Is the Government Alleging Bradley Manning Loaded Encryption Software onto DOD Computers?

I’ve been revisiting the timeline revealed in Bradley Manning’s charging document. Here’s a short version of what that shows:

November 1, 2009: Earliest date for which government subpoenas Wikileaks related twitter accounts

November 19, 2009: Earliest possibly date for all charges except accessing the Rejkjavik 13 cable (which was dated January 13)

November 24, 2009: Per chat logs, Manning said he first started working with WL after release of 9/11 pager messages, which was first announced on November 24, 2009

January 13, 2010: Earliest possible date for accessing the Rejkjavik 13 cable (the date is obviously taken from the date of the cable)

January 21, 2010: Manning leaves for US

February 11, 2010: Manning returns to Baghdad from US

February 19, 2010: Latest possible date for obtaining and communicating the Rejkjavik 13

March 24, 2010: In chat, Manning suggests it took him four months to verify Assange was who he said he was

April 3, 2010: Latest possible date for “wrongfully adding unauthorized software to a Secret Internet Protocol Router network computer”

April 5, 2010: Latest possible date for having unauthorized possession of photos related to the national defense, knowingly exceeding his authorized access on SIPRnet, willfully transmitting it, and intentionally exceeding his authorized access, all in relation to the Collateral Murder video

May 24, 2010: Latest possible date for knowingly exceeding his authorized access to obtain “more than 50 classified United States Department of State cables” and willfully transmitting them

May 27, 2010: Latest possible date for “introducing” classified information onto his personal computer and obtaining “more then 150,000 diplomatic cables;” this date is two days before, according to the charging sheet, Manning’s pre-trial confinement began and presumably ties to the date when they first assessed what they had on Manning’s seized computer

June 17, 2010: Iceland passes Modern Media Initiative

Now, I’m going to have say to more about this (and will add to this timeline), but I wanted to start with this question: what software did Manning allegedly add to a computer on the SIPRNet on April 3, 2010?

Back when the charging document originally came out, I don’t think I made much sense of specification 4 of charge 1, which reads:

SPECIFICATION 4: In that Private First Class Bradley E. Manning, U.S. Army, did, between on or about 19 November 2009 and on or about 3 April 2010, at or near Contingency Operating Station Hammer, Iraq, violate a lawful general regulation, to wit: Paragraph 4-5(a)(3), Army Regulation 25-2, dated 24 October 2007, by wrongfully adding unauthorized software to a Secret Internet Protocol Router network computer.

I noted it this time because it made no sense to me that the government had listed April 5 as last possible day when Manning allegedly leaked the Collateral Murder video, given that Wikileaks publicly claimed–and Manning did too, sort of–that the video had been passed on in February. So why this April date?

But recall how, since that time, Adrian Lamo has repeatedly claimed to know a person or people in Boston who helped Manning by giving him encryption software to help him send classified data in small enough bits to avoid detection.

Adrian Lamo, the California computer hacker who turned in Pte Manning to military authorities in May, claimed in a telephone interview he had firsthand knowledge that someone helped the soldier set up encryption software to send classified information to Wikileaks.

Mr Lamo, who is cooperating with investigators, wouldn’t name the person but said the man was among a group of people in the Boston area who work with Wikileaks. He said the man told him “he actually helped Private Manning set up the encryption software he used”.

Mr Lamo said the software enabled Pte Manning to send classified data in small bits so that it would seem innocuous.

“It wouldn’t look too much different from your average guy doing his banking on line,” Mr Lamo said.

If someone allegedly gave Manning encryption software that would help download documents to pass onto Wikileaks, then presumably Manning deployed that in Iraq. And if someone from Wikileaks allegedly gave Manning software that subsequently got loaded onto DOD computers in Iraq, then it might explain their current theory of prosecution for conspiracy to leak this information.

The article (as well as a few others like it) on hackers who may have helped Manning came out on August 2, 2010, just days after Jacob Appelbaum had been stopped at the border and his computers–which he refused to decrypt–confiscated.

