Alleged Wikileaks source charged with leaking classified files

Army intelligence analyst faces criminal charges connected to leaks of thousands of diplomatic cables and a video showing U.S. troops firing on a Reuters reporter.

The SaveBradley Facebook page. Screenshot by CNET

The U.S. military has filed criminal charges against an Army intelligence analyst who has been accused of sending sensitive files to Wikileaks, including a controversial video showing troops firing on Reuters journalists.

Pfc. Bradley Manning, 22, was charged Monday with sending the video to a person not authorized to receive it and with obtaining "more than 150,000 diplomatic cables" from the State Department. The charges were made public Tuesday.

Adrian Lamo, a hacker who pleaded guilty in 2004 to breaking into The New York Times' computer network, told CNET last month that Manning had contacted him and shared details of his leaks. Lamo said he subsequently tipped off and met with authorities.

In April, Wikileaks released a gritty video --which Manning allegedly sent to the organization--showing U.S. troops in Iraq destroying a vehicle that was preparing to rush a wounded Reuters journalist to the hospital. The Apache pilots appeared to mistake the Reuters news crew, who were holding cameras, for armed insurgents.

Manning, part of the 10th Mountain Division (light infantry) in Iraq, was detained on May 29 and has been in military custody ever since.

An Army spokesman at the Pentagon on Tuesday referred questions to a public affairs office in Iraq, which did not immediately respond. A statement from the U.S. military's Camp Liberty in Iraq said a so-called Article 32 investigation, similar to a civilian grand jury hearing, will be convened to determine whether Manning will face trial by court-martial.

Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell said last month that there was an active criminal probe involving the Army Criminal Investigation Division and other law enforcement agencies.

"Someone, if not multiple people, violated the trust and confidence bestowed on them by their country and leaked classified information, which not only is against the law, but potentially endangers the well-being of our forces and potentially jeopardizes our operations," Morrell said. "And that we take very, very seriously."

The leaked video shows graphic gun-camera images of a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad in July 2007 in which several unarmed men were killed; two children were also wounded. Wikileaks said it obtained the video from whistleblowers and published it to prove the helicopters were not under fire or acting in self defense. CBS

Lamo told CNET on Tuesday, referring to Manning: "What he did harmed national security gravely. This wasn't just about a video. There were many other materials."

Lamo refused to elaborate, saying only that Manning "compromised a seriously important classified op in his chats with me."

Manning is charged with two violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ.

The first set of charges accuse him of "wrongfully" moving classified information to his personal computer and "wrongfully adding" unauthorized software to a secure computer, both in alleged violation of Article 92 of the UCMJ. Article 92 says anyone who "violates or fails to obey any lawful general order or regulation" can be punished by a court-martial.

The second set of charges stem from Manning's alleged transfers of classified information, including the July 12, 2007 Apache video and a State Department cable titled "Reykjavik 13" to an unnamed third parties. Those transfers violate Article 134 of the UCMJ, the military says, which is a general-purpose prohibition punishing "crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty."

One of those alleged crimes includes a violation of the Espionage Act, which makes it illegal for anyone with unauthorized possession of "information relating to the national defense" to share it with anyone else. Another alleges a violation of computer hacking laws.

Julian Assange, the onetime hacker who has become the public face of Wikileaks, responded on Tuesday by saying: "If the charges against Manning are true, he will be the Daniel Ellsberg of our times." (Ellsberg is the former military analyst who released the so-called Pentagon Papers, who has recently praised Wikileaks' methods.)

A Web site supporting Manning, BradleyManning.org, has launched. Assange has said that Wikileaks "will defend" Manning, and mentioned the possibility of hiring a legal team, but there's no evidence that one has materialized.

 

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