“You’re free, but in your mind, your freedom’s in a bind.” — Janelle Monáe
Adrian Lamo’s critics faced him down at a hacker’s conference. Lamo sat on the stage, placid, blinking pronouncedly as his hecklers continued. They prodded him, asking if he would have been tempted to release the data that a man who contacted him had sworn upon threat of military legal prosecution never to release had Lamo not faced his own prosecution as an accessory. One attendee demanded that hacking veteran Lamo take an internationalist perspective into the world events which led Lamo to turn over one Bradley Manning to the authorities. The hacker beside Lamo cajoled him for not having ignored the initial messaging by Bradley Manning.
Lamo simply replied with his gratitude that he lived in a country where he would not have to take a bullet to the head for attending a hacker’s conference, period. And for this he iteration he received at least one attendee’s applause.
This whole incident called into question to whom and/or to what ultimate philosophical cause exactly one must pledge his or her loyalties. Lamo’s perspective seeks to draw us into a void wherein loyalty to country must rise above that to conscience per se; the lives of foreigners are the objects of guessing games in which the United States must come out the “victor” due to its kindness to Lamo, the citizen, himself.
Adrian had launched into a tribute to the United States and the very freedoms that allowed the hackers’ conference, 2010 The Next HOPE, to have occurred in the first place. Thus questions of national allegiance came into play, in light of the interest of paying tribute to that same society through a defense of the rule of law. Always with the disclaimer that he was “not a jurist” and that he lacked a JD, his explanation for his behavior side-stepped the concern for what his country had done by the notion that his country would allow him to discuss his ideas publicly; and that, because he did not, he said, always agree with his government’s action, it deserved deference.
At the July 26th White House Daily Briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs attempted to allay the concerns of a White House Press Corps frenzied by the largest release of classified military documents of all time. Although he would admit that he couldn’t of course find time to personally sift through tens of thousands of bulletins, he said “in terms of broad revelation, there aren’t any that we see in these documents.” To Der Spiegel, The New York Times and The Guardian, Wikileaks had provided exclusive access to these 90,000-some documents, which detail the events of the decade-long Afghanistan conflict.
“[Wikileaks is],” Gibbs said, “not in touch with us. The only — the only effort that I made in discussing — the only effort that I made with The Times — who I will say came to us, I think handled this story in a responsible way. I passed a message through the writers at The New York Times to the head of WikiLeaks to redact information that could — that could harm personnel or threaten operations or security.”
Responding to inquiry by e-mail, Julian Assange told me, “NYTimes confirmed that this request was handed to Gibbs and two others. Wikileaks used ‘direct’ as did [the] pentgon [sic] to try and pretect [sic][.] [T]hey did not get the request (since it was given in an ‘indirect’) manner.”
Shrugging off suggestions of comparison to the Pentagon Papers, Gibbs said that the White House had not conducted a “cloistered evaluation of our policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” adding, “That’s not the way we’ve operated.”
“This isn’t a broad review of aspects of civilian — you know, progress that we have or haven’t made on civilian casualties. It’s just on-the- ground reporting on that.” Yet it’s difficult to know anything else close to a “broad review” of these civilian casualties which contextualize the deaths of around 1,000 Americans and thousands more Afghans, it being safe to say that these casualties are pertinent to the success of ISAF’s stated mission. The relative weight of the publicity the White House and the media have paid to the deaths of American servicepeople is great compared to the attention that the White House, the Defense Department paid to the deaths of Afghan civilians.
In this video, taken last week at Marine Corps Base Quantico, the man on the left, Lt. Col. Frederick Peterson, defended the July 12, 2007 airstrike in a Baghdad suburb on the basis that civilians weren’t “in the habit of carrying . . . [rocket propelled grenade launchers].” The man on the right, Jim Hanson, in reaction to charge that the military had misrepresented the weapons threat, asked, “Isn’t one RPG too many?” However, the chopper gunner was given permission to fire before the RPG was spotted. Peterson appeared bitter that Wikileaks had edited a version of the raw video into its “Collateral Murder” manifestation, an edit trying to draw attention to the humanitarian plight and cost of keeping the information covered up in the first place. Peterson calls the targets of the attack “snakes.” Snakes or no, the chopper gunner fired upon a man on the ground clinging to his life. Peterson said that it was affirming of pretenses of U.S. democracy that the protesters of Manning’s incarceration were able to protest near a prominent Marine base. And of course on this point he couldn’t have been more right. Further, channeling Lamo, he argued that no country “with which [the protesters] have affinity” would tolerate what they are doing.
