Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Bradley Manning: WikiLeaker, Part 1

Private Manning

 

Bradley Manning
Bradley Manning

On May 21, 2010, Private First Class Bradley Manning allegedly sat at his computer and logged on his computer. He signed on an instant messenger service using his moniker, bradass87. Unlike the other hours he'd logged talking to strangers on the Internet, this night would change the course of his life. It would set off an international media circus that would reach the highest office in the United States.

But first, it was just friendly chatter between two computer nerds. Manning was in the U.S. Army, stationed in Baghdad, when he reached out to notorious hacker Adrian Lamo. Lamo had just been the subject of an extensive profile in Wired magazine. The article, written by Kevin Poulsen, covered Lamo's struggle with Asperger's syndrome, as well as detailing the last ten years of his life after becoming famous for exposing security loopholes in the computer systems of Microsoft, Excite, Reuters, and The New York Times. The latter stunt had gotten the FBI involved, and landed him a six-month sentence of house arrest.

Manning worked as an intelligence analyst. He had access to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet) used by the United States government to transmit classified information.

Julian Assange
Julian Assange

Lamo was also a well-known advocate of WikiLeaks, a site headed by mysterious Australian computer expert Julian Assange. Just the day before their first alleged chat, Lamo'd Tweeted his support of the site. The site's purpose was to divulge otherwise inaccessible information, much of it secret information relating to governments and big business obtained and sent by anonymous donors by heavily encrypted and tightly guarded electronic drops. In May 2010, WikiLeaks was still riding the first major wave of international attention it had gotten for a video showing members of the U.S. military shooting Iraqis who did not appear to be combatants. The video, titled "Collateral Murder," had set off a firestorm of debate in the media: It showed two Reuters journalists on assignment being killed by the American military. At least one of them had apparently been fired on because his camera had been mistaken for a weapon.

Manning allegedly reached out Lamo. He opened with a simple: "Hi, How are you?"

But the series of conversations between Lamo and Manning over the course of a short week would make Manning's life very complicated.

 

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