As I wrote yesterday, the influential PBS Frontline series presents a full hour tomorrow on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning. They’ve posted three teasers and excerpts already. What might be most significant, and controversial, about Tuesday’s show -- which appears almost one year from the day of Manning's arrest -- is what appears to be an attempt to link Manning to Assange (or someone else at WikiLeaks) in a more direct way than what has emerged to date.
The idea that Assange did not simply receive massive, anonymous uploads from a military intelligence officer forms the heart of the U.S. government’s attempt to prosecute him under the Espionage Act. To carry that off, the Department of Justice probably has to convince a grand jury that Assange directed or assisted Manning in his leaking or had some other intimate contact.
Assange has denied this (some times a little vaguely), while asserting that he had never heard Manning’s name until the soldier was arrested. Several months ago, NBC reported that the U.S. so far had not gotten any evidence out of Manning or anyone else establishing a more aggressive Assange role in the leak. There are tantalizing hints, however, in the now infamous Manning-Adrian Lamo “chat logs,” and I have published relevant extracts below. But one also has to remember that a) some question the veracity of these logs, b) in any case, they have been heavily redacted, and it’s not known what exactly has been omitted, and c) Manning might merely have been boasting, wrongly, about knowing Assange in the logs.
Frontline also considers, among other angles, whether the leaked files were not uploaded to WikiLeaks’ main portal but possibly were “handed off.” That is, with some third party intervention. The lengthy summary of the coming episode (if history is any guide, it will appear online first, on Tuesday morning)
In the chat logs below, I have omitted one key segment, which you can find in an important blog piece posted last Friday by New Yorker writer Raffi Khatchadourian, one of the keenest observers of all things WikiLeaks for the past year.
In the piece, he points to a little noted detail in the chat logs – Manning’s reference, one year ago this week, to a 10,000 word profile of Assange set to be published two weeks later in The New Yorker, and written by Khatchadourian. (It figures prominently in my book,The Age of WikiLeaks). The writer now asks: How could Manning, over in Iraq, and likely not plugged into the New York magazine scene, know about the article, right down to its length? Likely it had to be, if not Assange, someone else connected to WikiLeaks.
Khatchadourian admits that he has not written about his connection to the case previously because it opens him up to questioning, even a subpoena, from federal authorities. To his credit, he then goes on to state that even if Assange is linked more directly to Manning any federal prosecution of the WikiLeaks leader would still be misguided.
Now here are the excerpts from the chat logs re: Assange. Many pages from the logs, and much else relating to this case, is found in my new book, Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences, in print and as e-book.
bradass87: lets just say *someone* i know intimately well, has been penetrating US classified networks, mining data like the ones described… and been transferring that data from the classified networks over the “air gap” onto a commercial network computer… sorting the data, compressing it, encrypting it, and uploading it to a crazy white haired aussie who can’t seem to stay in one country very long
bradass87: crazy white haired dude = Julian Assange
Manning: im a source, not quite a volunteer
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
Manning: it took me four months to confirm that the person i was communicating was in fact assange
Lamo: how’d you do that?
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
Lamo: did that bear out? the surveillance?
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…
Lamo: Does Assange use AIM or other messaging services? I’d like to chat with him one of these days about opsec. My only credentials beyond intrusion are that the FBI never got my data or found me, before my negotiated surrender, but that’s something.
Lamo: And my data was never recovered.
Manning: no he does not use AIM
Lamo: How would I get ahold of him?
Manning: he would come to you
Lamo: I’ve never failed to get ahold of someone.
Manning: he does use OTR though… but discusses nothing OPSEC
Lamo: I cornered Ashcroft IRL, in the end.
Manning: he *might* use the ccc.de jabber server… but you didn’t hear that from me
(Referring to the incident in Iraq captured in the Collateral Murder video)
Manning: event occurs in 2007, i watch video in 2009 with no context, do research, forward information to group of FOI activists, more research occurs, video is released in 2010, those involved come forward to discuss event, i witness those involved coming forward to discuss publicly, even add them as friends on FB… without them knowing who i am…
Lamo: How long between the leak and the publication?
Manning: some time in February….
Lamo: submission where?
Manning: wl.org submission system
Lamo: in the massive queue?
Manning: lol, yeah, it IS pretty massive…
Manning: long term sources do get preference… i can see where the “unfairness” factor comes in
Lamo: how does that preference work?
Manning: veracity… the material is easy to verify…
Manning: because they know a little bit more about the source than a purely anonymous one
Manning: and confirmation publicly from earlier material, would make them more likely to publish… i guess…
Manning: im not saying they do… but i can see how that might develop
Manning: if two of the largest public relations “coups” have come from a single source… for instance
Manning: you yeah… purely *submitting* material is more likely to get overlooked without contacting them by other means and saying hey, check your submissions for x…