June 20, 2019 / by 

 

Wikileaks Redactions: It’s Not Just the Chinese that Bribe for Oil

Given the past history of how newspapers have redacted (or not) Wikileaks dumps, I was very interested in an article that reveals what the Guardian (or one of its media partners) redacted in a cable on Kazakh corruption. The Guardian summarizes the cable this way:

Top Kazakh energy official reveals the four principal gate-keepers around President Nursultan Nazarbayev, including Timur Kulibayev, the favoured billionaire presidential son-in-law.

But read more closely, it serves to record Ambassador Richard Hoagland’s judgment that KazMunaiGaz First Vice President Maksat Idenov is currently (on January 25, 2010) successfully ensuring that two big hyrdocarbon projects will be developed according to “international standards”–which seems to imply something about the level of bribery involved, but it’s not entirely clear whether that implies less bribery or none at all. The big question, in any case, is whether President Nazarbayev’s son-in-law, Kulibayev, will demand bribes associated with the projects.

But as Israel Shamir reveals in an article for Counterpunch (here’s a Fast Company article with more background on Shamir) there are three details that have been redacted in the Guardian version, all of which make the role of bribery more obvious and point to much closer British, Italian, and US ties to that kind of bribery.

In the first instance, the Guardian version of the cable redacts an explicit reference–attributed to Idenov but not a direct quote from him–to the role of bribery in Kazakhstan and in capitalism more generally. (The bolded text is what is redacted in the Guardian version.)

According to Idenov, in Kazakhstan, market economy means capitalism, which means big money, which means large bribes for the best connected.

But it’s not that analogy which seems to tie the US and Britain more closely to the culture of bribery in Kazakhstan. With two other redactions, the Guardian version of the cable hides the ties between British Gas Country Director for Kazakhstan, Mark Rawlings, and a US citizen recently acquitted of bribery because he had offered the bribes at the behest of the CIA.

When the Ambassador arrived, Idenov was barking into his cell phone, “Mark, Mark, stop the excuses! Mark, listen to me! Mark, shut up right now and do as I say! Bring the letter to my office at 10:00 pm, and we will go together to take it to (Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, MEMR) Mynbayev at his house.” On ending the call, Idenov explained he was talking to British Gas (BG) Country Director for Kazakhstan Mark Rawlings who had missed the deadline to deliver a letter about arbitration on the Karachaganak super-giant oil-field project (reftel). Still clearly steamed, Idenov alleged, “He’s still playing games with Mercator’s James Giffin,” the notorious AmCit fixer indicted for large-scale bribery on oil deals in the 1990s, whose case drags on in the Southern District Court of New York. “I tell him, ‘Mark, stop being an idiot! Stop tempting fate! Stop communicating with an indicted criminal!’” Idenov asked, “Do you know how much he (Rawlings) makes? $72,000 a month! A month!! Plus benefits! Plus bonuses! Lives in Switzerland but supposedly works in London. Comes here once a month to check in. Nice life, huh?”

As Shamir explains in his article, Giffen was ultimately hailed as a patriot by the judge who dismissed most of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges against him in November 2010 (that is, ten months after this cable was written, and around the same time the US signed a new airspace deal with Kazakhstan). Main Justice provides background of how State Department considerations–they didn’t want prosecutors to mention that President Nazarbayev was the recipient of the bribes Giffen was alleged to have arranged–and CIA stonewalling–they refused to provide the details of what Giffen claimed was his role in their “intelligence collecting” operations–led to the dismissal of most of the charges.

Government lawyers stumbled over a combination of problems, including a long-running dispute between prosecutors and intelligence officials who were unwilling to share classified information about Giffen’s dealings with Kazakhstan. A fourth set of prosecutors came into the case earlier this year.

The State Department also balked, according to the lawyers. American diplomats were uneasy with the prospect of offending Giffen’s Kazakh patrons, most notably Nazarbayev, one of the United States’ few reliable friends in Central Asia, where the Chinese and Russians also compete for influence.

