Daniel Ellsberg Fears a US Hit on Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange
By Muriel Kane
June 11, 2010 "Rawstory" -- Daniel Ellsberg, who gained fame when he leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 in hopes of ending the Vietnam War, told MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan on Friday that he not only sees a parallel between himself and the person who recently leaked a video of an assault by US forces on Iraqi civilians but also fears for the safety of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who published the video.
Army specialist Bradley Manning was recently arrested in the case, and according to reporter Philip Shenon, the Pentagon is "desperately" seeking Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in hopes of preventing further damaging revelations.
Noting that since his own prosecution under the Espionage Act "for revealing information to the American public" almost 40 years ago there had been only two other similar indictments prior to the current administration, Ellsberg stated angrily, "President Obama, who came in promising transparency in government and to end the excessive secrecy has totally violated that pledge. ... That's really not the kind of change I voted for when I voted for him."
Philip Shenon, who was appearing along with Ellsberg, told Ratigan that Assange "was supposed to appear this evening at a panel in Las Vegas ... but he apparently canceled on them at the last minute. ... He said last week at [a] New York gathering that he had been instructed by his lawyers not to return to the United States."
Inside the Pimpernel’s Bunker
WikiLeaks: Where is Julian Assange? And how WikiLeaks protects itself
Philip Shenon has another piece up at the Daily Beast relating the U.S. government’s desire to get a hold of Assange. Shenon writes that Pentagon investigators are “convinced that Assange is in possession of at least some classified State Department cables,” that Bradley claimed to have leaked to Assange’s site. Manning revealed to fellow hacker Adrian Lamo prior to being taken into custody by the Army, that he had leaked as many as 260,000 of those cables to WikiLeaks – a claim that WikiLeaks has denied via its Twitter feed.
Nevertheless, U.S. officials are obviously concerned that if even some of those cables are leaked, it might cause some massive diplomatic headaches and potentially threaten national security. Assange was scheduled to speak at an event in Las Vegas this week, but has since dropped out. Obviously. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
So how can WikiLeaks protect this kind of information, and how has the site managed to protect itself? The answers are on WikiLeaks, actually. On a page called ‘Investigators Guide’, WikiLeaks outlines that it is a media organization, and as such, it has certain protections under various international jurisdictions. Additionally, the page points out that:
This is also why Assange, who spends most of his time in Iceland, has backed that country’s pending Modern Media Initiative [IMMI]. The IMMI is legislation that was conceived after Iceland’s disastrous economic meltdown in order to enable journalists to report on future irresponsible practices. Effectively, the legislation would make Iceland a haven for investigative journalism, with protections for whistleblowers, journalists, and from things like ‘libel tourism’. Iceland’s Parliament will have a final vote on the IMMI before June 15. Whether its passage is impeded or aided by this recent WikiLeaks-related incident remains to be seen, but might be something worth watching.
In effect, Assange has been quite clever in setting up WikiLeaks as a media organization and by using credited journalists as conduits for leaked material. What it means for the U.S. government is that it will be very difficult to prosecute WikiLeaks or Assange for whatever role either played (if any) in the alleged leaking of the diplomatic cables.
One other interesting thing to note here, I think, is WikiLeaks’s agenda. During an interview earlier this year with Stephen Colbert, Assange revealed that:
That might imply that if WikiLeaks actually has any of these documents, there’s a good chance that they won’t all be released at once, should the site release them at all. Such a scenario is probably the worst case for the U.S. government.
Wikileaks Commissions Lawyers to Defend Alleged Army Source
Assange says he’s arranging the legal defense for 22-year-old Bradley Manning, now in his third week in military custody.
In the Friday e-mail to Adrian Lamo, Assange (or someone convincingly posing as him) claims he wants to forward the logs to attorneys he says he’s hired to represent Manning, though the e-mail doesn’t explain why the unnamed lawyers aren’t approaching Lamo directly.
The e-mail also contains talking points Assange would like to see Lamo adopt in describing Manning, and in explaining his decision to report the suspected leaker to law enforcement.
Wired.com could not confirm that Manning has accepted Assange’s offer of legal assistance. A phone call to his aunt, who has been in contact with Manning following his arrest, was not returned Friday. Assange did not immediately respond to inquiries from Wired.com.
Lamo says he hasn’t attempted to whip up sentiment against Manning, and that he doesn’t intend to comply with Assange’s request.
“No, I’m not going to give the logs to someone who suggests that I might have been drug-addled when I decided to turn in a spy,” says Lamo, who takes prescription medication for depression and Asperger’s Disorder. “Private Manning’s attorney can get them by discovery like everyone else.”
In his chats with Lamo, copies of which were provided to Wired.com by the ex-hacker, Manning described a crisis of conscience that led him to leak a headline-making video of a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians. He also boasted of leaking a separate video showing the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks has previously acknowledged is in its possession; a classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat, which the site posted in March; a detailed Army chronology of events in the Iraq war; and a cache of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables.
Wikileaks has neither confirmed nor denied that Manning leaked information to the site, but on Sunday it tweeted that “Allegations in Wired that we have been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect.”
Manning told Lamo that he expected the cables to be released in a “searchable format” to the public. The prospect of the cable leak appears to be of particular concern to the United States. One or more of Manning’s hard drives were flown to Washington on Thursday, according to the Associated Press, and State Department diplomatic security agents are examining them for evidence of the allegedly downloaded cables. The Daily Beast reported that the Pentagon is attempting to locate Assange before he publishes the cables, though it’s not clear what defense officials plan to do if they find him.
