WikiLeaks, MIT, and Lady Gaga: A Guide to Boston's Role in Yet Another National Security Breach

Cambridge's elite academic institutions enjoy a friendly rivalry, but this is getting ridiculous, no?

Sure, that deported Russian spy had a degree from Harvard's Kenedy School of Government -- what self-respecting Ruskie doesn't bleed Crimson? But MIT, not to be outdone, is now (allegedly) implicated in the (potentially) treasonous release of thousands of classified documents relating to the U.S.'s (disastrous and potentially criminal) misconduct in Afganistan. To wit: they -- and we -- are right smack dab in the middle of what's being called the biggest intelligence leak of all time.

Shit's getting a little crazy, so let's try to run down who did it and ran.

PFC. BRADLEY MANNING: The 23-year-old Army grunt is being airlifted back to a stateside brig for possible court martial in conjunction with charges that he WikiLeaked a video of American helicopters laughing as they gunned down innocent journalists and children. He's also, not surprisingly, the Army's prime suspect in the leaking of tens of thousands of classified documents on Afghanistan -- a data set that depicts, in excrutiating detail, the ugliest truths of America's involvement in the war, as well as the names of some soon-to-be-dead Afghan informants. According to the Washington Post and the New York Times, the Army's investigators have been scouring Boston for people who may have helped Manning leak the material, possibly during a trip Manning took here while on leave in January. Today, the Boston Globe reports that an ex-MIT student admitted to talking with Manning about the leak -- but the MIT kid says he totally had nothing to do with anything illegal and whatnot. Also, an unnamed "civilian" quoted by the Times reported being offered "a considerable amount of money" by the Army in exchange for becoming their WikiLeaks mole, and that Army investigators were in Boston "trying to build a network among Bradley's friends to infiltrate WikiLeaks." 

ADRIAN LAMO: The 29-year-old Boston native and former hacker who, after an IM chat with Manning, turned him in to the Feds. Recently diagnosed with Asberger's Syndrome, Lamo is known to Wired readers as "the homeless hacker" for exploits including his prank-tastic voyages onto the servers of Yahoo News, Microsoft, and the New York Times. The Times didn't much like being hacked by a Lamo, and had him arrested in 2003. Despite now being on meds for the Asberger's, Lamo has been running his mouth to every news outlet in creation -- including the Times -- to spread his opinion that Manning had some Boston help in getting all that dirty data from top-secret government computers to WikiLeaks's servers. According to the Globe

Lamo said he thinks the group in Boston provided Manning with software that allowed him to download thousands of documents without alerting network monitors at the Defense Department. He added that Manning had one of his associates in Boston physically provide WikiLeaks with documents he downloaded on CDs. 

WIKILEAKS: They got nothing to do with Boston, but these dudes are straight gangster. Decentralized like a terrorist cell, led by a charismatic douchebag with icewater running through his veins, this largely-anonymous clan of superhero hacks-to-hackers run servers in multiple nations including some super-secure machines in Switzerland, and accept documents through some absurdly-triple-secret encryption process. Damn. In the sour-grapes moment of the year, the non-profit investigative journalism-of-the-future outfit ProPublica wrote that WikiLeaks' release of Afghan war logs was totally not like the Pentagon Papers. Thankfully, Daniel Ellsberg, the man who released the Pentagon Papers, went on Larry King and said the exact opposite -- later tweeting, "Thank you @wikileaks, I've been waiting for this for a long time."  Meanwhile, being associated with WikiLeaks is now something that can get US citizens searched, stripped of their phone, and visited by shady FBI agents. And just the other day, the Wikileaks dudes pulled some spy novel shit and released an additional, gig-and-a-half file that nobody can open yet -- not even the dudes at Wired, who speculate that it's an informational time-bomb that can be unlocked in the case that something really nasty happens to the WikiLeaks site or its founders. That low rustling sound you hear is every journalist in the universe seething with jealousy. WHY WE NO HAVE TOP-SECRET INFO BOMB?

LADY GAGA: You knew she had to be involved -- if only because newspaper editors cannot resist adding her name to the last graph of every story published after 2008. (Guilty as charged.) Here's how the Times slipped it in:

Investigators believe that [Manning] exploited a loophole in Defense Department security to copy thousands of files onto compact discs over a six-month period. In at least one instance, according to people familiar with the inquiry, Private Manning smuggled highly classified data out of his intelligence unit on a disc made to look like a music CD by Lady Gaga. 

But we might as well go back to the source and listen to Manning describe Gaga's involvement in his own words, as described by Wired after looking at transcripts of Manning's IM chats with Lamo, describing how he smuggled a quarter of a million classified documents out of secure areas (and, if Lamo is right, into Boston):

“I would come in with music on a CD-RW labeled with something like ‘Lady Gaga,’ erase the music then write a compressed split file,” [Manning] wrote. “No one suspected a thing and, odds are, they never will.” [sic]

“[I] listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history,” he added later. ”Weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis … a perfect storm.”

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