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Army intelligence analyst allegedly carried classified U.S. combat video out on CD

The Army analyst arrested for leaking classified U.S. combat videos to WikiLeaks reportedly carried the secret data out of secure areas on CD-RWs.

An Army intelligence analyst arrested for leaking classified U.S. combat videos and State Department records to WikiLeaks.org reportedly carried the secret data out of secure areas on CD-RWs.


In April 2010, whistleblower website WikiLeaks released a video that it maintains is classified gun-sight footage of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed two Reuters news staff. According to a CNET News.com article published shortly after the footage's release, "government sources told both Reuters and the Associated Press on Monday that the clip is authentic."

Early this month, Wired.com reported that a U.S. Army intelligence analyst, identified as Bradley Manning, was arrested in May for allegedly leaking the 2007 Baghdad footage, additional video from 2009 air strike in Afghanistan, and over 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables. According to Wired, the 22-year-old analyst discussed leaking the secret material to former computer hacker Adrian Lamo in a series of online chats.

At some point after that, Lamo notified the FBI and the U.S. Army about the pair's conversations. The analyst was arrested and is being held in Kuwait while the U.S. Army Criminal Investigate Division (CID) and other U.S. agencies investigate the leaks.

As of this article's publication, the analyst has not been formally charged with leaking the classified material. Neither the U.S. Army nor the U.S. State Department have said much about the leak, other than to acknowledge that an investigation in taking place and that hard drives used by the analyst in Iraq are being analyzed.

Classified data allegedly carried out on CD-RWs

Wired has published what it claims is a transcript of the chat sessions between Lamo and the analyst. Within the material, Manning reportedly described how he carried the data out of the secure areas in which he worked. The following are excerpts from that transcript:

(01:52:30 PM) Manning: funny thing is... we transffered so much data on unmarked CDs...

(01:52:42 PM) Manning: everyone did... videos... movies... music

(01:53:05 PM) Manning: all out in the open

(01:53:53 PM) Manning: bringing CDs too and from the networks was/is a common phenomeon

(01:54:14 PM) Lamo: is that how you got the cables out?

(01:54:28 PM) Manning: perhaps

(01:54:42 PM) Manning: i would come in with music on a CD-RW

(01:55:21 PM) Manning: labelled with something like "Lady Gaga"... erase the music... then write a compressed split file

(01:55:46 PM) Manning: no-one suspected a thing

Manning also describes overall lax IT security policies:

(02:43:33 PM) Manning: also, theres god awful accountability of IP addresses...

(02:44:47 PM) Manning: the network was upgraded, and patched up so many times... and systems would go down, logs would be lost... and when moved or upgraded... hard drives were zeroed

(02:45:12 PM) Manning: its impossible to trace much on these field networks...

(02:46:10 PM) Manning: and who would honestly expect so much information to be exfiltrated from a field network?

10 ways to make sure your data doesn't walk out the door

If the above chat transcripts, which Lamo gave to Wired, are true, they show a shocking lapse in IT security. As TechRepublic blogger Debra Shinder wrote in her article, "10 ways to make sure your data doesn't walk out the door," a popular way "to sneak digital information out of an organization is by copying it on some sort of removable media or device." She suggests organizations restrict the user of removable media, writing:

"SB thumb drives are inexpensive and easy to conceal, and high capacity SD, CF, and other flash memory cards can hold a huge amount of data. Users can also copy files to their iPods or other MP3 players or to CD or DVD writers. You can permanently restrict the installation of USB devices by removing the ports physically or filling them with a substance. You can also use software to disable the use of removable devices on each individual computer or throughout the network.

In Vista, you can restrict use of removable media (USB devices and CD/DVD burners) through Group Policy. (See What's New in Vista Group Policy for details.) For other operating systems, there are third-party products, such as Portable Storage Control (PSC) from GFI."

