ABC News’ Kirit Radia and Luis Martinez report: The computer hard drives of a US soldier accused of leaking up to 260,000 classified State Department documents have been sent to Washington for forensic analysis to determine how much sensitive information may have been breached, a spokesman for the department said today.
Army Specialist Bradley Manning is alleged to have obtained thousands of secret cables with the intention of leaking them to the whistleblower website Wikileaks.org, which posts sensitive leaked government and corporate documents online. He is also accused of being the source of a combat video released by Wikileaks earlier this year that showed a US Army Apache helicopter gunning down a group of Iraqi civilians in 2007, including two Reuters journalists.
“Diplomatic Security is assisting in, you know, forensic analysis of the hard drives that -- to just determine -- you know, to verify that in fact the leak took place and also to see if we can identify, you know, which documents within the network were potentially compromised,” State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters.
Manning is currently being held in Kuwait while a criminal investigation is being conducted into how much information he accessed and who he shared it with. The 22 year-old from Potomac, MD obtained the sensitive information he had access to during a posting in Iraq. He was recently turned in by a fellow hacker he confided in online.
Crowley said the Pentagon is leading the inquiry since Manning’s actions were a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. A US official says the FBI is not involved. The Pentagon said it would not comment on the ongoing investigation.
“I know that there is an ongoing criminal investigation into allegations that a particular individual has provided, to unauthorized individuals, classified information. Beyond that I don’t know where the investigation is going, or where it is taking them ,and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any ongoing criminal investigation at this point,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
The Daily Beast reported today that the Pentagon is looking for Wikileaks’ founder, Australian-born Julian Assange, to determine how much information Manning had been passed on to group. The US also fears Wikileaks could be preparing to publish any documents it received from Manning. The Pentagon would not confirm the report. The State Department said it had not contacted Wikileaks. It’s unclear what the US could do to block the group from releasing the documents online since its servers are based abroad.
It’s unclear exactly what the documents contain, but on Tuesday the Daily Beast reported that they “contained information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
“We take this seriously. Any release of classified material to those who are not entitled to have it is a serious breach of our security and, you know, can cause potential damage to our national-security interests,” Crowley said today.
“We're obviously trying to verify exactly what might have exchanged hands here. And we are doing a damage assessment to verify the disclosure, or the leak, and identify, you know, what documents of the State Department may have been potentially, you know, compromised,” he added.