Report: Pentagon launches "manhunt" for Wikileaks founder. Founder: "Yoo-hoo, I'm in Vegas!" (UPDATED)


[UPDATE, Saturday, June 12: Assange did not appear at the Las Vegas panel discussion last night. His whereabouts are not publicly known.]

In the Daily Beast today, Philip Shenon reports the Pentagon has launched a "manhunt" for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has... just announced he'll be in Vegas tonight. Huh?

The Defense Department is upset at Wikileaks and Assange for publishing a number of secret and sensitive documents, and the "Collateral Murder" video. The big fear now, according to reports, is that Assange has access to up to 260,000 classified State Department cables leaked by 22-year-old Army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning (now jailed in Kuwait after being outed by hacker Adrian Lamo). From The Daily Beast:

The cables, which date back over several years, went out over interagency computer networks available to the Army and contained information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the diplomat said. American officials would not discuss the methods being used to find Assange, nor would they say if they had information to suggest where he is now. "We'd like to know where he is; we'd like his cooperation in this," one U.S. official said of Assange.
Unless this tweet from Wikileaks (presumably Assange himself) is a diversion, if there is a manhunt... they won't have to look far.


Vegas, eh? Then again, maybe he'll be Skypeing in from overseas. The whole thing is feeling awfully Spy Vs. Spy. Like an '80s movie, Wargames-ish, with brilliant but dense hackers sniping at each other from behind DOS terminals and changing the world with shell scripts while the U.S. Military lumbers behind them, bellowing, "ASSSANNNNNNNNGE!" It should be said that at this time, I have no way of verifying the reported "Pentagon manhunt" for Assange, nor do we know where Assange is, nor do we know much about the reportedly-hotly-sought 260,000 "diplomatic cables." The "manhunt" could be one guy with a dot-gov email, not a vast, coordinated effort with all phasers set to kill. But again, we don't know. Yet.

Related: Wired News reports more on the contents of the chat sessions between Manning and Lamo, who turned over Manning to the government.

There's some really key stuff in the transcripts—one incident in particular, about being asked to "[evaluate] the arrest of 15 Iraqis rounded up by the Iraqi Federal Police for printing 'anti Iraq' literature"—all of which sheds light on why the 22-year-old may have been motivated to do what he is alleged to have done (and why he may have been compelled to unload his troubles to a stranger, Lamo, who then outed him to authorities).

The Iraqi federal police wouldn't cooperate with U.S. forces, so I was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the 'bad guys' were, and how significant this was for the FPs," he wrote. But when Manning had the literature translated, he discovered it was a scholarly critique of Iraq Prime Minister Al-Maliki titled Where Did the Money Go?, he wrote. The document was nothing more than a "benign political critique ... following the corruption trail within the PM's cabinet.

"I immediately took that information and ran to the [U.S. Army] officer to explain what was going on. He didn't want to hear any of it. He told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding MORE detainees."

Everything started slipping after that. I saw things differently. I had always questioned the [way] things worked, and investigated to find the truth. But that was a point where I was a part of something. I was actively involved in something that I was completely against.

( * Military censor Rob Beschizza contributed to the hedging and intemperate tone of this piece, as did an unnamed remote source. )


  1. He must have something good. The video was controversial but didn’t affect much so I don’t know what the deal with these wires would be. The American public is unable to affect anything anyhow even if the leaks caused outrage.

  2. It’s the water engine! Those bastards have been hiding it in Iraq all along! Run Julian!!

  3. I hope he has backups on some thumb drives buried in a secret location. They’ll probably waterboard him though.

  4. Once again, I’d like to express my gratitude toward Specialist Manning. Coulda been a hero, instead he’s a zero.

  5. Once again I’d like to remind folks that the steel safe in General Groves office at Los Alamos went through WWII with the default combination set by the factory.
    With that in mind, I’m not surprised that someone could make off with a huge volume of messages.
    Secrecy is a delusion common to governments.

  6. Last week he was invited in a conference in New York but he just made a skype appearance. Apparently his lawyers told him to stay away from the US. I don’t think he will go to Vegas.

