Soldier Suspected Of Leaking Classified Data Arrested

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Steve Inskeep talks with reporter Kevin Poulsen of Wired.com about his article on the arrest of an American soldier who is suspected of leaking classified U.S. combat video and other documents to WikiLeaks, a whistle-blower website.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Federal officials have detained an Army intelligence analyst deployed to Iraq. He's suspected of releasing classified documents. The Army says he's in pretrial custody in Kuwait now. Wired.com reports the man boasted of leaking what is now a very famous video. The video was published earlier this year on the website WikiLeaks. It was taken from a U.S. helicopter, and it shows Americans shooting people on the ground in Iraq who turned out to be civilians.

(Soundbite of video)

Unidentified Man #1: Light them all up.

Unidentified Man #2: There's two traffic - two 60s up there...

Unidentified Man #1: Come on. Fire.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

(Soundbite of beep)

Unidentified Man #1: Roger.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

Unidentified Man #1: Keep shooting.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

INSKEEP: Wired.com reporter Kevin Poulsen coauthored the first report about the man suspected of leaking that video. His name is Bradley Manning.

You've posted a photograph of him. He's wearing his Army beret and a green uniform. And the first thing that comes through to me looking at that photo is wow, this man is young.

Mr. KEVIN POULSEN (Reporter, Wired.com): He is young. He's 22 years old. He had some issues in the Army that wound up leading to problems with his superiors, and he was telling people that he was on his way out of the Army. So it looked like he began his leaking before some of these issues really came to fore.

INSKEEP: Now, you say it looked like he began his leaking. What evidence is there that suggests that this young man leaked anything?

Mr. POULSEN: What happened was he wound up in a conversation with a former computer hacker named Adrian Lamo, who was convicted of hacking into the New York Times back in 2004. So he wound up confiding in Adrian and telling him this whole amazing story of how he's basically been poking around in classified Army networks to which he has legitimate access. And at one point, he started passing some of this information to WikiLeaks. The video in particular of the airstrike in Iraq affected him a great deal, it seems, that he thought that it was something that had to get out.

INSKEEP: And you spoke with this ex-hacker who says that Manning told him all these things?

Mr. POULSEN: I did, and I've seen the chat logs. My colleague Kim Zetter also spoke with a friend of Brad Manning's who said that Brad had made it very clear to him at the time that he had leaked that Iraq video. Now, none of this, of course, proves that he did it, but it's clear that he has been telling people that he did it.

INSKEEP: Oh, meaning that we don't know because we don't know this man, if he's just telling stories or if he really did it at this point. But is there any other indication that he really could have been the person who leaked this famous, famous video of a helicopter gunship blasting away at people on a Baghdad street?

Mr. POULSEN: He's very convincing in the chat logs with Adrian Lamo. He has a lot of information and an elaborate story about how he discovered the video, his first thoughts upon seeing it, and how he went about contacting WikiLeaks in order to provide it to them. The thing that's most interesting about this to me, I guess, is the - that he told Adrian Lamo that he had also leaked 260,000 diplomatic cables to and from embassies all around the world. He told Adrian that WikiLeaks was preparing to release this in a searchable format, like public Google for classified State Department cables. If that turns out to be true, that'll be a leak of historic importance.

INSKEEP: And I suppose if that leak comes, we'll also know that this guy must have been telling the truth or had access to the truth.

Mr. POULSEN: Yeah.

INSKEEP: Mr. Poulsen, thanks very much.

Mr. POULSEN: Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: Kevin Poulsen has published a story in Wired.com with co-reporter Kim Zetter about the arrest of an Army intelligence analyst on suspicion of leaking classified video.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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