CHARLES OSGOOD: With many of its diplomatic secrets under siege by the WikiLeaks website, the U.S. government has been scrambling all week to force a reckoning with those responsible. National security correspondent David Martin and Allen Pizzey share cover story duties this morning. We begin with David Martin.
JULIAN ASSANGE: This is The Guardian from this morning quoting–
DAVID MARTIN: Julian Assange is at the eye of a storm over the WikiLeaks documents. But the person who made it all possible is a twenty-three-year- old Army private named Bradley Manning. In an incriminating text message last May, Manning claimed credit for, “…possibly the largest data spillage in American history.”
ADRAIN LAMO: To this day, I don`t really know what motivated him to send that first fateful e-mail.
DAVID MARTIN: Adrian Lamo aka the Homeless Hacker because he moves from unfurnished apartment to unfurnished apartment is a cult figure on the internet–a computer genius who suffers from Asperger`s syndrome, which affects his speech. Manning reached out to him electronically from Iraq where he was a low-level intelligence analyst. “If you had unprecedented access to classified networks fourteen hours a day, seven days a week for eight-plus months, what would you do?” At first, Lamo didn`t take him seriously but then–
ADRAIN LAMO: It was when he started telling me, hey, do you remember that collateral murder video? That was totally me.
MAN: Come on, fire.
DAVID MARTIN: That video taken from the gun camera of an Apache helicopter gunship shooting up the streets of Baghdad, had caused a sensation when Assange got hold of it and posted it on his WikiLeaks website. “…I`m a high profile source…and I`ve developed a relationship with Assange,” Manning boasted. And he told Lamo, there was more where that came from, a lot more.
ADRIAN LAMO: The point at which PFC Manning disclosed to me that he had leaked several hundred thousand diplomatic cables was a point at which I began to believe that there was a certain deg– degree of gravity to the situation.
DAVID MARTIN: From his post southeast of Baghdad, this lowly private could read secret cables from American embassies around the world.
TOM BLANTON: Probably this one person managed to pry loose more granular detail of individually-classified documents than anybody else.
DAVID MARTIN: Tom Blanton, who runs The National Security Archive of declassified government documents, says all Manning did was surf a classified network the way the rest of us surf the internet.
TOM BLANTON: I think probably what he did was something more like a Google search where he entered some key words, some key terms, and by entering those search terms he came up with cables from all over the place.
DAVID MARTIN: Out came a quarter million documents most of them having nothing to do with Manning`s job. “…there`s so many…it`s impossible for anyone human to read all quarter-million…,” he wrote Lamo.
ADRIAN LAMO: The– the sense of importance, the sense of almost power I– I think was addicting to him.
DAVID MARTIN: So why was an Army private able to read State Department cables? In a nutshell, the reforms sparked by the intelligence failures of 9/11.
ROBERT GATES (Tuesday): And clearly the– the finding that the lack of sharing of information had prevented people from, quote/unquote, “Connecting the dots,” led to much wider sharing of information. So that no one at the front was denied in one of the theaters, Afghanistan or Iraq, was denied any information that might possibly be helpful to them.
DAVID MARTIN: But as Defense Secretary Gates acknowledged, the government went overboard in its sharing. Manning had access to cables no one in Iraq or Afghanistan had any conceivable need to see–cables from the U.S. embassy in Seoul about North Korea and China, cables from Moscow about Vladimir Putin.
ROBERT GATES: Now, obviously, that aperture went too wide. There`s no reason for a– a young officer at a forward operating post to get cables having to do with the START negotiations.
DAVID MARTIN: But being able to roam at will through State Department cables is only half the story. Manning was then able to download them on to a CD and send them off to WikiLeaks.
“…I would come in with music on a CD…labeled with something like Lady Gaga…,” he wrote to Lamo, “…erase the music…then write a compressed…file,” containing the diplomatic documents. Then he apparently took the CD with him when he went home to Boston on leave and passed it to WikiLeaks.