  7. Adrian Lamo is not a journalist, he is a snitch, to a man who saw injustice and tried to correct it by whistle-blowing. Any respect I had for Adrian is gone.

    Julian, if you need a place to lay low I have a great bed with your name on it, plus the beach is wonderful this time of year. Just hope this “Man-hunt” is overblown BS.

    To my government: Freedom cannot be obtained under a corrupt system. Freedom of Information, and Transparency are the only things that can lead to a truly free society. Let the corruption come out, and never repeat the mistakes of secrecy again.

    LOVE FOR MANNING, Just wish you could know….
    Oh, and F&@* YOU BP!

  8. I’m not going to make myself popular with this opinion, but I personally think that if Assagne really does have diplomatic cables, then he shouldn’t release them.

    I know, I know, but hear me out for a second: we tend to jump to conclusions whenever the government states its intention to hide something from us, assuming that it must have something to do with illegal or at least highly unethical activity (the Collateral Murder video being the perfect example; I am absolutely in favor of that leak). That’s not the case all the time though, and I think people should consider these on a case-by-case basis, rather than coming to the knee-jerk conclusion that, “It’s a secret document! We should see it!”

    In the case of diplomatic cables, that’s a case where releasing classified information really could have serious consequences. Though we may not like it, deception and secrecy are fundamental to diplomacy and always have been, and to think otherwise is very naive. Nations have recognized this for a long time, and that’s why we have things like unopenable diplomatic bags, which don’t seem advantageous to anyone at first glance.

    The thing is, diplomacy works because countries lie to each other, play other countries against each other for their own gain, and make mutually beneficial exchanges even when both sides don’t give a damn about the well-being of the other nation. The United States does it, and every other country does it, but if it’s only our diplomatic tactics that are brought into the open, we lose a great deal of bargaining power.

    For example (and I’m just making this up off the top of my head), what if these documents reveal that all our goodwill towards Israel is just a sham to have a friendly military presence opposing Iran, and we actually hate them? Israel is pissed at us for using them, Middle Eastern countries are pissed at us for being manipulative and controlling (… ok, more manipulative and controlling), and the region is destabilized further. I think that’s an instance where revealing the truth just doesn’t help anybody.

    Not to mention the fact that most countries use their consuls for surveillance purposes, and I’m not even talking about the illegal stuff, I mean just like reporting back to Washington things like “What’s the political situation like over there? How do people feel about America?”. Nothing wrong with that, but the nation in question would be pretty pissed that they’re under the magnifying glass, even if they’re doing the same thing at their consulate.

    If everyone’s diplomatic secrets were revealed at the same time, that might be one thing, but if it’s just our cables that are out in the open, it would be a disaster. I hope Assagne is smart enough to realize that some things, like blueprints for fusion bombs, are secret for a reason, and that diplomatic cables are among those things.

    … wow, this turned into a blog post. Sorry about that. And before you jump down my throat, I want to say one more time that I support Wikileaks’ mission and have actually donated to them in the past. I know that sounds like a “I’m not racist! I got black friends!” type of argument, but I really am in favor of transparency, just not when it hurts more than it helps.

    1. I am sure that WikiLeaks has obtained classified information and has not released it before. They don’t strike me as sensationalist for the sake of it and they sure have some kind of editorial line, they don’t just release raw info.

      I agree with you that some information should remain secret not to protect somekind of “national interest” but to avoid possible conflict between countries.

      Also Adrian Lamo has psychiatric issues i wouldn’t be so hard on him. Interesting character though, judging by the Wired article(s)

    2. You make an interesting point, but the issue is: If the government has to lie about their activity, then it should have never taken place to being with.

      You said it yourself, their can be mutually beneficial deals without the need to deceive.

      if their is no end to the lies, then their can be no beginning to the future.

    3. @#9 – sloverlord’s comment

      I urge you to consider the leaked video that started this whole thing. It showed my tax dollars being used to murder innocent civilians. I think I have a right to know about these kinds of things. Furthermore, the US military refused to release this video to the public despite repeated requests from the press. These assholes are abusing their right to keep secrets in order to cover up their own asses and prevent their incompetence from being exposed.