On this point, however, Iceland’s parliament, according to Kristinn Hrafnsson on Skype from Iceland, is on the verge of creating a safe haven for data leakers such as Assange. Hrafnsson successfully tracked down the father and Reuters journalist blown away in the (likely) manning video. It’s difficult to imagine living next to someone, and supporting their inability to see the footage that such a tracking down would reveal to them. According to Al Jazeera, the family, predictably, felt more at peace after having seen the footage.
As you can see in the video, I ask the men if — having expressed a solidarity with the plights and welfare of the members of the U.S. military — there could be a silver lining for them if the leaks revealed a more terrible plight for the domestic forces than previously popularly understood; that the leak could be a boon to sympathy with them. Hanson alluded to the irrelevance of this for him, saying that that sympathy would be an “unintended consequence.” The point then for Hanson was simply that Manning broke the code, and that was enough.
While critics such as Hanson and Peterson, and more conspicuously The Times of London, bash Assange for having released the names of the informants, what’s apparent is that Assange actually tried to conduct a pro-ISAF censorship of the documents. Naturally, being of radically limited resource, they failed to remove names that they would remove then had they only known. In its own way, by not addressing the specific informants in the documents, the White House laid the lives of the Taliban subversives upon its own altar of secrecy, while Wikileaks laid them on its altar of openness.
Assange conceded as much to The New Yorker when he stated that Wikileaks might one way or another end up with “blood on its hands” for this sort of thing. But the general philosophy there was to at least at a certain point let the chips fall where they may when the stakes get as high as the war journal. Although it bears considering that they censored out most of these thousands of informant names.
Hanson said that Assange’s motive was to make the war stop and that he was using the data against the soldiers in the field. The Washington Post’s David Finkel, who had seen the later-leaked video and accounted it in his book “The Good Soldiers,” agrees with Hanson’s sentiment. His complaint was that Wikileaks had produced an edit version they juxtaposed with ominous George Orwell lines.
As Finkel told Al Jazeera, “The context of that day was not what George Orwell had to say so many years before, the context was that there was an operation under way in reaction to an ongoing war, not that Apache helicopters were circling looking for a bunch of guys to just shoot up and kill.”
In light of Hanson’s insistence that Assange’s agenda is to stop the war, of course, it goes without saying that the soldiers and even Taliban fighters (for the very most earnest part) want the war to stop themselves. The disagreement on the war’s end is, as always, perfectly contingent upon the terms by which that might come about vis-à-vis interest in treasure, personal autonomy and ideological domination. Like Gibbs, Hanson dismisses Manning’s ostensibly virtuous pangs of conscience because, he believes, the documents and video shed no light that wasn’t already there. It’s worth pointing out that, at the time of this writing, Manning is merely a person of interest in the Afghan war documents leak. Adrian Lamo has said he believes it likely that others were working with him.
Josh Wolf is the journalist who has been longest-jailed by the federal government ever. The federal government held Wolf for a whopping 226 days because he refused to turn over his sources. This, he protested against, happened because local police he photographed during a G-8 protest were partially subsidized by the federal government. The police assaults he photographed he sold to the news media, and upon refusing to release his raw footage, he was imprisoned. He out-Judith-Millered Judith Miller, New York Times journalist incarcerated for similar reasons, but over the Valerie Plame leaks.
In light of the anti-Manning counterprotesters that I had not even said yet at the time at which we spoke, a night before the protest at Quantico, Wolf said over the phone, “I think it’s absurd to utilize any sort of punishment system that’s designed to send a message, whether it be Bradley Manning or on the flip side of Johannes Mehserle killing Officer Grant.”
I inquired about the teleological significance of having released the documents having known there was a chance that informants would get hurt. Wolf says, “I think that when it comes to harm reduction, whether [Assange] calls himself a journalist or a facilitator of information, we have a responsibility to other human beings, which is why censoring out the names of low-level informants makes sense to do.”
Added Wolf, “There’s also the possibility that [Manning] took credit for something that he didn’t do. Manning could be not the one who leaked it, and he is trying to protect his gay lover. There is any number of reasons that he could have told Lamo that he did this.”
That day at Quantico, August 18th, I ran into Ray McGovern. McGovern was an intelligence briefer for President Ronald Reagan, and the first President Bush gave him the Intelligence Commendation Medal. I asked McGovern if having told Lamo about being a leaker cast doubt upon the intention of his actions, since essentially he acted on the ulterior motive of seeking validation. Wolf would compare this to the need to confess to a priest, but in this case it’s hard to nail down the accusation that Manning was acting out of greed or malice.
