WikiLeaks 101: Five questions about who did what and when

Confused about how 700,000 sensitive US documents ended up at major newspapers worldwide? WikiLeaks 101 is your guide to understanding what happened. Here are answers to five key questions.

2. How could so much classified information be stolen?

This undated file photo shows U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning.

During the months Manning worked with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division in Iraq, it was apparently easy for him to find, download, and copy sensitive military information. Writing in an online chat, he claims to have had “unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months.”

“I would come in with music on a CD-RW labeled with something like ‘Lady Gaga’ … erase the music … then write a compressed split file,” he wrote. “No one suspected a thing … I listened and lip-synched to Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history.”

“Weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counterintelligence, inattentive signal analysis,” Manning wrote. “A perfect storm.”

“No one suspected a thing,” he wrote to a former computer hacker who eventually tipped off the FBI and Army officials. “I didn’t even have to hide anything.”

Officials have told the Associated Press that Manning is the prime suspect in the most recent leak of diplomatic cables. He is now awaiting court martial at the US Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va. He faces up to 52 years in prison.

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