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Manning Used Data-Mining Software to Obtain Documents, Army Claims

bradley manningArmy Pfc. Bradley Manning, the man suspected of supplying WikiLeaks with thousands of confidential military documents, used unauthorized data-mining software to obtain the information, according to the Army.

The Army alleges that Manning installed the software on computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRN), which is believed to be the source of the 250,000 diplomatic cables and 500,000 field reports that WikiLeaks has published. Officials say Manning installed the code once between February 11th and April 3rd, 2010, and a second time around May 4th -- the day he was demoted after getting into a spat with another soldier.

In response to inquiries from Wired, Army spokesman Shaunteh Kelly confirmed the military's belief that Manning used data-mining software, but would not offer specifics, for fear that identifying the program would "compromise the ongoing criminal investigation."

If the Army's accusations prove to be valid, it could spell trouble for Manning. Leaking information from SIPRN would constitute a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a law that applies to hacking-related crimes. The Army private is currently facing three criminal charges, comprising 22 counts -- two of which fall under this federal statute. Using software to access the network would be even more incriminating, since it would suggest premeditation to seize the classified documents.

"Generally, people who engage in unauthorized access -- many of them anyway -- are thrill seekers who do it without any specific plan in mind," Scott Christie, an ex-federal prosecutor specializing in cybercrime, told Wired. "But to upload a data-mining suite of software suggests you have a plan in mind, you're sophisticated enough to use the software and to configure it to find what you want, and that you have given this plan a great deal of attention."

Manning is still being held at a U.S. Marine Corps brig in Virginia.

Tags: army, BradleyManning, crime, cybercrime, DataMining, documents, hacking, military, politics, security, software, top, Wikileaks