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NSA and DNI respond to damning news articles on overreach of spying programs

The Wall Street Journal published an article on Wednesday revealing new details that prove the NSA's surveillance reach is greater than previously believed:

The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans. In some cases, it retains the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with Internet technology, these people say.
And the NSA responded with this statement:

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Opinion: History will pardon Manning, even if Obama doesn't

Was the "draconian sentence" delivered in Pfc. Manning's case simply a matter of deterrence, asks John Cassidy at the New Yorker? "From the beginning, the Pentagon has treated Manning extremely harshly, holding him in solitary confinement for almost a year and then accusing him of aiding the enemy—a charge that carries the death penalty...It certainly looked like an instance of powerful institutions and powerful people punishing a lowly private for revealing things that they would rather have kept hidden."

What is the point of Manning's 35-year sentence?

A deterrent, writes Amy Davidson. "A frightening, crippling sentence was the only way to make sure that no one leaked again, ever. What it seems likely to do is chill necessary whistle-blowing and push leakers to extremes. The lesson that Edward Snowden, the N.S.A. leaker, seems to have drawn from the prosecutions of Manning and others is that, if you have something you think people should know, take as many files as you can and leave the country." [The New Yorker]

Pfc. Manning transitions gender: 'I am Chelsea.'


A self-portrait snapshot Bradley Manning took, and emailed to his supervisor in the Army in April, 2010, prior to leaking government documents to Wikileaks.

One day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking secret government files to Wikileaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning today announced via NBC TODAY the decision to live life as a woman.

We first wrote about this aspect of Manning's story in 2010, after realizing that a series of chat logs circulating on the internet--which we'd published without understanding the subtle references within--spoke to Manning's desire to transition.

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Facing life in prison, Manning apologizes for "hurting" U.S., supporters say leaks benefited America


Photo: "Free Bradley Manning" flyer on a pole, seen on 3rd Ave in Seattle, photo by Bryan W. Jones in the Boing Boing Flickr Pool.

Yesterday at Fort Meade, Maryland, Pfc. Bradley Manning spoke in his defense in the sentencing phase of his court-martial. Col. Denise Lind, the judge in this trial, may determine that Manning must be sentenced to up to 90 years in prison for leaking government documents to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. In his statement before the court, Manning apologized for the "hurt" he inflicted on the United States, and referenced the gender identity issues that triggered a personal crisis in Iraq. Snip from his unsworn testimony:

First your Honor. I want to start off with an apology. I am sorry. I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I am sorry that it hurt the United States. At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues-- issues that are ongoing and they are continuing to affect me.

Although they have caused me considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for my actions. I understood what I was doing and the decisions I made. However, I did not truly appreciate the broader effects of my actions. Those effects are clearer to me now through both self-reflection during my confinement in its various forms and through the merits and sentencing testimony that I have seen here.

Manning's defense is doing what any competent legal team would: trying to convince the judge to reduce the sentence as much as possible.

But Rainey Reitman at Freedom of the Press Foundation argues that while this strategy is understandable, the world should know that the 25 year old former Army intelligence analyst has nothing to apologize for because "The public has benefited tremendously as a result of Manning’s disclosures."

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Bradley Manning expected to speak at trial today; email with female selfie released


A self-portrait snapshot Bradley Manning took, and emailed to his supervisor in the Army in April, 2010, prior to leaking government documents to Wikileaks.

We've been following the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning here at Boing Boing, and I have visited the trial periodically to live-blog the proceedings in person. Today is expected to be a significant day at Fort Meade: the 25-year-old former Army intel analyst is expected to make a statement to the court, as Judge Col. Denise Lind weighs the sentence he will receive. Kevin Gosztola, Nathan Fuller, and Alexa O'Brien are among the few reporters/bloggers who have been there daily, for months. Alexa says:

Kevin is liveblogging here, at Firedoglake. I've gathered some of their tweets from the Fort Meade media operations center below, summarizing witnesses' statements and the vibe around the press center (in a word, tense). Look for today's transcripts at the Freedom of the Press Foundation website later today (the court isn't releasing official transcripts, but we've sent stenographers, crowd-funded and permitted by the judge with your help). Here are yesterday's transcripts: morning, afternoon.

One of the big reveals over the last few days of the trial: "My Problem" [PDF] an email Manning sent on Saturday, April 24, 2010 to his then-supervisor, former Master Sgt. Paul Adkins. The message amounted to a confession that Manning was transgender, and felt unable to transition within the military environment in Iraq.