Appelbaum, of course, is one of the people whose Twitter account was subpoenaed last December. Only, unlike two of the other people listed on the document request (the two who are not US persons), Appelbaum was not named by name. He was named only by his Twitter handle, “ioerror.” Appelbaum was also apparently not–as Birgitta Jónsdóttir was–told by Twitter that DOJ wanted his twitter information. Both of those details have made me wonder whether there is another, still-sealed, warrant pertaining to Appelbaum, which the government would require for some uses since he is a US person.

After the subpoena was revealed, Appelbaum tweeted,

Motivation: …”I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear.”…

He is now on his way back to the US from Iceland; the ACLU plans to meet him at his flight (perhaps to make it harder to detain him as they did in July).

So what does the government think Manning loaded onto his computer, and how do they know the timing of it?

What the Government Might Be After with Its Twitter Subpoena

After a member of Iceland’s Parliament and former Wikileaks volunteer, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, revealed on Twitter yesterday that Twitter has been subpoenaed for details on her Twitter account, Glenn got a copy of the subpoena. The subpoena was first submitted to Twitter on December 14, and asked for account information for six people as well as any account associated with Wikileaks, going back to November 1, 2009. Of particular note, they ask for:

records of user activity for any connections made to or from the Account, including the date, time, length, and method of connections, data transfer volume, user name, and source and destination Internet Protocol address(es).

non-content information associated with the contents of any communication or file stored by or for the account(s), such as the source and destination email addresses and IP addresses.

By getting the IP addresses, they might be able to tie a location to the Wikileaks activity (though I would imagine some of the subpoenaed people shield that kind of information).

Here’s what they might be after.

There’s a passage in the chat logs in which Manning describes how he confirmed he was communicating directly with Julian Assange. This passage comes on May 22, allegedly before Adrian Lamo was cooperating with investigators (but there are reasons to question that).

(2:05:58 PM) Manning: it took me four months to confirm that the person i was communicating was in fact assange

(2:10:01 PM) Lamo: how’d you do that?

(2:12:45 PM) Manning: I gathered more info when i questioned him whenever he was being tailed in Sweden by State Department officials… i was trying to figure out who was following him… and why… and he was telling me stories of other times he’s been followed… and they matched up with the ones he’s said publicly

(2:14:28 PM) Lamo: did that bear out? the surveillance?

(2:14:46 PM) Manning: based on the description he gave me, I assessed it was the Northern Europe Diplomatic Security Team… trying to figure out how he got the Reykjavik cable…

While Manning doesn’t say that these conversations took place on Twitter (I’ll come back to this), we know that Wikileaks, at least, was revealing details of the government’s surveillance of it on Twitter. A series of Tweets from late March describe heavy State Department surveillance. Several of the tweets reference the production of the Collateral Murder video. Now mind you, this was a month or more after Manning would have leaked the video itself. But this tweet makes me wonder whether Manning didn’t continue monitoring surveillance and response.

We know our possession of the decrypted airstrike video is now being discussed at the highest levels of US command.

In other words, this may be evidence on Twitter of the Wikileaks team learning information that Manning might have provided them.

As Glenn points out, three of the people covered by the subpoena were involved in the production of the video.

the three named producers of the “Collateral Murder” video — depicting and commenting on the U.S. Apache helicopter attack on journalists and civilians in Baghdad — were Assange, Jónsdóttir, and Gonggrijp (whose name is misspelled in the DOJ’s documents).  Since Gonggrijp has had no connection to WikiLeaks for several months and Jónsdóttir’s association has diminished substantially over time, it seems clear that they were selected due to their involvement in the release of that film.

One of the things the government may be trying to do is to pinpoint what IP was involved in the tweets revealing the surveillance, to try to tie any conversation about that surveillance to conversations with Manning, and in turn tie those conversations to their theory that the Wikileaks team conspired to leak this information.

Manning says he tracked this kind of surveillance to confirm that he was contacting Assange directly. The government may be trying to retrace his tracks in confirming Assange’s identity, too.

[This post was updated after it was first posted.]

OMB’s New Security Memo Suggests WikiLeaks Is Media

A number of outlets are reporting on the OMB memo requiring agencies to review their security procedures in response to WikiLeaks.

