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back to article US Wikileaks investigators can't link Assange to Manning

American media are reporting that investigators are unable to prove that WikiLeaks and its colourful figurehead Julian Assange obtained classified US files from jailed soldier Bradley Manning, allegedly the source of most of WikiLeaks' significant material. If true, this is likely to present serious obstacles to US-based …

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Big Brother

Do not

cross 'The Man'. For The Man is a vengeful Man whose wrath is terrible to behold.

Instead, be obedient to The Man, obey Him in all His ways, this way The Man will ignore you and you will not be harmed. Unless, of course, The Man wants something of yours and then you're completely in the Shit.

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El Reg

"Assange has reportedly signed book deals based on the WikiLeaks affair worth more than £1m, and WikiLeaks itself appears to be a highly lucrative operation, with "seven-figure" weekly revenues mentioned by its payment processor. "

Why do you forget to mention that the proceeds go to defend WikiLeaks and Assange's legal bills?

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Flame

Also forgets to mention

...that there is nothing new in the cables.

That irate wailing in the background is The Reg Hack With No Comment Section who has a personal friend visiting Bradley Manning every week or so.

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Anonymous Coward

nothing new

Maybe not new, but it is interesting to see how the US lean on their allies to get what they want; also how they identify those local politicians & diplomats who see things 'correctly'.

A lot of the cables read like people sending any old stuff to justify their jobs, and you do start to wonder how much the US government sees the world through 'sexed up' messages from bored diplomatic staff sent in order to get themselves noticed.

However I did like the one that prioritised intel requirements, monitoring foreign embassy staff etc, as : Russia, China, France (and no others).

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Black Helicopters

Not even interesting...

Have you not seen every English (American and Brit) spy/spook movie, tv series, drama and or book in the past 60 years?

I'm sure you can go further back than WWII but you get the idea. Its how *all* governments work these days. Looking for leverage that they can apply to get something that they want accomplished?

As to your comment about Russia, China and France... Does US have any direct ties to either North Korea, or Iran? Didn't think so....

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Anonymous Coward

Why?

Why do you imply that their legal bills are millions per week?

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Jobs Horns

Is this referring to ...

Jobs?

Seems a perfect fit.

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Someone posted a copy of the wikileaks mailing list

http://cryptome.org/wikileaks/wikileaks-leak.htm

If you have a read through it you'll find that they went to great lengths to protect their sources, with drop-boxes and various other 'spy-like' trickery. I'm not surprised they are finding it hard to find evidence to link them, this was Wikileaks main purpose after all!

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Manning

So, sleep deprivation does not work, eh?

They should try waterboarding next - eventually Manning will confess that Assange was with him all the time, watching over his shoulder and issuing orders and instructions how to write the files to the CD.

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Big Brother

Why?

The UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) dictates what and how a prisoner.

So if they suspect someone could be suicidal, they take precautions.

Are they bending the rules to their advantage? You bet. Are they breaking the law (UCMJ) ?No.

Don't like it, then don't join the military and don't break the law.

UCMJ doesn't fsck around and you don't have the same rights as if you were a civilian.

This is true in any country that has a military force.

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Well...

Don't disagree with any of what you are saying.

But it does not change the fact that what they are doing to Manning is not meant to keep him from self-harm but to show him the degree of displeasure of the organisation he worked for with his behaviour.

Interestingly, I am now reading memoirs of an RAF officer shot down over Germany and captured in 1941 and he describes a very similar procedure applied to the POW who did not behave themselves in the German camps. The only difference is that the Nazis did not try to pretend it was some sort of "suicide watch".

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Seven figures per week???

Poor old Julian, eh? Life must be tough. A million quid a week and your choice of the left-wing activists to sleep with, even if they do claim it was rape afterwards. I'm in the wrong business...

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He won't see most of it

Legal bills are expensive and I think the pressure will keep on mounting in the future, don't you agree?

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FAIL

You do have to feel sorry though...

Not to Julian, but to all of those poor dupes who are funding his Wikileaks and his lifestyle.

I truly have to blame the public education in both the US and UK for failing to accurately teach history.

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Would it really be helpfull to Manning's defence

if WikiLeaks give him money?

(yes I know a defence fund would not actually be supplying him with financial reward, but I'm sure the prosecutor in the kangaroo court will not have difficulty convincing the judge that he has benefited from financial contributions made by the recipient of the classified documents they are accusing him of having illegally distributed)

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Security tricks

I've always wondered why sensitive data doesn't include unique finger prints embedded it in some way. Imagine that you wanted to identify a particular user was responsible for a leak. Each user has a unique 32 bit identifier. If you could embed 3 or 4 bits of difference between the source document and the copy, you'd catch them in 8 documents. An extra space character, a semicolon instead of a space, a single quote instead of a double quote, a random Z or spurious character. Replacing one word with another that unambiguously means the same thing or an abbreviation / expansion of a word. Things that are going to escape attention unless there are two separate leakers to compare documents between.

Of course, if the US government were smart they wouldn't have allowed someone to do the equivalent of "select * from reports" in the first place.

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Black Helicopters

What makes you think it doesn't ?

'nuff said.