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When Poitras met Snowden


People hold masks with the face of Edward J. Snowden at a hearing in Brazil on the N.S.A.'s surveillance programs. Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters.

Peter Maass in the New York Times has a fascinating tick-tock/profile on how filmmaker Laura Poitras (who has produced online op-doc films for the NYT) connected with NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Seconds after she decrypted and read the e-mail, Poitras disconnected from the Internet and removed the message from her computer. “I thought, O.K., if this is true, my life just changed,” she told me last month. “It was staggering, what he claimed to know and be able to provide. I just knew that I had to change everything.”
She was right: her life would never be the same. And, not to bury the lede here: Maass has a Q&A with Snowden himself today.

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Bradley Manning expected to speak in court Wednesday, "my problem" email surfaces in trial


Paul David Adkins, drawn by Clark Stoeckley.


U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning departs Fort Meade courtroom July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Today at the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the former intelligence analyst who provided Wikileaks with hundreds of thousands of classified government documents, Former Master Sergeant Paul David Adkins testified. He explained to the court his "deficient response" to several incidents involving Manning which now, in retrospect, are understood to have deserved more attention.

Manning's attorney David Coombs says the defendant will "take the stand" tomorrow, Wednesday August 14. Whether he will do so as a witness or an unsworn statement is not clear.

A few months before the leaks to Julian Assange, Manning sent Adkins an email titled “My Problem,” with an attached photo of Manning dressed in a wig and makeup, presenting as female. Snip from that email written by Bradley Manning to his superior officer, which was presented in court today:

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Opinion: Edward Snowden is a patriot

Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, writing in Politico: "Even as [US President Barack Obama] grudgingly admitted that the timing, at least, of his suggestions was a consequence of Snowden’s actions, the president declared, 'I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot.' When you look at what has changed over the past two months, though, it’s hard not to wonder, 'What could be more patriotic than what Snowden did?'”

NSA firing 90% of its sysadmins to eliminate potential Snowdens


The NSA is going to cut 90% of its 1,000 sysadmins in a bid to reduce the risk of leaks. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was a network administrator, charged with keeping the machines running on the network of vast data-centers used by the NSA to harvest, store and analyze unimaginably large quantities of data.

So, after this change, the NSA -- which now has nearly every compromising communication about every human alive -- will no longer have to worry about its sysadmins leaking its secrets. But it will have downsized its operational staff (and thus its capability to repel hackers and attackers) by 90 percent. I feel better already.

This is like a plutonium storehouse reducing the risk of guards selling fissiles on the black market by firing all of them and leaving a couple of dudes at the door with walkie-talkies.

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NSA, on US soil, systematically searches Americans' cross-border communications without warrants

In the New York Times today, Charlie Savage has another new, important story on the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. He reports:

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Sentencing phase continues in Manning trial; State Dept. argues leaks caused damage after admitting they did not

The State Department treated Pfc. Bradley Manning's leaks to WikiLeaks as a "very, very serious crisis," an ambassador testified at Ft. Meade Monday, denying reports that he told Congress otherwise two years ago. The words attributed to him then: the cables were "embarrassing but not damaging." Adam Klasfeld of Courthouse News reports from Manning's ongoing court-martial. The defense hopes to reduce prison time with the argument that the leaks caused less damage than the "hacker hysteria" they sparked would suggest.

What Is ‘Top Secret’?

David E. Sanger at the New York Times: "When far too much information gets classified, nothing is really classified. Respect for the system erodes when information readily available in open sources is ostensibly guarded with high-level classification."

The argument for a "secrecy beat" in news organizations

Dan Froomkin at Columbia Journalism review: "It’s hardly been a secret among national security reporters and civil libertarians that the sort of intelligence activity we’re hearing about via the leaks was long part of the Bush-Cheney surveillance regime, and that the Obama administration picked up the ball and ran with it. The Washington press corps just no longer considered such activities newsworthy."

Stephen Colbert on Bradley Manning trial: "We, the American People, Are the Enemy"

On the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert nails it on the Bradley Manning verdict: we have met the enemy, and he is us.

UPDATED: Extra charges for Bradley Manning because he used a computer


Update: EFF has retracted this post.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Trevor Timm explains a disturbing and overlooked fact about the trial of Bradley Manning; the charge-sheet against him included two separate felonies under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, an ancient anti-hacking statute that has been used as a club to threaten security researchers and activists like Aaron Swartz. The CFAA makes it a separate offense to leak classified information using a computer, such that anyone caught doing so can be charged twice: first under the Espionage Act and again under the CFAA.

