Tag Archives: wikileaks

The Great Wikileaks-Military Secrets Heist

Wired has posted some of the relevant chat logs between ex-hacker Adrian Lamo and Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old suspect in the Wikileaks-leak case. Reading it makes you a little ill at what passes for top-secret security in the institution that defends our country:

(01:54:42 PM) Manning: i would come in with music on a CD-RW
(01:55:21 PM) Manning: labelled with something like “Lady Gaga”… erase the music… then write a compressed split file
(01:55:46 PM) Manning: no-one suspected a thing
(01:55:48 PM) Manning: =L kind of sad
(01:56:04 PM) Lamo: and odds are, they never will
(01:56:07 PM) Manning: i didnt even have to hide anything
(01:56:36 PM) Lamo: from a professional perspective, i’m curious how the server they were on was insecure
(01:57:19 PM) Manning: you had people working 14 hours a day… every single day… no weekends… no recreation…
(01:57:27 PM) Manning: people stopped caring after 3 weeks

(01:57:44 PM) Lamo: i mean, technically speaking
(01:57:51 PM) Lamo: or was it physical
(01:57:52 PM) Manning: >nod< (01:58:16 PM) Manning: there was no physical security
(01:58:18 PM) Lamo: it was physical access, wasn’t it
(01:58:20 PM) Lamo: hah
(01:58:33 PM) Manning: it was there, but not really
(01:58:51 PM) Manning: 5 digit cipher lock… but you could knock and the door…
(01:58:55 PM) Manning: *on
(01:59:15 PM) Manning: weapons, but everyone has weapons
(02:00:12 PM) Manning: everyone just sat at their workstations… watching music videos / car chases / buildings exploding… and writing more stuff to CD/DVD… the culture fed opportunities

So this is the security blocking secrets so sensitive to our national security and diplomacy? It’s not hard to sympathize with the militia-types who don’t want to even hand over their last names to a welfare agency. What do the low-level domestic grunts watch while “securing” that data, the Lifetime Channel?

Also, an excerpt in which Manning describes what made him turn against his country (hint: something to do with detainee treatment; kind of amazing how that is becoming an endless source of misery for both detainee and detainers):

(02:31:02 PM) Manning: i think the thing that got me the most… that made me rethink the world more than anything
(02:35:46 PM) Manning: was watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police… for printing “anti-Iraqi literature”… the iraqi federal police wouldn’t cooperate with US forces, so i was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the “bad guys” were, and how significant this was for the FPs… it turned out, they had printed a scholarly critique against PM Maliki… i had an interpreter read it for me… and when i found out that it was a benign political critique titled “Where did the money go?” and following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet… i immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on… he didn’t want to hear any of it… he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees…
(02:36:27 PM) Manning: everything started slipping after that… i saw things differently

Also, Manning divulges details about his preferential treatment by Assange, which would explain Assange’s reported efforts to mount a legal defense of Manning…or at least advise him not to spill anymore of the Wikileaks operational secrets.

Wikileak’s Julian Assange cancels IRE appearance amid manhunt; Did he lie on Twitter?


As it turns out, Assange did not appear at the IRE showcase panel in any form, except as mugshot image on the Daily Beast story on a projector screen. He and Wikileaks did dominate the discussion, with most of the panelists agreeing that Wikileaks was, in theory, a good idea, but not comfortable with the vetting process and agenda of the operation. Valerie Plame said, to the laughter of the reporters in attendance, that sometimes secrecy is good.

With respect to the esteemed members of the panel who did show up (James Risen of the NYT also was a no-show on the advice of his lawyer), I think everyone was a little letdown with Assange’s absence. I don’t think there was any new ground covered in terms of the “risks and rewards” of anonymous sources…but hearing reps. from the traditional media debate Assange over Wikileaks’ motives and methods would’ve been very illuminating.

I misspelled Horvit’s name because I trusted but didn’t verify Daily Beast’s spelling. Also, maybe the tweet was not a flat-out lie. Just a very sly truth. Still, having to second guess what really is the “truth” still undermines Wikileaks’ ideal for transparency. Also, I think that if Assange’s arrest is an inevitability…there would’ve been no better place to get it over with than at a conference full of the most righteous journalists)

Bummer…I can’t be the only one who thought that despite the other luminaries on IRE’s showcase panel on anonymous sources, most of the interest would be the super-secretive Wikileaks founder.

