Computer Evidence Ties Leaks to Soldier
By JULIAN E. BARNES, MIGUEL BUSTILLO and CHRISTOPHER RHOADS
Investigators have found concrete evidence on computers used by Pfc. Bradley Manning that link him with the leak of classified Afghanistan war reports, a U.S. defense official said.
[0706manning] Associated Press
This undated photo obtained by the Associated Press shows Bradley Manning.
The disclosure came as Defense Secretary Robert Gates pledged Thursday to "aggressively investigate the leak" and find ways to prevent further breaches, and told reporters that he had invited the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist the probe.
Defense officials said the FBI was investigating whether civilians aided Pfc. Manning in providing the information to WikiLeaks, a Web-based group that this week released 76,000 secret reports from Afghanistan.
Pfc. Manning already was charged by the military in July with illegally taking secret State Department files and disseminating a classified video, which defense officials said was the one released by WikiLeaks showing a U.S. military helicopter firing on a group of people in Baghdad. Two Reuters journalists and seven others were killed in the 2007 incident.
PM Report: Gates Says Leaks May Cause Huge Damage
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Afghan leaks could cause extensive damage to the allied mission. Meanwhile, investigators have found evidence linking Pfc. Bradley Manning to the leaks, according to a defense official.
Friends and acquaintances of Pfc. Manning's in Oklahoma said they were interviewed by Army and State Department investigators last month, who asked whether they had received email or packages from Pfc. Manning.
The 22-year-old private worked in intelligence operations in Baghdad. He was supposed to be examining intelligence relevant to Iraq, but defense officials said Pfc. Manning used his "Top Secret/SCI" clearance to tap into documents around the world.
A search of the computers yielded evidence he had downloaded the Afghanistan war logs, the defense official said. It isn't clear precisely what that evidence is. Investigators combing through Pfc. Manning's computers also found other classified material that has not been made public, the same official said.
Pfc. Manning's military counsel didn't return a request for comment.
The release of the documents, Mr. Gates said, potentially harmed U.S. relations with Pakistan and other countries, and put in danger Afghans who had cooperated with the U.S. Defense officials are taking steps to figure if Afghans mentioned in the documents may now require help. "That is one of the worst aspects of this: will people trust us?" Mr. Gates said.
Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said WikiLeaks's founder Julian Assange would be responsible for any harm that came from the document release. "Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his sources are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier, or that of an Afghan family."
Childhood friends and acquaintances of Pfc. Manning describe him as smart, interested in current affairs, proficient with computers and not shy about sharing his opinions, which were often at odds with those around him in his hometown of Crescent, Okla. (pop. 1,281.)
Pfc. Manning believed in the theory of evolution, for example, and was intolerant of those who disputed it due to traditional religious views, associates said.
"His views were very different from everyone else's on the world and government, and maybe part of him wanted to take things into his own hands," said Chera Moore, 23, a Crescent classmate from kindergarten on.
WikiLeaks Publishes Military Files
Another longtime friend, Jordan Davis, 23, said Pfc. Manning's small size and outspokenness sometimes got him into trouble as a youth, and he was bullied by bigger kids. "I think the difference is that what made him angry was different than what made others angry," said Mr. Davis, who said he had been interviewed by investigators.
Though he earned average grades in school, Pfc. Manning seemed more interested in national and global affairs than his peers, according to associates.
"He was probably one of the more politically aware kids at that time, and he supported the U.S.," said Mark Radford, the editor of the weekly Crescent Courier newspaper, who once chaperoned Pfc. Manning and his class on a Washington trip. Mr. Radford also said he was interviewed by investigators.
Pfc. Manning's mother and father separated before he entered high school. Pfc. Manning's mother, Susan, a native of Wales, moved with him to a small house in Crescent for about a year and then moved to Wales with her son. She couldn't be reached for comment.
After returning to Oklahoma in 2005, Pfc. Manning briefly worked for an Internet firm in Oklahoma City, then moved to Tulsa, where he held a variety of jobs, including at a pizza parlor and a guitar store, according to Mr. Davis, who had also briefly moved to Tulsa.
October 2007: Bradley Manning joins the Army, becomes intelligence analyst.
November 2009: He first contacts WikiLeaks, according to transcripts of online conversations between him and ex-hacker Adrian Lamo., after scouring classified networks for more than a year with top secret clearance
February 2010: Allegedly leaks 2007 video of Army helicopter attack on group of men in Iraq, some unarmed, killing two Reuters employees.
April: WikiLeaks releases Army helicopter-attack video.
May: Manning contacts Lamo, confessing his other leaks, including 260,000 diplomatic cables, according to the transcript.
Late May: Manning is arrested after Lamo notifies authorities.
Early July: Manning is charged with violating Uniform Code of Military Justice.
July 25: Afghan leaks are published.
Pfc. Manning eventually moved to Potomac, Md., to live with an aunt, and then in 2007 enlisted in the military.
When Mr. Davis, the childhood friend, last saw Pfc. Manning about nine months ago, Mr. Davis said he could sense a change in his friend, who he said "wasn't having an easy time" in the military and "felt he wasn't being treated fairly."
Pfc. Manning was demoted from specialist to private first class while in Iraq for an incident unrelated to the leak, a defense official said.
Crescent, Okla., is perhaps best known as part of the setting for the 1983 film "Silkwood" about a whistleblower who was killed in a suspicious car accident after exposing wrongdoing at a nearby plutonium plant. Ms. Moore said her class watched the film, but didn't know if Pfc. Manning was ever inspired by it.
"If he did it, it was not to make money or be famous," Mr. Davis said. "He would only do something like this if he thought it was right."