This gives tremendous and terrible leverage to prosecutors, who come to the negotiating table with double the ammo: "We'll drop the CFAA charges if you plead guilty to the Espionage Act charges" (or vice-versa). The reality is that there's nothing special about using a computer to leak documents -- indeed, these days you'd be hard pressed not to use a computer -- now that photocopiers, fax machines, phones, cameras and even the daily paper are all built out of computers.

Several Congresses have failed to modernize the CFAA, because the DoJ has forcefully argued that the ability to threaten people with decades in jail for simply using computers has given them the leverage to force "bad guys" to plead guilty, rather than getting a day in court.

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Manning court-martial: sentencing phase continues, with government witnesses


My copy of Bradley Manning's charge sheet, handed to me by an Army public affairs officer as I was escorted into Judge Lind's courtroom to hear the verdict on July 30, 2013. I scribbled "guilty/not guilty" next to each charge as she read her verdict. [XJ].

The sentencing phase in the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning is ongoing at Fort Meade, Maryland. On Tuesday, judge Col. Denise R. Lind found the 25-year-old former Army intelligence analyst guilty of 20 of the 22 charges the government brought against him. Manning was convicted on six counts of violating the 1917 Espionage Act. He was found not guilty of the most serious charge, "aiding the enemy," which carried a possible life sentence--but the guilty charges add up to a potential 136 years in prison. The actual sentence he receives is likely to be shorter, according to military law experts.

I've created a Twitter list of reporters who are at Fort Meade in the media operations center, about a quarter-mile away from the closed courtroom where the proceedings are taking place. Absolutely no laptops, phones, or other communication devices allowed inside court, but back at the media center, press can use laptops to transmit updates when court is not in session (more on restrictions ">in this previous post). On the Twitter list, I included other central figures in the trial like Manning's attorney, David Coombs, and reporters who aren't there every day but are producing notably reliable reporting on the trial.

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After Bradley Manning's mixed verdict, trial moves to sentencing phase

On Tuesday, Col. Denise Lind, the military judge in Bradley Manning's court-martial, found the former Army intelligence officer guilty of 20 of 22 charges brought by the government against him.

The 25-year-old Oklahoma native was accused of leaking classified information while stationed in Iraq to Julian Assange, who published it at Wikileaks.org and provided news organizations with access. Manning was found not guilty of "aiding the enemy," the most serious charge which carried a possible life sentence, but was found guilty of 6 Espionage Act charges and other offenses that could add up to 136 years of prison time.

Today, at 930am Eastern time, Judge Lind reconvened court at Fort Meade to begin the sentencing phase of the trial.

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Yes, there's a Taiwanese animated explainer video of the Bradley Manning verdict

Thanks to Jessica Wu of nma.com.tw for pointing us to this (inevitable) video explainer of yesterday's news in the Bradley Manning trial. I was there, right in the courtroom as the verdict was read, and I can tell you it looked exactly like this.

Bradley Manning verdict: transcript, via Freedom of the Press Foundation

Here is a transcript of today's verdict in the Bradley Manning case, provided by Freedom of the Press Foundation court stenographers: PDF link.

FotPF's Trevor Timm writes that the military court's "decision is a terrible blow to both investigative journalists and the sources they rely on to inform the public."

Our Boing Boing coverage of the verdict is here, and my notes from this morning at Ft. Meade are here.

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EFF on Bradley Manning verdict, and Hacker Madness

Electronic Frontier Foundation legal director Cindy Cohn has published an original take on the Bradley Manning prosecution at the EFF's blog. In it, she recounts how government prosecutors portrayed the 25 year old former Army intelligence specialist as uniquely menacing because of his knowledge of computers and digital tools. In other words, exploiting the judge's lack of familiarity with technology. Cohn describes this as "Hacker madness."
[T]he decision today continues a trend of government prosecutions that use familiarity with digital tools and knowledge of computers as a scare tactic and a basis for obtaining grossly disproportionate and unfair punishments, strategies enabled by broad, vague laws like the CFAA and the Espionage Act. Let's call this the “hacker madness” strategy. Using it, the prosecution portrays actions taken by someone using a computer as more dangerous or scary than they actually are by highlighting the digital tools used to a nontechnical or even technophobic judge.
Bradley Manning Verdict and the Dangerous “Hacker Madness” Prosecution Strategy [eff.org, via Trevor Timm]

Link: Boing Boing's Bradley Manning trial coverage archives.

