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7 Jun, 2010 22:57

WikiLeaks informant exposed by former hacker

The US government has arrested a US Army intelligence analyst for allegedly handing over classified US combat videos and State Department materials to WikiLeaks.

Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is serving in Iraq and recently contacted a hacker online and told him that he leaked data to WikiLeaks.

Adrian Lamo is a journalist and former hacker who hacked into the New York Times website in 2004. Hackers and data leakers commonly reach out one another to discuss their exploits.

We [Wired.com] recently published an interview with Adrian and I believe Bradley Manning, the army specialist, saw the interview and he sort of sensed a kindred spirit in Adrian for a number of reasons and contacted him. The conversation started out very personal and then it got into, very quickly, the discussion of leaks essentially identifying himself as having done this,” said Kim Zetter, a reporter with Wired.com.

Zetter said Lamo is routinely contacted by fellow hackers who discuss their exploits and he usually does not turn them in. She believes however that Lamo’s felt the information Manning released to WikiLeaks could have been a threat to national security and chose to report him to the authorities. Lamo felt Manning was indiscriminately giving documents to WikiLeaks without regard to the content.

Many rely on websites like WikiLeaks for access to events and documents that would otherwise remain secret. Some are now questioning the security and anonymity of the sites, given that an informant’s identity has been leaked. Wikileaks’ credibility, however, will not likely been affected by this case since they did not leak the informant’s identity themselves.

The army is still investigating the matter and it is unsure what the charges against Manning will be. He is currently in protective custody. Proof that he downloaded the documents and uploaded the information to WikiLeaks is required to charge him further. Chat records between Lamo and Manning are not enough, according to Zetter.