WikiLeaks investigation expanded as White House faces new leaks, appeals for halt
Investigations into the massive leaks of documents on the Afghan war have begun to enwrap possible civilian involvement as the White House implores the website WikiLeaks to stop posting similar files and new leaks keep on coming, Xinhua reports.
The U.S. military's criminal investigators have inquired a number of civilians from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University, said an article published on the New York Times website Friday.
These questioned civilians are believed to have connections with Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old private and army intelligence analyst, who has already been charged with leaking classified material to WikiLeaks, including a video clip of a U.S. Apache helicopter shooting civilians in Baghdad and over 50 classified U.S. State Department cables selected from more than 150,000 pieces he illegally downloaded.
He has also been confirmed as a main suspect in the disclosure of over 90,000 Afghan war documents to WikiLeaks. However, whether these leaked papers are those posted on the website remains unclear, said the article.
The military also didn't unveil any further concrete evidence to suggest there is someone in the dark helping Manning to transfer these secret materials to WikiLeaks.
The investigators' questioning of these civilian leads may be warranted by Manning's visits to some of his friends in Boston during a home leave in January.
They believe that Manning exploited a loophole in Pentagon's computer network to download and burn secret data on compact discs over six months.
Adrian Lamo, a computer hacker who kept touches with the Private by sending instant messages this year, turned him in to the Army investigators to seek cooperation with them.
He said on Friday that WikiLeaks provided Manning with technical backing so that he could send these downloaded data through specially encrypted e-mails to avoid detection, adding that, though without direct evidence proving the connection between Manning and WikiLeaks, Manning was "manipulated" by the website.
There is no response either from the military or WikiLeaks's founder Julian Assange, an Australian national, to Lamo's words.
One of the inquired persons said he refused to be the Army's WikiLeaks watcher as he had nothing to do with the website, while another said the military is trying to set up a team encompassing Manning's friends and classmates to "infiltrate" WikiLeaks, according to the article.
The U.S. Army authorities continue to chastise the leaks as dangerous and harmful.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday said the leaking of over 90,000 classified documents on website WikiLeaks is "dangerous to troops" stationed in Afghanistan, and promised an aggressive investigation.
The White House is also echoing the criticism and begged for a leak stoppage.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the leak of some 90,000 secret military documents already has jeopardized the lives of Afghans working with the U.S. and its war allies.
He also said the Taliban has declared it will comb the documents to find those once who cooperated with international forces, adding that the White House "can do nothing but implore the person who has the documents not to post any more."
However, the story doesn't stop there. A 1.4-gigabyte encrypted "insurance file" was posted on WikiLeaks' "Afghan War Diary" web page and presently no one knows about its contents and can only speculate.
Cryptome, a website similar to WikiLeaks, said the newly posted file may contain 15,000 Afghan documents WikiLeaks is demanded to postpone their release for harm minimization.
The website also said these files may have been "pre-positioned for public release" in case WikiLeaks is "taken down" by the U.S. government or anything occurs to Assange.
The major top army secret information leak has fogged the U.S. military engagement in the war-torn Afghanistan and triggered speculation whether the American government would hasten its troops withdrawal.
Speaking at the White House Thursday, President Barack Obama said he's "concerned about the disclosure," but "these documents don't reveal any issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan."
Obama said the leak won't change the war strategy. "We have to see that strategy through," he said.
Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, agrees with Obama's assessment that most information contained in the leak was "already known to those observing the war over the last nine years," and the exposure "should not be used to argue that the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is doomed to failure."