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CIA launches task force to assess impact of U.S. cables' exposure by WikiLeaks

The U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks offer unvarnished insights into the personal proclivities of world leaders.

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Among those people with access to SIPRNET was a low-level U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Bradley E. Manning, who has been charged with disclosing classified information and is suspected of using a simple thumb drive to steal the files that were sent to WikiLeaks.

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The CIA has had its own computer scandals. Security clearances for former CIA director John Deutch were suspended in the late 1990s after he was accused of keeping classified information on his computer at home.

Officials said the agency has also had internal difficulty keeping track of laptops that are sent to overseas stations, as well as sensitive information shared with thousands of contractors that the CIA has hired as part of a build-up over the past 10 years.

The agency employs software measures to minimize the chance of a WikiLeaks-like leak. Agency systems send warnings to administrators whenever a large amount of data is downloaded. And most of the CIA's computers are not equipped to allow the use of a removable drive.

Asked what might happen if he had inserted a thumb drive into the machine at his desk, the former senior CIA official quipped: "There would probably be a little trap door under my chair."

Even so, CIA security experts have fretted for years about the implications of moving secret information from pieces of paper to digital files that can be distributed online.

"It's just a huge vulnerability," the former high-ranking CIA officer said. "Nobody could carry out enough paper to do what WikiLeaks has done."

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