Shaky Link Drawn Between Manning and Airstrike Video

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – A computer forensic expert found no sign that WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning used military computers to transmit footage from a deadly airstrike on Afghanistan.
     Months before his trial, the 25-year-old soldier acknowledged he sent WikiLeaks more than 700,000 files, including diplomatic cables, incident reports from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, profiles of Guantanamo detainees, and a video of an airstrike in Baghdad that WikiLeaks titled “Collateral Murder.”
     Among the many of the facts of the case that remain unresolved, however, is the transmission of video taken from a helicopter that participated in an airstrike on the Farah province of Afghanistan. An estimated 86 to 147 civilians were killed in the incident, which is known as the Garani airstrike.
     The video never has never been published and has not yet been played in open court.
     On Monday, the government submitted an archived Tweet from WikiLeaks’ Twitter feed that supposedly shows someone leaked the video to the secret-busting website.
     The Jan. 8, 2010, post states: “Have encrypted videos of US bomb strikes on civilians http://bit.ly/wlafghan2 we need super computer time http://ljsf.org.”
     While Assange has trumpeted the video as evidence of a “war crime,” David Shaver, a forensic expert for the prosecution, testified Tuesday that the video does not actually depict the airstrike, only a flight over battle space.
     The Tweet meanwhile does not identify Manning as the source of the video or give the date of its receipt.
     Manning offered in a proposed February plea to admit that he sent this video, but on a different date than prosecutors alleged. The government refused to accept that his plea for a so-called “lesser included offense” and insisted they had evidence to support the count as charged.
     Some have speculated that prosecutors need their timeline to build conspiracy charges against WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange. Now, the government must prove its timeline to meet the burden for that charge.
     Shaver, the forensic expert, testified Tuesday that no transfers large enough to transfer the video took place on either of the military computers that Manning used.
     The surprising testimony poked several holes in the government’s version of events. For example, prosecutors had tried to support the Farah video count by tying Manning to Jason Katz, a former employee of New York’s Brookhaven National Laboratory who was fired for “inappropriate computer activity.” Prosecutors believe he tried to decrypt the Garani video.
     Shaver said he found no evidence that Katz and Manning ever communicated.
     Manning also allegedly told Adrian Lamo, a former hacker who turned him into the authorities, that he sent the video to WikiLeaks, but the logs do not indicate when he made the disclosure.
     Trial has been moving surprisingly quickly for the 25-year-old soldier because the defense has stipulated to the expected testimony of dozens of government witnesses.
     Two of those read into the record Tuesday complicate Manning’s contention that he carefully chose to give WikiLeaks roughly 700,000 files, out of “hundreds of millions,” because he believed their disclosure would not cause harm.
     Manning has insisted that so-called significant action reports, or SigActs, included in the files neither name intelligence sources nor signal future operations. Such reports typically contain information that the military generally releases in 72 hours, Manning has said, emphasizing that he viewed them as “historical data.” The reports Manning leaked were several years old.
     WikiLeaks released the files under the title “war logs.”
     A pair of government witnesses challenged Manning’s defense by stipulation.
     Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Hoskins, of the Navy Reserves, said he reviewed Afghanistan logs that showed sensitive information about IED attacks and “details of movements of U.S. friendly forces.” The logs also described the “vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, infrastructures, projects, plans, or protection services relating to national security; and limitations and vulnerabilities of US forces in combat area,” Hoskins said.
     Retired Lt. Col. Martin Nehring, a trained meteorologist for the U.S. Air Force, inspected the Iraq reports marked “Secret.” These, he said, contained dozens of categories of compromised sensitive information, such as information about the “threat of attack in an area by a specific group.” They also “confirmed that a previously reliable source of intelligence provided information,” and “detailed [the] kidnapping of a servicemember,” Nehring said.
     Because dozens of witnesses have entered testimony by stipulation, others who ordinarily would not have been called to the stand for over a month from now may testify as early as next week, a military spokesman said.

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