wikileaks: wired contradictions

Wired finally responded late this afternoon: Putting the Record Straight on the Lamo-Manning Chat Logs. I’ll note that the comments to this two parter are pretty scathing. Haven’t yet heard back from Greenwald, although since they claim factual errors on Greenwald’s part, he’s sure to respond. After a good three-quarters of his part spent in complaining about being attacked for the logs, Evan Hansen claims the following error:

The Times story quotes Lamo as saying that Manning described uploading his leaks to Assange via a dedicated file server, and that he communicated with Assange over encrypted chat. The story says those portions of the conversations aren’t included in the excerpts we published.

Based on that, Greenwald claims that Wired’s “concealment” of the chat logs “is actively blinding journalists and others who have been attempting to learn what Manning did and did not do.” (That’s one sentence. He goes on in that vein for quite a while.) But the Times story is incorrect, as we noted on Wired.com the day after it ran. The excerpts we published included passages referencing both the file server and the encrypted chat room.

Now here’s the odd part. Reference the above link in Hansen’s response to the FDL timeline. The above link is to a Wired story dated December 16th which is not in the timeline, and references a June 10th article, which is. However the portions quoted in the later article do appear in the earlier. By the way, the quoted parts don’t reference an “encrypted chat room” (I’m not sure of the origin of this claim.) The relevant part is very nonspecific:

(2:04:29 PM) Manning: im a source, not quite a volunteer
(2:05:38 PM) Manning: i mean, im a high profile source… and i’ve developed a relationship with assange… but i dont know much more than what he tells me, which is very little
(2:05:58 PM) Manning: it took me four months to confirm that the person i was communicating was in fact assange

The “Times story” would be this one: U.S. Tries to Build Case for Conspiracy by WikiLeaks which says:

Among materials prosecutors are studying is an online chat log in which Private Manning is said to claim that he had been directly communicating with Mr. Assange using an encrypted Internet conferencing service as the soldier was downloading government files. Private Manning is also said to have claimed that Mr. Assange gave him access to a dedicated server for uploading some of them to WikiLeaks.

In fact none of the excerpts Wired refers to supports either claim. There is no suggestion of a dedicated server:

(02:54:53 PM) Lamo: submission where?
(02:55:07 PM) Manning: wl.org submission system
(02:55:23 PM) Lamo: in the massive queue?
(02:55:54 PM) Manning: lol, yeah, it IS pretty massive…
(02:55:56 PM) Manning: buried
(02:56:04 PM) Manning: i see what you mean
(02:56:35 PM) Manning: long term sources do get preference… i can see where the “unfairness” factor comes in

Now, Wikileaks’ submission page is currently suspended, for obvious reasons, but this is not a “dedicated server” — this is a common page for all to submit their stuff, and as Manning clearly indicates, some folks get preference over others depending on how much they’ve submitted before. My question is, was “dedicated” meant to be for Manning’s use alone? In which case, nothing in the chat logs so far published supports that. If it was a reference to a server “dedicated” to harvesting submissions, then I fail to see where conspiracy charges can be laid out on that basis (because such charges would rely on a unique relationship between Manning and Assange, that would in fact be supported by evidence of a server dedicated to Manning, and a encrypted chat room for both of them to talk).

I should note here that one of the FDL summary pages lists this article MIT graduate admits link in leaks case (August 1, 2010) as also quoting Lamo’s claims that Manning spoke of special treatment (the actual article is behind a paywall).

“[…] I think WikiLeaks played on his ego. He had access to a special server that allowed his leaks jumped to the top of the cue. I think he was made to feel special,” says Lamo […]

Anyway, back to the Times article:

Adrian Lamo, an ex-hacker in whom Private Manning confided and who eventually turned him in, said Private Manning detailed those interactions in instant-message conversations with him.

He said the special server’s purpose was to allow Private Manning’s submissions to “be bumped to the top of the queue for review.” By Mr. Lamo’s account, Private Manning bragged about this “as evidence of his status as the high-profile source for WikiLeaks.”

Wired magazine has published excerpts from logs of online chats between Mr. Lamo and Private Manning. But the sections in which Private Manning is said to detail contacts with Mr. Assange are not among them. Mr. Lamo described them from memory in an interview with The Times, but he said he could not provide the full chat transcript because the F.B.I. had taken his hard drive, on which it was saved.

OK, the chat excerpt above does NOT constitute “bragging” about getting bumped to the top of the queue. In fact, he’s noting quite the opposite, and conceding that it’s fair enough long term contacts get preference. Moreover, neither of these excerpts reference the most interesting claim that Greenwald wants to know about: the physical drop off. So either there’s missing sections of the chat logs that Wired is sitting on — or those logs do not back up the Times‘s claims. But the parts referenced in today’s Wired response don’t. They didn’t then, they don’t now.

As for the second part, by Kevin Poulsen, the following are claimed as errors:

  1. To Greenwald, all this [Lamo’s history] makes Lamo “a low-level, inconsequential hacker.” This conclusion is critical to his thesis that Lamo and I have something more than a source-journalist relationship. Greenwald’s theory is that Lamo’s hacks were not newsworthy. But, this line of thought goes, in exchange for the chance to break the non-news of his intrusions, I reported them — getting Lamo attention among the readers of SecurityFocus.com.

