In the spring of 2010, U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Iraq, hacked into U.S. Government computers and allegedly downloaded almost 750,000 military and diplomatic documents.
All of them were confidential—and many classified in various categories of “eyes only” and “secret”—that would not only prove embarrassing to American and foreign diplomats, but also could put at risk the lives of American and indigenous operatives in war zones and sensitive posts around the world.
Pfc. Manning allegedly handed over this massive trove of internal state secrets to a shadowy, gaunt 6-foot-2 Australian agitator—Julian Assange, proprietor of the notorious information sieve, WikiLeaks.com.
When Assange and his cohorts at WikiLeaks began releasing this sensational material to the media, they professed indignation and outrage at the theft. Whereupon newspapers and 200 websites published the stuff (in the interests of “transparency”), gleefully dumping a bucket of gore all over the diplomatic and military people and organizations of countries all around the globe.
Julian Assange is now in a desperate struggle with British authorities to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces rape charges. A Swedish jail is not a pleasant prospect. However, his real fear is that Sweden will turn him over to U.S. authorities.
For the past seven months, Pfc. Manning has been held in a Marine brig in Quantico, Va., where is kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day with little exercise, no possessions and very limited contact with the outside world.
With 22 new counts against Pfc. Manning reported last week, the federal government threw down the gauntlet:
ADDITIONAL CHARGE I: VIOLATION OF THE UCMJ. ARTICLE 104.
THE SPECIFICATION: In that Private First Bradley E. Manning, U.S. Army, did, at or near Contingency Operating Station Hammer, Iraq, between on or about 1 November 2009 and on or about 27 May 2010, without proper authority, knowingly give intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means.
Giving intelligence to the enemy is capital offence.
Is a very bruised and angered U.S. government setting the stage for trials that would put Pfc. Bradley Manning and Julian Assange in front of firing squads?
In terms of our lives and careers, this grand theft and leak of sensitive information has huge ramifications for everyone in the private sector—hiring practices, safeguarding of company secrets and who has access to them.
How hack-proof is your confidential data?
Who has access to the most sensitive data in your organization?
Who hired those people and what might be their personal agendas?
Remember, once something is out on the Internet, it’s there for your lifetime and beyond.