Leaked Names Shuttled to Safety, Witness Says

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – Political persecution is still a real threat for people named in cables that Pfc. Bradley Manning disclosed to WikiLeaks, an ambassador who headed a “Persons at Risk Working Group” testified Friday.
     Michael Kozak made the revelation as he spoke of the “mitigation efforts” to prevent harm from befalling those identified in the more than 250,000 State Department telegrams that WikiLeaks published as Cablegate.
     This stash of documents was just one category of leaks that has the 25-year-old Manning exposed to a century or more behind bars as he awaits sentencing for the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history.
     As head of the WikiLeaks Persons at Risk Working Group, Kozak said part of his duties entailed “helping people relocate.”
     “Getting out of the immediate environment was seen as a way of mitigating the risk to them, and really the largest one, but there were subversions of that depending on where the people were going and what kind of immigration status it might be,” the ambassador added.
     Even as of two weeks ago, “some people have not been able to regularize their status in the places that they’re in and we have to help them in that respect,” Kozak continued.
     Maj. Ashden Fein, the lead prosecutor, asked Kozak to estimate when “people will complete their mission.”
     Kozak replied: “There’s no cutoff to this – that if people are in a bad situation, you might have a more sustainable situation.”
     The State Department faces new requests for aid because media outlets around the world continue to use WikiLeaks cables as a resource, thus drawing attention to previously unknown names, Kozak said.
     “I would say that the greatest damage is that for people coming in and talking to us and trying to work with us to promote the advance of human rights and democracy in their countries, it’s created a chilling effect on people,” Kozak said. “They can’t be sure now that what they say to us is going to stay confidential, or whether it’s going to get broadcast around. It’s meant that some people, some activists in democracy abroad on the human rights field, because of the damage that occurred in the first place, are no longer able to be active. You just lost some leaders in that field. But the longer effect is the credibility effect.”
     Continuing a general pattern of State Department testimony, all references to the names and numbers of the people affected were classified. Kozak finished his testimony in classified session.
     On the first day of the sentencing hearing, Brig. Gen. Robert Carr, who headed the Information Review Task Force investigating the leaks, said he found no evidence that any intelligence source was injured or killed because of Manning’s leaks.
     In a phone interview, retired diplomat Brady Kiesling anticipated what may have been said in closed court Friday and expressed skepticism that Kozak could cite many examples of democracy activists imperiled by WikiLeaks disclosures.
     “In each case, the leaks from WikiLeaks would tend to exonerate those people to show they are exactly who they say they are,” said Kiesling, who spent more than 20 years in the Foreign Service.
     Typically, the spy agencies of repressive governments would have already known who these activists are, and they would have tried to “sex up” their activities to craft paranoid narratives against them, Kiesling elaborated.
     “This is a political game that has nothing to do with WikiLeaks and has more to do with internal politics in these countries as they’re trying to say that pressure for democracy is part of an insidious foreign hand,” he said.
     If large purges occurred, that information would have been leaked, Kiesling added.
     As for chilling effect, Kiesling opined, “You have to be brave in these circumstances to talk honestly with a foreign government about human rights. Certainly, the Manning case hurt that, but it didn’t kill that conversation. It simply reminded people of the dangers involved.”
     Kozak took the stand Friday after the previous witness, a former information security chief for the State Department, conceded that she did not face “tough questions” in the wake of Cablegate.
     Capt. Joshua Tooman, one of Manning’s military defenders, provoked the testimony on cross-examination.
     “Nobody asked you tough questions about the fact that this happened?” Tooman asked former chief information officer Susan Swart.
     Appearing defensive, Swart asked, “Did I feel blamed? I didn’t feel blamed, no. There was enough understanding with my, no, I don’t think so.”
     Manning accessed the cables on the Net-Centric Diplomacy (NCD) database, a program designed by the private contractor Creative Information Technology to promote broad intelligence sharing of data between the State Department and the Department of the Defense in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
     The program lacked password protection and operated on a system of trust that individuals with the proper security clearances would use it for official purposes.
     In describing his ability to exfiltrate the telegrams, Manning told an Internet chat buddy that the “state dept fucked itself … placed volumes and volumes of information in a single spot, with no security.”
     Last week, lead defense attorney David Coombs called that comment “a pretty accurate assessment of what the State Department did.”
     The State Department’s Deputy Inspector General Harold Giesel had said in a September 2012 report on the system’s vulnerabilities that “progress in addressing the NCD weaknesses that made the WikiLeaks incident possible has been very slow.”
     Manning leaked cables marked “SipDis,” meaning that the government intended to distribute them on the SIPRNet, a database made for wide government distribution. More sensitive tags included “NoDis,” for no distribution; “ExDis,” for executive distribution; “Roger,” for intelligence distribution; and “TerRep,” for terrorism-related matters.
     Of the Cablegate disclosures, more than 133,000 were unclassified, more than 100,000 were “Confidential” and roughly 15,000 were marked “Secret.”
     Swart said the WikiLeaks disclosures forced the United States to significantly restrict the use of the database
     Prosecutors contend that this change hurt the ability of agencies to communicate with each other, and that this is ultimately harming national security.
     “I believed that the intent of the system was correct,” Swart told lead prosecutor. “If you’re on a system and you’re cleared to handle classified information – that you’re going to handle it appropriately.”
     Password protection that would have allowed the State Department to track NCD users would have been a “bureaucracy burden,” she added.
     “Besides it would have been resource intensive to manage that, Swart said. “I think just the bureaucracy of getting log-ons for everybody and monitoring them basically across the world would significantly limit the access. Just the bureaucracy of managing all that from the State Department’s point of view.”

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