“Whether or not Manning telling someone impunes his own actions is something other than his having done it for a pure reason,” Wolf had said, adding, “I think the fact that he told someone shouldn’t impact the way we view his act.”
McGovern agreed, saying, “Whether or not him telling someone impacts how sure his action was is secondary to whether it casts a negative light to someone else.”
Wolf also agreed with Hanson that there is a limit to what people can really claim the documents understand. Wolf said, “I think that the documents reveal what we’ve known all along, but confirm ideas that we have: Military forces not always operating in the manner that they purport to be working from. I think that there are facts that may be new to people, but the fact that war is still war goes without saying.”
I asked Wolf if he thought that the fear of Defense Department leadership was that the release of the Afghan war documents would result in a morale failure for their enlistees. He said, “I don’t think there’s a battle for the hearts and minds of the soldiers because they do whatever we tell them to.”
While the earlier McChrystal-Obama dust-up over U.S. soldier levels in Afghanistan fueled public debate over civilian control of the military, there is a deeper level of concern at play over what civilian control over the military really means. If the cliché “knowledge is power” has any meaning whatsoever, we need only look at the struggles through which members of the House of Representatives — a whole committee, in fact — have had to go through to get access to the rules by which the government currently operates. Here Peter Dale Scott presents Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio’s attempts to get access to classified documents, in the context of the Iran Contra revelations.
When this happened in 2007, DeFazio said, “I just can’t believe they’re going to deny a member of Congress the right of reviewing how they plan to conduct the government of the United States after a significant terrorist attack … Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right.” The White House, through its new “commit to vote” campaign — asks that voters make informed decisions about who should be killed and why by the mightiest arsenal that the Earth has ever known. At the same time, there is the farcical demand that the people remain unaware of the most important information by which they might make those kinds of important assessments.
What’s the solution to this? Wolf says “the people should have access to if not all information, then documents explaining why information is being withheld.” I didn’t have to say it, but I had a sixth sense that the explanations Wolf had in mind weren’t as terse as “because it would damage national security.”
I asked Wolf if Assange can ever visit the United States again, and he said, “I’m not sure that Assange will ever have reassurances that he can ever reenter this country.” The Swedish internet service provider PeRiQuito, commonly known as PRQ, hosts Wikileaks. Even if the relevant authorities are unable to secure the Wikileaks domain name from Wikileaks name itself, Assange might just be looking at spending the rest of his life in Iceland and a handful of countries in Europe.
I asked McGovern if Manning had committed a crime.
McGovern softly replied, “I think Martin Luther King, Jr. committed crimes. I think Jesus of Nazareth committed crimes. I think all prophets that run afoul of an unjust system commit crimes, if that’s the term you insist on using.”
I asked, “Well, did he break the law?”
“Well, sure, he broke the law by giving out classified information. Now, one has to keep some semblance of balance here. He signed a little paper in which he promised not to release classified information to unauthorized people. He also swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and he did not forfeit his conscience.”
He continued, “So I am reconstructing what I think was the process that he went through. He looked at this incredible savagery, this incredibly lying and the affectlessness of the war where our main, quote, ‘ally’ is supplying the insurgent against us, and decided that he needed to make that public irrespective of his promise to keep that information secret.”
Again, although at the time of this writing, Manning is simply a person of interest in the case of the Afghan war documents, McGovern’s position is clear should Manning prove to be the source of those leaks.
McGovern said, “Now, in ethics, people speak out about supervening values, okay? [Manning] saw a supervening value in trying to stop this carnage and trying to honor his conscience, and that that value clearly outweighed — made his promise on that piece of paper to keep this classified information classified. It outweighed that promise. And that was a moral decision, in my view, just as Martin Luther King violated laws right and left, because they were for the most part unjust laws, and for the most part he wanted to make sure that the American people knew what was going on. And we did because of TV and radio.”
I asked McGovern, “Does it change you view of the entire leak if in fact informants get hurt, if they weren’t able to get rid of all of their names, and the Taliban goes and hunts these people down?”
McGovern said, “We are spending $2 million a minute in Afghanistan. You know the reason why. Some of that money could be used to repatriate these people, to take them to the United States, to take them to a secure place, if indeed they are endangered. There is no proof that any have been endangered. But should that be the case, we certainly are wealthy enough and apt enough to give them refuge.” Stopping short of repatriation, the Pentagon has said it has a 100-person team working on “warning” informants who are potentially new Taliban targets as a result of the leak.