Now, this memo is explicitly a response to WikiLeaks. It’s a follow-up on a memo sent in November that names WikiLeaks.

On November 28, 2010, departments and agencies that handle classified national security information were directed to establish assessment teams to review their implementation of safeguarding procedures. (Office of Management and Budget, Memorandum M-11-06, “WikiLeaks – Mishandling of Classified Information,” November 28, 2010.)

And one of the questions it directs agencies to ask names WikiLeaks (and, in a sign of the government’s nimbleness, OpenLeaks) specifically.

Do you capture evidence of pre-employment and/or post-employment activities or participation in on-line media data mining sites like WikiLeaks or Open Leaks?

But the delay–almost six months between Bradley Manning’s arrest and the November memo, and another month until this memo, sort of reminds me of the roughly eight month delay between the time Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to set his underwear on fire and the the time a bunch of grannies started getting groped at TSA security checkpoints.

Why the delay?

And from a document usability standpoint, this list of questions designed to help agencies identify weaknesses is a piece of shit. Trust me. No matter how good a bureaucrat is, asking them to use nine pages of nested bullets to improve a process is not going to work. This is simply not a credible process improvement effort.

I also wonder why it took WikiLeaks to initiate this effort. Just as an example, Los Alamos National Labs has been losing both storage media, computers, and BlackBerries going back a decade. You’d think the vulnerability of one of our nuclear labs would alert the government to our overall vulnerability to the loss of data via computer medium. Yet losing data to–presumably–our enemies did not trigger this kind of no-nonsense vulnerability assessment, WikiLeaks did.

The Russians and the Chinese are probably bummed that WikiLeaks will make it a teeny bit harder for them to spy on us.

All that said, Steven Aftergood makes one curious observation about the memo: this unusable list of nested bullets suggests that agencies should monitor employees’ contacts with the media.

Among other troubling questions, agencies are asked:  “Are all employees required to report their contacts with the media?”  This question seems out of place since there is no existing government-wide security requirement to report “contacts with the media.”  Rather, this is a security policy that is unique to some intelligence agencies, and is not to be found in any other military or civilian agencies. Its presence here seems to reflect the new “evolutionary pressure” on the government to adopt the stricter security policies of intelligence.

“I am not aware of any such requirement” to report on media contacts, a senior government security official told Secrecy News.  But he noted that the DNI was designated as Security Executive Agent for personnel security matters in the 2008 executive order 13467.  As a result, “I suspect that an IC requirement crept in” to the OMB memo.

I agree with Aftergood: it is troubling that an intelligence community requirement now seems to be applied to the federal workforce as a whole.

But isn’t this, at the same time, rather telling?

If a memo instituting new security reviews, explicitly written in response to WikiLeaks, institutes a policy of reviewing contacts with the media, doesn’t that suggest they consider WikiLeaks to be media?

DOD, State, and Obama’s “Pretend” Desire to Close Gitmo

Robert Chesney had an interesting observation about the inter-agency group Dafna Linzer reports is working on some kind of statement with regards to Congress’ restrictions on Obama’s ability to move detainees from Gitmo to the US: the apparent non-participation of DOD in the group.

Second, and perhaps relatedly, note that the story also describes the interagency meetings concerning a possible signing statement, meetings that apparently involved a “small circle of policymakers and lawyers from the White House, the Justice Department and State Department” who “spent the closing hours of 2010 considering drafts for a statement.”  What is interesting about that is the apparent absence of the Defense Department.  Of course, not being involved in drafting would not necessarily mean that DOD has no or little voice in the matter, but it certainly would not suggest DOD has much of a role either.  One might respond that this is really a question for DOJ and the White House Counsel’s office of course, but in that case why is State there?  State has clear equities, of course, so I think it makes perfect sense to include it.  But DOD’s equities seem at least as substantial (yes, the IC has equities here as well, but the DOD omission is what strikes me as remarkable – if there really is an omission).

While I don’t know this to be a case, I’d suggest that we might pair that observation with one I made yesterday: that one of Linzer’s sources used the word “pretend” when discussing Obama’s purported plans to close Gitmo.

