MIT students helped suspect sneak classified docs to WikiLeaks, report says

The two students involved have not yet been identified

Two students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may have helped WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning spirit classified information out of military databases , according to a CNN report.

The CNN story follows comments by Adrian Lamo, a former hacker who first tipped federal authorities about Manning's activities.

Lamo is quoted as saying that two men who attended MIT told him that they gave Manning encryption software and instructions on how to use it to get the data to whistleblower Web site WikiLeaks. Lamo declined to identify the two men, CNN reported.

Manning, an army intelligence analyst, has been charged with giving WikiLeaks a video of a U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Iraq in 2007 that killed 12 civilians, including two employees from Reuters. Manning is also the prime suspect in last week's disclosure by WikiLeaks of more than 90,000 classified military documents detailing the war in Afghanistan.

WikiLeaks' actions have been condemned as irresponsible and illegal by some; others viewed the leak as a legitimate expression of the right to free speech.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks' controversial Australian-born founder, has indicated that he intends to soon release even more classified documents, this time from the U.S. Department of State. His threats have prompted a worldwide hunt for him by U.S. authorities, according to the Daily Beast blog , quoting unnamed Pentagon sources.

Over the weekend, WikiLeaks posted a 1.4GB encrypted file labeled 'insurance file' on its Web site prompting some speculation that the site might decrypt its contents in case any action is taken against Assange.

Meanwhile, a senior volunteer at WikiLeaks was detained for about three hours at a New York airport by customs officials who searched through his laptop computer and other belongings and seized three cell phones in his possession.

Jacob Appelbaum, who has emerged as a sort of de facto spokesman for Assange, was returning home from a trip to the Netherlands when he was detained, according to numerous media reports. During the detention, Appelbaum was questioned about Assange's whereabouts and asked for his opinions on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the reports noted.

Appelbaum, a Seattle-based security researcher who works for the Tor online secrecy project, was also approached by two FBI officials following a talk at the Def Con security conference last Friday. It wasn't immediately clear from the reports whether the FBI officials at the show met with him in an official capacity.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com .

Read more about cybercrime and hacking in Computerworld's Cybercrime and Hacking Topic Center.

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Tags Cybercrime and HackingReuterssecuritywikileaksMassachusetts Institute of Technologygovernment

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Jaikumar Vijayan

Computerworld (US)
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