Wired.com: Lamo/Manning Wikileaks chat logs contain no unpublished references to Assange or private servers (Updated)


Wired.com's Kevin Poulsen and Evan Hansen have confirmed key details concerning unpublished chat logs between whistleblower Bradley Manning and informant Adrian Lamo. Responding to questions on Twitter, Poulsen wrote that the unpublished portion of the chats contain no further reference to 'private' upload servers for Manning, while Hansen indicated that they contain no further reference to the relationship between Manning and Wikileaks chief Julian Assange.

U.S. Army Pvt. Manning, who allegedly sent 250,000 diplomatic cables and other secrets to Wikileaks, awaits trial in Quantico, Virginia. Wikileaks, working with newspapers in Europe, has so far published about 2,000 of the cables, with minor redactions.

U.S. prosecutors are said to be building a case against Assange. Such a case would, according to legal analysts, have to prove he actively helped Manning leak classified information rather than act merely as a journalist working with a source.

There is already discussion in the already-published part of the logs of a hypothetical secure FTP server. But public statements by Lamo suggested that such a server may in fact have been provided for Manning to upload classified documents, leading to intense debate over the unpublished part of the chat logs. Wikileaks supporters—most notably Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald—urged Wired to reveal more information. Wired balked, citing journalistic privilege and the need to protect the privacy of sources and subjects.

Poulsen's comment appears to suggest Lamo's claims cannot be sourced to the remaining chat logs, only to the published sections or other communications. Along with Hansen's tweet, that leaves no new smoking guns in the unpublished portion or the logs, and little to suggest the degree of collaboration between Pvt. Manning and Wikileaks that prosecutors may need to pursue charges. Assange, who is neither a U.S. citizen nor resident there, is currently on bail in England, where he faces extradition to Sweden over unrelated allegations.

Notes and screenshots of the tweets follow after the jump

[Sean]: Above, a screenshot of an exchange I had over Twitter today with Wired Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen. If you find the last 72 hours of Wikileaks/Wired/Greenwald/Poulsen back-and-forth confusing, you aren't alone. Both sides have published lengthy attacks on the other which, while presumably intending to answer questions, have left many bystanders scratching their heads. Rob Beschizza summed up a lot of it earlier today, but here's my short summary:

• There has been wide speculation that the United States will attempt to prosecute Julian Assange by claiming he somehow coerced or convinced Bradley Manning to give him the classified US documents Wikileaks has been publishing. At the very least, the US may try to prove that Manning received some kind of special treatment from Wikileaks/Assange.

• Adrian Lamo has made statements to various news agencies in which he suggests that Manning told him Assange set up some kind of private or "special" FTP servers for his use. Obviously, a private server could be considered special treatment.

• Assange has publicly denied this on numerous occasions, claiming Wikileaks received the cables through their normal submission system, and that he never heard the name "Bradley Manning" until it was published in the press.

• Lamo claims that when he turned in Manning to the government, all of Lamo's hardware and data were seized by the feds, leaving him without a copy of the chat logs between himself and Manning.

• Before that happened, apparently, he gave the complete logs to Wired News (wired.com). Since we understand that they have only published 25% of those chat logs so far, logic follows that they (and possibly the Washington Post) are the only ones (other than the feds) with access to the full logs. Wired News know what is actually in them and perhaps more importantly, what isn't. They have so far refused to publish or comment on the content of the other 75% of the Manning/Lamo chat logs.

• This has become an issue, (most vocally noted by Salon's Glenn Greenwald) because of Lamo's interaction with the press. He's made claims (like the one about the private server) that are impossible for reporting journalists to fact-check without having access to the chat logs.

• The assumption has been that the unpublished portion of the chat logs are relevant to these issues.

• After all the huffing and puffing, the situation boils down to one question, which was posted at heykevinpoulsen.com: "The central issue is simply Wired refusing to confirm or deny what Adrian Lamo claims is in the unreleased chat logs."

