As U.S. special forces assaulted Osama bin Laden's walled compound in Pakistan, a Twitter user was already recording a rough outline of the events to come.
Sohaib Athar, who describes himself as a 33-year old programmer and consultant "taking a break from the rat-race by hiding in the mountains with his laptops," happened to be staying up late at the time. And, from an account called Really Virtual, he live-blogged what he heard.
Athar's real-time dispatches and self-effacing followups have transformed him an instant online celebrity. He's received at least one marriage proposal -- through Twitter, of course -- requests for bin Laden-related "souvenirs," and appears to have become Pakistan's first Twitter user to surpass 100,000 followers.
CNET interviewed Athar this afternoon about his instant fame, the state of affairs in Abbottabad, and his plans for another tech startup.Continue »
Even before U.S. special forces succeeded in their mission to capture or kill Osama bin Laden earlier today, Twitter users were recording a rough outline of the events to come.
Sohaib Athar, who describes himself as a 30-ish independent software consultant "taking a break from the rat-race by hiding in the mountains with his laptops," happened to be in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 10 hours ago.
Athar heard the helicopters used during the raid. He shared updates live on Twitter, according to the microblogging service's timestamps. And he's likely to be a footnote in history as a result.Continue »
Declan McCullagh edits the Privacy Inc. blog on CNET.com
A contradiction emerged today over WikiLeaks' relationship with one of its suspected sources, a dispute that could influence whether Julian Assange ultimately faces conspiracy charges in the United States.
The WikiLeaks editor who was released from a London prison yesterday denied knowing Bradley Manning, the Army private who is behind held in a military brig in Quantico, Va., on charges that include leaking classified material.
"I had never heard of the name Bradley Manning before it was published in the press," Assange told ABC News today. "Wikileaks' technology [was] designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never know the identities or names of people submitting us material."
That contradicts a chat log that appears to show Manning's conversations before his arrest -- and before his name ever appeared in the media -- in which he described having a close relationship with Assange as a confidential source.
Manning reportedly told ex-hacker Adrian Lamo that he had "developed a relationship with Assange" over many months, according to transcripts posted by BoingBoing and Wired.com over the summer. Lamo told CNET that the transcripts were accurate, but that he doesn't have the computer equipment on which it was saved because the FBI had taken it.
The details are crucial. Federal prosecutors are reportedly exploring filing conspiracy charges against Assange on the theory that he collaborated with Manning on transferring secret documents obtained from the Army's internal computer network. (That would allow them to avoid charging him under the Espionage Act.)
Sweden is seeking Assange's extradition from the U.K. to question him about alleged sex offenses. Assange was released on bail of 200,000 British pounds, or about $316,000, and he will be under strict limits on his movements until a hearing on January 11.
The U.S. appears to be intent on pursuing a parallel indictment, though no charges have become official. A State Department spokesman today said "the investigation into the leak of classified cables is ongoing" but would not provide details. (One lawyer for Assange said early this week that a grand jury in Virginia had been convened, but another said yesterday that was only a rumor.)
Here's one excerpt from the published logs that appears to show that when asked for unreleased information, Manning refused, saying he'd have to check with Assange:
(1:51:14 PM) Adrian Lamo: Anything unreleased?
(1:51:25 PM) Bradley Manning: i'd have to ask assange
(1:51:53 PM) Bradley Manning: i zerofilled the original
(1:51:54 PM) Adrian Lamo: why do you answer to him?
(1:52:29 PM) Bradley Manning: i dont... i just want the material out
there... i dont want to be a part of it
This isn't the first time that Assange may have misstated facts, or perhaps even lied, in an attempt to protect a source. In July, he denied having classified State Department cables, saying that if he did, "we would have released them."
Four months later, WikiLeaks began slowly publishing the State Department dispatches. Approximately 1,618 of 251,000 have been released so far.
In a Dec. 17 interview with Katie Couric, Assange denied knowing Manning:
MasterCard is pulling the plug on payments to WikiLeaks, a move that will dry up another source of funds for the embattled document-sharing Web site, CNET has learned.
"MasterCard is taking action to ensure that WikiLeaks can no longer accept MasterCard-branded products," a spokesman for MasterCard Worldwide said today.
That further limits the revenue sources for WikiLeaks, which has seen its finances systematically attacked in the last few days, as the Swiss authorities shut down a bank account used by editor Julian Assange, and PayPal permanently restricted the account used by the group. WikiLeaks has responded with an increasing number of fund-raising requests that urge supporters to "KEEP US STRONG."Continue »