New Evidence of Assange-Manning Link

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For more, watch our films WikiSecrets and The Private Life of Bradley Manning.

In an interview last April with FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith, Julian Assange flatly denied that he’d ever had any contact with Bradley Manning, the young Army private accused of leaking half a million classified documents to Assange’s WikiLeaks. Asked about the implication in online conversations apparently between Manning and ex-hacker Adrian Lamo that Manning had gone around WikiLeaks’ normal protocols and established a personal relationship with Assange, Assange was adamant, even suggesting that Manning might have been inflating himself to others by claiming a relationship that did not exist.

“We don’t have sources that we know about. And I had never heard the name Bradley Manning before. I never heard the name Bradass87 before.”

But Army digital forensics contractor Mark Johnson, testifying in Manning’s pretrial hearing today, says that he found communications between Manning and a chat user named “Julian Assange” on Manning’s personal computer and a phone number for Assange in Iceland (for more on how Johnson found the evidence, read Kim Zetter’s piece at Wired).

That evidence would put Assange and WikiLeaks in a precarious legal position. As New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt explains in the clip below, if WikiLeaks actively helped anyone violate secrecy laws, Assange and his colleagues could be held criminally liable on conspiracy to commit espionage.

Under cross-examination by Manning’s defense team today Johnson acknowledged that Manning’s computer was not password-protected and that he “could not put anybody at the keyboard.”

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