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Updated: August 3, 2010 02:39 IST

MIT grads implicated in WikiLeaks probe

Narayan Lakshman
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In this July 30, 2010, photo released by ABC, Defence Secretary Robert Gates during his interview with Christiane Amanpour predicted that only a small number of U.S. forces will come home when the mandated withdrawal begins. Photo: AP
AP In this July 30, 2010, photo released by ABC, Defence Secretary Robert Gates during his interview with Christiane Amanpour predicted that only a small number of U.S. forces will come home when the mandated withdrawal begins. Photo: AP

The saga of WikiLeaks continued over the weekend with revelations that a military officer suspected of supplying the whistleblower website with confidential documents had been aided by several graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The Boston Globe newspaper reported that a 23-year-old recent MIT graduate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Defence Department investigators had interviewed him to determine whether he and others in the local computer hacker community had helped army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, a key suspect in the leaks according to Pentagon officials.

Other media reports noted that Adrian Lamo, a California-based computer hacker responsible for turning in Mr. Bradley to the authorities in May, had claimed that he had “firsthand knowledge that someone helped Manning set up encryption software to send classified information to WikiLeaks.”

Mr. Lamo, said to be cooperating with the investigation, reportedly refused to name the person. However he added that Mr. Manning’s associate was part of a group in Boston that had worked with WikiLeaks. The Associated Press quoted Mr. Lamo as saying that the software had enabled Mr. Manning to send classified data in small bits so that it would seem innocuous: “It wouldn’t look too much different from your average guy doing his banking on line.”

Meanwhile the MIT graduate who spoke to the Boston Globe said that he categorically denied that he had any role in helping Mr. Manning leak the documents, saying, “I did not help him or know about it before it happened.”

Legal, moral areas of culpability

In related developments, Defence Secretary Robert Gates turned up the heat on WikiLeaks saying in an interview over the weekend that that he was “mortified, appalled... and angry”. He further warned that there were two areas of culpability — legal and moral. He added that while legal culpability was “up to the Justice Department and others [and] not my arena” on moral culpability, “the verdict is guilty on WikiLeaks”.

In discussing the impact of the leaks on the U.S.’ Afghanistan strategy, Secretary Gates said, “We are not leaving Afghanistan in July 2011.” Instead, he said that was when U.S. forces hoped to begin a transition process and a thinning of U.S. army ranks.

On timelines, Mr. Gates sought to deflect criticism that the announced drawdown might strengthen the hand of the Taliban later in 2011. He said, “The pace will depend on the conditions on the ground... The President has been very clear about that. And if the Taliban are waiting for the 19th month, I welcome that, because we will be there in the 19th month, and we will be there with a lot of troops.”

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