Bradley Manning found not guilty of aiding enemy, but convicted on lesser charges, faces up to 136 years

Pvt. Bradley Manning was found not guilty of aiding the enemy today, but convicted on multiple lesser counts, including violating the Espionage Act.

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World awaits verdict in Bradley Manning's trial

Xeni Jardin reports from Ft. Meade, Md., on the trial of the accused Wikileaks whistleblowerRead the rest

Manning trial judge: verdict coming 1 p.m. Tuesday

Presiding judge Col. Denise Lind says that a verdict in the trial of Pvt. Bradley Manning will be delivered at 1 p.m. EST Tuesday. Follow Xeni on Twitter for the latest from Fort Meade.

Closing arguments continue in Bradley Manning trial, verdict may come as soon as weekend

A ruling in the Bradley Manning court-martial could come as early as this weekend from the military Judge, Col. Denise Lind. Reporters are back at Ft. Meade for what is likely to be the final day of closing arguments and proceedings before that decision happens. Yesterday, press reported of newly extreme policing of their activities by armed military guards, which was later found to be the result of an order by the judge. Below, a few morning tweets from news reporters, bloggers, and artists who are back at it again today. Army Internet has been periodically shut off for press, and they're not allowed to bring their own mobile internet devices.

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Bradley Manning trial judge increased press security "because of repeat violations of the rules of court”


Col. Denise Lind, the Judge in the Bradley Manning military trial. Pic by Clark Stoeckley (twitter: @wikileakstruck).

Huffington Post reporter Matt Sledge read my Boing Boing post earlier today about reports from the Bradley Manning trial of dramatically-increased security measures for press. Those measures including armed military police standing behind journalists at their laptops, snooping on their screens.

He reports that the new, oppressive security measures were ordered directly by the judge because reporters were violating court rules (which no one can find a copy of), and carrying "prohibited electronics." For this, the government needs armed military police standing right behind reporters as they type, in the media room.

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Journalists at Bradley Manning trial report hostile conditions for press


UPDATE: Bradley Manning trial judge increased press security "because of repeat violations of the rules of court.”


Journalists and bloggers covering closing arguments in the military trial of Wikileaks source Bradley Manning are reporting a far more intense security climate at Ft. Meade today, as compared to the past 18 months of pre-trial hearings and court proceedings.

@carwinb, @kgosztola, @nathanLfuller, and @wikileakstruck have tweeted about armed guards standing directly behind them as they type into laptops in the designated press area, being "screamed at" for having "windows" open on their computers that show Twitter in a browser tab, and having to undergo extensive, repeated, invasive physical searches.

I visited the trial two weeks ago. While there were many restrictions for attending press that I found surprising (reporters couldn't work from the courtroom, mobile devices weren't allowed in the press room), it wasn't this bad. I was treated respectfully and courteously by Army Public Affairs Officers and military police, and was only grumped at a few times for stretching those (silly) restrictions. I was physically searched only once, when entering the courtroom, and that's standard for civilian or military trials.

But the vibe is very different today in the Smallwood building where reporters are required to work, about a quarter mile away from the actual courtroom. Tweets from some of the attending journalists are below; there are about 40-50 of them present and not all are tweeting. Internet access is spotty today. Oh, wait; as I type this blog post, I'm now seeing updates that they're being told they are not allowed to access Twitter at all. Why has the climate changed so much in the final few days of the trial? What is the Army afraid of?

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Closing arguments in Bradley Manning court-martial paint Wikileaks source as glory-seeking traitor

Inside a small courthouse on the Army base in Fort Meade, Maryland, Army prosecutors are presenting closing arguments in their case against Pfc. Bradley Manning, who leaked hundreds of thousands of government documents to Wikileaks.

According to Maj. Ashden Fein today, the 25-year-old former intel analyst betrayed his country’s trust and handed government secrets to Julian Assange in search of fame and glory, knowing that in doing so, the material would be made visible to Al Qaeda and its then-leader Osama bin Laden.

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange running for senate in Australia

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has announced the inauguration of a new WikiLeaks political party and declared his candidacy for a seat in the Australian Senate in national elections to be held later this year. He remains inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has received asylum for more than a year now, so he can avoid being extradited to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning for accusations of sexual assault. [nytimes.com]

Is Judge Denise Lind Bradley Manning’s biggest enemy?

On Thursday at the court-martial of Wikileaks source Bradley Manning, military judge Col. Denise Lind refused to toss out ‘aiding the enemy’ and other weakly substantiated charges by the government against the 25 year old former intelligence specialist. Alexa O’Brien writes about Lind's previous rulings and her history of deference to the prosecution. [The Daily Beast]