MIT often finds itself connected to stories of national and international significance, and 2010 was no exception. Wikileaks, an organization which publishes leaked documents online, found itself in the middle of a global political firestorm after publishing documents detailing American operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and later diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies the world over. The alleged leaker responsible for handing over these documents to Wikileaks? Bradley Manning, an Army private who had visited Pika in summer 2009 and came again to MIT in January 2010.
Manning, who had been outed to authorities by ex-hacker Adrian Lamo, had allegedly received assistance from two MIT students, according to Lamo. An August CNN article noted that Lamo claimed both MIT men worked for Wikileaks, and were Facebook friends with Adrian Lamo and Bradley Manning. The Boston Globe also reported that an MIT graduate had met with Manning in January of last year, and exchanged e-mails with him about security issues. But the former student also told the Globe, “I categorically deny that I had any role in helping Manning leak anything.”
At MIT, Manning had participated in an e-mail thread about security and theft prevention in a storage unit at Metropolitan Storage Warehouse. “Can anyone recommend a hard-to-pick-but-not-insanely-expensive padlock?,” asked Danny J. B. Clark, a friend of Manning’s who is associated with Pika, in the original e-mail to the thread. The query was carbon-copied to Manning and a number of MIT individuals, but the storage unit in question had no connection to Manning.
One of the individuals copied to the thread, David House, is currently an independent contractor working with the MIT Center for Digital Business. House, who helped set up the Bradley Manning Support Network, penned a column in December on firedoglake.com, describing Manning’s conditions at a detainment facility in Quantico, VA.
According to the column, House is “one of the few people allowed to visit Bradley Manning.” House says that Manning has been held under a Prevention of Injury (POI) order, despite being cleared by a military psychologist. Under a POI order, Manning is isolated for 23 hours per day, limiting his “social contact, news consumption, ability to exercise, and that places restrictions on his ability to sleep,” wrote House. The New York Times has reported that last month, Amnesty International called Manning’s conditions “unnecessarily harsh and punitive,” in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
But Pentagon officials have fired back against House’s story, claiming that Manning is treated just as any other maximum custody detainee would be, and that decisions to impose POI or suicide watch were made in consultation with medical authorities.
Also last year, House was detained a Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, where Homeland Security officials questioned him about his visits to Manning, according to a November Salon.com article. The agents seized House’s electronic equipment, including a laptop, digital camera, cell phone, and flash drive. The American Civil Liberties Union said in December that the government returned House’s items after sending a letter to Homeland Security.
In a December interview with the Boston Globe, House said he plans on conducting a forensics report on his laptop, to see if anything had been “deleted or implanted.”
“You hear about the U.S. government overstepping its bounds, but you never really come face to face with it,” said House to the Globe. “I’ve come face to face with it, and it has been a jarring experience for me, to say the least.”
House has not responded to multiple requests from The Tech for comment.