As I noted in my earlier post on Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning’s charging document, there’s an apparent discrepancy between the timing Wired gives for Manning’s arrest and what the charging document shows. Wired said that the FBI told Adrian Lamo on May 27 that Manning had been arrested the previous day–that is, May 26.
At their second meeting with Lamo on May 27, FBI agents from the Oakland Field Office told the hacker that Manning had been arrested the day before in Iraq by Army CID investigators.
But the charging documents actually says Manning’s alleged activities continued until “on or about 27 May 2010,” and it says his pretrial detention started on May 29 (though see scribe’s comments on a possible explanation).
And as I pointed out in comments, there’s also a problem with the story Lamo gave Wired as to why he turned in Manning. He claimed he turned in Manning because he had told him he had already leaked 260,000 cables to Wikileaks.
Lamo decided to turn in Manning after the soldier told him that he leaked a quarter-million classified embassy cables. Lamo contacted the Army, and then met with Army CID investigators and the FBI to pass the agents a copy of the chat logs from his conversations with Manning.
But the charging document only accuses Manning of leaking [more than] 50 cables; it alleges he got information from [more than] 150,000 cables, but did not even load the cables onto his own computer. Now, Wired has repeatedly published a quote from Manning telling Lamo that he had leaked the quarter-million cables.
But the most startling revelation was a claim that he gave Wikileaks a database of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables, which Manning said exposed “almost-criminal political back dealings.”
“Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public,” Manning told Lamo in an online chat session.
But they didn’t include that quote in their publication of what they claimed to be all the chat logs, save those that revealed personal information about Manning or classified information. Note, WaPo published a longer version of the same quote after Wired first published it. It appears that such a quote would have fit in the chat logs on May 22 (Manning says, “Everywhere there’s a U.S. post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed”–note the WaPo includes an ellipses here Wired does not that may indicate IM breaks–and in the May 22 log Lamo asks “what kind of scandal”), but for some reason, Wired didn’t include it there. He may well have said it and said it on May 22, but out of context, we don’t know whether Manning was talking about around 50 cables–what he is accused of leaking–or all 260,000, or the [more than] 150,000 that he is accused of having accessed. And we don’t know whether Manning really did claim to have already leaked the cables–the context doesn’t say he did (though Manning’s list of things he leaked in the very last IMs seem to include some State Department cables).
Which is why I find another oddity of the Wired publication of the chat logs so funky.
Look at the chat logs for May 25–according to Wired, the day before Manning was arrested. They start at 2:03:10 AM (you can tell from the May 23 chat logs that the times are for Lamo, presumably in CA) and go through 2:32:53 AM. They start again at 2:26:01 PM, then go through 3:12:16 PM. Then–at least as Wired presents them–they start again at 1:52:30 PM and go in spurts through 4:46:29 PM. That is, though Wired has presented the IM logs for all other days in straight chronological order, they have no done so for May 25. The chronology starts, goes through 3:12:16 PM, then goes back in time and starts again at 1:52:30. The time sequences overlap.
Now even assuming there’s nothing funky about that, if Lamo were in CA, an IM he received at almost 5 PM on May 25 would be 3 AM Iraq time on May 26, very early on the day Lamo says Manning was arrested.
But the only way that would be true is if Wired segmented and rearranged the IM chats for some reason of narrative. I’ve shown what all the overlapping IM logs in question would look like below the fold (the “parts” refer to the order in which they first appear in the Wired post). But the following chunks of IM discussion–combining the section that Wired presents 5th with that it presents 2nd–would be combined as follows (everything from part 2 is underlined):
Part 2 (underlined)/Part 5 continued
(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/
(02:26:18 PM) Manning: because another state would just take advantage of the information… try and get some edge
(02:26:47 PM) Lamo: the tm meant i was being facetious
(02:26:55 PM) Manning: if its out in the open… it should be a public good
(02:26:59 PM) Manning: gotchya
(02:27:04 PM) Manning: *do the
(02:27:23 PM) Manning: rather than some slimy intel collector
(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
(02:29:18 PM) Manning: im crazy like that
This order is not implausible–everything sort of flows. But there are signs that Part 5 and Part 2 did not happen simultaneously. Manning’s good versus evil comment at 2:26:01 is not entirely out of place, but it’s a big non sequitur from the comment less than 2 minutes earlier. This order would require Manning to have typed two IMs in one second at 2:26:18 which seems unlikely if not impossible for reasons of computer speed and human typing skills. Lamo’s “tm” comment at 2:26:19 appears to refer to a comment Wired didn’t replicate in any case. Furthermore, elsewhere Manning always corrects typos in the IM directly after the one in which he makes an error. But the typo “it should be a public good” at 2:26:55 and the correction “it should do the public good” at 2:27:04 would be split by the interjection “gotchya.” Plus those two comments with the interjection “gotchya” at 2:26:59 are quicker–all three in nine seconds–than almost any other series that Wired published (aside from the two IMs in one second already noted).
In other words, I can’t prove it, but it is likely those 2 chunks of IM were not simultaneous, suggesting those 5 chunks of text did not happen on the same day or their timestamps are wrong. Which in turn suggests they didn’t all come from May 25. And if they didn’t, one likely possibility is that Wired did publish the IM chats in sequence, but simply didn’t label ones from a different day–most likely, either the first series came form May 24 or the second series came from May 26–with that different day.
Now, that introduces two problems into the narrative as captured by CJR. If the IMs starting with what I’ve labeled as part 1 were actually sent May 24, it would mean Lamo was asking whether Manning suspected Army CID of investigating before–apparently–he ever talked to Kevin Poulsen about Manning. That’s not fatal for the story–but it does seem to show Lamo asking probing questions in the service of law enforcement before he first talks to Poulsen about Manning.
The other alternative is even more problematic for their story. If the second series of IMs labeled as May 25 actually came from May 26, it would mean the latest ones–which appear to have reached Lamo in late afternoon on May 26–would have been sent in Iraq in the early hours of May 27, suggesting that the story that Manning was arrested on May 26 was not correct (though that does seem to correlate better with the charging document).
All this may not be a big deal. It may be that the full series of the IMs make sense in full context. It may be that the apparent discrepancy between the Wired report and the charging document are either not discrepancies at all or not very interesting to the story.
But there does appear to be something funky here.
Update: “More than” added to references to numbers of cables per scribe.