I was eager to hear from any of the pro-Manning protesters a legal avenue for liberation, but answers were few and far between. McGovern is a relative insider compared to most of the rest of the crowd that I saw.
I said, “Do you think that perhaps Manning could be protected under a whistleblower provision, even within the scope of this law? I mean, we can talk about these higher codes and ethics and values. But within the legal framework of the United States – which we’ll both admit is flawed – is there a way to keep him safe now? I mean, is there any way for him to get out of this?
“Keep Bradley Manning safe?”
“Keep him out of the box,” I indicated, in reference to his being held in the brig.
“If we still follow the Constitution and due process, he’ll have his day in court, and we’ll see where that takes us.”
I wanted to hear McGovern’s response to Jim Hanson regarding the ultimate political significance of the leak of the apparent ISI plot against Karzai’s life, one not entirely in complete alignment with the stated ISAF goal of propping up a democratic government in Afghanistan.
I said, “Part of the information released in the Afghan war documents – I addressed it to one of the counterprotesters over there earlier – it was revealed that there was at least a suspicion that the ISI had tried to help kill the president of Afghanistan
“And I told them about this, and I was like, ‘Well, do you feel more empowered not knowing that, because this is supposedly on our allies?’ And he said, ‘I already knew; when you pay close attention to this, you can already know it.’
“How is he knowing this stuff?” I demanded incredulously. “Is this going public? Is there some on-the-record source where ISIS is admitting ‘we’re trying to kill Hamid Karzai,’ and he knows? What is up with that?”
McGovern said, “Well, in the initial disclosures, The [New York] Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel dissected them and picked up that kernel of information. It’s not speculation. It’s a report. And it has to do with how the Pakistanis, particularly alumnus of the ISI, have been leading this whole campaign and encouraging suicide bombers and encouraging people to assassinate people?
I said, “And calling themselves ‘our allies,’ right?”
Chillingly, McGovern replied, “Well, I mean, McChrystal did the same thing in Iraq. So why shouldn’t they call themselves our allies?”
No matter where you come out on the Afghan conflict, allowing one’s heart to bleed for the women – cruel victims of the Taliban’s atavistic, misogynistic schemes – or in general for the Afghan civilian casualties, you basically end up a loser. So many of the killers take sleepless nights, sometimes decades away, preoccupied with the slaughter for which they were the harbingers.
However, at the Quantico protest, I ran into Ron Fisher, a 30-year Navy veteran. Fisher says he’s running for a seat in the House of Representatives against Congressman Jim Moran in Virginia’s 8th District, a race Fisher says puts him against a “strong Democrat.” Fisher served on submarine missile patrols that could have killed millions of people, and says that had he followed orders to help use those missiles, he would have been a war criminal. Before the Quantico protest of Manning kicked into higher gear over the subsequent hour, he told me at the base’s lakeside park, “The reason these guys go over there and fight is just because they want to protect their buddies. And they come back; they have tremendous guilt feelings about not being over there protecting each other. It’s – human nature is to protect each other, not to kill each other.”
Last year, reports surfaced in The New York Times that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Karzai, has been conspicuously involved in the illicit trade of opium. Immediately, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell seized upon the report to question California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Missouri Senator Kit Bond, the ranking members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the veracity of the report. Both refused to comment. This denial, whatever its value, seemed functionally tantamount to an acknowledgement – since there would be no reason not to deny the ludicrous and/or defamatory.
A July report in The Washington Post by Dana Priest and William Arkin revealed that over 800,000 people possess Top Secret clearances. The holders of these clearances are supposedly responsible for the information which keeps Americans safe. And it would be naïve and idiotic to suggest that the information which these holders garner while carrying out their usually very lucrative tasks would not affect choices at the ballot box; or that, were the information for which they are eligible commonly held that it would not drastically affect the polls.
Meanwhile, the rest of their fellow Americans are asked to make electoral assessments on the basis of national security without the benefit of that knowledge held by people working within the information stratification system. Slowly and surely, I opine, this stratification system has worked to undermine the most basic tenets of representative democracy.
Adrian Lamo said that he turned in Bradley Manning, first and foremost, because he was concerned that Americans could get hurt. By phone, I communicated this to Adrian, and in that very brief conversation, he told me that should I come upon information of the gravity that Manning had collected, to withhold it from him.
Assange made a daring and very risky move electing to expose documents in this case while attempting to extend the outlet’s “harm minimization” policies to the informants discussed in the war documents. Even Reporters Without Borders has criticized the news outlet’s decisions as reckless. In an interview with Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, Assange has expressed sympathy for a hypothetical and quintessential “old man” who may have turned over the names of Taliban fighters to ISAF. His role in the conflict, apparently deems Assange, is not as a belligerent; thus, he is not worthy of the same scrutiny as the Taliban, NATO et cetera. With this point, surely the Taliban would disagree. And in that respect, Wikileaks has set a specific military agenda.
