a test: Classified cable from US Embassy Reykjavik on Icesave dated 13 Jan 2010
(1:50:30 PM) Manning: the result of that one was that the icelandic ambassador to the US was recalled, and fired
(1:51:02 PM) Manning: thats just one cable…
(2:15:57 PM) Manning: they also caught wind that he had a video… of the Gharani airstrike in afghanistan, which he has, but hasn’t decrypted yet… the production team was actually working on the Baghdad strike though, which was never really encrypted
(2:16:22 PM) Manning: he’s got the whole 15-6 for that incident… so it wont just be video with no context
(2:16:55 PM) Manning: but its not nearly as damning… it was an awful incident, but nothing like the baghdad one
(2:17:59 PM) Manning: the investigating officers left the material unprotected, sitting in a directory on a centcom.smil.mil
(2:18:03 PM) Manning: server
(2:18:56 PM) Manning: but they did zip up the files, aes-256, with an excellent password… so afaik it hasn’t been broken yet
(2:19:12 PM) Manning: 14+ chars…
(2:19:37 PM) Manning: i can’t believe what im telling you =L
Lamo expressed concern that the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division might be investigating the Wikileaks investigation. Manning replied that any incriminating evidence of his activities had been erased (“zerofilled”) from his computers.
(02:09:24 AM) Lamo: *random* are you concerned aboutCI/CID looking into your Wiki stuff? I was always paranoid.
(02:09:40 AM) Manning: CID has no open investigation
(02:10:28 AM) Manning: State Department will be uber-pissed… but I dont think they’re capable of tracing everything…
(02:10:44 AM) Lamo: what about CI?
(02:10:51 AM) Manning: might be a congressional investigation, and a joint effort to figure out what happened
(02:11:23 AM) Manning: CI probably took note, but it had no effect on operations
(02:11:48 AM) Manning: so, it was publicly damaging, but didn’t increase attacks or rhetoric…
(02:12:10 AM) Lamo: *nod*
(02:12:34 AM) Manning: re: joint effort will be purely political,”fact finding”… “how can we stop this from happening again”
(02:12:46 AM) Manning: regarding State Dept. cables
(02:13:12 AM) Lamo: Would the cables come from State?
(02:13:21 AM) Manning: yes
(02:13:25 AM) Manning: State Department
(02:13:29 AM) Lamo: I was always a commercial intruder.
(02:13:51 AM) Lamo: Why does your job afford you access?
(02:13:59 AM) Lamo: except for the UN.
(02:14:03 AM) Manning: because i have a workstation
(02:14:15 AM) Lamo: and World Bank.
(02:14:17 AM) Manning: *had*
(02:14:36 AM) Lamo: So you have these stored now?
(02:14:54 AM) Manning: i had two computers… one connected to SIPRNET the other to JWICS…
(02:15:07 AM) Manning: no, they’re government laptops
(02:15:18 AM) Manning: they’ve been zerofilled
(02:15:22 AM) Manning: because of the pullout
(02:15:57 AM) Manning: evidence was destroyed… by the system itself
(02:16:10 AM) Lamo: So how would you deploy the cables? If at all.
(02:16:26 AM) Manning: oh no… cables are reports
(02:16:34 AM) Lamo: ah
(02:16:38 AM) Manning: State Department Cable = a Memorandum
(02:16:48 AM) Lamo: embassy cables?
(02:16:54 AM) Manning: yes
(02:17:00 AM) Manning: 260,000 in all
(02:17:10 AM) Manning: i mentioned this previously
(02:17:14 AM) Lamo: yes
(02:17:31 AM) Lamo: stored locally, or retreiveable?
(02:17:35 AM) Manning: brb latrine =P
(02:17:43 AM) Manning: i dont have a copy anymore
(02:17:59 AM) Lamo: *nod*
(02:18:09 AM) Manning: they were stored on a centralized server…
(02:18:34 AM) Lamo: what’s your endgame plan, then?