Responding to the report, Wikileaks tweeted Friday, “Any signs of unacceptable behavior by the Pentagon or its agents towards this press will be viewed dimly.”
Assange was previously scheduled to speak at 4:30 p.m. Pacific time Friday at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Las Vegas. On Friday, Wikileaks tweeted that Assange still plans on participating on the panel, but IRE told the Daily Beast that Assange actually canceled several days ago.
Last week, Assange was scheduled to appear beside Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, but he wound up participating from Australia over Skype instead.
Top photo: Julian Assange (Lily Mihalik/Wired.com). Bradley Manning photo via Facebook.com
Pentagon Rushes to Block Release of Classified Files on Wikileaks
========Messages From Alleged Leaker Bradley Manning Portray Him as Despondent soldier
By Ellen Nakashima
June 10, 2010 "Washington Post" -- Bradley Manning, 22, had just gone through a breakup. He had been demoted a rank in the Army after striking a fellow soldier. He felt he had no future, and yet he thought that by sharing classified information about his government's foreign policy, he might "actually change something."
A series of instant messages from Manning to a stranger open a window into the anguished state of the former Army intelligence analyst, who was detained late last month for allegedly leaking classified video and documents to Wikileaks.org.
The military has not detailed the allegations against Manning, who is being held in Kuwait pending an investigation, and his attorney could not be reached. His aunt, Debra van Alstyne, reached by phone, declined to comment on the allegations but allowed that the family was "shocked and surprised" by them.
"We love him, and we'll stand by him through this process," she said.
The logs of messages between Manning and Adrian Lamo, provided to The Washington Post by Lamo, reveal a young man who was at once privy to government material of the highest sensitivity and confronting a personal crisis of the highest order. While stationed in Iraq, he decided to turn to Lamo, a former hacker whom he did not know but who would ultimately report him to authorities out of concern that lives could be at risk.
"I'm an army intelligence analyst, deployed to eastern baghdad, pending discharge for 'adjustment disorder,' " Manning said by way of introducing himself to Lamo, who had recently been profiled on the Web site of Wired magazine.
"If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?" he wrote.
In the days that followed -- the two exchanged messages for no more than a week -- Manning seemed intent on impressing Lamo with what he could access from his post in Iraq. He wrote of a "database of half a million events during the iraq war . . . from 2004 to 2009 . . . with reports, date time groups, lat-lon locations, casualty figures," as well as 260,000 diplomatic cables "explaining how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective."
But much of the exchanges focused on Manning's unhappiness.
"Ive been isolated so long . . . i just wanted to figure out ways to survive . . . smart enough to know whats going on, but helpless to do anything . . . no-one took any notice of me," he wrote at one point. Another time, he wrote: "im a wreck."
In one particularly poignant message, Manning wrote: "my family is non-supportive . . . im losing my job . . . losing my career options . . . i dont have much more except for this laptop, some books, and a hell of a story."Young man adrift
Manning was born in Crescent, Okla. His parents are divorced; his mother lives in Wales, his father in Oklahoma. He confided in Lamo that he was homeless in 2006 and had drifted from Tulsa to Chicago before landing at his aunt's house in Potomac.
He is slight, 5-foot-2 and 105 pounds. He was looking for a connection.
In a phone interview, Lamo said he does not know what prompted Manning to allegedly leak. "I think it was a confluence of things -- being a thin, nerdy, geeky type in an Army culture of machismo, of seeing injustice," he said.
Wikileaks has declined to say whether Manning was a source but has stated, via a Twitter post, that it would defend him based on allegations that he was. It has also said the allegations that it had "been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect."
In his exchanges with Lamo, Manning said he had sent files to a "white haired aussie," whom he later identified as Julian Assange, the peripatetic founder of Wikileaks.
Manning referred in his chat with Lamo to a leak of a classified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland, dated Jan. 13. Wikileaks published a document matching that description Feb. 18.
He also told Lamo that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton "and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and finds an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format to the public . . . everywhere there's a US post . . . there's a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed."
It's "important that it gets out . . . i feel, for some bizarre reason . . . it might actually change something," he said.
A spokesman for the State Department has said that officials are working with the military in its investigation. "Clearly, classified information, anytime it is released in the public domain, can have a potential negative impact on our security," spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday.'Damning' video
Among the files Manning said he leaked was a video of a May 2009 airstrike near the village of Gerani in Afghanistan that local officials claimed killed scores of civilians. But that video, which Manning said Wikileaks "hasn't decrypted yet," was "not nearly as damning" as a video of a 2007 U.S. Army helicopter attack on Iraqi insurgents that showed civilians, including two Reuters employees, being gunned down. Lamo said Manning gave Wikileaks the video footage in February. Wikileaks, which said it had multiple sources for the footage and accompanying documents, posted the video in April under the title "Collateral Murder."
It's unclear how significant those videos may have been in prompting the alleged leaking.
An Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Eric Bloom, said Manning, who entered the Army as a private in October 2007, was demoted last month for an assault. He said he was not facing early discharge.
In one message, Manning said: "i'm exhausted . . . in desperation to get somewhere in life . . . i joined the army . . . and that's proven to be a disaster now . . . and now i'm quite possibly on the verge of being the most notorious 'hacktivist' or whatever you want to call it . . . its all a big mess i've created."
Staff researcher Julie Tate and staff writer Joby Warrick contributed to this report.