I haven't generated thoughts on the content, so here's my less intellectual, but more entertaining, question:  Whodunnit?  I'm presuming a single party.  I'm also presuming that they are going to get caught, though the spouse and I spent some time imagining how you might steal such files without getting caught.  The theories of the perpetrator we came up with:


  • Someone who doesn't know much about IT, and stole the files in the brief window between the release of the defense files, and Bradley Manning's arrest for releasing them.  This presumes that Wikileaks is staging its releases for maximum effect.  The leaker is going to be fired and/or go to jail.
  • Someone who doesn't know much about IT, and stole the files thinking that they won't get caught.  This presumes that the leaker is a total idiot.  The leaker is going to be fired and/or go to jail.
  • Bradley Manning, who gave Wikileaks more stuff than we thought.  If he's actually facing 52 years, the marginal penalty for the additional file stealing is probably minimal.
  • Someone who has legitimate access to the computer of someone who legitimately accessed these files (child, spouse, whatever).  This presumes that the actual leaker either doesn't know or doesn't care how much trouble the owner of said computer will be in.  The leaker and the person who let them get into their computer are probably both in big trouble.
  • Someone who stole the laptop of someone who legitimately accessed these files.  The thief probably won't be caught, but I imagine everyone in the government's going to have to sit through a lot of tedious lectures on data security.
  • A hacker who got into the state department.  The hacker may never be caught.
  • Another government or military employee who stole someone else's password.  I give them a 50/50 shot of getting caught, maybe less if they are in IT.
  • Someone in IT at the state department, or other government agency, who used an administrator password.  
  • Someone in IT at the state department, or other government agency, who stole a backup tape (we rejected the possibility that they stole hot-swappable hard drives; presuming State's servers are in a standard RAID configuration, you'd have to steal two out of three drives from the server, and it would be a pain in the ass to put them into a new server without accidentally wiping the data).
  • Someone in IT at the state department, or other government agency, who was handed a laptop to scrub full of classified documents.
  • Someone in IT at the state department, or other government agency, who received an urgent request to recover a bunch of top secret classified files that someone lost when their computer died or they accidentally deleted them.
What I do not think happened is that someone in IT simply used their own login and then "erased the traces"; traces are surprisingly hard to erase unless you have unlimited time to work unobserved, and given the scrutiny that's bound to be applied, I wouldn't risk this unless I could "erase the traces" by immersing the server in a fiery pool of magma.

Of everyone, the IT folks have the least chance of getting caught, but also, I think, the least chance of having done it. Stealing a backup tape, the most obvious solution, would be perilous if State has even elementary tape control systems like bar codes.  It would also be tricky to acquire the right equipment--expensive, and hard to do without leaving a paper trail.  Backup systems and spare tapes are the sort of thing you order over the internet, or through a corporate invoice system; you do not walk into Best Buy with a wad of cash.

Besides, for most IT people, the server is a vast repository of unnecessary files kept by the bloviating sheep who use their computers, interesting only in that they take up an extravagently excessive amount of space on the server.  Even if they wanted to leak, unless there's a big folder called "Secret Embassy Communications" they wouldn't know where to look.

Of course, I wouldn't exactly put it past someone in the state department to have created a folder titled "Top Secret Embassy Communications: Please Steal and Give to Julian Assange".  IT people are constantly being astounded by the new and dangerous tricks their users think up.

Reader thoughts? What am I missing?

Update:  Stratfor says it was Manning.

Update II:  If it was Manning, the stupidity of this is really quite breathtaking, on many fronts:

  • Did he not realize that the more documents he downloaded, the more likely he was to get caught?
  • Does Assange not realize that every new release probably adds years to Manning's sentence, or does he simply not care?
  • Releasing diplomatic cables does not quite go with the tag line to the Bradley Manning Support Network's website:  Exposing war crimes is not a crime!  There's little war crime in the cables I've read, and a lot of ordinary diplomacy, which will now be harder to do, since presumably people will be afraid to speak openly to us, and State department officers will not want to put their thoughts in writing.  Since diplomacy is the alternative to war, this does not seem like a good trade.

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