(02:18:36 AM) Manning: it was vulnerable as [expletive]
(02:20:57 AM) Manning: well, it was forwarded to WL
(02:21:18 AM) Manning: and god knows what happens now
(02:22:27 AM) Manning: hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms
(02:23:06 AM) Manning: if not… than we’re doomed
(02:23:18 AM) Manning: as a species
(02:24:13 AM) Manning: i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens
(02:24:58 AM) Manning: the reaction to the video gave me immense hope… CNN’s iReport was overwhelmed… Twitter exploded…
(02:25:18 AM) Manning: people who saw, knew there was something wrong
(02:26:10 AM) Manning: Washington Post sat on the video… David Finkel acquired a copy while embedded out here
(02:26:36 AM) Manning: [also reason as to why there's probably no investigation]
(02:28:10 AM) Manning: i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public
(02:28:10 AM) Lamo : I’m not here right now
(02:28:50 AM) Manning: if i knew then, what i knew now… kind of thing…
(02:29:31 AM) Manning: or maybe im just young, naive, and stupid…
(02:30:09 AM) Lamo: which do you think it is?
(02:30:29 AM) Manning: im hoping for the former
(02:30:53 AM) Manning: it cant be the latter
(02:31:06 AM) Manning: because if it is… were [expletive] screwed
(02:31:12 AM) Manning: (as a society)
(02:31:49 AM) Manning: and i dont want to believe that we’re screwed
(02:32:53 AM) Manning: food time… ttys
(02:26:01 PM) Manning: i dont believe in good guys versus bad guys anymore… i only a plethora of states acting in self interest… with varying ethics and moral standards of course, but self-interest nonetheless
(02:26:18 PM) Manning: s/only/only see/
(02:26:47 PM) Lamo: the tm meant i was being facetious
(02:26:59 PM) Manning: gotchya
(02:27:47 PM) Manning: i mean, we’re better in some respects… we’re much more subtle… use a lot more words and legal techniques to legitimize everything
(02:28:00 PM) Manning: its better than disappearing in the middle of the night
(02:28:19 PM) Manning: but just because something is more subtle, doesn’t make it right
(02:29:04 PM) Manning: i guess im too idealistic
(02:31:02 PM) Manning: i think the thing that got me the most… that made me rethink the world more than anything
(02:35:46 PM) Manning: was watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police… for printing “anti-Iraqi literature”… the iraqi federal police wouldn’t cooperate with US forces, so i was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the “bad guys” were, and how significant this was for the FPs… it turned out, they had printed a scholarly critique against PM Maliki… i had an interpreter read it for me… and when i found out that it was a benign political critique titled “Where did the money go?” and following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet… i immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on… he didn’t want to hear any of it… he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees…
(02:35:46 PM) Lamo : I’m not here right now
(02:36:27 PM) Manning: everything started slipping after that… i saw things differently
(02:37:37 PM) Manning: i had always questioned the things worked, and investigated to find the truth… but that was a point where i was a *part* of something… i was actively involved in something that i was completely against…
(02:38:45 PM) Lamo: What would you do if your role /w Wikileaks seemed in danger of being blown?
(02:38:48 PM) Manning: but i was a part of it… and completely helpless…
(02:39:01 PM) Lamo: sometimes we’re all helpless
(02:39:34 PM) Manning: try and figure out how i could get my side of the story out… before everything was twisted around to make me look like Nidal Hassan
(02:40:15 PM) Manning: i dont think its going to happen
(02:40:26 PM) Manning: i mean, i was never noticed
(02:41:10 PM) Manning: regularly ignored… except when i had something essential… then it was back to “bring me coffee, then sweep the floor”
(02:42:24 PM) Manning: i never quite understood that
(02:42:44 PM) Manning: felt like i was an abused work horse…
In reference to the "Collateral Damage" video
(03:07:53 PM) Manning: i watched that video cold, for instance
(03:10:32 PM) Manning: at first glance… it was just a bunch of guys getting shot up by a helicopter… no big deal… about two dozen more where that came from right… but something struck me as odd with the van thing… and also the fact it was being stored in a JAG officer’s directory… so i looked into it… eventually tracked down the date, and then the exact GPS co-ord… and i was like… ok, so thats what happened… cool… then i went to the regular internet… and it was still on my mind… so i typed into goog… the date, and the location… and then i see this http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/13/world/middleeast/13iraq.html
(03:11:07 PM) Manning: i kept that in my mind for weeks… probably a month and a half… before i forwarded it to [Wikileaks]
Manning also describes the total apathy and huge gap in security in the intelligence sectors.
