Many of you have e-mailed me since we started talking with X over Wikileaks (catch up here and here), and have appreciated our discussion regarding how the Wikileaks information was leaked and why something seems wrong with the whole story. Today, we get more from X as well as introduce another former government official, "Y," who sends along some incredible information.
Just like X, many of you have sent e-mails saying you think something doesn't add up: how could a lone private have access to all this information and leak it without anyone knowing? X has explained how and why he doesn't think it's possible. While I was initially very skeptical, X is winning me over -- and more and more his doesn't seem like a crazy theory. Things just aren't adding up.
I wanted to share with you some more correspondence with X, as well as an e-mail I received from another former government and military official. Here we go.
First, more from X.
This summer, CNN ran a report quoting a Pentagon official who explained how PFC Manning downloaded and leaked the classified information. The article says:
The Pentagon official said investigators now believe Manning logged into a system called the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, which essentially provides military members who have appropriate security clearances access to classified e-mails and the military's classified internet system. But the official emphasized passwords and other control measures such as physical access are needed to log onto specific systems that provide information classified at the highest levels.
I couldn't tell you what SIPRNet is, and nothing jumps out to me as odd in that paragraph (except for maybe the last sentence). But when X read it, he couldn't e-mail me fast enough. According to him, what's been reported above is simply impossible (again, the "quotes" have been changed/paraphrased to protect X's identity):
Jon, this is crazy. Let me break this down for you. SIPRNet is a network owned and operated by the Department of Defense. In short, every military branch has its own intelligence organizations (except for the Marines because it is technically part of the Navy, so it uses the Navy's systems).
Anyway, SIPRNet is a not connected to the Department of State's systems: it's separate. PFC Manning wouldn’t have been able to access the Department of State information via SIPRNet -- he just couldn't. I'll leave it at that because I can't give more information.
X included a link to a site that explains SIPRNet and seems to back up his claims. It blew me away. Here's what it says in part:
The Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET) is the Department of Defense's largest network for the exchange of classified information and messages at the SECRET level. It supports the Global Command and Control System, the Defense Message System, and numerous other classified warfighting and planning applications. Although the SIPRNET uses the same communications procedures as the Internet, it has dedicated and encrypted lines that are separate from all other communications systems. [Emphasis added]
The link is to a Texas A&M security procedures compilation site. The procedures are dated 2006, but I can only imagine that if they changed, they got stricter, not lighter. You should read the entire entry.
Ok, let's back up. Maybe CNN got bad information. Maybe the Texas A&M site isn't legitimate. Maybe we're questioning something that shouldn't be questioned -- we're reading into things and only uncovering coincidences.
But I'm a reporter -- I'm paid to question. And while coincidences exist, they're rarer than you might think. So what if while I'm questioning I get another e-mail from someone else claiming to be a former government official, and that person starts saying the same things as X? Well, if that happens, then "coincidence" seems less and less like a legitimate explanation.
I received such an e-mail from a reader who spent more than 20 years in the Army, including Army counterintelligence and the Army's law division, JAG. Let's call him "Y." He corroborates X's story, and offers incredible detail. Read this very carefully (unlike X's e-mails, I have not paraphrased anything):
The idea that a young Private First Class (PFC) could have pulled off this huge intel coup is just ridiculous.
First, military communications and State Department memos don't mix. The diplomatic service uses a completely different communications infrastructure than the military. This is not only an intent to compartmentalize information to those who need to know, but is also a product of the way government agencies are financed. State and DoD do not share money in developing these systems. Army PFCs do not have access to State Department communications. Similarly, classified information is not distributed widely, especially among junior-ranking soldiers. This PFC would not have unfettered access to 'surf' any classified material he wished. Such information is compartmentalized on a need-to-know basis. PFCs rarely have need to know much of anything except directions to the motorpool and mess hall.
Next, there seems to be a willingness to accept that computer security was lax at this remote outpost. The public perhaps envisions some poor dumb soldier surrounded by even more capless dolts who allow disks and thumb drives to flow in and out of the work location uncontrollably. This can't be true. Military computers, especially those assigned to intelligence units, are carefully controlled. Few have the capability to write DVRs. Few have the authority for introduction of music CDs as an antivirus measure. Do people really think that the military doesn't have at least as much protection for antivirus and information control that their employer does at work? I can't play music CDs in the computer at the ... company where I work. I know the same is true for military computers. And personally-owned computers are strictly forbidden in military work sites, especially those where classified information may be present.
Even trying to assume that this young soldier found himself thrust into a role supporting a State Department communications hub, transmitting hundreds of thousands of documents around the world from his nondescript computer; and magically has authority to view the decoded versions of these communications despite the most sophisticated encryption system that can be developed. Assuming he might actually be able to repeatedly smuggle these documents past the computer security people, the physical security checks, and his fellow soldiers. Assuming he would find a way to communicate these documents to a man he had never met, and to do so undetected; there is still a problem with the story. Military Intelligence specialists do not staff communications hubs. The Army has an entire career field that does.
The story makes no sense. Either the Department of State has a huge leak unrelated to this soldier; or this disclosure was intentionally orchestrated.
Go back and read that again.
As I've said in the past, I can't unequivocally confirm everything that people send me. And I can't confirm that Y really is a former Army guy. But his information makes the idea very plausible. And the more I read the more I question. And the more I question the more I think, "This really is not adding up." Manning shouldn't and, from what I've read, couldn't have had access to this information without others knowing or others allowing it. That's the conclusion that keeps haunting me. It's a conclusion I hate to even write, because it seems so conspiratorial. But it's the one that I keep coming back to. And hey, doesn't every unbelievable government story in its infancy seem like a conspiracy?
Take some time to think about it. I am.
Let's end the post with some parting thoughts from X:
This is the most outstanding thing I have ever seen! This is absolutely crazy! I'll admit that don't know everything about the Army's side of SIPRNet. But besides that, I'm wondering why if back in June the State Department knew PFC Manning had access to the files, and he admitted to downloading files, why didn't they look back at what he was doing? SIPRNet logs everything and would have known exactly what he downloaded! So why did they wait until now and let everyone see it? And even more so, why have they "severed" their classified files only now? And why were these files available in the first place?
Good questions. Y does know a lot about the Army side of things, and he's asking many of the same questions. And even though we may never know the answers, we should still demand them.