How Secret were the WikiLeaks State Dept. Cables?

Sunday, January 09, 2011
If it wasn’t WikiLeaks, then it might well have been someone else who eventually gained access to the State Department’s classified cables, given their not-so-secure repository.
 
WikiLeaks managed to get a hold of 251,287 communiqués because Army Private Bradley Manning allegedly downloaded them from a Defense Department computer in Kuwait. Bradley then turned the files over to the whistleblower website, government investigators believe.
 
Manning was able to access the documents because the State Department had agreed to store its messages in a database, Net-Centric Diplomacy, launched in 2006, which was connected to the Pentagon’s Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRnet). In a Jan. 29, 2007, letter, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte praised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for implementing the new database.
 
This sharing had come about as a result of intelligence reforms adopted after Sept. 11, which government critics partially blamed on the federal government’s inability to share important data between its bureaucracies.
 
But the State Department database lacked security features that could have alerted officials to the massive downloading of cables by a Pentagon worker, experts told The Washington Post.
 
Manning was by far not the only person who could have captured such a huge cache of secret messages. By linking Net-Centric Diplomacy to SIPRnet, the State Department opened its repository to nearly half a million government employees and contractors with security clearances who are based in the U.S. or overseas.
 
It could have been worse. In May 2010, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair asked Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to expand Net-Centric Diplomacy to include State Department emails. Clinton declined and Blair was fired by President Barack Obama on May 20.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
Siprnet: Where America Stores Its Secret Cables (by Julian Borger and David Leigh, The Guardian)

Comments

Peter Gadzinski 3 years ago
As you point out, no one was minding the store. Not only did Manning have access to burnable, removable media, his unusual level of downloading activity sounded no alarm bells. In a "normal" DOD environment, neither of these could have occurred. Clearly, the fact that Manning was in a war zone trumped all other security considerations - to terrible effect.

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