U.S. Army intelligence analyst targeted in WikiLeaks inquiry
Man charged in past incident thought to have had access to documents
WASHINGTON — A criminal investigation into the leaking of thousands of secret reports about the Afghanistan war is focused on an Army intelligence analyst already charged with disclosing classified information, according to two Defense Department officials.
Bradley E. Manning, a 22-yearold Army private first class who was charged in May with illegally downloading classified material, is thought to have had access to the leaked reports on Afghanistan that were posted on the WikiLeaks website Sunday, one of the officials said.
An ongoing investigation of Manning by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command has been expanded to examine whether he was the source of the reports, the officials
said. They spoke anonymously because they were discussing details of a continuing investigation.
Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon’s press secretary, described Manning as a “person of interest” in the investigation of the most recent WikiLeaks disclosures.
Another Pentagon spokesman, Col. Dave Lapan, told reporters that it remains unclear whether the recent leaks came from Manning. The Army will have the power to investigate members of other military branches, he said.
As an intelligence analyst with high security clearances, Manning was not restricted to looking only at classified information about Iraq, even though his unit, a brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, was deployed there.
The design of the military’s classified computer system allows analysts to examine a wide range of secret information stored on servers maintained by the U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The more than 76,000 reports, many of them brief and routine, provide new details about Pakistani intelligence agencies’ assistance to Afghan insurgents, corruption in the U.S.-backed Kabul government and numerous incidents of U.S. troops accidentally killing civilians. WikiLeaks says it has another 15,000 classified documents it is still vetting.
Among other questions, the Army investigation is examining how such a large volume of information was transferred out of the classified network. One official familiar with the inquiry said it was possible to download classified files onto a CD.
Most of the material covers events during the Bush administration and before December 2009, when President Barack Obama ordered more than 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and instituted a strategy aimed at turning around the war.
At the White House, Obama warned about the dangers of leaking classified information but said the public would learn little new from the reports.
“While I’m concerned about the disclosure of sensitive information from the battlefield that could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations, the fact is, these documents don’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our public debate on Afghanistan,” he said. “Indeed, they point to the same challenges that led me to conduct an extensive review of our policy last fall.”
Manning remains in custody at Camp Arifjan, a U.S. military base in Kuwait, awaiting a decision on whether there is sufficient evidence against him to justify a court-martial. His lawyer, Capt. Paul Bouchard, didn’t respond to e-mails seeking comment.
The charges against Manning accuse him of illegally transferring to his personal computer video footage of a deadly U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 and more than 150,000 State Department messages.
There is no mention of WikiLeaks in the charging documents, though the video of the Baghdad attack was posted earlier this year on the website.
The disclosure of the military’s unfiltered files focused new attention on the progress of the war and provided fodder for critics of the U.S. effort.
Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, will testify today before a House panel and could face sharp questions from its leader, Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who said in June that she would cut aid for Afghanistan because of reports of corruption.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer, said Tuesday that the leak of military documents about Afghanistan could put American lives at risk.