Wired has a post on MSNBC’s report that “there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to [Julian] Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.” In it, Kim Zetter looks to the chat logs to try to explain why there is no such evidence.
If it’s true that investigators have found no evidence linking Manning and Assange, it may be because Manning allegedly erased it from his system. He discussed doing so in his chats with Lamo. Manning noted in the chats that any incriminating evidence of his activities had been “zerofilled”, or erased, from his computers:
But that’s not precisely what the passage she quotes says. Note, because I’ve used a different selection of chat log than Zetter, I have bolded the part she included in her selection (though she includes in her post).
(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 fuck
As Zetter correctly notes, in this passage Manning suggests files had been zerofilled. But in this passage, he doesn’t say he did it.
Now, in a separate section, Manning says he zerofilled the original of the Rejkjavik 13 cable.
(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…
(1:51:14 PM) Lamo: Anything unreleased?
(1:51:25 PM) Manning: i’d have to ask assange
(1:51:53 PM) Manning: i zerofilled the original
(1:51:54 PM) Lamo: why do you answer to him?
(1:52:29 PM) Manning: i dont… i just want the material out there… i dont want to be a part of it [my emphasis]
Contextually, this might suggest that both mentions of zerofilling refer to the same–all 250,000 cables–since they both come in response to Lamo’s probing questions about the cables. Indeed, Manning’s reference to zerofilling himself, in the context of the Rejkjavik cable, may explain why he no longer has access to any cables he could give Lamo to prove his bona fides. But even if both references both mean to include all the cables, it would remain ambiguous whether Manning zerofilled his computer or someone else did.