Sunday, December 17, 2017

Witnesses detail State Department's WikiLeaks response

FORT MEADE, Md. — The State Department took extraordinary steps to limit harm to foreign relations and individuals after an Army private allegedly sent more than 250,000 classified diplomatic cables to the secret-sharing website WikiLeaks, two agency officials testified Thursday at a court-martial hearing.

Giving a rare glimpse inside the State Department in crisis mode, Rena Bitter, director of the agency's operations center, said one group of up to 25 high-ranking officials worked around the clock to try to get ahead of the problem before WikiLeaks began publishing the leaked cables on Nov. 28, 2010. Another working group tried to identify people who might be put at risk, she said.

A third team focused on improving computer security, said Marguerite Coffey, former director of the agency's management policy office.

Pfc. Bradley Manning, 24, of Crescent, Okla., is accused of causing the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history. He is charged with knowingly aiding al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula by causing WikiLeaks to publish the diplomatic cables, more than 500,000 classified war logs and some sensitive video clips.

Authorities say Manning downloaded the files from a Defense Department network while working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2009 and 2010.

The State Department officials were called as defense witnesses during the pretrial hearing to help Manning's lawyers find documents they hope will show that the disclosures did little harm.

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