Navy serviceman accused of trying to sell classified military documents

Gold Member
Seriously, what's with the rash of leaking classified military documents??

WashingtonPost.com said:
A Navy intelligence specialist at the Joint Special Operations Command has been accused of taking top secret documents from military networks and offering to sell them to an investigator posing as a foreign agent.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/06/AR2010120607109.html

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Staff Emeritus
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Seriously, what's with the rash of leaking classified military documents??
If you're going to sell them, you have to move quickly before Wikileaks does. Just like Wal-Mart, Wikileaks is putting the mom and pop operations out of business.

If you're going to sell them, you have to move quickly before Wikileaks does. Just like Wal-Mart, Wikileaks is putting the mom and pop operations out of business.
:rofl:

Seriously, what's with the rash of leaking classified military documents??
No fear of consequences?

Gold Member
No fear of consequences?
That's what I'm thinking as well...

Gokul43201
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
No other possibilities come to mind?

After all, the WikiLeaks incidents are still under investigation, but Manning has already been charged with crimes that could put him away for some 50-odd years, if convicted.

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russ_watters
Mentor
In the past, much more serious and certain punishment was possible. I agree that that was likely a factor in his decision.

Gokul43201
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I agree that that was likely a factor in his decision.
Do you think that was also a likely factor in Manning's decision?

Evo
Mentor
Do you think that was also a likely factor in Manning's decision?
Manning probably was banking on wikileaks' promise of absolute annonymity and that he would not be indentified. It wasn't wikileaks that turned him in.

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Manning probably was bankling on wikileaks promise of absolute annonymity and that he would not be indentified. It wasn't wikileaks that turned him in.
We live in a period of social division and lessening mature communication... this is a very powerful tool for a disaffected individual to use if they can. I won't judge this in terms of morality, just law, but in my experience if you give a few hundred thousand people access to their country's lightly soiled laundry (secret and no-foreign) I wouldn't be shocked when, for one reason or another, this occurs.

The sale of information is a kind of betrayal, and is therefore subject to final analysis with the concept of prime motivators: Money, Ideology, Coercion, Ego. The concept of prison or death is only relevant BEFORE a betrayal occurs, because after that the traitor can only:

1.) Turn himself in and stop
2.) Continue and hope

I am in the military (for a few more days ), and I have to say some of the stuff they tout as 'top secret' and 'classified' all over the news, especially in regards to this 'WikiLeaks' thing, is actually either 'confidential' or 'secret'.

ie: almost everyone in the military has access to it, at least people I know (infantryman). I'm not condoning anything of course, just putting that out there. Of course this is very bad thing, but the news is not helping the situation at all by sensationalizing things.

I guess my point is that they need to concentrate on the issues at hand, not try to create stories out of each individual person caught breaking opsec.

MATLABdude
I am in the military (for a few more days ), and I have to say some of the stuff they tout as 'top secret' and 'classified' all over the news, especially in regards to this 'WikiLeaks' thing, is actually either 'confidential' or 'secret'.

ie: almost everyone in the military has access to it, at least people I know (infantryman). I'm not condoning anything of course, just putting that out there. Of course this is very bad thing, but the news is not helping the situation at all by sensationalizing things.

I guess my point is that they need to concentrate on the issues at hand, not try to create stories out of each individual person caught breaking opsec.
My understanding (as a non-American) is that a lot of stuff gets classified / assigned secret status. "Better safe than sorry" is probably the operational philosophy (even if it's harvested from the public domain!)

Colbert had Richard Clarke on a while ago, in regards to the growing "Intelligence Industrial Complex" (starts around 2:30 in), which currently sits at around 100,000 people across 30 agencies and chock full of those contractors you seem so intent on outsourcing everything to:
http://www.colbertnation.com/the-co...owing-intelligence-community---richard-clarke

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This is very interesting. I wonder how the FBI found out about this Petty Officer; did this guy post online or something similar? I think the "safest" way to sell sensitive information is to go to a foreign embassy and convincing them you have sensitive info, at the risk of someone there being a double-agent or just turning you in. Actually, the "safest" way would be a foreign government contacting you first and then turning you.

As a side note, I find it outrageous that the going-rate for US sensitive information is a paltry $3,500! If you are going to do it for money, go at least$10k; was this guy nursing a cocaine habit or something?

russ_watters
Mentor
Do you think that was also a likely factor in Manning's decision?
Yes. I think the lack of fear of punishment plays a significant role in these cases. If these guys put any thought into their crime before committing it, they may have had this thought:

'If I get caught leaving the room with this flash drive full of classified documents and I don't get a good lawyer and have a sympathetic jury, I may go to jail for a while.'

But they probably didn't have this thought:

'If I get caught leaving the room with this flash drive full of classified documents, they'll probably shoot me tomorrow.'