[snip]

The State Department didn’t want prosecutors referring to Nazarbayev as a corrupt leader in their opening statement at trial, though he had been identified in court filings as a recipient of millions of dollars in bribes, said one former prosecutor.

The CIA tied up the discovery process by balking at disclosure of their intelligence gathering methods in Kazakhstan. And the government saw no end in sight. After five pre-trial adjournments, the burden of prosecuting one of the largest FCPA cases in U.S. history had become untenable, six current and former prosecutors said in interviews.

In other words, whoever made the redaction decisions on the Guardian version of the cable chose to hide the fact that British Gas’ representative in Kazakhstan was working closely with Giffen, at a time when Giffen’s criminal bribery case had not yet been dismissed. And it’s worth noting who said what about Giffen: Idenov purportedly told Mark Rawlings, in the Ambassador’s hearing, not to get involved with a man indicted for bribery, and the Ambassador filled in the reference to the ongoing case in SDNY. So the redaction effectively hid both Idenov’s advice–don’t hang out with an indicted briber–and Hoagland’s recognition of the significance of the statement.

Which is similar to the final redaction in the Guardian version of the cable, in which Idenov suggests that both British Gas and Italy’s ENI are corrupt (with the implication they may be prepared to offer bribes to do business in Kazakhstan).

Idenov said he believes he has, so far, the president’s protection. “But the games continue,” he said. Idenov alleged that both BG and Italy’s ENI are corrupt — and Kulibayev is salivating to profit from them — but, so far, Idenov stands in the way. “So long as Nazarbayev says he wants Kashagan and Karachaganak developed according to international standards, that’s what I’ll do.”

The Ambassador describes (but does not quote) Idenov as suggesting that BG and ENI would be willing to offer bribes, and then quotes him saying that so long as Nazarbayev remains supportive, Idenov will develop the projects “according to international standards.” But it is Hoagland who then concludes that means that Idenov “stands in the way.”

Shamir helpfully notes that since this cable was written, Idenov went on to work as Senior VP for ENI.

So without the material redacted in the cable, the chief participants in bribery appear to be China and Russia (with the latter comment an out-of-context note offered by Hoagland).

Idenov alleged that GazProm and China National Petroleum Company “continue to circle like vultures,” hoping that the Kashagan and Karachaganak consortia will implode, and then they can pick up the pieces. “Won’t happen on my watch!” Idenov vowed.

[snip]

Fugitive former CEO of BTA bank, Mukhtar Ablyazov, accused of embezzling over $1 billion, recently leaked “documentary evidence” to the international media that China’s state companies have bribed Kulibayev over $100 million in recent months for oil deals.

But with the redacted material, it appears that BG and ENI are just as actively participating in the system of bribery as Russia and China–and BG may well have ongoing ties to the CIA, as well.

So that’s what Shamir has revealed with his article.

But what does that say about the redaction process?

He attributes the redactions to choices the Guardian made. But given the collaborative process by which, especially, the NYT and the Guardian worked on this, in which the NYT served as primary liaison with the US government,  it is possible that the NYT got a request from the State Department to eliminate the references to Western companies engaging in bribery, not to mention Giffen’s trial (which would in turn reveal the ties to the CIA). We don’t know who chose to leave out this information, but it serves to protect Americans as much as Brits.

Furthermore, you might be able to make a case that this material should be redacted to protect Idenov. While the first redaction–about the prevalence of bribes–seems particularly silly considering the unredacted allegations about bribery elsewhere, that statement might be interpreted to include Nazarbayev himself. But the other two redactions hide allegations Idenov made about people who are still in play in Kazakhstan, not least his current employer. How will ENI react to learning that Idenov suggested that they were corrupt? Do corporations that hire people in revolving door situations like to pretend the process is not corrupt?