    What he fails to report is that those same breaches were also covered by the Associated Press, Reuters, Wired magazine (well before my tenure at Wired.com), cable news networks, every tech news outlet and several national newspapers, and that Lamo spoke freely to all of them.

    So when he writes that I had “exclusive, inside information from Lamo,” he is wrong.

  2. Nowhere in the article does he disclose that Appelbaum — the only third-party source in the piece — is a key WikiLeaks activist: a man who’d shared hotel rooms with Julian Assange, and had already spoken publicly on behalf of the organization. Appelbaum’s key role in the organization has been a published fact since April.
  3. After that glaring omission, Greenwald mischaracterizes my contacts with the companies Lamo hacked. In writing about Lamo’s New York Times hack, Greenwald claims: “When Lamo hacked into the NYT, it was Poulsen who notified the newspaper’s executives on Lamo’s behalf, and then wrote about it afterward.” In truth, I contacted a spokeswoman for the Times, notified her of the intrusion, gave her time to confirm it, and then quoted her in the article.
  4. Based, apparently, on something he read on a website called GovSecInfo.com, Greenwald announces that “Rasch is also the person who prosecuted Kevin Poulsen back in the mid-1990s and put him in prison for more than three years.” (I served five, actually, and all but two months of it was in pretrial custody, held without bail.) He then attacks me for failing to report on this supposed link. “Just on journalistic grounds, this nondisclosure is extraordinary,” he claims.

    “As Poulsen was writing about this Manning story all while working closely with Lamo as he served as FBI informant — and as Poulsen actively conceals the chat logs — wouldn’t you want to know that the person who played such a key role in Manning’s arrest was the same person who prosecuted Poulsen and regularly contributes to his magazine?”

    The “regularly contributes to his magazine” part is apparently a reference to this single 2004 opinion piece in Wired magazine. As for the rest? Rasch, who worked for the Justice Department in Washington D.C., left government service in 1991. I had two prosecutors in my phone-hacking case: David Schindler in Los Angeles and Robert Crowe in San Jose, California.

  5. I could go on — the daily, off-the-record conversations Greenwald had with Assange while penning at least one of his anti-Wired screeds; or the fact that he failed to disclose in the body of his first article that he was personally trying to secure a new attorney for Manning while writing the piece.

Some of these are odd. For example

“When Lamo hacked into the NYT, it was Poulsen who notified the newspaper’s executives on Lamo’s behalf, and then wrote about it afterward.” In truth, I contacted a spokeswoman for the Times, notified her of the intrusion, gave her time to confirm it, and then quoted her in the article.

…Isn’t that what Greenwald said? You told Times about the intrusion, then wrote about it afterwards…

As for the comment on Jacob Appelbaum, I garnered this in about ten minutes (let me note I’m not certain why Appelbaum was referenced in Wired’s response — there’s no mention of him in Greenwald’s article that Wired is responding to, and they did not specify which prior article in which Appelbaum was quoted, so I’m still fishing around for that quote):

Glenn Greenwald, many many months ago, gave you the answer to your so-called desire to “protect PFC Manning” and his privacy: agree on a third-party, have that person review the chat logs under obligation of confidentiality, and let that independent party determine if there is anything relevant in there. And let’s go from there.

There’s quite a bit more there, as well, including more information on Lamo, and more information on previous dealings between Wired and Appelbaum, including the claim that Wired does not allow Appelbaum to comment on their articles.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what is entailed by an “encrypted chat room” — all you have to do is open up an encrypted connection — say an https one which is absolutely trivial to do, and run any web based IRC chat over that connection. This is nothing special — I do that with other geek friends. (Note that Appelbaum already eviscerated the “chat logs” terminology — yes, they are just ASCII texts saved off any kind of chat, and totally vulnerable to being all edited up — they are useless, really, except for private record keeping. As legal documents? I’d have a field day with that one, as would any geek tapped as an expert witness by a lawyer.)

Interestingly, many of the comments to the Wired response are negative. Among them:

You may think you are above popular referendum, but please remember you’re doing so in a piece that seeks to win reader approval for your belief that your record in this matter is unblemished. That is not something you get to decide.

You have become a part of this story, just has Greenwald has, and Bradley Manning has become a public figure to the extent that what he eats for breakfast and how long he’s allowed to sleep are fair game. Adrian Lamo, with his willingness to tell apparently conflicting stories to multiple publications isn’t far behind.

It’s too late to try and play the “none of your business” or the “we’re the responsible gatekeeper” cards here, and it would have gone down much easier without the motive speculation and bile. Wouldn’t debate on the real issues be far better served at this point by serving up the chat logs and proving your journalistic integrity with facts instead of self-serving platitudes and a screed of your own? –PBCliberal

But the one commenter who nails it for me is this one:

please tell me how Bradley Manning is in contact with Wikileaks for 4 months and completes one of their most massive transfers ever, quite successfully, and within hours of you guys getting involved is on his way to being busted by about six government agencies. Evan’s testimonial of Kevin Poulsen’s shining “journalistic” model human being credentials all involved working with the G-men busting people on the internet. This just looks like more of the same. At this point it isn’t about the chat logs, it’s about whether or not you people and Adrian Lamo reeled Bradley Manning in and stung him to death. — ondelette

Well, I for one, look forward to Greenwald’s response.

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