According to the Daily Beast, IRE executive director Mark Horvik Horvit said Assange canceled “within the last several days as a result of unspecificed ‘security concerns.'” The Beast also points out that last week, at a New York panel, Assange only appeared via Skype from Australia, citing his lawyer’s recommendation that he not go back to the U.S.

So did Assange ever intend to show up at IRE? When did IRE know, and if they knew beforehand and were asked about it, were they obliged to tell the truth as soon as they knew it or feign ignorance for Assange (it’s possible this is old news for the other IRE attendees, but I hadn’t heard it until reading it on the Daily Beast)?

Apparently, the Twitter Wikileaks account, on the morning of Assange’s scheduled IRE appearance, tweeted “Super panel tonight in Vegas with Julian Assange, Valerie Plame & Scott Risen | IRE10“. So, if Horvit is to be believed, the wikileaks account is either not connected to Assange at all, or is being used as tool for deliberate misinformation.

I understand Assange’s need to cover his tracks, but it strikes me as very bad precedent for Wikileaks, which purports itself to be the brave dispenser of unfiltered truth, to use its official channel of communication to tell a flat-out lie (on second thought, maybe it’s not a lie. It’s still a “super panel”, and maybe Assange will show up via skype?). Many governments tell lies based on such justifications of self-preservation.

And besides, what’s the point of sullying your reputation, even if only in a tweet? Does he really think the military manhunters would be so easily thrown off the trail, as if their only investigative tools were looking at someone’s twitter account? Oh wait, this is the same military that let a 22-year-old download hundreds of thousands of top-secret files because he bypassed their security measures by lip-syncing to Lady Gaga.

(*piteous cry*)

Wired had an interesting folo today, about suspect Bradley Manning’s crisis of conscience. According to his chat logs with ex-hacker Adrian Lamo, Manning claimed that Assange offered him a position at Wikileaks…which would go against several tweets and statements by Wikileaks and Assange.

But Wired’s lead reporter on this case, felon ex-hacker Kevin Poulsen, should not be trusted, according to Wikileaks. But Wikileaks, as far as we know at this point, is not always telling the (whole) truth in its tweets

Lady Gaga Beats DoD: re Bradley Manning, the Alleged Wikileaks/Collateral-Murder Leaker

Wired’s Threat Level blog blows open the door on the Wikileaks/Collateral Murder mystery by naming a suspect: SPC Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Md., who apparently had top-secret access and was arrested two weeks ago:

Manning was turned in late last month by a former computer hacker with whom he spoke online. In the course of their chats, Manning took credit for leaking a headline-making video of a helicopter attack that Wikileaks posted online in April. The video showed a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians.

He said he also leaked three other items to Wikileaks: a separate video showing the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks has previously acknowledged is in its possession; a classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat, which the site posted in March; and a previously unreported breach consisting of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables that Manning described as exposing “almost criminal political back dealings.”

Wired.com could not confirm whether Wikileaks received the supposed 260,000 classified embassy dispatches.

OK, if the charges are true, then this is the most alarming part of the story. Someone, who at the time of the alleged crime was barely old enough to legally drink, was able to copy volumes of top secret files because the military has an IT policy weaker than your Starbucks’ does. The famed air-gap – having servers completely disconnected from the Internet – was overcome by a kid who copied files onto a CD labeled “something like ‘Lady Gaga’”:

Manning had access to two classified networks from two separate secured laptops: SIPRNET, the Secret-level network used by the Department of Defense and the State Department, and the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System which serves both agencies at the Top Secret/SCI level.

The networks, he said, were both “air gapped” from unclassified networks, but the environment at the base made it easy to smuggle data out.

“I would come in with music on a CD-RW labeled with something like ‘Lady Gaga’, erase the music then write a compressed split file,” he wrote. “No one suspected a thing and, odds are, they never will.”

“[I] listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history,” he added later. ”Weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis… a perfect storm.”

Even worse, he did this undetected until he was foolish enough, reportedly, to talk to an FBI informant, ex-hacker Adrian Lamo (who Wired profiled last month).

