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Wikileaks: Did a 22-year-old intel expert leak it all?

Last updated on: July 27, 2010 18:31 IST

A 22-year-old US Army intelligence analyst, facing a court-martial, appears to be behind the biggest leak in US military history of classified documents on the war in Afghanistan that also exposed Pakistan's double-game in the war-torn country, including its Taliban links.

Bradley Manning, who allegedly boasted online that he was going to reveal "the truth" about the war in Afghanistan, is believed to be the main suspect who leaked the information to Wikileaks, the Telegraph reported.

Manning was arrested in Baghdad in May and charged earlier this month with multiple counts of mishandling and leaking classified data, after a computer hacker turned him in, the paper said. Wikileaks, the website that published secret government documents, has exposed Pakistani ISI's links with Afghan insurgents and Taliban, undermining US-led efforts to stabilise the war-torn nation.

With over 90,000 US military documents leaked on the website, the expose is considered to be a huge embarrassment for the US.

During online chats with the hacker, a man thought to be Manning said he had passed material relating to Afghanistan to Julian Assange, the founder of the Wikileaks website which leaked more than 92,000 secret documents to select media. Manning, who is currently awaiting a court martial, is widely assumed to have been the man who passed the documents to Assange, though investigators believe he must have had accomplices.

Manning is alleged to be a whistle-blower who used the online name Bradass87 when he contacted a high-profile Californian computer hacker, Adrian Lamo, on May 21, the paper said.

Over the following five days, Bradass87 held a series of online conversations with Lamo, in which he identified himself as "an army intelligence analyst, deployed to eastern Baghdad" with "unprecedented access to classified networks". He said his job gave him access to two high-security networks: the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, SIPRNET, which carries US diplomatic and military intelligence; and the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, which includes "top secret" classification.

Bradass87 said the networks had enabled him to see "incredible things, awful things that belong in the public domain and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC almost criminal political backdealings the non- PR version of world events and crises".

He said he had downloaded 260,000 classified or sensitive State Department cables and transmitted them by computer to Wikileaks.

He claimed he copied some of the information on to blank CDs labelled "Lady Gaga" and hummed along to non-existent music while he downloaded secret information.

"I want people to see the truth," he added. "It's open diplomacy it's Climategate with a global scope and breathtaking depth it's beautiful and horrifying. It's public data, it belongs in the public domain."

Unknown to Bradass87, Lamo had contacted the US military two days into the online chat, fearing that the leak of information would endanger lives. On May 25, he met Pentagon officials in a branch of Starbucks and gave them a printout of the online chat.

Manning was arrested the next day at US Forward Operating Base Hammer near Baghdad, the Telegraph said. Manning is also suspected of being behind the leak of a video, distributed by Assange in April, of a 2007 US helicopter strike in Baghdad which killed a dozen people.

Yesterday, Lamo said he had no doubt Manning was behind the vast amount of leaked material from Afghanistan, though he strongly suspected the young analyst from Maryland could not have acted alone. "It was not my impression that he had the technical expertise to carry out some of these actions," he was quoted as saying.

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