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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bradley Manning: Who Is He? Young Hero Or Dangerous Criminal?

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Bradley Manning, In His Own Words: "This Belongs In The Public Domain"

On 21 May this year, Bradley Manning initiated a series of online chats with former hacker Adrian Lamo. Below are edited excerpts that took place over several days, and which Lamo gave to (and to the FBI). Dates are approximate.

May 21

(1:41:12 pm) Bradley Manning: hi

(1:44:04 pm) Manning: how are you?

(1:47:01 pm) Manning: im an army intelligence analyst, deployed to eastern baghdad, pending discharge for "adjustment disorder" [. . .]

(1:56:24 pm) Manning: im sure you're pretty busy…

(1:58:31 pm) Manning: if you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months, what would you do?

May 22

Manning apparently told Lamo that he had provided WikiLeaks with 260,000 classified diplomatic cables (as well videos of a 2007 airstrike in Iraq and a 2009 airstrike in Afghanistan).

(1:39:03 pm) Manning: i cant believe what im confessing to you :'(

(1:40:20 pm) Manning: ive been so isolated so long… i just wanted to be nice, and live a normal life… but events kept forcing me to figure out ways to survive… smart enough to know whats going on, but helpless to do anything… no-one took any notice of me

(1:43:59 pm) Manning: im self medicating like crazy when im not toiling in the supply office (my new location, since im being discharged, im not offically intel anymore)

Later, Manning discussed his role as a source for WikiLeaks and his links with its founder Julian Assange.

(2:04:29 pm) Manning: im a source, not quite a volunteer

(2:05:38 pm) Manning: i mean, im a high profile source… and i've developed a relationship with assange…

Manning went on to discuss his growing disillusionment with the army and the US.

(2:26:01 pm) Manning: i dont believe in good guys versus bad guys anymore… i only a plethora of states acting in self interest… with varying ethics and moral standards of course, but self-interest nonetheless

(2:29:04 pm) Manning: i guess im too idealistic

(2:38:45 pm) Lamo: What would you do if your role /w Wikileaks seemed in danger of being blown?

(2:39:34 pm) Manning: try and figure out how i could get my side of the story out… before everything was twisted around to make me look like Nidal Hassan [the suspect in the fatal Fort Hood shootings]

(2:40:15 pm) Manning: i dont think its going to happen

(2:40:26 pm) Manning: i mean, i was never noticed

(2:41:10 pm) Manning: regularly ignored… except when i had something essential… then it was back to "bring me coffee, then sweep the floor"

Manning elaborated on how easy it was to siphon off data from classified networks.

(1:52:30 pm) Manning: funny thing is… we transfered so much data on unmarked CDs…

(1:52:42 pm) Manning: everyone did… videos… movies… music

(1:53:05 pm) Manning: all out in the open

(1:53:53 pm) Manning: bringing CDs too and from the networks was/is a common phenomeon

(1:54:14 pm) Lamo: is that how you got the cables out?

(1:54:28 pm) Manning: perhaps

(1:54:42 pm) Manning: i would come in with music on a CD-RW

(1:55:21 pm) Manning: labelled with something like "Lady Gaga"… erase the music… then write a compressed split file

(1:55:46 pm) Manning: no-one suspected a thing

(2:00:12 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

(2:12:23 pm) Manning: so… it was a massive data spillage… facilitated by numerous factors… both physically, technically, and culturally

(2:13:02 pm) Manning: perfect example of how not to do INFOSEC

(2:14:21 pm) Manning: listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga's Telephone while exfiltratrating [sic] possibly the largest data spillage in american history

(2:15:03 pm) Manning: pretty simple, and unglamorous

(2:17:56 pm) Manning: weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis… a perfect storm

Manning said security should be improved.

(2:21:32 pm) Manning: its sad

(2:22:47 pm) Manning: i mean what if i were someone more malicious

(2:23:25 pm) Manning: i could've sold to russia or china, and made bank?

(2:23:36 pm) Lamo: why didn't you?

(2:23:58 pm) Manning: because it's public data

(2:24:15 pm) Lamo: i mean, the cables

(2:24:46 pm) Manning: it belongs in the public domain

(2:25:15 pm) Manning: information should be free

(2:25:39 pm) Manning: it belongs in the public domain

(2:26:18 pm) Manning: because another state would just take advantage of the information… try and get some edge

In a later chat Manning tried to sum himself up.

(4:42:16 pm) Manning: im not sure whether i'd be considered a type of "hacker", "cracker", "hacktivist", "leaker" or what … (4:42:26 pm) Manning: im just me… really.

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Sources: MSNBC,, Youtube, Google Maps

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