I would guess that the revelation of the redacted material will put Idenov at no more risk than the unredacted allegations already do, which would seem to put him at risk of retaliation from Kulibayev. But the revelations do put the UK and US in a different posture. With the redactions, the cable makes it look as if the UK and US don’t play in this corrupt world. Without them, though, it makes it harder for these countries to pretend–after the publication of the US Ambassador receiving word about BG’s corruption–that they don’t also play the game.

The whole cable may make it harder for the US to engage Kazakhstan (but only in the same way the Giffen trial already would have); but with these allegations unredacted, it makes it harder for the US and UK to pretend their activities in Kazakhstan are untainted.

Update: Corrected the outlet that published the Shamir piece.


Why Did Bradley Manning Allegedly Leak WikiLeaks Two Things before He Verified Assange’s Identity?

To return to the work I was doing yesterday, there’s something odd about the timeline of Bradley Manning’s alleged leaks to WikiLeaks: he appears to give WikiLeaks at least two things–the Rejkjavik 13 cable and the Collateral Murder video–before he verified Julian Assange’s identity.

In the chat logs, Manning explains he first started working with WikiLeaks after they released the 9/11 pager messages.

(12:46:17 PM) Adrian: how long have you helped WikiLeaks?

(12:49:09 PM) bradass87: since they released the 9/11 “pager messages”

(12:49:38 PM) bradass87: i immediately recognized that they were from an NSA database, and i felt comfortable enough to come forward

(12:50:20 PM) bradass87: so… right after thanksgiving timeframe of 2009

That would date it November 24 or 25. Interestingly, the government says Manning’s alleged activities began somewhat earlier, November 19. That may suggest they have reason to believe he may have first accessed materials he was not authorized to access on November 19.

There’s a curious break in the chat logs (where Lamo makes his first efforts to get Manning to talk about operation security, while Manning loses it), after which Manning seems to correct Lamo’s suggestion that he’s a WL volunteer. But that does lead Manning to discuss communicating directly with Assange.

(2:04:29 PM) Manning: im a source, not quite a volunteer

(2:05:38 PM) Manning: i mean, im a high profile source… and i’ve developed a relationship with assange… but i dont know much more than what he tells me, which is very little

(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…

(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

As I suggested yesterday, that would mean that Manning had not verified Assange’s identity until roughly March 24. That would coincide exactly with the Wikileak Twitter account’s discussion of US and Icelandic surveillance. Of potential note, on March 23, WL said, “We know our possession of the decrypted airstrike video is now being discussed at the highest levels of US command,” which might be information Manning had access to. While not definitive, all of that suggests the public discussion was one way Manning verified “that the person i was communicating was in fact assange.”

But there were at least two things Manning had already allegedly leaked to WikiLeaks: the Collateral Murder video and the Rejkjavik 13 cable. A possible third which I will not deal with here is the intelligence report naming WikiLeaks as a threat to the military, which was released March 18, 2010, but which is not definitely attributable even hypothetically to Manning.

Collateral Murder Timing

WL first reported getting what appear to be the Collateral Murder and Gharani videos on January 8, 2010.

Have encrypted videos of US bomb strikes on civilians http://bit.ly/wlafghan2 we need super computer time http://ljsf.org/

On February 20, it claimed to have cracked the encryption code of what appears to be the Collateral Murder video.

Finally cracked the encryption to US military video in which journalists, among others, are shot. Thanks to all who donated $/CPUs.

For his part, Manning describes just stumbling upon the Collateral Murder video, did some research into what it was, then stewed on it for a month and a half before forwarding to WL.

(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]

He dates uploading the video sometime in February.

(02:47:07 PM) Manning: the CM video came from a server in our domain! and not a single person noticed

(02:47:21 PM) Lamo: CM?

(02:48:17 PM) Manning: Apache Weapons Team video of 12 JUL 07 airstrike on Reuters Journos… some sketchy but fairly normal street-folk… and civilians

(02:48:52 PM) Lamo: How long between the leak and the publication?

