According to the Wired.com story, Manning claimed to have released to Wikileaks the video of an Apache helicopter crew carelessly attacking civilians in Iraq in 2007, an attack that ended in the deaths of two Reuters wire service photographers. The Apache footage — called “Collateral Murder” by Wikileaks.org — created an international sensation, showing trigger happy helicopter gunners callously gunning down the photographers, and then deliberately committing the war crime of killing a Good Samaritan who had stopped to take the wounded survivors to the hospital.
The “Collateral Murder” video undercut recent attempts by the U.S. government to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis in the battle against insurgents and instead tended to support instead the insurgent argument that American soldiers were primarily trigger-happy yahoos essentially playing video games with the real lives of Iraqi civilians.
Manning also claimed to have released some 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables to Wikileaks, according to former hacker Adrian Lamo, who Wired.com identified as the Army's source that exposed Manning. “Everywhere there’s a U.S. post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed,” Wired.com cites Manning as having written to Lamo. “It’s open diplomacy. World-wide anarchy in CSV format. It’s Climategate with a global scope, and breathtaking depth. It’s beautiful, and horrifying.”
Wired.com paints Lamo as reluctant to turn a source in. “I wouldn’t have done this if lives weren’t in danger,” Lamo told Wired.com. “He was in a war zone and basically trying to vacuum up as much classified information as he could, and just throwing it up into the air.”
If Manning is indeed the source of the leaks, he may have some protection for the "Collateral Murder" leak under federal whistleblower laws, but he faces serious criminal charges for releasing the diplomatic cables if those claims prove accurate. While the First Amendment bans attacks against freedom of the press, it is possible for the intelligence analyst to be prosecuted for fraud and breach of contract against the federal government. Wired.com quoted Army spokesman Gary Tallman: “If you have a security clearance and wittingly or unwittingly provide classified info to anyone who doesn’t have security clearance or a need to know, you have violated security regulations and potentially the law.”
The U.S. Army has referred to Wikileaks.org as an “information security (INFOSEC) threat” in a classified March secret memorandum (also leaked to Wikileaks.org). “The intentional or unintentional leaking and posting of US Army sensitive or classified information to Wikileaks.org could result in increased threats to DoD personnel, equipment, facilities, or installations.” Back in that March memorandum, the Army speculated: “The possibility that a current employee or mole within DoD or elsewhere in the US government is providing sensitive information or classified information to Wikileaks.org cannot be ruled out.” It now appears likely that they have found at least one source within the Army.
Photo of Namir Nor-Eldeen, a Reuters photographer killed by Apache gunships: AP Images