Intriguingly, while Assange has claimed that he sought out the White House before the release of his report, in order to acquire help in weeding out civilians from the report, the White House has denied that they received any contact from Wikileaks prior to the release of the Afghanistan war documents. Quod erat demonstrandum, a party is lying or, administratively, insufficiently competent.
Regardless, The Times of London has been quoting anonymous experts claiming that the informants mentioned in the report – which, if named at all, Assange would surely claim slipped through the cracks – will be under hunt from the Taliban. Indeed, they printed the words of a Taliban spokesperson who said that, indeed, the informants will be pursued.
Wolf said, “I don’t know whether anyone thinks this is going to harm soldiers. I think that no matter what information had been leaked pertaining to the Afghanistan war, any other hot spots or whatever, this information can harm our soldiers. It’s the same thing as why do we want to have this national security clause in the shield law. It’s because the anything the government doesn’t want to happen that they want to have control of they invoke that it will harm our soldiers. This is the most effective language to use with the general population to ensure that they stay on the government’s side or come back to the government’s side.”
However, so much as throw a stick in Washington, and you’ll smack someone who will say that Assange’s work has done an extreme disservice to the benefit of the American people as a whole, and especially to the American soldiers in Afghanistan. Whom Wikileaks consulted in order to redact these names is merely an object of speculation at this time; however, whoever they consulted did not perform an entirely complete task. According to The Times of London, there are in fact many names of informants in the war documents.
Moreover, The Times of London quoted a Taliban spokesperson expressing eagerness to hunt down the informants, for they “know how to punish them.”
At broadest truism, war is an enormously complex social conundrum. And Wikileaks’ apparent failure to remove, as Assange intended, the names of these informants constitutes a substantial challenge to the outlet’s stated mission.
Manning is in now in solitary confinement at Quantico, likely kicking himself for having revealed leaking those Reuters employees’ murdered in a Baghdad suburb by helicopter. Assange said that the accounts of the conflict that had previously been publicly available had not accurately represented the dangers in the raw footage, an edit of which Wikileaks would release under the name “Collateral Murder.”
On August 3, Marc Thiessen wrote a column for The Washington Post claiming that Wikileaks’ release of the Afghan war documents “arguably constitute material support for terrorism.” This past month, Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers said that should Manning be convicted for releasing the Afghan war documents, then the private would have committed a capital offense.
Upon releasing the war documents, Assange said that he thought that those who were concerned about having potentially jeopardized the United States’ role in Afghanistan should consider the damage done to the Taliban’s reputation.
Lamo is an MIT-trained hacker who has made a name for himself exposing security flaws in corporate and governmental computer structures before revealing these flaws to the bodies which unwittingly instituted those security flaws. Over instant messenger, Manning approached Lamo, and told him his reasons for having sent Wikileaks the information. The information he had seen, in Manning’s eyes, constituted a prime example of wealthy first-worlders exploiting the meek and the suffering in the interest of selfish gain.
For this story, an American defense contractor contacted me to say that his own employer had told him not to access Wikileaks.org. The Pentagon has issued similar warnings to its own employees, although, at the time of this writing, not to the Taliban.
Interview with Jeremiah Prevatte (Marine Corps Base, Quantico, August 8th)
TSB: So what draws you out here? Why’d you come here?
“Well, I think that obviously Bradley Manning have the guys to put something out there that would, you know, impels our inner human nature and to bring that to the light to the public is a very noble indeed in my opinion. I mean, I’m one to think that everything’s pretty much backwards in this power structure that we have. And so he did a good act in my opinion.
TSB: Did he commit a crime?
“I do not think he committed a crime.”
TSB: You don’t think that he committed a crime?
“Well, whoever – well, I guess it depends – semantically speaking, the law’s been created by someone else, and he broke that law. And he broke their rules. But as far as – I mean, screw those laws. Like, we need to – you know, he’s showing something that we need to understand in order to – in order to move forward, I think, in a positive direction into a non-aggressive, peaceful world where we can – where we can get along not through domination and force.
TSB: So Wikileaks released this information. Now, of course, he hasn’t been – like, I think he – as far as I understand – and some people are saying that he released the Afghan war documents or he’s charged with that. I thought he was just a person of interest in it. So maybe I’m wrong here. But I was just curious – if informants to the U.S. – to ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, that it’s called, are basically hurt by the Taliban as a result of their names being inadvertently released, does it change your view of the leak itself?