(01:52:30 PM) Manning: funny thing is… we transffered so much data on unmarked CDs…
(01:52:42 PM) Manning: everyone did… videos… movies… music
(01:53:05 PM) Manning: all out in the open
(01:53:53 PM) Manning: bringing CDs too and from the networks was/is a common phenomeon
(01:54:14 PM) Lamo: is that how you got the cables out?
(01:54:28 PM) Manning: perhaps
(01:54:42 PM) Manning: i would come in with music on a CD-RW
(01:55:21 PM) Manning: labelled with something like “Lady Gaga”… erase the music… then write a compressed split file
(01:55:46 PM) Manning: no-one suspected a thing
(01:55:48 PM) Manning: =L kind of sad
(01:56:04 PM) Lamo: and odds are, they never will
(01:56:07 PM) Manning: i didnt even have to hide anything
(01:56:36 PM) Lamo: from a professional perspective, i’m curious how the server they were on was insecure
(01:57:19 PM) Manning: you had people working 14 hours a day… every single day… no weekends… no recreation…
(01:57:27 PM) Manning: people stopped caring after 3 weeks
(01:57:44 PM) Lamo: i mean, technically speaking
(01:57:51 PM) Lamo: or was it physical
(01:57:52 PM) Manning: >nod<
(01:58:16 PM) Manning: there was no physical security
(01:58:18 PM) Lamo: it was physical access, wasn’t it
(01:58:20 PM) Lamo: hah
(01:58:33 PM) Manning: it was there, but not really
(01:58:51 PM) Manning: 5 digit cipher lock… but you could knock and the door…
(01:58:55 PM) Manning: *on
(01:59:15 PM) Manning: weapons, but everyone has weapons
(02:00:12 PM) Manning: everyone just sat at their workstations… watching music videos / car chases / buildings exploding… and writing more stuff to CD/DVD… the culture fed opportunities
(02:01:44 PM) Manning: hardest part is arguably internet access… uploading any sensitive data over the open internet is a bad idea… since networks are monitored for any insurgent/terrorist/militia/criminal types
(02:01:52 PM) Lamo: tor?
(02:02:13 PM) Manning: tor + ssl + sftp
(02:02:33 PM) Lamo: *nod*
(02:03:05 PM) Lamo: not quite how i might do it, but good
(02:03:22 PM) Manning: i even asked the NSA guy if he could find any suspicious activity coming out of local networks… he shrugged and said… “its not a priority”
(02:03:53 PM) Manning: went back to watching “Eagle’s Eye”
(02:12:23 PM) Manning: so… it was a massive data spillage… facilitated by numerous factors… both physically, technically, and culturally
(02:13:02 PM) Manning:: perfect example of how not to do INFOSEC
(02:14:21 PM) Manning: listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga’s Telephone while exfiltratrating possibly the largest data spillage in american history
(02:15:03 PM) Manning: pretty simple, and unglamorous
(02:16:37 PM) Manning: *exfiltrating
(02:17:56 PM) Manning: weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis… a perfect storm
(02:22:47 PM) Manning: i mean what if i were someone more malicious
(02:23:25 PM) Manning: i could’ve sold to russia or china, and made bank?
(02:23:36 PM) Lamo: why didn’t you?