If the bill were signed without challenge, the remaining prosecutorial option left for the administration would be to charge detainees in military commissions at Guantanamo, with those convicted serving time at the facility. So far, the administration has been unwilling to bring new charges in that setting.

“The bill,” said one administration official, “undermines the principles outlined in the president’s archives speech and there is no way to pretend you are closing Guantanamo if that law goes through unchallenged.” [my emphasis]

As Adam Serwer noted some weeks ago, if the Obama Administration really objected to Congress restricting its prosecutorial power in this matter, it would have rolled out the Republican Bob Gates to talk about how important closing Gitmo is to winning the war on terror.

I don’t know whether the administration blessed this deal, but they certainly haven’t brought out the big guns–a few words from Defense Secretary Robert Gates would probably go a long way towards dissuading the Senate from going through with this.

(Though Serwer goes on to suggest that another way Obama could indicate the seriousness of his opposition to the restriction would be to issue a signing statement–now we know who to blame for this idea!)

If your desire to close Gitmo is now just pretend, make-believe, then why involve DOD at all? Indeed, a “pretend” desire to close Gitmo would well explain why you involve State, but not DOD.

As I have noted, one of the revelations in the Wikileaks cables is the way in which Spain advised us how to help it combat torture investigations in that country: by proving that some kind of legal process was ongoing in the US.

Zaragoza has also told us that if a proceeding regarding this matter were underway in the U.S., that would effectively bar proceedings in Spain. We intend to further explore this option with him informally (asking about format, timing, how much information he would need, etc.) while making it clear that the USG has not made a decision to follow this course of action.

And the diplomats involved–writing to Secretary of State Clinton–make it clear they will find out from Spain what such a proceeding must look like to serve the purpose of staving off a Spanish investigation.

After which, DOJ seeems to have embarked on a “pretend” investigation into torture that–they insist–is ongoing.

Who do you think the audience for any “pretend” effort to close Gitmo would currently be? Certainly not the bulk of the American people, who have been thoroughly suckered by GOP fearmongering on Gitmo. Nor, probably, would the primary audience be al Qaeda and its potential recruits, which would probably be far more impressed at this point if the US decided to halt drone strikes than if it closed Gitmo.

Indeed, it seems clear that the only reason Obama would feel obliged to pretend to want to close Gitmo anymore (because God knows he seems thoroughly unconcerned by civil libertarians squawking about his campaign promises) is the international community.

And so a statement about Obama opposition to Congress tying his hands on Gitmo wouldn’t matter to DOD, because nothing at Gitmo is actually going to change (aside from his face-saving EO on indefinite detention). But it would matter to the State Department, because they would be the ones who might have had discussions about what a “pretend” effort to close Gitmo would have to look like to please our allies and make them willing to continue to partner with us on counter-terrorism.

Which might explain why no one at the White House will claim Obama actually wants to use a hypothetical signing statement. Because merely issuing one–but not actually relying on it–would serve its intended purpose: to allow the Administration and our allies to pretend that the US wants to close Gitmo.

Update: YouTube added per PeasantParty.

W Apparently Understood “What’s Good for GM Is Good for the Country…”

… to refer not to General Motors, but to Genetically Modified food:

The US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country which opposed genetically modified (GM) crops, newly released WikiLeaks cables show.

In response to moves by France to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety in late 2007, the ambassador, Craig Stapleton, a friend and business partner of former US president George Bush, asked Washington to penalise the EU and particularly countries which did not support the use of GM crops.

“Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits.

“The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices,” said Stapleton, who with Bush co-owned the St Louis-based Texas Rangers baseball team in the 1990s.

It would all be funny and pathetic if it didn’t symbolize something bigger about our country.

We refuse to pursue an industrial policy in this country (aside from our unlimited subsidies for the military industrial complex, of course), forgoing the measures that our competitors use to ensure the competitiveness of their country. But we do deploy our diplomats to short circuit democratic and legal means other countries use to support their own economic sovereignty.