Whatever the outcome of the Manning case, the possibility that classified data was carried out of a supposedly secure U.S. Army location on a CD-RW should be a wake-up call to all network administrators. It's often the threat you don't see that's most dangerous.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

24 comments
edjcox
edjcox

One would wonder why a guy with this level of clearance wasn't polygraphed coming into country and going out. Tha should be the policy for all with TS /SCI access period. Also the insertion into a facility of writeable media is illegal. Rules were being ignored here..

vulturex
vulturex

and Lamo is a self serving snitch, and you know the saying about snitches. Just imagine if there were more people like Manning during WW2 in Nazi Germany, how many lives could have been saved due to someone with a good conscience speaking out . Shame on you Lamo! On to the topic of data security, thats what the Mil gets for not taking IT more seriously.

jkameleon
jkameleon

If. IF. One can never know what to believe at the matters like these. According to certain theories, or better yet speculations, the Manning affair is just an attempt to discredit Wikileaks towards potential leakers. In any case, it hardly makes sense to draw any conclusions from such inconclusive data.

rwtodd2007
rwtodd2007

Reminds me of when I was in the Air Force many moons ago. CDRW were not available then, but .... You could not bring in Furbies, the little stuffed animals that would repeat what they heard. Was a security risk, especially inside intel offices and comm centers.

dalerh451960
dalerh451960

I applaud the reported killing of unarmed civilians. Who governs the government? The government itself ? Hmmmm.

don.gulledge
don.gulledge

Just because an area houses secured data doesn't necessarily mean it is a secured area. Most secured areas don't allow you to bring or take storage media or devices in our out and personnel are continually spot checked (searched) by security forces. That's the way it's supposed to work. This incident shows how lax the Army was at this location and how messed up thier network management operated. However, in war zones many of the traditional state side rules are ignored or let go in favor of hard work and just getting the mission accomplished. That being said, a person whose in a position where security is first priority on the list should have the responsibility to security as their job requires. In Manning's case, I think they should lock him up and throw away the key although I'd have some sympathy if he did it as a whisleblower and not just to make money from it. I suspect he was more into caching in on the disclosure of the information than just blowing the whistle.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

The Army analyst arrested for leaking classified U.S. combat videos to WikiLeaks reportedly carried the secret data out of secure areas on CD-RWs. Are computers in highly sensitive areas of your organization locked down to prevent the use of removable media or the burning of data to CD/DVD? Take the poll and let me know! Original article and poll: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/itdojo/?p=1860

bmaryott
bmaryott

I never had to take a polygraph - at the time they were considered too unreliable. I think that is still the case.

jwildhair
jwildhair

Lamo appears to be a Patriot & You appear to either be an idiot or treasonous. Just imagine if there were more people like You during WW2 in America. It wasn't until the 1970's the the Supreme Court abolished death by firing squad for non-military traitors.

JamesRL
JamesRL

With the guy from wikileaks, it wasn't that video that made him report to authorities, he would have kept him anonymous if it was only that, but the same guy sent more sensitive material which the wikileaks guys judged to be dangerous to national security.

adam
adam

When I see device that can be used to copy information I render it read only or replace it with a device that can't be used to copy. For example, when I replace a computer on my network I swap out any CDRW/DVDRW drives for read only drives. all USB ports are locked down or disabled.

wolfshades
wolfshades

By virtue of his position (intelligence analyst), he was empowered to handle sensitive information and entrusted to do so according to protocol. I don't really give a rat's ass why he justified leaking the info - he put soldiers' lives in danger by breaching security as he did. He thereby showed himself to be the worst possible type of human being there is and should be given a fair trial before he is sent away for good. Here's the thing about data security: you can find and employ all of the tools available to harden your systems and try to protect against loss. Much harder to protect against those who are supposed to be on your own team. As long as they have printers available, or email or even a pad and paper, that data is vulnerable. Which is why the penalty for breaching the protocol on this, during peace or war times, needs to warrant the highest possible available punishment, if only to serve as a deterrant.

tracy.walters
tracy.walters

I worked for over twenty years in those environments, twelve in the Naval Security Group and eight years as a defense contractor. In both cases we worked with very sensitive data and the value of security was pounded in our heads until we lived and breathed it. When I was a defense contractor, my wife didn't even know where the building I worked in was. My point here is they may have had lax controls which happens when you are in a dynamic environment such as a war zone, but people are given a clearance and entrusted with classified information with the understanding that it is to be kept secure. Manning knew the data was classified but acted like it was someone else's job to keep him from stealing the information, but it was part of his job to keep it secure. I hope they put him away for a long time.

