Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Manning Intelligence Leaks - On Trial

PFC Manning on trial                                []

Click here for related story [Fox News]

Current news is focused on PFC Manning's trial for "treason" and leaking national security data which in turn, tied to Julian Assange's revealing those leaks to the world via WikiLeaks. They want Manning executed, and Assange burned at the stake.

Glenn Greenwald: FOIA Guy
Pseudo-patriotic popinjays now abound, demanding that Manning be tried, convicted, and executed for these gross breaches of security.

We don't doubt there were actual documents of intelligence value in this breach of 700,000+ files, and we should expect that such intelligence information should be protected. Then again, much of what was released consisted of reports of questionable military operations, while others were diplomatic cables commenting on corrupt local politicians and/or calling them blithering idiots or horses' asses.

All damning information; well, at least, embarrassing. 

But, we won't go into the issue of whether most of those documents, which were State Department dispatches, should have been classified at all, or have carried notices beyond "FOUO/LIMDIS'
[For Official Use Only/Limited Distribution]. 


We're still waiting for investigations into the Oval Office leaks which released sensitive intelligence information on methods and sources used in covert operations in Yemen, or the numerous other White House leaks on intelligence operations.

There is also that little matter of former CIA Director [and SecDef] Panetta's disclosure of TSC operational details to Hollywood reps during the creation/filming of the film
"Zero Dark Thirty". It seems the DOD Inspector General's report was suppressed.

We do wonder how it was that Manning's unit had access to State Department communications;
that being the case, would such units have been privy to all the correspondence between Benghazi and Foggy Bottom?

We also note that, given this revelation that the security of the US Intelligence Community communications amounted to being slightly more secure than a sieve, the US Intelligence security crowd demanded that WikiLeaks owner, Adrian Assange, be remanded to the US for high treason
-- awkward, since that charge could be levied only against a US citizen, which Assange is not [he's an Aussie living in Ecuador's embassy in London. 

Assange: Too gay to rape women
So, the US persuaded the Swedes to charge Assange with rape [later reduced to "sex allegations"], which was odd, since he is gay; and, we do recognized Sweden is noted for its rather bizarre sexual boundaries -- as portrayed in the popular movie series:  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Gracious!  Weird Sex! in Sweden?  Heaven help us!
The Swedes are still atwitter that their monarch has been the subject of "sex allegations"; could Mr Assange and King Gustaf have been co-conspirators, or more?

But, those are minor details when it comes to chest-thumping and covering up a massive security breach caused by an incompetent IT security system in our Intelligence and Military communities

But, we digress.

Did you see him download those files?
We are told PFC Manning is a product of today's digital Intelligence world.  His security clearance was supposedly based on a background investigation, perhaps even an SBI [Special Background Investigation] for special access to compartmented intelligence.

His accusers allege he was issued a laptop, complete with DVD tray and USB ports, with "Open Source" access to the Internet, in addition to secure intelligence links, and all he needed to do was to enter "keywords" to access the most sensitive data available within the Intelligence Community. 


Supposedly, these transfer mechanisms were authorized for the convenience of sharing information between analysts so that all levels would be equally knowledgeable of critical intelligence.  And, even though he downloaded "only" Secret information, the data he accessed and released to the public threatened national security.

Hmm.  That COULD be why the data was classified Secret -- or not.

One critic suggested that all troops in these secure facilities be searched as they departed their operations centers, which of course, would be difficult in a war zone; but, theoretically, that would prevent them from exiting while secreting thumb drives.

Alternately, someone could/should have been monitoring the internet for big downloads of classified data. 

But, of course, that is one function of the National Security Agency [lots and lots of employees - but, the exact number is classified], and of the Department of Homeland Security [240,000 strong], and thousands of counter-intelligence agents of each component of the Intelligence and Military Communities; apparently, one of those hundreds of thousands of employees noticed that files classified SECRET were floating around on the Internet.

The flaws in these arguments:

1)  Manning likely had no more than a Secret clearance, and it would seem that may have been granted at the local level.  He would probably not have had a Top Secret [TS] clearance The SBI [Special Background Investigation] since investigating/granting a TS/SCI clearance/access generally takes longer than PFC Manning's time in service. It involves in-depth personal interviews with friends, family, teachers, employers, etc., to gauge the individual's maturity and responsibility, with the ultimate question being

How often did he sell you secrets?              []

"Would you trust this person with a position of trust and responsibility?"

....a) Based on press reporting, more than a few of those who should have been interviewed in the SBI process noted that candidate Manning had questionable character issues which would not have been favorably adjudicated in his clearance review.

....b) But, perhaps those clearance procedures were conducted hastily and electronically, by-passing standard procedures.

....c) We suspect that PFC Manning's clearance adjudication process [normally extensive] may have been circumvented for the "convenience" of his unit, since he was apparently granted access to "only" Secret data. Nonetheless, he gained access to diplomatic correspondence which would/should have required separate access, and a separate review by those granting a "need to know" level of access.

2) Computer Security:

......a) In the early days of desktop and "portable" computers, the security standard was established at the Pentagon as part of DODIIS [DOD Intelligence Information Systems] that the CD/DVD and floppy disk equipment and USB connectors would be removed from computers operating in secure environments
-- specifically to prevent the unauthorized removal of classified data.

......b) We don't recall those standards having been changed.

......c) Analyst exchanges of classified data would thus not take place via CD/DVD/Thumb Drive, but rather, would take place on a tiered access process within a closed network
-- not via "shoe-leather interface" as some would presume.

The Intelligence Net                     []
We're familiar with those IT security requirements since we were part of the team that wrote them based on security studies we developed as far back as 1981 as part of an on-going Intelligence Community IT security program -- which, as far as we know, continues to this day.

The question, of course, is whether those requirements were employed in PFC Manning's work environment. If they were not, the chain of command was negligent. That would include supervisors at his local unit, and adjudicators all the way up the chain of the Intelligence & Security Command.

Which brings us back to our original comment:

"Why have none in PFC Manning's chain of command been investigated and charged."