Update: I should note that at least one of these GM-shilling cables were written under Obama’s Administration. Though in Obama’s case, he apparently believes both General Motors and genetically modified exports are good for this country, since he bailed out the former.

El País Editor: When Democracy’s Rules Are Flouted, Democracy Is Put at Risk

The Editor of Spain’s El Pais, Javier Moreno, has an interesting piece explaining why he published the Wikileak cables. He points to the same thing I pointed to–American efforts to squelch torture investigations in Spain and Germany–to explain the importance of the cables, though he also adds US efforts to prevent Spanish banks from doing business with Iran, even while Iran had not violated international law. These disclosures are important, Moreno argues, because they show the degree to which the US refuses to abide by the legal procedures in other countries, which in turn represents a danger to democracy.

A democracy comprises diverse elements: institutions and rules; free and fair elections; independent judges and a free press, among others. At the bottom of all this there are legal procedures. When these are flouted, all the rest is put at risk.

We have come to accept the difference between the government that we elect every five years, and the military, bureaucratic, and diplomatic apparatus that it is sustained by, but that all too often it fails to control. The WikiLeaks cables have confirmed this beyond any doubt.

But his second point–that the permanent bureaucracy manages to ignore the law regardless of what the elected officials of either party do–raises another important question: whether that permanent bureaucracy delivers what it promises–ostensibly in exchange for secrecy–instead.

Political classes on both sides of the Atlantic convey a simple message that is tailored to their advantage: trust us, don’t try to reveal our secrets; in exchange, we offer you security.

But just how much security do they really offer in exchange for this moral blackmail? Little or none, since we face the sad paradox that this is the same political elite that was incapable of properly supervising the international financial system, whose implosion triggered the biggest crisis since 1929, ruining entire countries and condemning millions of workers to unemployment and poverty. These are the same people responsible for the deteriorating quality of life of their populations, the uncertain future of the euro, the lack of a viable European project and the global governance crisis that has gripped the world in recent years, and which elites in Washington and Brussels are not oblivious to. I doubt that keeping embassy secrets under wraps is any kind of guarantee of better diplomacy or that such an approach offers us better answers to the problems we face.

The incompetence of Western governments, and their inability to deal with the economic crisis, climate change, corruption, or the illegal war in Iraq and other countries has been eloquently exposed in recent years. Now, thanks to WikiLeaks, we also know that our leaders are all too aware of their shameful fallibility, and that it is only thanks to the inertia of the machinery of power that they have been able to fulfill their democratic responsibility and answer to the electorate.

The whole point of democracy is to ensure better decision-making by subjecting ideas and policies to debate and transparency. I’m none too sanguine about the seriousness with which voters take their job. But so many of the decisions getting us in trouble are those made by the permanent bureaucracy, in secret.

And when those decisions prove to be wrong or dangerous or illegal, the permanent bureaucracy secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) breaks the rules that exist for the rest of us–like rule of law.

Constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams may not care about all this. But it is vitally important the citizens of democracy have the opportunity to see this.  It is vitally important to demonstrate that all that secrecy the permanent bureaucracy likes to claim leads to good governance not only leads, instead, to rank incompetence, but also to the decay of our democracy itself.

Lamo’s Two (?!) Laptops

In the original story about Adrian Lamo’s involuntary hospitalization, he loses his medication and calls the cops.

Last month Adrian Lamo, a man once hunted by the FBI, did something contrary to his nature. He picked up a payphone outside a Northern California supermarket and called the cops.

Someone had grabbed Lamo’s backpack containing the prescription anti-depressants he’d been on since 2004, the year he pleaded guilty to hacking The New York Times. He wanted his medication back. But when the police arrived at the Safeway parking lot it was Lamo, not the missing backpack, that interested them. Something about his halting, monotone speech, perhaps slowed by his medication, got the officers’ attention.

But in Ryan Singel’s telling of it, Lamo lost his laptop.

For instance, you make it sound creepy that Poulsen wrote a long profile about Lamo. Huh. Read the story again. Basically, it goes like this. A convicted hacker, now gone legit, calls the police to report a stolen laptop. When the police arrive, instead of focussing on the crime, they 5150 the victim.