“Well, I think that – so explain. From what I understand, you’re saying that there’s people’s names that are being released by –
TSB: There were people who were against the Taliban who were Afghans. And Julian Assange tried to get all of those names out of there, and he redacted and even censored, ironically, part of the document because he was only trying to expose the belligerents; that is to say, the Americans, NATO, ISAF, Taliban, al Qaeda, et cetera and whatnot. So I’m curious what do you think about the fact that – does it change your view of the leak that inadvertently those informants’ names got released, and they could be put in jeopardy because the Taliban’s going to be like, “We’re going to go kill you now,” essentially, you now?
“I think it’s really definitely a tough question.”
TSB: Yeah, definitely.
“I personally don’t think we should have been there in the first place. So it’s circumstance that’s put these people in this position, and obviously we’ve already killed how many innocent civilians in Afghanistan?”
TSB: McChrystal even said we’ve shot an amazing number of people, and he wasn’t convinced any of them were, like, doing something wrong.
TSB: He openly said it. He said something worse maybe than we found out in these documents, you know?
“And, I mean, who knows what good on our own moral compasses what’s going to be better that comes out of this? You know, it’s really unfortunate that the Taliban might kill someone. But that’s not Bradley Manning’s fault. If someone else decides to take a gun and shoot these people, that is their decision to do so, not Bradley Manning’s — Bradley Manning is not empowering anyone to pick up a gun. He’s providing truth and information, and information does not make people act. It’s the individual’s choice to act. So I don’t believe that – do you know what I’m saying?”
TSB: Yeah, I do know what you’re saying. I actually spoke to these counterprotesters over here. And some of these people, they just want him dead. I mean, one of them has a poster that says — you know, just – you know, “hang the traitor” and that “Code Pink loves Osama bin Laden.” How do you react to people like that? What do you feel about them?
“Well, it’s hard to — it’s hard to not — you know, to feel upset by it, but I definitely — it definitely kind of makes me upset. But, you know, it’s — the statements, I think, are kind of different from the people because I think we all kind of have the same moral center. It’s just we’re not agreeing on the information around the issue in a sense.
TSB: Like what information?
“Well, it’s kind of the idea of — well, if you don’t think 9/11 was an inside job, then — you’re going to have a different view of the reason why we’re in this war if you don’t have a particular understanding of the history of our nation and the empire that we’re building and also a certain, you know, political leaning, you’re going to — you’re going to believe — you’re going to think a better outcome is going to come with a different course of action.”
TSB: Do you think — do you think if they thought that 9/11 was an inside job that would change their view of basically the leak of the documents if they were given what you see as proof of that?
“I mean, who knows? But I think it could. I think it possibly could. I mean that having an understanding that, you know, we’re cannon fodder; you know, we’re just as much cannon fodder for these wars that — you know, I don’t — I wouldn’t take the course that other people have. So why do I have to follow that in my life? Why do I have to be cannon fodder, you know, for these wars that, you know, I didn’t start?”
Interview with John Mosher (Marine Corps Base, Quantico, August 8th)
TSB: All right, so what do you think about — what do you think about — I mean, did he commit a crime?
“Absolutely not. I mean, he was just, you know, giving out information that needed to be given out about the war crimes that was happening in Afghanistan and Iraq and all that stuff. I mean, there was absolutely no cause or any effect for, you know, him being, like, placed charges against by I’m guessing the U.S. government or the — you know, the military, the Army.
TSB: So, you know, I noticed — by the way, I just want to say I’m not certain — I know that Manning’s been charged for this video thing, but not necessarily the war documents, although I think he’s a person of interest. I could be wrong about this. But I think that’s where it is right now. But maybe he did it. Let’s just say he did it, just for the sake of this.
What do you think — so basically this guy, Julian Assange, head of Wikileaks, he tried to censor out all the names of these non-belligerents, these informants, right?
TSB: And apparently he didn’t get them all, according to The Times of London, and some of them slipped through? And a Taliban spokesperson supposedly is saying, “Oh, well, we’re going to find these people; and we’re going to kill them.” So what do you think about — I mean, does that change your view of the leak? I mean, does that make you think that maybe it was a bad idea? Or maybe it — I mean, what does it makes you think about the leak? Does that —
“No, the leak wasn’t bad at all, like, either/or, because we gained information that we really needed to know. I mean, everyone pretty much had a conception that, like, you know, of war crimes and all that stuff because especially with the videos about, like, you know, with the Gitmo Bay and everything and how they were mistreating, like, everybody that was, you know, sentenced there. Like, there was basically already [a graph] that there was going to be war crimes happening in Afghanistan, Iraq, especially since, like, you know, apparently there’s been guerrilla warfare and all that stuff. It’s king of reasserted the whole, like, idea that what’s happened we actually have proof now. So, no, I don’t think the leak was bad at all.
