WASHINGTON, June 7, 2010 -- A 22 year-old U.S. soldier serving in Iraq has been detained on suspicion that he leaked a classified combat video to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The video in question showed a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several civilians, including two photographers working for the Reuters news agency. To watch the video, click HERE.
The Internet site Wired.com first reported the details of Manning's detention, which was reportedly prompted by a tip to authorities by a former computer hacker to whom Manning had boasted of his online exploits.
Adrian Lamo told Wired.com that Manning had told him about leaking the Iraqi combat video, as well as more than 260,000 classified diplomatic cables to the whistleblower site, and combat footage from another controversial airstrike in Garani, Afghanistan, that also resulted in civilian casualties.
A statement released by U.S. Forces-Iraq says Manning is in pretrial confinement in Kuwait "for allegedly releasing classified information."
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman confirmed to reporters today that Manning is under investigation, in part, for the "alleged unauthorized disclosure of information" to the WikiLeaks site.
According to Lamo, Manning claimed to have used his top secret clearance to peruse classified military and government computer networks that were available to him. He reportedly told Lamo the classified networks contained "incredible things, awful things" that he felt should be made publicly available.
Via his Twitter account, Lamo explained today that he reported Manning to federal authorities out of concern that his actions were compromising national security.
"I outed Manning as an alleged leaker out of duty. I would never out an Ordinary Decent Criminal. There's a difference," tweeted Lamo. He also said he was "heartsick" for Manning and his family, and hoped "they can forgive me someday for doing what I felt had to be done."
Leaked Military Video Shows Graphic U.S. Helicopter Attack
Also commenting via Twitter, the founder of the WikiLeaks site, Julian Assange said, "If Brad Manning, 22, is the "Collateral Murder" -- Garani massacre whistleblower then, without doubt, he's a national hero."
In confirming Manning's detention, the statement from U.S. Forces-Iraq says, "The Department of Defense takes the management of classified information very seriously, because it affects our national security, the lives of our soldiers, and our operations abroad."
Labeled "Collateral Murder" when posted on the WikiLeaks website earlier this year, the helicopter aerial combat footage focused international media attention on an incident that occurred at the height of hostilities in Iraq.
Questions were raised as to why the pilots of the Apache helicopter gunships would fire on civilians carrying photographic equipment and target a civilian vehicle that arrived to help individuals wounded in the initial attack.
An Army investigation conducted shortly after the July 2007 incident concluded the Apache pilots had acted appropriately in attacking a group of armed men they believed to be insurgents who were close to a U.S. Army patrol in east Baghdad.
The report concluded they could not have been expected to know that civilian photographers had embedded themselves with the a group of armed men who posed a threat to troops on the ground.