I find that rather interesting for several reasons.

First, because the larger story ends with Lamo losing his laptop, too.

Agents from the Army’s criminal and counter-intelligence units and the Diplomatic Security Service met with Lamo on Friday night, Lamo said. The agents asked for files related to the communications between him and Manning, Lamo said, and he gave them a laptop and the hard drive from another laptop, as well as encrypted e-mails that had been stored on a remote server. Lamo said he is scheduled to give a sworn statement to authorities on Sunday.

So is the laptop the authorities took (and the hard drive from another one) a new laptop, purchased to replace the one that got taken? Another one that Lamo had lying about at home?

And then there’s this detail: the PGP key Lamo “no longer had access to” when Bradley Manning first tried to contact Lamo via encrypted email.

GREENWALD: And so the first contact he made with you, was that be email or was that some other way?

LAMO: [Sound of rustling papers] First contact was by email.

GREENWALD: And can you tell me generally what he said?

LAMO: I can’t unfortunately. It’s cryptographically impossible since he encrypted it to an outdated PGP key of mine.

GREENWALD: So were you unable to understand what he said in that first email?

LAMO: Correct. First, second, and third at the very least. I get a lot of random email and the hassle of decrypting it even if I had the key would be enough to push it back about a week or so in my “to read” stack.

GREENWALD: Right. So when you got this email that you were incapable of deciphering did you respond to him in some way, or what did you do?

LAMO: I ignored it for the first couple of hours and then I received a few subsequent emails and then I finally replied, “Hey I can’t read your emails encrypted to a PGP key I no longer have access to. Why don’t we chat via AOL IM instead?”

And finally there are the number of hackers who have had their laptops confiscated (though usually as part of a border crossing) of late.

It’s just a data point. But the story of Lamo being involuntarily hospitalized in response to reporting having his laptop taken is a whole lot different than it is if he has just had his drugs taken away.

Pulling Some Threads on Lamo’s Inconsistencies

In her post laying out the many inconsistencies in Adrian Lamo’s account of turning in Bradley Manning, Jane says:

I only see two possibilities.  One, Wired had the chat logs before Lamo made any calls to authorities, and was a party to whatever subsequently happened.  Or two, the copies of the chat logs that have been given to the press have been done so at the instigation of the US government, and with their full approval.

Of course there’s always c) all of the above, which is what I’m guessing is the most likely scenario.

I’m not entirely sure those are the only possibilities.

To my mind, there are several questions that remain entirely unanswered:

  • When did Lamo and Manning start communicating?
  • When and through whom did Lamo contact authorities (or, did authorities find him and not vice versa)?
  • How does that relate to other dates, such as Manning’s arrest, and when did the arrest happen?

Just as a threshold issue, I think the only source dating the beginning of the Lamo-Manning conversation to May 20 is Lamo, claimed in his conversation with Glenn and with the NYT. Particularly given his squirreliness about the encrypted emails Manning sent him before they started chatting on AIM, not to mention some odd details about their earliest chats, I see no reason to treat that claim uncritically.

Then there’s Manning’s arrest date, which Lamo claimed to be May 26 based on a conversation he described to Wired having with the FBI on May 27. But Manning’s charging documents seem to say Manning’s alleged actions continued until May 27 and he was arrested on May 29. Moreover, the time lapse on the chat logs may well suggest that Lamo and Manning were chatting past the time Lamo claims the FBI told him Manning had been arrested. If, as seems almost certain, Lamo was wrong about Manning’s arrest date, we need to ask whether he is hiding his own actions (perhaps, at the direction of the Feds, Lamo got Manning to send him classified documents on May 27, but he doesn’t want to admit that publicly) or whether the Feds misled Lamo.

There seem to be at least four or five versions of how and through whom Manning contacted authorities:

Version 1: Lamo told his father that Manning was the source for the Collateral Murder video (not the diplomatic cables) and his father pressured him to contact the government (the subsequent contact may or may not have been done through Chet Uber).

