By Ellen Nakashima and Julie Tate
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 7, 2010; 2:35 PM
U.S. military officials said Monday that they had detained a military intelligence analyst from Potomac for allegedly leaking classified information to the whistleblower site Wikileaks.org. A prominent former hacker said the analyst provided U.S. combat video footage and hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records.
Army Spec. Bradley Manning, 22, is being held in Kuwait while officials conduct an investigation, according to the military. He has not been charged.
"The Department of Defense takes the management of classified information very seriously because it affects our national security, the lives of our soldiers, and our operations abroad," the U.S. military command in Iraq said in a statement.
Manning, who had access to classified networks while stationed in Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division, was turned in by a former hacker, Adrian Lamo, who contacted the Army after Manning confided in him through instant messages and e-mail, according to Wired.com, which first reported the case.
Manning reportedly said that he had come across documents and felt they contained "incredible things, awful things . . . that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington, D.C."
On his Facebook page, Lamo acknowledged reporting Manning to authorities.
"I'm heartsick for Manning and his family," Lamo wrote. "I hope they can forgive me some day for doing what I felt had to be done.
He added: "I've never turned anyone in before, and don't plan to again. But he was like a kid playing with a loaded gun. Someone was bound to get hurt."
Wikileaks, a secretive three-year-old organization headquartered in Berlin, achieved global prominence in April when it posted a U.S. military video of a 2007 helicopter attack on Iraq in which several civilians were killed, including two Reuters employees.
Manning, according to Wired, had been sifting through military networks for months when he discovered the Iraq video in late 2009. Wikileaks later released it under the title, "Collateral Murder."
"Justice was what this U.S. soldier did by uncovering this crime against humanity," Nabil Noor-Eldeen, whose brother, Namir, was killed in the strike, said Monday. "The American military should reward him, not arrest him."
A spokesman for Wikileaks declined to say whether Manning had been a source, and said the online organization was launching its own review into whether U.S. prosecutors had broken laws in their leaks investigation.
The spokesman, Daniel Schmitt, said Wikileaks typically does not know the identities of the people who send documents and photos to the Web site. But he said the organization maintains that it is illegal to prosecute someone for trying to expose government corruption or injustice. Schmitt said Wikileaks' legal advisers are specifically reviewing whether an arrest of a whistleblower violates laws in Sweden and Belgium, two countries in which the site operates.
"We believe the person behind the leak, whoever it is, is protected by law," Schmitt said. The organization recently launched a $600,000 fund-raising drive, in part to raise money to defend leakers who run afoul of their government's laws, he said.
Manning was stationed at Forward Operating base Hammer, 40 miles east of Baghdad, where he was arrested about two weeks ago, according to Wired.
He told Lamo, who shared chat logs with Wired, that he also leaked three other items to Wikileaks: a video depicting a 2009 airstrike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks had acknowledged it had in its possession; a classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat; and a previously unreported breach of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables. According to Wired, Manning described the cables as exposing "almost criminal political back dealings."
Lamo told Wired he "agonized" over the decision to turn in Manning, but the diplomatic cable breach, if true, made him believe Manning's actions truly threatened national security.
In 2003, Lamo gained notoriety after he infiltrated the New York Times' computer system and, among other things, altered a database containing personal information for more than 3,000 contributors to the paper's op-ed page. He later pled guilty to a single count of computer damage.
Staff writers Joby Warrick in Washington and Leila Fadel in Baghdad and special correspondent Jinan Hussein in Baghdad contributed to this report.