(02:49:18 PM) Manning: some time in february

(02:49:25 PM) Manning: it was uploaded

(02:50:04 PM) Lamo: uploaded where? how would i transmit something if i had similarly damning data

(02:51:49 PM) Manning: uhm… preferably openssl the file with aes-256… then use sftp at prearranged drop ip addresses

(02:52:08 PM) Manning: keeping the key separate… and uploading via a different means

(02:52:31 PM) Lamo: so i myself would be SOL w/o a way to prearrange

(02:54:33 PM) Manning: not necessarily… the HTTPS submission should suffice legally… though i’d use tor on top of it…

Now, those are seemingly contradictory sets of dates: WL boasts it has Gharani, at least, in January, though the February reference to decrypting it seems to mean Collateral Murder was included in the January announcement. But note that if Manning had first accessed the Collateral Murder video on November 19, a month and a half might put it close to the New Year.

In any case, however, both WL and Manning seem to agree the video was in hand by February, a month before (assuming Manning’s description of the verification process is accurate) Manning verified Assange’s identity.

Rejkjavik 13 Cable Timing

Which brings us to the Rejkjavik 13 cable, which was released first but may have been leaked after the videos, during the period when WL was working on prepping the Collateral Murder video for publication. The Rejkjavik cable obviously had to have been leaked between the time it was written on January 13, 2010 and when it was released on February 18, 2010.* Manning describes the Rejkjavik 13 cable as a test:

(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…

I’m particularly interested in what Manning might mean by test. For a more cautious person, it might have been a test of the security of WL’s submission system. WL had just revamped its submission system as of January 12. And critics of WikiLeaks used this very cable to explain some security problems with the submission and release process.

But it seems likely that, if Manning is the only source for the Collateral Murder video, then he was already using the submission system and presumably was comfortable with its security. Whether or not the January 8 date is accurate, after all, if they were announcing they had decrypted the video on February 20, just days after the Rejkjavik cable was released, then they surely had received it some time earlier.

So it seems clear that Manning wasn’t waiting, generally, to submit material until this test.

But consider the possibility it was a test for both sides?

What’s interesting about the cable is how much it fed directly into WL’s then very active campaign to build support for Iceland’s Modern Media Initiative, making Iceland a kind of free speech haven, and its opposition to IceSave, the “bailout” that Iceland wisely refused via referendum. WL appears not to have announced the release of the cable itself on Twitter. WL did, however, trumpet the release of details of the negotiations between Iceland and the British and Dutch on IceSave. That must explain why, out of all the cables accessible to Manning at that point, he allegedly chose to leak one on Iceland, which would be fairly unspectacular to American readers, but played right into WL’s objectives of the moment. Effectively, what Manning appears to have proven is that he had live access to whatever diplomatic discussions were going on, including the IceSave negotiations WL was following so closely.

Or did he?

If I’m not mistaken, the most recent creation dates for cables released thus far appears to be February 2010 (and there are a good deal of those, dated right up through the end of the month). It’s possible the government reacted immediately to the release of the Rejkjavik cable and restricted access; it’s possible that Manning did a download of the cables shortly after the Rejkjavik one was successfully released and never accessed the cables again. But it’s worth noting that the State Department database appears to end shortly after that first test cable.

Just as interesting, though, is how Manning’s reported verification of Assange’s identity appears to correlate with his leaks. If his estimate that it took him four months to verify Assange’s identity is correct, then it appears he had already leaked at least the Collateral Murder and Gharani videos, the Rejkjavik cable, and possibly the intelligence report.

That is, he didn’t wait to verify Assange’s identity before he leaked material. Though he may have waited before he leaked the big databases: the Afghan and Iraq War logs, and the State Department cables.

The Alleged Software

So did he wait to do something else until he had verified Assange’s identity?

First of all, note that Manning tied having privileged submission ability to a time after two items of big PR interest were hypothetically leaked.

02:56:35 PM) Manning: long term sources do get preference… i can see where the “unfairness” factor comes in

(02:56:53 PM) Lamo: how does that preference work?