(02:23:58 PM) Manning: because it’s public data
(02:24:15 PM) Lamo: i mean, the cables
(02:24:46 PM) Manning: it belongs in the public domain
(02:25:15 PM) Manning: information should be free
(02:25:39 PM) Manning: it belongs in the public domain
(02:26:18 PM) Manning: because another state would just take advantage of the information… try and get some edge
(02:26:55 PM) Manning: if its out in the open… it should be a public good
(02:27:04 PM) Manning: *do the
(02:27:23 PM) Manning: rather than some slimy intel collector
(02:29:18 PM) Manning: im crazy like that
In the last chat in the article, Lamo brings up a very sinister point.
(04:42:16 PM) Manning: im not sure whether i’d be considered a type of “hacker”, “cracker”, “hacktivist”, “leaker” or what…
(04:42:26 PM) Manning: im just me… really
(04:44:21 PM) Manning: starts off like every physics / astro class intro… ever
(04:44:21 PM) Lamo : I’m not here right now
(04:44:45 PM) Manning: albeit without the algebraic proofs
(04:45:20 PM) Lamo: or a spy :)
(04:45:48 PM) Manning: i couldn’t be a spy…
(04:45:59 PM) Manning: spies dont post things up for the world to see
(04:46:14 PM) Lamo: Why? Wikileaks would be the perfect cover
(04:46:23 PM) Lamo: They post what’s not useful
(04:46:29 PM) Lamo: And keep the rest
Lamo tipped off the FBI and the Army about Manning’s claims, and on May 26, Manning was seized by Army authorities and put into pre-trial detention in Kuwait. Two months later, he was transported back to the US in Quantico, Virginia, where he is to be held in a period of near continuous isolation until a pre-trial investigation on his mental health to deem if he is fit for a trial.
Currently he has been held in complete isolation only being allowed a short hourly break every 24 hours to leave his cell. The cell itself lacks any form of comforts such as a pillow or a blanket. He is even barred for exercising and is under constant watch due to his status as a "Maximum Custody Detainee", despite the fact that he has been a model detainee. His condition, which prison physicians must administer antidepressants to him to keep him from snapping under the torturous isolation has been deemed by doctors and governments around the world as a form of torture. One man, surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande, stated that "all humans beings experience isolation as torture." in his March 2009 New Yorker article titled "Is Long-Term Solitary Confinement Torture?"
The article, which cites medical tests conducted in 1992 on Yugoslavian prisoners subjected to an average of six months of isolation -a month shorter than Manning's current eight month pre-trial detention- "revealed brain abnormalities months afterward; the most severe were found in prisoners who had endured either head trauma sufficient to render them unconscious or, yes, solitary confinement. Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury."
It is also notable to mention that 25 thousand other Americans are also in prolonged solitary confinement, but the conditions of Manning’s pre-trial detention have prompted an investigation by the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture.
The inhumane absurdity of these conditions are only exemplified by his inane charges, which include various Army regulations such as the catch all Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the Espionage Act of 1917, passed during world war I and prohibited any attempt to interfere with military operations, to support America's enemies during wartime, to promote insubordination in the military, or to interfere with military recruitment. The Espionage Act charge is only proven to be more ludicrous when only four other Americans have been charged by it, and only one was convicted.
The story of Bradly Manning only goes to show just how scared the American government is of the public finding out about its actions around the globe. With the liberal media hoopla about Julian Assange's charges of sexual assault of two Swedish girls and the right's cries of blood lust upon the heads of Assange and Manning, it's easy to be led by the fervor of both side's emotional sense of justice. These emotions are also being exported out of the media into other countries, namely Tunisia and Egypt.
While those actions have been built by decades of injustice, the spark of Wikileaks may just prove to be a catalyst for world-wide revolution and revolt against the American oligarchy. While the future is uncertain, one can't help but feel a sense of unease about the entire situation. Nonetheless, the people of America are faced with a series of choices. Either we can accept the information we are fed by the media on the television or in the papers as absolute fact or we can use the web as a platform for gathering and sharing information, building contacts and setting up events with real world consequences. After all, information is only dangerous and forbidden when the people are somehow given access to it. There's a reason why the government is scared of Wikileaks, they see the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia as a foreboding horizon on the collapse of the American empire.