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@DrXym

German phone books use non-existent subscribers to this end.

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And OS Maps

Will always have a mislabelled minor feature so they can prove a map was copied from the OS

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Not just mislabelling

There's a strip of non-existent woodland on one OS map. I know, because I measured that field up for IACS purposes, after somebody questioned the area marked on the OS 1:10000 mapping.

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OS Maps etc.

Similar but different. What I'm proposing isn't fake data. It's mild perturbing of the data such that a small number of sample documents, regardless of which ones they were would be sufficient to identify the user or at least rule out a bunch of suspects.

Imagine if 50% of users get a particular document with a " and 50% with a '. Just a change of a single character cuts the number of culprits down in half. Then do similar perturbing elsewhere a misplaced semi colon, padding at the end of a line, and so on. Even one bit of variance in a page would id a person in 32 documents and I can imagine plenty of ways of packing in more than that.

Perhaps wikileaks could counter some of them (e.g. reformatting the text, upper casing everything, stripping non alpha numeric chars, but could they get rid of them all?). I doubt it.

In the case of electronic phone books and OS maps I suppose the same principle could be applied too. The insertion of fake names is usually a guard against copyright infringement, to prevent the defendant offering an innocent explanation for the infringement because the copy contains the same bogus entries as the original.

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FAIL

Unique Identifier

How do you think they figured it out that it was him in the first place?

Most word processors I've used have had some sort of hash built into the document's meta-data. I know that MS-Office has this option.

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Well-established

It's called a "canary trap" (according to Wikipedia anyway).

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Perturbing

Some of the perturbing would have to be in the font shapes themselves, and even this would assume that the recipient won't convert it to wingdings after OCR scanning it. If the font conversion process is good, it'll make sure that OCR scanning doesn't follow any tricky embedded font substitution commands that might be possible.

Steganography could be employed, but if the recipient does the equivalent of scraping off toast burns to get at the appealing and non-odorous parts, then reconstructing the doc would be childsplay. Then, the person converting it would need to thoroughly mutate and destroy the source disk to rid the evidence. Any and all machines used might have to be destroyed, too, just in case manufacturers comply with national governments that order certain "tricks" be installed in the CPUs. I'm only guessing, but some of those tricks might involve master command phrases that trigger or kick in when decode attempts are made against national security documents. Ever wonder where some of that computer overhead comes from. Might be tiny, but something might still be going on.... Obviously, such machines should never have external communications capability, and probably would be operated in a non-leaky room.

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@Crazy Operations Guy

They figured it out because the guy sobbed his life story out to a fellow hacker who turned him in.

Of course anyone who hits a database and slurps out every single record is probably traceable, but putting in unique identifiers would certainly nail him a lot more easily for a disclosure.

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@dssf

I am assuming the reports were stored as plain text in a DB, so I've suggested ways that you could modify that data in ways which wouldn't immediately be obvious.

Human beings typed out these reports so there are bound to be typos, variances etc. You exploit these to hide your own, as well as substituting some words with synonyms, abbreviations etc. Every document contains a tiny variation which allows someone to be ID'd with a very small sample of documents.

Unless the attacker had two independent sources of the same data to compare, they have no way of detecting these differences. They could attempt to degrade the quality of these leaked documents (e.g. paraphrase their contents), or attempt to reformat them to strip out differences, but I doubt either would be totally successful.

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@DrXym: Synonyms...

I do think your general approach is quite good. Nevertheless, automatically replacing words with synonyms or just inserting commas, dots etc might change the semantics of the message significantly.

Just think of replacing "lady" by "woman" or vice versa. "I did not have sex with that woman" is different from "I did not have sex with that lady", because the first one is derogatory towards that female human being in question. It suggests this lady/woman/female is untrustworthy...

In diplomatic messages this would twist the meaning, so I do not think it would be a good idea.

Maybe different users of a secret database could be served with different fabricated gossip messages. "Putin loves threesome", "XXX has three balls" etc. The source of the gossip is the leaker...

Still, their major fault was to not compartmentalize their "cables". Why did Manning need cables from Berlin to perfom his job ?? That's called "need to know" or "secret compartmentalized information" ("sci"). It is the standard operating procedure of any secret-handling bureaucracy, military research organization or higher government office.

Why the Dept. Of State can't apply what basically all their peers around the world and the military services/research institutes do is beyond me.

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Sir

"Wikileaks has contributed $15,000 to his legal defence fund"

"Wikileaks has contributed a paltry $15,000 to his legal defence fund"

fixed.

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Anonymous Coward

If he *isn't* the source ...

why would wikileaks be concerned about his defence costs ?

Besides, if I were accused of leaking documents in the US, I think having Assange ride in on a white horse with a fistful of dollars might not be the best strategy for proclaiming my innocence.

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If el reg

If the register starts a defence fund with contributions from readers, I bet we exceed $15,000

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Prosecution fund?

And for the readers who have the opposite view, can we take a dollar out of the defence fund, or do we start a prosecution fund?

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why?

If someone was wrongly acused of doing somthing I know they didn't know, yet i couldn't say who did, then I would probably give them some help

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Sir

"why would wikileaks be concerned about his defence costs ?"