Version 2: In response to learning about the 260,000 State cables (which the chat logs portray as happening on May 22), Lamo reached out to his “ex” who “worked” for Army counterintelligence.

Version 3: In response to learning about the 260,000 cables, Lamo contacted Chet Uber (as one of a number of people he contacted) one or two days before he first met with the Feds on May 25. CJR’s timeline based on conversations with Kevin Poulsen dates Lamo’s first contact with the Feds before May 24, his first meeting with them on May 25, and his second meeting on May 27.

Version 4: Another version of Uber’s story says Lamo first contacted him in early June, which would have placed it after Manning’s arrest.

Version 5: Lamo contacted Timothy Webster (who is not explicitly identified as Lamo’s ex and who is portrayed as formerly, not currently, working in counterintelligence) on May 26 and told him that Manning was the source for the Collateral Murder video. Of course this scenario would put his Webster contact after his first contacts with the Feds, per Wired.

And none of these versions make any mention of the top secret ongoing op that Manning reportedly leaked to Lamo.

Now, I lay all these versions out not to impugn anyone’s reporting. After all, only Webster claims to be certain when his contact with Lamo happened. Uber admits he is uncertain (though the May and June dates obviously conflict significantly). And Lamo has been careful to note he had contacts with people outside of the Project Vigilant chain, which presumably includes but may not be limited to Webster.

But it does open up the possibility that there were several levels of contact here: a first one from his father, encouraging him to go to the Feds about the Collateral Murder video, a second one–of indefinite time frame–that went through Project Vigilant, and a third (and possibly fourth) that went through counterintelligence people. Furthermore, remember there are at least four investigative agencies: Army counterintelligence, Army CID, which is reported to have the lead on the Manning investigation, Diplomatic Security, which according to Manning was investigating the Rejkjavik cable going back to February, and the FBI. Note, too, that another version of Lamo’s story describes him worried about the FBI agents “knocking at the door” and implication in obstruction of justice; if any of these investigative agencies were investigating Lamo, the FBI would seem to be the most logical one.

So let’s just imagine another scenario. Read more

Assange Alerts His Hostages

Remember how I suggested that Obama was establishing a practice of only making deals with people–whether they be Republicans or Democrats–who take hostages?

Well, Julian Assange just made it clear who his hostages are:

Top officials in several Arab countries have close links with the CIA, and many officials keep visiting US embassies in their respective countries voluntarily to establish links with this key US intelligence agency, says Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks.“These officials are spies for the US in their countries,” Assange told Al Jazeera Arabic channel in an interview yesterday.

The interviewer, Ahmed Mansour, said at the start of the interview which was a continuation of last week’s interface, that Assange had even shown him the files that contained the names of some top Arab officials with alleged links with the CIA.

[snip]

“If I am killed or detained for a long time, there are 2,000 websites ready to publish the remaining files. We have protected these websites through very safe passwords,” said Assange.

Assange’s message–on Al Jazeera, in a message directed to “the Arab Street”? If he is disappeared or killed or put away, the names of America’s stooges in the Middle East will be released on some outlet like Al Jazeera.

Given that some of those people are probably our crack oil dealers from Saudi Arabia, I can imagine how such a message might be persuasive–and might be made to be persuasive to the US government.

Mind you, we already know that the US has a long history of close ties between its clients–even with people like Saddam Hussein–and the CIA. We already knew this.

Much like we already knew this:

Some Arab countries even have torture houses where Washington regularly sends ‘suspects’ for ‘interrogation and torture’, he said.

But I would imagine Jordanians and Egyptians (in the case of our torturers) would be very interested in reading how their country tortured other Arabs at the behest of the US.

Floyd Abrams’ Abuse of Power

I promise I’m going to catch up on the WikiLeaks stuff in more detail soon, but I wanted to do a quick post pointing out the idiocy of Floyd Abrams’ attack on WikiLeaks. The logic of Abrams’ op-ed–which argues that WikiLeaks is different from the Pentagon Papers and therefore bad and also ohbytheway bad for journalists–is as follows:

Daniel Ellsberg chose not to release the last four volumes of the Pentagon Papers because he didn’t want to get in the way of diplomacy.

