After months of investigation, U.S. authorities have apparently been unable to find any independent evidence that a jailed Army private accused of leaking classified documents gave them to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks, according to a news report.
The information comes from anonymous Pentagon sources who told NBC that although there’s evidence that Pfc. Bradley Manning illegally downloaded thousands of sensitive documents to his computer and passed them to an unauthorized party, there’s no evidence indicating the recipient was WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or his organization.
Manning was arrested last May after allegedly confessing to former hacker Adrian Lamo in online chats that he had leaked two Army videos to WikiLeaks, as well as 260,000 U.S. State Department cables and hundreds of thousands of documents on the Iraq war. U.S. investigators have the chat logs, which Lamo provided to them. In the logs, Manning discusses communicating directly with Assange and says at one point that he uploaded classified data to a “crazy white haired aussie who can’t seem to stay in one country very long.”
Last April, WikiLeaks published one of the videos Manning referred to, under the title “Collateral Murder.” The video shows a 2007 Army helicopter attack on a group of civilians. It killed two Reuters employees and an unarmed Baghdad man who stumbled on the scene afterward and tried to rescue one of the wounded by pulling him into his van.
WikiLeaks has acknowledged possessing a second video Manning mentioned in his chat, but has not published it to date. This one involves a May 2009 airstrike near Garani village in Afghanistan that the local government says killed nearly 100 civilians, most of them children.
WikiLeaks, along with several media partners, published half-a-million documents from the Iraq War last fall. Manning described leaking the documents to the organization, and WikiLeaks recently began releasing some of the more than 250,000 U.S. State Department cables it says it possesses.
If it’s true that investigators have found no evidence linking Manning and Assange, it may be because Manning allegedly erased it from his system. He discussed doing so in his chats with Lamo. Manning noted in the chats that any incriminating evidence of his activities had been “zerofilled”, or erased, from his computers:
(02:09:24 AM) Lamo: *random* are you concerned aboutCI/CID looking into your Wiki stuff? I was always paranoid.
(02:09:40 AM) Manning: CID has no open investigation
(02:10:28 AM) Manning: State Department will be uber-pissed… but I dont think they’re capable of tracing everything…
(02:14:36 AM) Lamo: So you have these stored now?
(02:14:54 AM) Manning: i had two computers… one connected to SIPRNET the other to JWICS…
(02:15:07 AM) Manning: no, they’re government laptops
(02:15:18 AM) Manning: they’ve been zerofilled
(02:15:22 AM) Manning: because of the pullout
(02:15:57 AM) Manning: evidence was destroyed… by the system itself
(02:16:10 AM) Lamo: So how would you deploy the cables? If at all.
(02:16:26 AM) Manning: oh no… cables are reports
(02:16:34 AM) Lamo: ah
(02:16:38 AM) Manning: State Department Cable = a Memorandum
(02:16:48 AM) Lamo: embassy cables?
(02:16:54 AM) Manning: yes
(02:17:00 AM) Manning: 260,000 in all
(02:17:10 AM) Manning: i mentioned this previously
(02:17:14 AM) Lamo: yes
(02:17:31 AM) Lamo: stored locally, or retreiveable?
(02:17:35 AM) Manning: brb latrine =P
(02:17:43 AM) Manning: i dont have a copy anymore
(02:17:59 AM) Lamo: *nod*
Assange has accused U.S. authorities of trying to pressure Manning into cooperating with them to bring charges against Assange, but Manning has reportedly refused to do so.