The second has a significantly higher deterrent value than the first. Once upon a time, the second was a reality, but it isn't today. I'll repeat my rephrain: society does not take security seriously anymore.

russ_watters
Mentor
Manning probably was banking on wikileaks' promise of absolute annonymity and that he would not be indentified. It wasn't wikileaks that turned him in.
Of course, but that doesn't (obviously) completely eliminate the risk of getting caught. So he had to have at least weighed the odds of getting caught against the odds of/severity of punishment, didn't he?

That said, I suspect his defense will offer the "stupid kid" defense, but we'll see if it has any traction.

russ_watters
Mentor
This is very interesting. I wonder how the FBI found out about this Petty Officer; did this guy post online or something similar?
Yep.

Of course, but that doesn't (obviously) completely eliminate the risk of getting caught. So he had to have at least weighed the odds of getting caught against the odds of/severity of punishment, didn't he?

That said, I suspect his defense will offer the "stupid kid" defense, but we'll see if it has any traction.
Given the systematic fashion in which he committed his crime, and the fact that he's a private in the the military... I'm guessing they won't even TRY that defense. The best they can do is beg for mercy, and try to cut a deal so that Manning sees the sun before he's an old man.

Gokul43201
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Once upon a time, the second was a reality, but it isn't today. I'll repeat my rephrain: society does not take security seriously anymore.
When do you think this change occurred?

Also, does this argument reflect your own personal position on what is the appropriate punishment for stealing classified documents (i.e., execution without trial)?

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Here are some examples of cases involving classified documents/espionage:

http://court-martial.com/ucmj-and-espionage/ [Broken]

For those who don't know, the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) is the second set of laws that all military personal are punishable under, on top of the standard American laws. Not only that but we as serviceman sign away our constitutional rights when we enlist (I am not complaining, we knew this when we did it), so punishment can be swift and severe at times.

Here is some information on the military court system:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court-martial

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Gokul43201
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Here are some examples of cases involving classified documents/espionage:

http://court-martial.com/ucmj-and-espionage/ [Broken]
Thanks for the link! (Only skimmed through it so far, but) That's just the kind of thing I was looking for.

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Thanks for the link! (Only skimmed through it so far, but) That's just the kind of thing I was looking for.
No problem!

Here is article 106a of the UCMJ:

These people will definitely be charged under many more articles than just that one of course, but that is one that deals directly with documents/espionage.

The articles can be found here as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Code_of_Military_Justice

(not in full, just the names I believe).

Lets be clear, if Manning had released names of non-diplomatic covered CIA agents in the field, he'd be shot. What he's done is traitorous, but it's not exactly giving away the nuclear codes either. As Tully has pointed out, the military has plenty of options, and it's not going to be fun for Manning.

There is also one other element... Manning didn't sell this to an enemy state. If this had been a cash deal with Iran or North Korea, even if the result is the same the intent isn't. I can see that, and the fact that this was bound to happen with our horrendous security, makes this something less than a worst-case shooting offense I think.

MATLABdude
No fear of consequences?
That's what I'm thinking as well...
In the past, much more serious and certain punishment was possible. I agree that that was likely a factor in his decision.
That's still only 2 out of however many hundreds of thousands of people have access to this pretty low-level material. No matter how severe the personal penalties may be (execution, life imprisonment, national disgrace), there'll be people who still do it for MICE:
Money
Ideology
Coercion / Compromise
Ego / Extortion
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motives_for_spying

Harsh penalties might dissuade guys like this serviceman who were willing to do it for relative chump change (John Walker at least got a few hundred thousand over the course of his 'career'), but I'd bet that Bradley Manning wouldn't have batted an eye:
Nathan Hale said:
I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.
It wouldn't exactly work against an organization like Wikileaks, but the other reason to avoid executing spies is purely expedient: you get to swap your captured spies for their captured spies:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Russian_spy_ring#Prisoners_held_by_Russia_involved_in_the_exchange

(Although maybe this goes towards the whole reduced-penalties thing).

MATLABdude
Lets be clear, if Manning had released names of non-diplomatic covered CIA agents in the field, he'd be shot. What he's done is traitorous, but it's not exactly giving away the nuclear codes either. As Tully has pointed out, the military has plenty of options, and it's not going to be fun for Manning.

There is also one other element... Manning didn't sell this to an enemy state. If this had been a cash deal with Iran or North Korea, even if the result is the same the intent isn't. I can see that, and the fact that this was bound to happen with our horrendous security, makes this something less than a worst-case shooting offense I think.
Now what happens if they (or someone else) begin ponying up money for tips, like your local TV station and breaking news footage? I doubt that they'd get a whole lot more than their appeal to ideology, but it sure would've been appealing to the navy guy in question.

On the other hand, they'd probably be overwhelmed by ever Tom, Klaus, and Mata (and tin-foiler, besides) claiming to have evidence of malfeasance or conspiracy.

Nasa just admitted to leaking a bunch of classified data by dumping hard drives containing the data in a public dumpster. http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY11/IG-11-009.pdf

I'm assuming the managers responsible will be facing prison time or at least a Swedish arrest warrant and some calls for the head of Nasa to be assassinated, by some of our more excitable politicians.