The diplomatic volumes were not published, even in part, for another dozen years. Mr. Ellsberg later explained his decision to keep them secret, according to Sanford Ungar’s 1972 book “The Papers & The Papers,” by saying, “I didn’t want to get in the way of the diplomacy.”

But Assange–because of what Abrams characterizes as WikiLeaks’ “general disdain for any secrecy at all”–did release diplomacy-damaging materials.

The recent release of a torrent of State Department documents is typical. Some, containing unflattering appraisals by American diplomats of foreign leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Libya and elsewhere, contain the very sort of diplomacy-destructive materials that Mr. Ellsberg withheld.

Abrams tries to draw a distinction between Ellsberg and Assange with what are apparently meant to be rhetorical questions.

Can anyone doubt that he would have made those four volumes public on WikiLeaks regardless of their sensitivity? Or that he would have paid not even the slightest heed to the possibility that they might seriously compromise efforts to bring a speedier end to the war?

From there, Abrams predicts that what he characterizes as WikiLeaks’ irresponsible actions will lead to legislation and legal cases restricting the First Amendment.

Mr. Assange is no boon to American journalists. His activities have already doomed proposed federal shield-law legislation protecting journalists’ use of confidential sources in the just-adjourned Congress. An indictment of him could be followed by the judicial articulation of far more speech-limiting legal principles than currently exist with respect to even the most responsible reporting about both diplomacy and defense. If he is not charged or is acquitted of whatever charges may be made, that may well lead to the adoption of new and dangerously restrictive legislation. In more than one way, Mr. Assange may yet have much to answer for.

In Abrams’ mind, Assange is responsible for the response the government is taking toward him, not the government actors themselves. Nor are those who misrepresent Assange’s and WikiLeaks’ actions–thereby making it easier for the government to curtail legal rights–responsible.

You know, people like Floyd Abrams.

Abrams’ purported rhetorical questions–can anyone doubt that WikiLeaks would have published the diplomatic volumes of the Pentagon Papers? can anyone doubt he wouldn’t have paid the slightest heed to efforts to end the war?–are one of two things that dismantle his entire argument laying the responsibility for the government’s overreaction to Assange with Assange. Because–as Digby has explained at length–we have every reason to doubt whether WikiLeaks would have published the diplomatic volumes of the Pentagon Papers. And we have solid evidence that WikiLeaks would shield really dangerous information.

Because they already have. And because they have now outsourced responsibility for choosing what is dangerous and newsworthy or not to a bunch of newspapers.

Indeed, back before WikiLeaks ceded that role to a bunch of newspapers, WikiLeaks was actually being more cautious with the publication of sensitive information than the NYT was.

So rather than blaming the government and the press for mischaracterizing what WikiLeaks has done here and then using that mischaracterization to justify an overreaction to that mischaracterization, Floyd Abrams just participates in it. WikiLeaks is responsible, Floyd Abrams says, and I’m going to misrepresent what they have done to prove that case.

Effectively, Abrams contributes to the myth that he says will result in new government action restricting the First Amendment.

Thanks Floyd.

But, as I said, there are two fundamental problems with Abrams’ argument.

Here’s the other one:

The Pentagon Papers revelations dealt with a discrete topic, the ever-increasing level of duplicity of our leaders over a score of years in increasing the nation’s involvement in Vietnam while denying it. It revealed official wrongdoing or, at the least, a pervasive lack of candor by the government to its people.

WikiLeaks is different. It revels in the revelation of “secrets” simply because they are secret. It assaults the very notion of diplomacy that is not presented live on C-Span. It has sometimes served the public by its revelations but it also offers, at considerable potential price, a vast amount of material that discloses no abuses of power at all.

[snip]

Taken as a whole, however, a leak of this elephantine magnitude, which appears to demonstrate no misconduct by the U.S., is difficult to defend on any basis other than WikiLeaks’ general disdain for any secrecy at all. [my emphasis]

Floyd Abrams’ entire argument about WikiLeaks is premised on his claim that these diplomatic cables demonstrate no abuse of power at all. No misconduct by the US. Read more

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