WikiLeaks Suspect’s YouTube Videos Raised ‘Red Flag’ in 2008

An Army private suspected of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks was admonished as a trainee in 2008 for uploading YouTube videos discussing classified facilities, according to an Army official with direct knowledge of the incident.

Bradley Manning, now 22, was three months into his 16 weeks of training as an intelligence analyst when about 25 of his fellow students got together to report him for the videos in July 2008, says the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Manning, who enlisted in October 2007, had completed basic training and was receiving his advanced individual training at the Army’s Intelligence Center of Excellence at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

“It was brought up to his command, and his command took action on that,” says the official. “A lot of his actions back then, you couldn’t tell it would come to what it’s come to now, but it was a red flag.”

The videos were messages home to his family that Manning shot in his two-man room in Prosser Village, the barracks for military intelligence trainees at Fort Huachuca. Manning trained the camera on himself, and “was telling them how his day went. But he was giving them a little bit too much information,” says the official. “When you start talking about classified buildings, and classified this and classified that, it’s a no-no.”

The official says Manning did not disclose classified information in the videos, but talked about the base’s SCIFs, secure rooms where classified information is processed — which was viewed as a security risk.

“When you start talking about classified this and classified that, it’s a no-no.”

The Pentagon did not return phone calls Thursday. A spokeswoman for the base confirmed that Manning “received non-judicial punishment for violating rules while an advanced individual training student here,” but would not discuss the details, citing Army privacy policies.

“In a training environment, where we’re dealing with young people who aren’t used to the Army, we deal with a wide variety of folks doing inappropriate things,” says spokeswoman Tanja Linton. “They have issues, and it’s dealt with, and they go on to do great things for the Army and the country.”

Manning, who was 20 years old at the time, was ordered to remove the videos, but did not lose his then-provisional Top Secret security clearance, says the Army official. The official and spokeswoman Linton both say Manning graduated from the class in mid-August 2008.

After his graduation, Manning wound up in the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, where he was stationed until his deployment to Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq in November 2009. There, he served as an intelligence analyst with a Top Secret/SCI clearance and access to classified networks, including SIPRnet, the Army’s secret-level wide area network linked to WikiLeaks’ most high-profile releases.

Sometime after Thanksgiving 2009, Manning reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, after WikiLeaks published 500,000 pager messages from the 24-hour period surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to Manning’s chats with ex-hacker Adrian Lamo, who ultimately turned Manning in to authorities.

”I immediately recognized that they were from an NSA database, and I felt comfortable enough to come forward,” Manning wrote.

In late 2009, by Manning’s account, he discovered the classified video of a deadly 2007 Army helicopter attack in Iraq that claimed the lives of a number of civilians. He leaked the video in February, and WikiLeaks released it under the title “Collateral Murder” in April 2010.

Manning was charged early this month with leaking the Iraq video and improperly downloading more than 150,000 State Department cables from SIPRnet onto his unclassified personal computer. He’s charged with leaking more than 50 of them.

The Army announced Thursday night that Manning had been transported from Kuwait to the Marine Corps Base Quantico Brig in Quantico, Virginia, where he continues to be held in pre-trial custody. His case will now be handled in Washington D.C. The investigation, led by the Army with support from the FBI, is ongoing.

Other leaks Manning claimed credit for in his chats with Lamo include a database of 260,000 State Department diplomatic cables and a classified Army event log from the war in Iraq covering 500,000 events from 2004 through 2009. WikiLeaks hasn’t published those purported leaks, and has denied receiving the diplomatic cables.

On Sunday, WikiLeaks published a different event log of 77,000 reports from the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. Manning did not discuss leaking an Afghan war log in his chats with Lamo. But on Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Pentagon investigators have found evidence on his computer hard drive tying Manning to the leak of that log.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, speaking at a press conference Thursday, blasted Wikileaks and its founder for releasing the logs, following news reports that some Afghan citizens who assisted U.S troops might now face reprisal from the Taliban because they’re identified in the leaked database.

The Army official who knew Manning at Fort Huachuca during the training says Manning was something of an outsider, who was often needled by fellow soldiers for his slight build: 5-foot-2 and 105 pounds. “He’s kind of a scrappy kid, I guess. He was always on the defense because he was such a small guy…. He didn’t seem to have a lot of friends.”

“I hope you don’t portray this as a failure of the command at Fort Huachuca,” adds the Army official. “They did everything they could, but you can’t really identify that someone’s going to do what he’s accused of at that level. You can never tell what somebody’s going to do.”

Story updated to report Manning’s transfer to Quantico, and to add Fort Huachuca’s confirmation that Manning was disciplined during his training.


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