And hey, what about that time when WikiLeaks released footage of U.S. gunships gunning down civilians and the military said they couldn’t confirm it as totally real because they had lost their own copy? According to Wired’s account, Manning tells Lamo specifically where he got the video…why don’t we see if it’s still there?

“At first glance it was just a bunch of guys getting shot up by a helicopter,” Manning wrote of the video. “No big deal … about two dozen more where that came from, right? But something struck me as odd with the van thing, and also the fact it was being stored in a JAG officer’s directory. So I looked into it.”

Read More http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/06/leak/#ixzz0qB1oYOCN

One last point. The Wired article is pretty amazing in its detail; it’s pretty obvious that Lamo divulged the case to Wired in such a way that they felt comfortable working on it for a couple weeks before breaking the story. But, as @Wikileaks insinuates, how come no mention in the article of the relationship between the Wired author, ex-black-hat Kevin Lee Poulsen and Lamo…if any? Is this photo of Poulson and Lamo just a random-pose-with-a-celeb-hacker-on-the-street?

More from the NYT Lede.

The WikiLeaks Hellfire Video vs. Video Games

The WikiLeaks release of classified U.S. military video depicting American helicopters gunning down Iraqis (which appeared to include children and two Reuters staff) was easily a milestone of modern journalism. Even though Reuters had reported the story aggressively, the deaths of Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh were easily forgotten amid the war’s constant newscycle in 2007.

The video below, combined with boots-on-the-ground reporting by WikiLeaks, has an unmatched power to shock, awe, and sicken:

A side-angle to all this is how chillingly-similar the released video is to today’s video games. This was a point Jane Mayer touched on in her excellent New Yorker piece on Obama’s increased usage of Predator drones:

Using joysticks that resemble video-game controls, the reachback operators—who don’t need conventional flight training—sit next to intelligence officers and watch, on large flat-screen monitors, a live video feed from the drone’s camera. From their suburban redoubt, they can turn the plane, zoom in on the landscape below, and decide whether to lock onto a target. A stream of additional “signal” intelligence, sent to Langley by the National Security Agency,* provides electronic means of corroborating that a target has been correctly identified. The White House has delegated trigger authority to C.I.A. officials, including the head of the Counter-Terrorist Center, whose identity remains veiled from the public because the agency has placed him under cover.

People who have seen an air strike live on a monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and horrifying. “You could see these little figures scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff,” a former C.I.A. officer who was based in Afghanistan after September 11th says of one attack. (He watched the carnage on a small monitor in the field.) Human beings running for cover are such a common sight that they have inspired a slang term: “squirters.”

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/26/091026fa_fact_mayer#ixzz0kIeSEK1h

The striking similarity inspired some soul-searching from this Redditor:

After watching the wikileaks video I found myself thinking back to the aerial segments of Modern Warfare and MW2. I’m not sure I’d want to play them again; the anonymity of the people you’re shooting seems a little too true to life for me.

Modern Warfare and MW2 are part of the highly-successful Call of Duty first-person shooter video games. One of the segments has the players manning an AC-130 Spectre gunship to wipe out the enemy:

Some interesting comments from Redditors on that angle:

a_culther0 22 points 9 hours ago[-]
I always believed the main point of those levels in the game was to illustrate that certain things in Modern War can be achieved with the push of a button. The AC-130 level in COD4 has essentially 0 difficulty; which in my eyes makes an excellent statement on its own.

awills 15 points 9 hours ago[-]
This is also how I read this scene. It’s actually the most realistic depiction of war in the entire game, because what you’re doing is remarkably similar to what it would be like in real life, just aiming at tiny targets and destroying them. Interestingly, it was also the most distancing from the actual results of your actions.

bumrushtheshow 35 points 9 hours ago[-]
…The grainy TV footage and shooting at tiny people made me question more than usual what the hell I was doing. I was blowing up “bad” people who looked exactly like the “good” people. I was clearly in the “bad” people’s country, with only vague justifications for why I was there blowing the place up.
I’ve seen some awful footage from Apache gun cams on Youtube. Ones where maimed “bad guys” crawl out of a burning truck, while hillbillies say “that one’s still moving, hit ‘im again” left me literally feeling nauseous. I thought of these throughout the AC-130 level in COD4.