      Given that recent example, I am more inclined to trust Julian Assange’s judgement regarding threats to national security vs freedom of the press than I am willing to trust the Pentagon’s.

  9. I would think that it would be in Wikileaks best interest to only reveal sensitive information relevant to the interests and curiosity of Americans, as well as the reset of the world.

    What I mean is, if there are important communications that would only shock higher levels of government (ie nuclear arms communications between countries) and only appear to be political mumbo jumbo to the average person, Wikileaks wouldn’t be interested in revealing it.

    If they have footage of war crimes by the US, or civilians/civilian areas being ravaged by trigger happy apache gunners, I would hope that leaks so the parties involved can be indicted and shamed properly.

    I would assume that’s how it is going to end up.

  10. I think wikileaks knows that though – from what I understand, they don’t have a history of releasing things “just because they can” but mostly when its something they believe is actually important for the public to know.

    Maybe I’m wrong though.

  11. Government secrets are absolutely antithetical to democracy. If we’re going to even pretend to be a democracy, our government cannot ever, for any reason, hide something from us.

    1. That’s not completely true. Governments do have some legitimate reasons to not publish everything in the morning papers. For example what use would it be for you to know where every single troop is right now? Or why should you be able to print aircraft specs, building mappings, response to threat tactics and a lot of other useless info for a single citizen but rather useful for a potential enemy (or some curious/retard/prankster)

      Not all info is made the same. Information overload is almost as bad as no information at all. From those 260k cables how much will be of any significance and not just simple bureaucratic chatter?

  12. Lamo doesn’t know anything about this I’ll bet – they’re playing a game here.

  13. As far as places to hang out when the spies are after you, Vegas is probably not a bad bet. There are cameras absolutely everywhere. As long as you can maintain a high profile there will at least be documentation of your disappearance. Although personally, I think I’d go hang out in Dubai.

    I’m very skeptical about this whole story. It’s no secret that the US intel community wants to destroy Wikileaks. If you asked me to manufacture a casus belli it wouldn’t be far from this. Find some suitably motivated kid and offer him a mission: Play patsy.
    On the other side maybe he gets a big promotion and joins the cadre of nameless operatives, or maybe he gets out of some larger trouble he was already in. Whether he is a true believer or an opportunist doesn’t really matter.

    I can’t think of a better payload of classified info to “leak” than State’s diplomatic cables. Or a better “motivation” for the patsy than opposition to the war. Besides being easier to motivate the patsy with, it’s the perfect place to divide the conquest. You could do the classic “list of secret agents”, but then you lose out on all the secondary targets. Your patsy doesn’t get to play the heroic villain, and you make a whole lot more people question what is really going on.

    Assuming Wikileaks does actually have the leaked data and that the data is authentic, I doubt it will get dumped into the public. Despite the scaremongering, I don’t see any reason to believe that Julian or anyone else affiliated with Wikileaks is interested in anything other than muckraking. The motivation is to expose injustice, I don’t think they will share anything publicly unless they think it has muck in it. Wikileaks is fundamentally a journalistic project, like all journalists they gather data and then filter it into content.

  14. I would think that if Wikileaks actually did have these supposed cables (which they deny), they would release them ASAP.

    The only justification the government has for hunting Assange is that they may be able to prevent him from releasing the cables. Once they’re in the wild, he’s of no value. Unless they just want to make an example of him…but that’s a harder position to justify.

  15. Las Vegas is the site of this year’s Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) conference going on all this weekend (and since yesterday.) My guess is he’s on a panel discussion there.

  16. Xeni – did Rob really work to censor your article, or is that just an in-joke between Boingers?

    Because, if so, I’m embarrassed to say that I’m more interested in inter-BoingBoing drama than I am in the rather alarming story you posted above.

    As for the rest of us, there are awful things countries do in emergencies because they know these things eventually blow over. I think Ellsberg is right – Assange is not only in danger, but it may be mortal danger. Remember the Rainbow Warrior, Ninoy Aquino, the invasion of Iraq, the Maine, US Occupation of (insert country name here,) Mordechai Vanunu – the list goes on and on. RUN!

