Julian Assange and WikiLeaks
The Alleged Leaker: Bradley Manning
The media were soon to find out: "Collateral Murder" was just the beginning. In the coming months, Assange and WikiLeaks would unleash thousands of documents, all of which allegedly had the same source.
If it weren't for U.S. Army officer Bradley Manning, 22, perhaps none of us would have heard of WikiLeaks. It is Manning who is the alleged source of the most explosive leaks, including "Collateral Murder" and the trove of Iraq and Afghanistan War documents, as well, as the current blast of diplomatic cables. The intelligence analyst faces the threat of serious prison time and fines.
While stationed in Baghdad in November 2009, Manning allegedly began downloading files off top secret servers—Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System (JWICS) and the Pentagon's Secure Internet Protocol Router (SIRPnet)—and continued ripping information onto a CD he had labeled as a Lady Gaga disc until April 2010.
Manning, according to hacker Adrian Lamo, later bragged, "Listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga's 'Telephone' while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history." On May 21, according to transcripts obtained by Wired magazine, Manning logged into a chat room, and found himself online with Lamo and fired this opening salvo: "If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?"
As their chat progressed, Manning became even more open. It seemed that he barely needed any prodding and needed to unload the burden of information. "I can't believe what I'm confessing to you," Manning wrote. He revealed that he was feeling "isolated" and was "self-medicating like crazy."
Lamo, who was a donor to WikiLeaks, was conflicted. When Manning allegedly revealed the scope of the documents he had, Lamo realized there was no way for any one person to have seriously vetted and read every single one of the documents and he contacted the authorities. Lamo asked Manning to clarify what he had. He wrote: "The Gharani airstrike videos and full report, Iraq war event log, the "Gitmo Papers," and State Department cable database."
"The Gharani airstrike videos"— presumably refers to classified Pentagon video of an airstrike in Granai in Afghanistan that allegedly killed 140 civilians. The "Gitmo Papers" —have yet to be released, which Assange has said he will do in the event something serious happens to him, as "insurance."
In May 2010, Manning was arrested.
He is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico, charged with violating 18 U.S. Code Section 1030 (a) (I). In short: If convicted, he faces up to 52 years in prison. Manning's attorney, Military defense counsel David Coombs told CNN in September that he has no information indicating that Manning leaked the documents.