TSB: And what do you — I mean, you obviously — I presume you think we should pull troops out of Afghanistan, right?
TSB: That would be your course of action. So, I mean, what does that – do you think that overall even not military engaging this could leave the women in Afghanistan in a poorer condition? I mean, obviously, maybe you saw the cover of Time magazine this week. And they’re arguing “Oh, well, this is — if we leave Afghanistan, they’re going to cut their noses off; cut their ears off.” I mean, what do you think about that? Do you think that that’s hype? Or do you think there’s truth to that? What do you think?
“I think it’s mostly hype. My personal belief is that — I mean, like, that doesn’t really seem to follow the Muslim religion. I mean, the Muslim religion is pretty much like Christianity and everything, but the — you know, with the whole Jesus — you know, they’re saying he’s the prophet and not the messiah and everything. They’re generally — like, the Muslim faith is pretty — it’s pretty peacekeeping in itself. I mean, there’s like fanatics, but there’s fanatics for any other religion. And so I don’t think that. I think it’s just all hype.”
Interview with anonymous counterprotester (Marine Corps Base, Quantico, August 8th)
“I don’t want to see an innocent man railroaded, but I also don’t want him released without a trial. If he turns out a guilty at the trial, then he’s guilty of treason, and I want him hanged by the neck until he is dead. And may God have mercy on his soul.”
TSB: But are you talking about the video? Or are you talking about the Afghan war documents?”
TSB: Both. Well, did you know that the information that’s in the war video actually was mentioned in a book by an embedded Iraq journalist, a journalist that was actually embedded there?”
TSB: Actually, his name escapes me. But I just read this in passing, but it was definitely mentioned in a book. In fact, Mr. Hanson (ph) is familiar with this, if you’d like to ask him about it.”
“Whose book was the video in?”
MR. HANSON: I don’t remember, but I know it was discussed.
TSB: So I mean do you think that — in that, if it was mentioned before, why is it particularly important, the raw footage, if an imbedded journalist was able to get that information out before?”
“Classified information is still classified, even if it’s already been exposed. And anybody who’s been anywhere near a security classification system knows that.”
“My dad went berserk one time when he saw classified information published in The Washington Post not as an expose just in passing in article. He said, ‘That’s classified. How did they find that out?’ And I said, ‘What?’ And he said, ‘I can’t tell you.’ And I’m like, ‘You’re my dad. What do you mean you can’ tell me?’ He said, ‘It’s still classified.’”
TSB: Right, right, right. So what do you think about the release of the Pentagon Papers? Do you think that Daniel Ellsberg belongs in jail for helping that happen?
“That was before my time.”
Interview with Erik Bird, Ph.D., mathematics, University of Michigan; 2007–2009, formerly Cryptological Analyst, NSA, (Marine Corps Base, Quantico, August 8th)
TSB: Well, I was kind of curious just about what you felt about – it was impression there was a lot of lack of capability at — like, at the NSA, like in data management, just in just basic data management. It’s not done very well, right? Like —
What do you think about just basically the idea that some people who when they released these documents they tried to redact all the informants, but the informants, some of them got through, the Times of London has reported, and that some Taliban spokesperson supposedly said, “We’ll find them and we’ll kill them.” So does that make you think the leak’s a bad thing?
“No, I think it’s a good thing.”
TSB: You think it’s a good thing?
“I mean, it may have been a good thing had that been redacted. I mean, I — but overall I think —
TSB: Do you think it’s ethical to even redact the informants if you’re going to release that sort of thing?
“Well, I can see a little — you know, you don’t want to someone be killed because of a leak. I mean, I don’t think it would — you know, I don’t know. It depends on the situation, I think. It depends on how much risk you’re putting that person in, right? In my opinion. But it would be hard to determine.
TSB: What did you do for the NSA?
“I got a PhD in mathematics. It’s a very common — there’s a mathematics development program at the NSA. So I went there. I was there for two years.”
TSB: So what do you think? Do you think that Assange could have possibly established an electronic system where people can really submit documents and the NSA can’t know about it – I mean, and have pulled it off?”