  17. @sloverlord – Good post, and you make some good points. But let’s take what you wrote:

    “For example (and I’m just making this up off the top of my head), what if these documents reveal that all our goodwill towards Israel is just a sham to have a friendly military presence opposing Iran, and we actually hate them?”

    and flip it on it’s head. What if these diplomatic communiques revealed that The United States LOVES Israel and we will do anything and everything they ask of us? – apologize, subsidize, weaponize? And then people can take a look and say, “Israel? They’re no bigger than New Hampshire. They have few people than Virginia. Why is Israel dragging our government around by the nose in a relationship that is way out of proportion to its stature?”

    That’s democracy – fair, proportional representation and power, and that’s why we need the truth to be apparent to everyone.

  18. I think if he has those documents he should setup several computers at safe key locations with the data encrypted and set to automatically go out if he doesn’t key in a code every so often. a deadman switch to ensure his own safety. the US government has a history of making similar people/problems “disappear”. imho.

    Best of luck Julian! Your work is crucial and invaluable.

  19. Yup. I hope multiple people at multiple locations have the data. If this data truly exists and not a show put on by the U.S. gov.

    I do hope they release it all. People have a right to know what their government is up to. Who they are paying off, countries involved, people involved, games being played/paid by the media etc etc.

    It’s the only way things will turn around and lead to positive change.

    Expose it and expose what the US is doing.

  20. Look, classified means that they don’t tell people FOR A REASON. Specialist Manning committed treason, he could have cost American lives. If the Pentagon wants Assange, it’s probably something that’s classified that would be bad if published, how bad? Possibly international incident bad. He could already be guilty of espionage, and if the Pentagon gets angry enough, Assange will be staring down a barrel of a gun held by a friendly SEAL and never heard from again. Oh, and those of you who live in the US (those of you who don’t, you can ignore this sentence) you may not have a hell of a lot of respect for your military or government (ok, right now Congress sucks) but remember that it was THEM that LET you complain and bitch about how corrupt and evil they are.

    1. Specialist Manning committed treason

      So did George Washington. Treason is as treason does.

    2. it was THEM that LET you complain and bitch about how corrupt and evil they are

      Really? Do they also allow me think my thoughts?

  21. Whatever else the documents contain, from just the bit printed at top it’s clear why the Pentagon wants this quenched: they’re in the midst of a full-scale propaganda war, aimed at the American public, to support their continued growth and activity. These senseless deaths are a result of that action. The Pentagon absolutely does not want people to wake up and open their eyes to what’s going on here.

    Pentagon papers, chapter and verse. “National security” means “it would tend to make us look bad.”

  22. The U.S. military, huh? Isn’t this the same crack (-smoking) organization that, after nearly ten years of searching, has failed to locate the tallest Saudi man to ever be connected to a dialysis machine? Yeah, WikiLeaks dude has nothing to worry about.

  23. subtropolis @sloverlord • #9

    I’m with you. My initial reaction was to make Lamo the bad guy (because it’s too easy) but i’ve come around to believing their release could be catastrophic and am willing to trust his judgment on it. I hope someone at State can sit down with Julian (soonest) for a frank discussion. In fact, i imagine that’s precisely what this “manhunt” is about. They’re likely already trading IMs.

    reCAPTCHA sez: By headland

  24. None of this is real, yet, it’s all hear-say from intelligence sources. I say it is a play and we don’t have enough info – and as such our conjecture here just feeds the play.

    Assange should come forward like a journalist would and hold a press conference, shine a lot of light on this BS and have done with it. This idea that one can hide from these people is BS, and Assange has been playing this for a while now. It’s quirky, like a spy novel and as that may play to increase the effectiveness of the group, it’s interesting to note who Assange’s interlockler is – US intelligence, who’s interests are not served by this play they take one side of.

    I’m losing faith in the whole thing.

  25. The difference between julian and the saudi dude is that the saudi was a us government asset that had family and financial ties to politically powerful people in the us. Some elements of those power groups owe their ability to derive income to his existence.

    Julian has shown that they are willing to destroy everything they are supposed to stand for in order to keep their jobs.

    Which one is the real danger to them?

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