The US military says the leaks originated with a 22-year-old soldier, Bradley Manning (pictured) who has been held in solitary confinement for the last few months and is facing a court martial in 2011.
The former intelligence analyst is charged with unauthorized downloads of classified material while serving on an army base outside Baghdad.
It was childishly easy, according to the published chatlog of a conversation Manning had with a fellow-hacker. "I would come in with music on a CD-RW labelled with something like 'Lady Gaga' … erase the music … then write a compressed split file.
No one suspected a thing ... [I] listened and lip-synched to Lady Gaga's Telephone while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history." He said that he "had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months".
Manning told his correspondent Adrian Lamo, who subsequently denounced him to the authorities: "Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public ... Everywhere there's a US post, there's a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed. Worldwide anarchy in CSV format ... It's beautiful, and horrifying."