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27 July, 2010

Did Bradley Manning Act Alone?

By Philip Shenon, The Daily Beast

The massive dump of U.S. military secrets about the Afghan war—including possible evidence of war crimes—is believed to have come from the detained Army intel analyst. Philip Shenon reports he may not have been the lone leaker. Plus, the seven most shocking secrets from the WikiLeaks files.

A 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst from Potomac, Maryland, is almost certainly the source of what could well be one of the most damaging leaks of classified military information in the nation’s history, according to the former computer hacker in California who turned in the analyst. The former hacker, Adrian Lamo, told The Daily Beast he had no doubt that the young Army analyst, Bradley Manning, who had been posted in Iraq until this spring, was responsible for the massive leak of American military reports from Afghanistan that were posted online Sunday by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks, and promoted with joint reports in Britain and Germany. I believe that somebody would have had to have been of assistance to him,” said Lamo.

“It was not my impression that he had the technological expertise to carry out some of these actions,” Lamo said of Manning’s efforts to gather classified information from military computer networks. “I believe that somebody would have had to have been of assistance to him.” Asked who specifically might have helped Manning, Lamo declined to elaborate. Lamo blasted WikiLeaks for going forward with Sunday’s release of the nearly 90,000 reports, if only because WikiLeaks had now guaranteed that Manning—the website’s source, he believes—would be dealt with even more harshly by military prosecutors.

“For WikiLeaks to do this, it’s transparently callous in its attitude toward him,” Lamo said, referring to Manning. “The information wasn’t going to go away. WikiLeaks could have waited until after Manning was sentenced, after he was tried.” He said, “WikiLeaks is just paying lip service to wanting to protect Manning as a potential source, while letting him get hit by a train over this.”

He said that given the volume of material made public this weekend, “it also shows that there’s no way WikiLeaks could have vetted all the data for safety”—to insure that the lives of American officials and others mentioned in the secret reports would not be in jeopardy when the material was made public. The disclosures today could raise new questions about the credibility of WikiLeaks and its Australian-born founder, Julian Assange, who now appears to have been playing word games when he insisted as recently as several days ago that he did not have access to a large library of secret material leaked by Manning.

Among the findings:

1) Pakistan’s spy service, according to revealed documents, is a major supporter of insurgents in Afghanistan, allowing its members to meet secretly with the Taliban, offering strategy advice, organizing groups to fight coalition troops, and plotting the assassinations of members of the Afghan government.

2) A top-secret group of American forces, nicknamed the “black” unit, is specially tasked with hunting down top Taliban leaders and either killing or capturing them on the spot—without a trial. The Obama administration has apparently increased the missions even though some have gone awry, killing civilians.

3) NATO troops are relying on remote-controlled Predator drones more and more heavily, controlling them from a base in Nevada and using them to kill an increasing number of Taliban targets.

4) The Taliban has access to heat-seeking missiles and has used them against American aircraft, a fact never before disclosed publicly. Many of the missiles aren’t successful. Americans have also been forced into dangerous retrieval operations when their own remote-controlled drones crash, so that Taliban do not recover them.

5) Several documents detail the frustrating disappearance of money meant for humanitarian aid, such as the case of an orphanage erected with much fanfare and donations in Gardez. A year after its opening, American visitors reported that there we no orphans at the site, and that many had been called home for the holidays. (In Afghanistan, an orphan is defined as having no father, but many still have mothers.)

6) Civilian death tolls are rising consistently, with the Taliban conducting a successfull roadside bombing campaign. As of the writing of the report, one document cited 2,000 civilian deaths from roadside car bombs alone.

7) U.S. forces covered up a 2007 helicopter attack, according to the documents, claiming that Taliban brought down a coalition helicopter with conventional weaponry—when instead they used a missile. A U.S. official at the time said the attack, which killed seven soldiers, “had probably been brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade.”

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Also see this interview with Julian Assange "I Enjoy Crushing Bastards":

1 comment:

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