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Loophole May Have Aided Theft of Classified Data

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Pfc. Bradley E. Manning

Pfc. Bradley E. Manning is said to have smuggled data disguised as a music CD.

Associated Press

The soldier accused of downloading a huge trove of secret data from military computers in Iraq appears to have exploited a loophole in Defense Department security to copy thousands of files onto compact discs over a six-month period. In at least one instance, according to those familiar with the inquiry, the soldier smuggled highly classified data out of his intelligence unit on a disc disguised as a music CD by Lady Gaga.

Criminal charges were filed this week against the soldier, Pfc. Bradley E. Manning, 22, who was accused of downloading more than 150,000 diplomatic cables, as well as secret videos and a PowerPoint presentation. Since his arrest in May, with initial accounts blaming him for leaking video of a deadly American helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007, officials have sought to determine how he could have removed voluminous amounts of secret data without being caught.

A Defense Department directive from November 2008 prohibits the use of small thumb drives or larger external memory devices on any of the estimated seven million computers operated by the Pentagon and armed services. The order was issued to forestall the accidental infection of national security computer networks by viruses--and the intentional removal of classified information.

From The New York Times
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