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Are we missing something in the Wikileaks story?

I received a curious e-mail from reader "X" regarding the Wikileaks story. I've decided to hide X's true identity because he claims to be former military and government with vast security knowledge, and some may not be happy regarding the information he sent. According to X, it would have been impossible for a Private such as Bradley Manning to sneak out the secret, classified information he did without the approval of some high-end officials. X explains:

I'm telling you that there is no way that this data could be released without the approval of the highest levels of the State Department and the White House. The PFC was military intelligence, he only had access to DoD systems and communications, and they are highly compartmented.  The State Department has a completely separate system of communications, and he COULD NOT have had access to both at the same time.  Also, this BS about him taking Lady Gaga CDRs in and then erasing data off of them and then copying the cables onto them is absolutely BS.  Having a CDR drive on a PC in either the USA or State Department on classified systems has been strictly controlled going back to the 80s.  Then, there are physical searches on leaving the building.  Compartmentation of data means that he would only have had access to in theater information.  So how is it that he had information on North and South Korea, China, and all of the other countries?

Let's take a timeout here to address the "CDR" (more specifically a CD-RW, or rewritable) issue. According to The Guardian, Manning apparently recognized that the ability to rewrite data using government computers was odd and a problem. He said as much during a set of instant messages with hacker Adrian Lamo:

(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

Either a) the CD-RW capability is "impossible" as X says and Manning is lying; b) the capability actually does exist and Manning was allowed to do so as X suggests; or d) the capability exists and Manning was tacitly allowed to do so and tricked everyone just like he says. All are interesting thoughts. Back to the e-mail:

A State Department Cable is an e-mail, just like this one.  In order to have access to it you have to be the sender, or an addressee.  If you access it and you aren't the sender, or the addressee, [then] you have to access the mail servers which are in DC at Foggy Bottom.  And the individual e-mail accounts are encrypted, and you have to have the master key to access them.  The people who have that access, have extremely high level clearances and are heavily monitored by the systems that that they are accessing.  Remember the missing e-mails from the Clinton Administration?  The White House and the State Department both use Lotus Notes.  E-mails on Lotus Notes can't go missing, they are all maintained and archived on the servers.

Timeout again. The Clinton e-mail issue X refers to is a set of missing messages that came to light during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. A similar event occurred during the Bush years. X seems to be alleging that those e-mails didn't just "go missing" -- something bigger was at work. Maybe. Or you could look at this like this: in light of the two incidents, it should be even more surprising that a Private could steal e-mails. One would think that after previous e-mail fiascoes the government would have taken even greater precautions to make sure something even remotely related never happened again. It appears it didn't, or did and failed. I'm not sure what option is more worrisome.

X ends his e-mail with this:

Jon, this stinks like high heaven. I haven't disclosed any classified information here, but as an old spook, this pains me to have to tell a reporter. But I'm a combat vet, risked my life for this great nation, and I'll be damned if I will watch them push the world into chaos.

I think Liz Stephens, our own Scott Baker's partner over at The B Cast -- a daily news roundup show -- may have been on to something this afternoon. During today's webcast, Liz mentioned that something doesn't feel right about the Wikileaks story. To paraphrase, she said this incident seems like it could turn into the justification the government needs to start controlling private websites. And while she didn't go as far as to suggest the government created the controversy, X does.

For now, I'll hold off until more information becomes available. But if Liz and X are right, and X is who he says he is, this sure makes things a lot more interesting.

One last thing…
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