the sooner all the docs are out in the public domain, the safer for assange

Pentagon Manhunt
Philip Shenon, Daily Beast, Jun 10 2010

Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Dept cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast. The officials acknowledge that even if they found the website founder, Julian Assange, it is not clear what they could do to block publication of the cables on Wikileaks, which is nominally based on a server in Sweden and bills itself as a champion of whistleblowers. US officials said Pentagon investigators are convinced that Assange is in possession of at least some classified State Dept cables leaked by a 22-year-old Army intelligence specialist, Bradley Manning of Potomac, Maryland, who is now in custody in Kuwait. And given the contents of the cables, the feds have good reason to be concerned. As the Daily Beast reported on Jun 8, Manning, while posted in Iraq, apparently had special access to cables prepared by diplomats and State Dept officials throughout the Middle East, regarding the workings of Arab governments and their leaders, according to an US diplomat. The cables, which date back over several years, went out over interagency computer networks available to the Army and contained information related to US diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the diplomat said. US officials would not discuss the methods being used to find Assange, nor would they say if they had information to suggest where he is now. One US official said of Assange:

We’d like to know where he is; we’d like his cooperation in this.

He was scheduled to speak Friday in Las Vegas at an International Reporters and Editors conference. But the group’s executive director, Mark Horvit, tells the Daily Beast that Assange canceled the appearance within the last several days as a result of unspecificed “security concerns.” Horvit said he communicated with Assange through email and did not know where he might be. Last week, Assange was scheduled to join famed Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg for a talk at New York’s Personal Democracy Forum. Assange appeared via Skype from Australia instead, saying lawyers recommended he not return to the US. Assange was in the US as recently as several weeks ago, when he gave press interviews to promote the website’s release of an explosive 2007 video of an US helicopter attack in Baghdad that left 12 people dead, including two employees of the news agency Reuters. Wikileaks has not replied directly to email messages from The Daily Beast. However, in cryptic messages he sent this week via Twitter, Wikileaks referred to an earlier Daily Beast article on the investigation of Manning and said that it “looks like we’re about to be attacked by everything the US has.” In an earlier post, the site said that allegations that “we have been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect.” This morning, a new Wikileaks tweet went out:

Any signs of unacceptable behavior by the Pentagon or its agents towards this press will be viewed dimly.

Pentagon investigators say that particular post may have been an effort by Wikileaks to throw them, and news organizations, off the track as the site prepared the library of State Dept cables for release, officials said. One US official said of Wikileaks:

It looks like they’re playing some sort of semantic games. They may not have 260,000 cables, but they’ve probably got enough cables to make trouble.

In another cryptic Twitter message, the site said that while the State Dept might be alarmed about the prospect of the release of classified cables, “we have not been contacted.” US oficials were unwilling to say what would happen if Assange is tracked down, although they suggested they would have many more legal options available to them if he were still somewhere in the US. Manning has reportedly admitted that he downloaded 260,000 diplomatic cables and provided them to Wikileaks. In Internet chat logs first revealed by Wired magazine, Manning also took credit for leaking the 2007 video to the website. Manning wrote of the diplomatic cables, according to Wired:

Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available.

Wikileaks has not confirmed that Manning is a source of any information posted on the site. Wikileaks said in another Twitter message:

We do not know if Mr. Manning is our source, but the US military is claiming he is, so we will defend him.

Manning was turned in to the Pentagon by a former computer hacker based in California, Adrian Lamo, after Manning approached Lamo for counsel. Manning is believed to have contacted Lamo after reading a recent profile of him in Wired. In the chat log revealed by Wired, Manning bragged to Lamo about having downloaded a huge library of State Dept cables, as well as the 2007 video of the helicopter attack, and having provided the material to Wikileaks. Manning took credit for having leaked a classified diplomatic cable that has already appeared on the site: a memo prepared by the US embassy in Reykjavik that described a meeting there between US and Icelandic officials over that country’s banking meltdown. The January 2010 memo may have been of special interest to Wikileaks given the site’s close ties to Iceland, where Assange has based himself at times and where he worked with local lawmakers to draft free-speech laws that give broad freedom to journalists to protect their sources. A profile this week in the New Yorker magazine depicted Assange feverishly at work with Icelandic colleagues in Reykjavik in March as he organized the release of the 2007 video of the helicopter attack. The edited video was given the title Collateral Murder, and its release infuriated officials at the Defense Dept. With its network of whistleblowers, Wikileaks has published documents and videos on its site that have outraged other foreign governments. To protect the site from attack by intelligence agencies, Assange has placed Wikileaks on several Internet servers, making it all but impossible for any government to shut down the site entirely.

6 Comments

  1. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted June 12, 2010 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Doncha just LOVE this story?!
    “a huge cache of classified State Dept cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security”
    Yeah, by ensuring that all the fakes and fuckwits in charge of ‘national security’ finish up in the slammer.

  2. moonkoon
    Posted June 12, 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Assange is Obama’s Drudge, no? 🙂

  3. kei&yuri
    Posted June 12, 2010 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Hmm. Drudge was an idiot who wore silly costumes and blatted bad information in ALLCAPS on a poorly designed site.

  4. moonkoon
    Posted June 12, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    One of the Popular Israel related articles on Assange’s site.
    Hezbollah did it: Der Spiegel and the Rafic Hariri assassination ‎
    http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Hezbollah_did_it:_Der_Spiegel_and_the_Rafic_Hariri_assassination

    No thanks. 🙂

  5. kei&yuri
    Posted June 12, 2010 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Hunh. That’s a hell of a tell. It goes straight one way. It’s as bad as if Assange published an expose of Dalai Lama plots to blow up Beijing.

  6. Hoarsewhisperer
    Posted June 13, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Imo, Assange knew what he was getting into when he made the decision to start Wikileaks and could only be more savvy now. It would have been easy for him to send the docs to several dozen trustworthy sites and individuals with instructions to redistribute and lie low until after he has released them on Wikileaks and Officialdom’s reaction becomes clear. I’d bet the guilty parties are spending a lot more time on covering their asses than they’re spending looking for Assange.
    It’s too late.
    Finding him can only worsen their plight. They’re unlikely to tell anyone if they do.

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