“Well, I think that modern cryptography is not breakable by the NSA. I believe that. “
TSB: Oh, really? Okay. So actually Marc Thiessen, who is a member of the American Enterprise Institute recently was incredulous about this in an editorial he wrote for The Washington Post in which he argued that Manning should go to jail and spend the rest of his life in a box or even get killed. He said that it “elicited guffaws” at the NSA, the idea that you could submit a document anonymously and they wouldn’t about it. So you think that he’s just an idiot, right?
“Well, yeah, I think they can do it. I mean, it’s just like viruses, computer viruses. That would be the main attack that I think the NSA could use against that kind of thing. But if you use your computers intelligently, if you use cryptographically, you can — the NSA can’t break it. In my experience and from what I understand of modern cryptography. I mean, like, it’s pretty widely known in, like, the mathematics community where – you know, like, the mathematics community is where attacks on cryptography take place.
TSB: So what did you think should happen to Manning? Did he break a law? And, two, should he go to prison? And if he doesn’t go to prison, why? Is there whistleblower provision? What gets him out of this, if anything?
“Yeah, hopefully, there’s a whistleblower provision. I mean, I can understand that he may have broken the law in letter because he probably –— you know, if he did this, right? I guess that’s debatable.”
TSB: You know about this guy, Adrian Lamo? Do you know about this guy?
“Oh, yeah, yeah. The other hacker who – yeah, yeah, yeah.
TSB: He committed obviously some very extremely serious crimes. And he was told by – I don’t know if you know the background on this, but he was told by Bradley Manning, “Oh, I did these things; I was trying to do the right thing.” But this is how basically Manning got caught for the video at the very least, okay?
“Right, right, right. Yeah.”
TSB: So do you think that it would have been reasonable of Lamo to assume after his own hacking career that he was being monitored on AIM? I mean, is that a very secure channel? I mean, I’m just saying —
“Well, yeah, I mean, I think if you don’t pay close attention, it’s — you could be monitored. You know, it’s like — you have to be very careful. And I think Wikileaks is very careful. That’s my impression of what Wikileaks is, is it’s a very careful organization with very — you know, like, people who know about cryptography, people who know about, you know, computer architecture and computer science, and they’re making sure that it’s very secure. It takes a lot of effort, I think, to make things very secure.
“I mean, just securing a room, like, making sure that someone doesn’t put a bug in your room, that’s not an easy thing to make sure, right? So that’s where you have problems. You have problems where, you know, you have to be careful. And to be careful enough, you have to put a lot of effort into it.”
TSB: A recent report released by The Washington Post by Dana Priest called “Top Secret America” revealed that 800,000 Americans hold, I think, at least Secret if not Top Secret clearances. When we’re asking voters to make the responsible decisions about defending their own lives using the military, do you feel that we’ve jeopardized that notion by keeping so many people in the dark about what their military’s actually doing.
“Yeah, I think that there’s a big problem with that. Yeah, I mean, I think we need more transparency in the military. I 100 percent believe that. “
TSB: Why did you leave the NSA?
“Oh, I got fired.”
TSB: Why did they fire you?
“Well, I was trying to –”
TSB: Leak documents? I’m just joking. (Laughs.)
“So I really think that they have an incredible lack of capability, especially in, like, data-mining. And you want, like, really high-quality military intelligence, right? You don’t want a situation where, you know, Dick Cheney can manipulate military intelligence to, you know, do whatever his goal is to do.”
TSB: Right. As Ray McGovern points out.
“Yeah. So I think it’s actually very important to have very high-quality military intelligence. And I think that is almost certainly not true. And that was shared — not only I had that opinion, but I had other members of the graduation program at Michigan who came back from working in military intelligence who certainly, you know, said ‘military intelligence’ was a contradiction in terms. I mean, and my experience is — and, you know, my experience is also that there’s a lot of military contractors who are just milking the tax dollars. It’s obscene. It’s like —– you know, there’s like modern data-mining techniques like Google. Like, Google is like a huge data-mining company, right?
“And there’s an open-source software called Hitup, which is to some extent copying some of the software infrastructure that Google has. And it was used at Yahoo. Microsoft has done a deal with Yahoo with Yahoo that — I don’t know if that might cut out some of Hitup being used at Yahoo. But it was the main data-mining software at Yahoo. Anyway, this is — so it’s open-source. It’s free. And there was a contract for IBM to, you know, essentially re-do it, reinvent the wheel. And it wasn’t going very well. Like, there wasn’t very – it was not a very high-performing software suite. And there was free, open-source software available. Yeah, so that offensive to me, and I was trying to help.”