Um, because that's what they said they would do? $15k isn't going to go very far, is it? hence the 'paltry' term.

Completely numpty celebrities offered more than that for Assange's bail ffs.

And although it does seem that Assange == Wikileaks, this isn't the full picture, even if he does seem to use the wikileaks pot'o'cash as his own personal fund-bag.

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FAIL

«He [Bradley Manning] is also charged, according to military spokesmen,

with "communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source [sic ! ; the military seems confused here about the distinction between a source and a recipient of information]"; "disclosing classified information concerning the national defense with reason to believe that the information could cause injury to the United States" ...» To substantiate these charges, wouldn't it be necessary to demonstrate to whom Mr Manning allegedly «communicated, transmitted, and «delivered» - and «disclosed» said information ? If not to WikiLeaks, a connexion which, according to the reports to which Mr Page refers, «investigators are unable to prove», then to whom ? It may be possible - what evidence the prosecutors have at hand we are not told - to demonstrate or at least make plausible that Mr Manning «exceed[ed] authorized computer access to obtain classified information» and «transfer[red] classified information onto a personal computer and [added] unauthorised software to a classified computer system», but these are surely less serious charges than that of passing the information to other parties ? Under these circumstances, it appears that the sole reason for holding Mr Manning under so harsh a regime is, indeed, to harm his mental condition to the degree that he can be coerced into following the script written by the prosecution and pointing the finger at Mr Assange and/or WikiLeaks or whatever bête noire the US government holds current....

Henri

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Title

At least it proves Wikileaks confidential leak system is as good as they claim it is.

If the US Goverment, with all the rosources they can afford to put into this can't make the link, then's it's gotta be worth a few brownie points.

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Anonymous Coward

@David Austin

At some point an error will have crept in. When it is discovered expect large amounts of brown stuff to fly through the air, as Julian seeks asylum in Iceland.

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Anonymous Coward

Good for whom?

Great, so if I leak something I can rest assured no one will ever be able to prove Assange is guilty while I rot in solitary?

Great system.

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Re: Good for whom?

No, you misunderstand.

It means that they can't trace anything on Wikileaks back to the original leaker, i.e. you.

It is indeed a great system, in that it clearly protects the whistle blowers.

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Boffin

not very well explained

its not that they cannot prove that Manning gave the material to Wikileaks (and therefor Assange), but that they cannot prove that Assange actively helped/assisted or coerced Manning into doing so.

a subtle but important point.

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@james 86

Im surprised you got downvoted for that. as it seems to be exactly the point. I dont think theres any question that Manning half-inched the data and passed it to Assange. Its just that no-one can prove that Assange was complicit in the theft, regardless of how much people may want him to be.

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@it wasn't me

"I dont think theres any question that Manning half-inched the data and passed it to Assange"

You can prove that can you? Thought not. That's always the problem with half-assed assumptions. For all you know, Manning (if he took it) gave it to Steve Jobs, who gave it to Lady Gaga, who gave it to Stephen Colbert, who then passed it to Wikileaks.

Assange/ Wikileaks acquired the data, but there is no evidence that they acquired it from Bradley Manning - which of course, is the point.

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@AC@it wasn't me

> Assange/ Wikileaks acquired the data, but there is no evidence

> that they acquired it from Bradley Manning - which of course, is the point.

I don't think it is the point; james68 is, I think, right. If BM/whoever had leaked the data, of his own volition, to the Wall Street Journal, do you think the US govt would be pursuing the WSJ? If so, how could any newspaper possibly operate?

Assange is just a sideshow here (assuming, of course, that he didn't actively solicit the theft). If he didn't have his head lost up his own fundament none of us would have even heard of him.

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@displacement activity

"which of course, is the point"

Sorry, it should have read "which of course, is my point".

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Coat

Aha!

Tis zee old "Pass it via Lady Gaga ploy!". Zis we have seen many times before! I shall contact Inspector Dreyfuss immediately and I shall be dispatched to Lugash at once!

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Happy

Seems to me...

that mu gov't is just pissed that they can't keep the lid on their bullshit any longer.

If it's been said once.....

Welcome to... The Age of the Internet (dun dun duuuuuunnnnn!!!!!)

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FAIL

Not your government's secrets

*Other* governments will be less likely to be open and honest with your government, because your government can't keep *their* secrets.

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WTF?

@Not your government's secrets

I'm not sure there are many governments naive enough to suppose that anything they tell to another nation'n government will be held in confidence, and not used as and when the recipient sees a use for it. There is such a thing as espionage, after all.

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EWI
Dead Vulture

Manning defence fund

Just how much has The Reg (which no doubt profits handily from the extra views, sign up here for the latest Wikileaks!) given to his defence fund then, eh?

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Impressive

Considering the amount of resources that must be involved, the anonymity of the system used by WikiLeaks seems to be the real thing.

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For Now

Should read "for now they cannot find a leak".

Manning is screwed. He's going down. The US will offer him something if he complies and states that he did have some type of contact with Assange. He will be more than happy to comply after being in a maximum security hold.

So, they might not have anything now, but just wait.... they will.

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