Manning peer sheds light on WikiLeaks: Former military intel analyst shares his thoughts on the motive of alleged leaks
by Will Graff
15 April 2011
The alleged leaker, intelligence specialist Private First Class Bradley Manning, is now in Quantico military prison in Virginia, where he has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest in July 2010. On April 10, nearly 300 top legal scholars, authors and experts signed a letter condemning his treatment as torture.
Evan Knappenberger, an Iraq War veteran and former intelligence specialist in the Army, graduated from the same intelligence school as Bradley Manning in May 2004 and was given secret clearance.
Knappenberger is now a junior at Western majoring in mathematics.
He was interviewed last week for a PBS Frontline documentary about WikiLeaks, Manning and military information security.
The Western Front interviewed Knappenberger about his experience in the military and his connection to WikiLeaks.
What is your connection to Bradley Manning?
Well, I have a couple connections to Bradley. The first is that we both went to the same intelligence school. We went to the same basic training company, pretty much an identical track all the way through.
They have (Manning’s) chat logs with the guy who turned him in. He talks about why he (leaked the documents). He says on those chat logs that it’s out of principle. He didn’t like what he saw in Iraq. He talks about the collateral murder video, watching civilians get killed by American soldiers pretty much unprovoked. He had a change of heart, I think, that’s why he says he decided to release all these documents — if in fact, it was him that did it.
I was involved in torture in Iraq. Part of an intel analyst’s job is ‘targeting.’You take a human being and put him on a piece of paper, distill his life into one piece of paper. You’ve got a grid coordinate of where he lives and a little box that says what to do with him: kill, capture, detain, exploit, source — you know, there’s different things you can do with him. When I worked in targeting, it was having people killed.
The thing that gets me about that is I don’t think anybody who’s aware of what’s going on can do that work for very long without having a major problem come up. Most of the guys I went through intel school with, who went to Iraq with me, are either dead, killed themselves, are in a long-term care institution or completely disabled. I’m actually 50 percent disabled via PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), mostly because of the stuff that happened.
What kind of access did you have here and in Iraq?
Army security is like a Band-Aid on a sunken chest wound. I remember when I was training, before I had my clearance even, they were talking about diplomatic cables. It was a big scandal at Fort Huachuca (Arizona), with all these kids from analyst school. Somebody said (in the cables) Sadaam wanted to negotiate and was willing to agree to peace terms before we invaded, and Bush said no. And this wasn’t very widely known. Somehow it came across on a cable at Fort Huachuca, and everybody at the fort knew about it.
It’s interesting the access we had. I did the briefing for a two-star general every morning for a year. So I had secret and top-secret information readily available. The funny thing is, Western’s password system they have here on all these computers is better security than the Army had on their secret computers.
There are 2 million people, many of them not U.S. citizens, with access to SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, the Department of Defense’s largest network for the exchange of classified information and messages). There are 1,400 government agencies with SIPR websites. It’s not that secret.
Do you think private military contractors play a role in this?
Oh yeah. I worked in a place called a SCIF (Secret Compartmentalized Information Facility) and almost anybody, if they spoke English, could get in there. It wasn’t hard at all. more