Tech experts tie WikiLeaks soldier to database breach

Computer forensic experts testified on Monday that they traced break-ins to a secret U.S. government website to Bradley Manning, the American soldier charged with the biggest leak of classified files in U.S. history.


The testimony came as the court-martial of the private first class entered its second week. Manning, 25, is accused of providing more than 700,000 secret files to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks while serving in Iraq in 2009 and 2010.


He is accused of 21 charges, including aiding the enemy, and could face life in prison without parole if convicted in the case, which has raised questions about the limits of openness and secrecy in the digital age.

Ordered to hand over info

Computer experts testified that they traced break-ins to a secret website to Bradley Manning.. (representative image)



The trial was gathering pace as officials search for more details about an ex-CIA employee who leaked details of a top secret U.S. surveillance program in which security services monitored data about Americans' phone calls and internet usage.


Manning, who was arrested in May 2010, is charged with downloading intelligence documents, diplomatic cables and combat videos and forwarding them to WikiLeaks. Government witnesses told the court-martial they had traced breaches of the U.S. government's secret Intelink intelligence database to Manning's user name and Internet Protocol address. The testimony was presented as prosecutors seek to prove that Manning orchestrated the release of documents, including secret diplomatic cables.


Manning was a low-level intelligence analyst when he allegedly released the documents to WikiLeaks, a move he said was intended to provoke a more robust debate in the United States on the military and foreign policy. U.S. officials said the breach put lives at risk.


In a written testimony, National Security Agency contractor Steven Buchanan said computer audit logs showed secret Intelink information was successfully accessed by Manning in 2009 and 2010. David Shaver, another computer expert, also testified that large amounts of classified information were downloaded from Intelink and traced to Manning's computer.


Defense attorney David Coombs sought to cast doubt on whether all the unauthorised computer use attributed to Manning could have been done by him. Some of the more than 800 Internet searches from Manning's computer could have resulted from malfunctioning equipment, or activity by other persons, he said.


"You don't know who did those searches," Coombs said while questioning Shaver, who answered that this was correct. Later, military computer crimes investigator Mark Mander said he used Internet searches to link leaks of classified information to WikiLeaks, gleaning some of the evidence from Internet sites such as Google and Archive.


Mander said the sites displayed chat logs that show when internet users post information and his review showed a large amount of classified U.S. military information was transferred without authorisation.


"It appeared that the organisation WikiLeaks was the recipient of the information," said Mander, who also reviewed postings to social media such as Twitter. WikiLeaks sometimes uses a Twitter account to send and receive messages, he said.


One January 2010 Twitter message anonymously offered secret U.S. military information to WikiLeaks, Mander said. A later WikiLeaks tweet requested U.S. military information. Defense attorneys sought to show that the evidence to prove Manning was responsible for this was weak.

Asked by Coombs if he had found any evidence that Manning personally viewed the Tweets, Mander said: "I did not."


The attorneys also argued that Mander's knowledge of search engines was too sparse for him to be a reliable witness on Internet postings. Mander also acknowledged Manning did not display anti-American sentiments: "I did not find anything where he wanted to help the enemy," he said.