The Case Against Alleged WikiLeaks Supplier Bradley Manning Takes a Strange Turn

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The military hearing that will determine whether Bradley Manning will receive a court martial for his alleged role in leaking documents to WikiLeaks took a strange turn. In a courthouse in Fort Meade, Maryland, a prosecution witness testified that he found thousands of State Department cables on Manning's computer, but those cables did *not* match those released by WikiLeaks.

If the cables found on Manning's computer don't match the ones WikiLeaks has, the defense can argue that Julian Assange's outfit may have had a different source for the documents. Wired's Kim Zetter was in the courtroom and filed a report on this dramatic moment, which could become a lynchpin of the defense's case.

Special Agent David Shaver, a forensic investigator with the Army's Computer Crimes Investigations Unit, testified Sunday that he'd found 10,000 U.S. diplomatic cables in HTML format on the soldier's classified work computer, as well as a corrupted text file containing more than 100,000 complete cables...

But Shaver said none of the documents that he found on Manning's computer matched those that WikiLeaks published.

Shaver wasn't asked how many cables he compared to the WikiLeaks cables. In re-direct examination, however, he noted that the CSV file in which the cables were contained was corrupted and suggested this might indicate that it had not been possible to pass those cables to WikiLeaks for this reason. The defense objected to this assumption, however, noting that Shaver could not speculate on why the cables were not among those released by WikiLeaks.

The revelation is a bit confusing, but it could be the first chink in the prosecution's forensic case against Manning.


Image: Reuters.
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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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