Earlier this evening I posted that link on twitter and Kevin Poulsen responded to me saying they'd already answered that question. I asked him to clarify and after a bit of discussion, he made the statement screenshotted above. At about the same time, Evan Hansen, Editor in Chief of Wired.com responded to Glenn Greenwald with this:


You see what they just did there? Kevin and Evan both independently verified that in the unpublished portions of the chat logs between Adrian Lamo and Bradly Manning there is no further reference to private FTP servers, and no further discussion about the relationship between Manning and Assange.

That's kind of a big deal, because the published portions of the logs do not support or back up the statements Adrian Lamo seems to have been making. And that would mean that his claims are based solely on opinion, not based on evidence in the chat logs.

IANAL, but this would not appear to be good news for anyone attempting or threatening to prosecute Julian Assange and/or Wikileaks.

What could have been a smoking gun now looks more like an empty water pistol.

UPDATE [Sean]: When I stated in this post that the logs do not back up Lamo's claims, I was referring to the unpublished logs based on the clarification I'd just received from Kevin Poulsen. I made the assumption, perhaps incorrectly, that readers were familiar with the already published logs but it seems some people are just reading them now for the first time.

Given that those logs have been public for months now, anything incriminating in them has already been seen and noted a bajillion times over— that's my assumption, anyway. There is some confusion about the already-published reference to an FTP server, and some people suggest that this backs up Lamo's claim. But I read these logs very carefully before making any comment, and didn't come to that conclusion.

The section in question is as follows:

(02:48:52 PM) Lamo: How long between the leak and the publication?
(02:49:18 PM) Manning: some time in february
(02:49:25 PM) Manning: it was uploaded
(02:50:04 PM) Lamo: uploaded where? how would i transmit something if i had similarly damning data
(02:51:49 PM) Manning: uhm... preferably openssl the file with aes-256... then use sftp at prearranged drop ip addresses

(02:52:08 PM) Manning: keeping the key separate... and uploading via a different means
(02:52:31 PM) Lamo: so i myself would be SOL w/o a way to prearrange
(02:54:33 PM) Manning: not necessarily... the HTTPS submission should suffice legally... though i'd use tor on top of it...
(02:54:43 PM) Manning: but you're data is going to be watched
(02:54:44 PM) Manning: *your
(02:54:49 PM) Manning: by someone, more than likely
(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
(02:56:53 PM) Lamo: how does that preference work?
(02:57:47 PM) Manning: veracity... the material is easy to verify...
(02:58:27 PM) Manning: because they know a little bit more about the source than a purely anonymous one
(02:59:04 PM) Manning: and confirmation publicly from earlier material, would make them more likely to publish... i guess...
(02:59:16 PM) Manning: im not saying they do... but i can see how that might develop
(03:00:18 PM) Manning: if two of the largest public relations "coups" have come from a single source... for instance
(03:02:03 PM) Manning: you yeah... purely *submitting* material is more likely to get overlooked without contacting them by other means and saying hey, check your submissions for x...

I've bolded the two parts I believe are relevant. In the first part, people are citing Manning's answer to Lamo's question as evidence, but this ignores the fact that Lamo's question is hypothetical. The question is presented as hypothetical, so I read the answer as hypothetical, too. Taking the answer out of context makes it sound like Manning is saying he used that system, when in fact he's merely suggesting the the type of system Lamo might use if he was in this situation. That's how I read it, anyway.

The second bit is worth noting because it suggests Manning was submitting files somewhere also used by other submitters‐ hence the queue they might get lost in— and the reference to after submitting something, someone needs to take further steps to let Wikileaks know about it. To me, that doesn't sound like a preferential setup, or a private or secret FTP server setup for someone specific.

That said, I didn't talk to Manning or Lamo, and I only have these logs to go on. Your interpretation may be different. But I don't see this conversation as evidence of anything special or preferential as Lamo has suggested, which is why I said the logs don't back up Lamo's claims. —Sean Bonner.