Info-tech

Investigators link WikiLeaks suspect to Assange

PTI Fort Meade (Maryland) | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on December 20, 2011

US Army investigators have presented evidence for the first time directly linking the US soldier accused of spilling secrets to WikiLeaks, to the founder of the site, Julian Assange.

Testifying at a hearing to determine if US Army Private, Bradley Manning, should face a court-martial, the investigators yesterday said the contact information for Mr Assange was found on a computer hard drive belonging to Mr Manning.

The digital forensics experts also said they had found evidence of online chats between Mr Manning and a computer user with the screen name “Julian Assange’’.

In addition, they said they recovered State Department cables, US military reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and other classified material from Mr Manning’s computers and storage devices.

The testimony, which came on the fourth day of the hearing being held at this sprawling army base, was the most compelling government evidence yet linking Mr Manning to one of the most serious intelligence breaches in US history.

Mr Manning, who turned 24 on Saturday, could face life in prison if convicted of “aiding the enemy’’, the most serious of the 22 charges he is facing.

Mark Johnson, a private contractor who works for the US Army’s Computer Crime Investigative Unit (CCIU), said a computer hard drive obtained from Mr Manning had contact information for Mr Assange, the Australian-born WikiLeaks founder.

US Army prosecutors showed a screenshot of a message said to be taken from a file on the drive. “You can currently reach our investigations editor directly in Iceland — 354 862 3481 — 24 hour service — Ask for Julian Assange,” it said.

The investigators also said they had recovered online chats between Mr Manning and a user by the name “Julian Assange” during which WikiLeaks was discussed.

Mr Assange, who is in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges, has consistently denied knowing the source of the material received by his site but has expressed support for Mr Manning.

The investigators said they had found a file on an SD card recovered from Mr Manning’s aunt’s house that contained 91,000 US military field reports from Afghanistan and another 400,000 from Iraq.

A message allegedly from Mr Manning described the cache as being “one of the most significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare.”

Special Agent David Shaver, head of the CCIU’s digital forensics and research branch, said investigators had also found 10,000 State Department cables that were apparently not passed on to WikiLeaks because of a corrupted file.

Among the documents, Mr Manning is suspected of giving WikiLeaks, are some 260,000 State Department cables which led to an embarrassing string of revelations for the United States and other governments.

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Published on December 20, 2011
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