ADRIAN LAMO: It`s my understanding that investigators believe that the transfer of the bulk of the documents took place the old-fashioned way: via what nerds like me like to call sneakernet, i.e., walking it on over to its destination.
DAVID MARTIN: “No one suspected a thing,” Manning crowed until Lamo turned the text messages over to the Army–an act for which he has been both praised and reviled.
ADRIAN LAMO: I believed that his actions were endangering lives and that he was going to continue to carry out a course of conduct specifically exfiltrating documents that had the potential to endanger lives.
DAVID MARTIN: Manning is now in custody while investigators prepare charges that could send him to prison for life. But Lamo believes the real culprit is Assange.
ADRIAN LAMO: I know for a fact that Manning received assistance, technical assistance in covering his activities and in exfiltrating the– the data.
JULIAN ASSANGE: Most of–
DAVID MARTIN: The Justice Department is now investigating whether Assange can be charged with espionage while Manning is undergoing a mental evaluation. As he put it in one of his text messages, “…God knows what happens now.”
ALAN PIZZEY: This is Alan Pizzey in Rome. His face and his organization are front-page news, but WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hasn`t been seen in public for more than a month. Sweden has issued a warrant for his arrest on sexual misconduct charges, including rape, but lawyers say it will take up to ten days for it to work through the Interpol system and reach the British police in Britain, where Assange is in hiding. His British lawyer Mark Stevens challenged the Swedish prosecutor to do the job herself.
MARK STEVENS: Get on the plane, please, Marianne Ny. Come and meet Julian Assange.
DAVID MARTIN: But sitting down with Assange is no easy task. His lifestyle is as esoteric as the network he founded according to Vaughan Smith of the press organization Frontline Club.
VAUGHAN SMITH: He lives out of a suitcase. He, clearly– you know, he doesn`t have a fixed address and– and doesn`t live a very comfortable life I mean– and– and it`s not easy for him to– to– to do that. But it– it comes out of a conviction that this is the right thing to do.
DAVID MARTIN: Assange`s version of the right thing releasing more than two hundred fifty thousand U.S. Diplomatic cables sparked a crippling cyber attack on the WikiLeaks website. It was pulled off several servers. And donations through the online payment service PayPal have been stopped. Stevens blames the U.S. government.
MARK STEVENS: I have no conclusive proof but I look at the bellicose statements that are made by the Americans at this point in time and I know that they don`t want this out there.
DAVID MARTIN: But that won`t keep WikiLeaks from getting help. CNET political correspondent Declan McCullagh says.
DECLAN MCCULLAGH: In geek circles and technology political circles and hacking circles, Julian is a hero in the U.S. and I think elsewhere. So in- – in terms of volunteers, it`s pretty easy for him to continue to recruit.
DAVID MARTIN: Former collaborator Herbert Snorrason described Assange as highly intelligent, complex, and arrogant.
HERBERT SNORRASON (on phone): He`s rather dominant. He tends to belittle other people. It takes quite a lot to impress him. Well, he has a history of being on the run. So I think paranoia is his conditioned response.
DAVID MARTIN: And in an interview with CBS News before he went into hiding, Assange said he won`t testify on behalf of PFC Bradley Manning in the U.S.
JULIAN ASSANGE: My lawyers have advised for many months now that I don`t go to the United States. It`s simply impossible for– for me to appear in the United States whatsoever.
DAVID MARTIN: But Washington isn`t the only aggrieved government. Some of the leaked cables claim Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had a nefarious connection, which allowed Berlusconi to profit handsomely from energy deals. Another said Berlusconi was an admirer of Putin`s macho, decisive, and authoritarian governing style. With so many enemies, Assange is doing the cyber version of a letter to be opened in case of my sudden demise. He told the London newspaper, The Guardian, sensitive material would be released to one hundred thousand people if anything happened to him or his organization. What`s not clear is whether that`s a threat or a dare.
CHARLES OSGOOD: Ahead, prohibitions end.