(02:57:47 PM) Manning: veracity… the material is easy to verify…

(02:58:27 PM) Manning: because they know a little bit more about the source than a purely anonymous one

(02:59:04 PM) Manning: and confirmation publicly from earlier material, would make them more likely to publish… i guess…

(02:59:16 PM) Manning: im not saying they do… but i can see how that might develop

(03:00:18 PM) Manning: if two of the largest public relations “coups” have come from a single source… for instance

It’s unclear whether he (hypothetically, of course) means the cable and the Collateral Murder video, the cable and the intelligence report, or what. If it was the latter, then it would place this privileged time period sometime in March. If it were the former, that time would be slightly later in April.

Which brings me back to my discussion yesterday: the government’s allegation that Manning introduced software onto his computer some time between November 19, 2009 and April 3, 2010.

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.

It’s the date I find so interesting. Whereas the other final dates are, at least in theory, tied to the actual release of a particular item, this one is not (unless it’s tied to the Collateral Murder release just days later).

The relationship between WL and Manning he appears to describe in the chat logs seems to suggest it evolved over time. Given the timing, it appears that several submissions came first. Then came a tailored submission–a cable relating to the IceSave negotiations WL was targeting–and Manning working to verify Assange’s identity. But it appears the bulk of the alleged leaks, the databases, may have come after that.

And note most of that is not currently noted in Manning’s charge sheet. While Manning is charged with passing on 50 cables (possibly during the time period when Lamo was working with authorities), he is only charged with accessing and obtaining information from the 150,000 State cables, not passing them on. And there is absolutely no mention of the Iraq and Afghan War Logs.


*Note: The government lists February 19 as the last possible date when Manning could have leaked the cable, but when the document itself was released it specified,

This document, released by WikiLeaks on February 18th 2010 at 19:00 UTC, describes meetings between embassy chief Sam Watson (CDA) and members of the Icelandic government together with British Ambassador Ian Whiting.

I’m trying to figure out the discrepancy.


State Department Secrecy: What a Bunch of Crap!

Since the issue of State Department secrecy — breached by the WikiLeaks cable dump — has been a topic of discussion, I thought it worthwhile to point to this National Security Archive post describing a particular FOIA appeal.

Eleven years ago, in those halcyon pre-9/11 days, Frank Pallone sponsored a resolution declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terror reading, in part,

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that Pakistan should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Whereas reliable reports from Western media sources have cited Pakistan as a base and training ground for terrorist groups, and the Pakistani Government’s demonstrated reluctance to halt the use of its soil for terrorist organizations;

Whereas media reports have implicated Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) directly in terrorist activities, as well as the international drug trade;

[snip]

Whereas Pakistan is one of three countries to recognize the Taliban in Afghanistan;

Whereas the Taliban, which has been declared a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State, has provided refuge and assistance to Osama Bin Laden;

Whereas the U.S. Department of State has declared Osama Bin Laden and associates as a foreign terrorist organization;

Whereas Pakistan has hindered U.S. and international efforts to apprehend Osama Bin Laden;

Whereas Pakistan was placed on the U.S. Department of State’s `watch list’ of suspected state sponsors of international terrorism in 1993;

When NSA first got the document in response to a FOIA, there was a square marking on the upper right corner redacted under the deliberative exception. The NSA appealed and won and — voila! It turns out some State Department flunky who reviewed the proposed legislation 11 years ago had declared, “What a bunch of crap!”

I can see why our government wouldn’t want us to know that, when presented with a resolution condemning Pakistan for actions that made it easier for Osama bin Laden and a bunch of other terrorists we have since gone to war against to operate, some bureaucrat responded by declaring “what a bunch of crap!” How terrible it would be after all, if the citizens paying that bureaucrat’s salary got to see what bad judgment he or she had!

But can the State Department understand how, faced with an effort to hide the State Department’s own bad judgment, we citizens might not trust its judgment on secrecy, much less policy?


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.

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/wikileaks/page/31/