jdriggers
jdriggers

If he did it, I say he should be in Gitmo and after his verdict of guilty; he should face a firing squad. When I was in the Navy many years ago, if you did something against National Security, you got free housing for 20 years in a Federal Institution. If it was serious enough, you disappeared! If guilty, he?s a trader. Traders should die! They risk lives.

vulturex
vulturex

Manning did not make his choices lightly even if it seemed he bragged about them . Evil happens when good men do nothing and some of the actions of the US military as of late is DAMNING to the US. The War in Iraq was a war of choice built on LIES and GREED , Just as the German front into Eastern Europe during WW2 was a war of choice built on some of the same concepts. Manning did what he felt was the right thing to do and in doing so he might have saved more lives and shed light on atrocities being committed. Just b/c some people are poor brown and uneducated doesn't make them any less human or expendable collateral , which is a prevailing attitude amongst some in the ranks of the US military who have no problem gunning down and/or bombing and killing innocent men women and children . War isn't a video game and I think Manning like many others with a good conscience had a problem with America's acceptance of violent culture and militarism and greed. You can't replace innocent lives, and you can't bring back the dead that young punks in uniform take away thinking its some sort of video game. Its so easy for people to sit at home and not realize people die needlessly everyday for a pointless war built on lies. IF there were more people like me in WW2 , more Jews and other innocent people could have been saved , and if I was in the same situation Manning was, I probably would have pulled it off much better and never would have associated with such a self centered f@g like Lamo . Too bad the Mil doesn't actually hire people with experience though, Manning could have used real world experience. And Yes I would gladly take a bullet for my beliefs both in WW2 or present day. No need for a kangaroo court and firing squad though, I'd die fighting for what was right and what a glorious mess it would be. And you know what isn't right? The Federal regime of the USA . Hows Unchecked greed and that nasty Gulf spill working out for you ? Hows Unemployment and no jobs b/c they all went overseas going ? Would be nice if the people in power did what was right for once eh ?

braunmax
braunmax

More whistleblowers and people leaking information even before a war starts on all sides would probably prevent wars and most definitely war abuses; Possibly even true in WW2; Vietnam etc... remember fake/orchestrated events that triggered war? : WW1 - murder of the prince; WW2 - Pearl Harbor; Vietnam.... Iraq.... ; Too many lies start wars -- get them into the open before wars start. Stop abuses by making them public. Too many secrets keep wars going and support abuses; Manning is a hero - and like all heroes may well pay the price - willingly!

thegreenwizard1
thegreenwizard1

The film shows errors and misjudgment. Who is responsible on the end, the guy with the helico or the guy who left the video out. It looks that your use the same way of dealing that Castro and companies. But in the case of the leaking, the real one responsible are those well paid military IT officers who didn't do their job. It's so stupid that those guys should be send an year in the mountains of Afganistan. There they will feel what security is.

gueibor
gueibor

So I assume blood-thirsty, trigger-happy murderers on helicopters don't risk lives at all. Unless you mean the only lives that count are those of non-brown people who speak English. Anyone denouncing this kind of shenanigan maybe a traitor (izzat watcha meant?) to their particular military corps, but is a hero to humanity. War on terror my behind.

GWIII
GWIII

He should also be sentenced to spelling school

bmaryott
bmaryott

Manning is a hero - and like all heroes may well pay the price - willingly! I don't think he's made a statement. Don't put words in his mouth.

bmaryott
bmaryott

U.S. Army intelligence analyst, identified as Bradley Manning, was arrested in May for allegedly leaking the 2007 Baghdad footage, additional video from 2009 air strike in Afghanistan, and over 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables. I wonder what ELSE he had...

jwildhair
jwildhair

I couldn't tell from the footage if the people on the ground were 'bad guys' or not, but if I saw helicopters shooting at folks, I would stay clear &/or gtf outta there - unlike the ones who showed up after the initial attack.

cmkeiser
cmkeiser

I assume you meant that "traitors" should die. And you want him sent to spelling school? Lol

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