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Summary:

During his court-martial trial, Bradley Manning said that he tried to contact journalists at the New York Times and the Washington Post but got no interest and then decided to leak classified military documents to WikiLeaks.

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Bradley Manning, the former U.S. army private who is being tried by a military court for leaking classified documents after spending almost three years in jail, admitted on Thursday that he gave information — including a video of an attack by U.S. forces on civilians in Iraq — to WikiLeaks. But Manning also provided some details about his leaking of documents that reinforce why having an independent quasi-media entity like WikiLeaks is important: he says he tried to provide the same information to traditional news outlets, including both the New York Times and the Washington Post, but was ignored.

This information came out during a statement that Manning read aloud in court, so most of the details couldn’t be immediately verified, but the former military intelligence agent said that he called the New York Times to offer them a story based on the documents he had, but his voicemail message was never returned. Manning said that he also spoke to someone at the Washington Post and described what he had, but no one ever followed up.

According to some reports, Manning’s call went to the public editor’s voice mail at the Times, which could explain why no one in the newsroom contacted him — as anyone who has ever worked in a large newsroom knows, crank calls and vaguely conspiratorial reports from would-be tipsters come with the territory, and many don’t result in any action. The part of his story about speaking with someone at the Washington Post directly would seem a little more damning, but he apparently didn’t provide many details to the reporter he spoke to.

Even with all of those caveats, the incident still brings home how valuable it is to have something like WikiLeaks, an entity that Jay Rosen has called “the world’s first stateless news organization.” It’s not that the New York Times or the Washington Post failed to do their jobs as media outlets or journalistic investigators — it’s simply that there was an alternative available where Manning could take the documents that would ensure that they saw the light of day. In the pre-WikiLeaks days, he might never have found a way of publicizing them at all.

As Jeff Jarvis noted on Twitter, Manning’s confession brings up an even more interesting question, namely: What would have happened if he had gotten through to someone at the Times and they wrote a story, without WikiLeaks ever being involved? Manning might still be on trial for his behavior, but it’s unlikely there would have been the same kind of U.S. government attack on the media entity that published the documents, since the Times is seen as protected in a way that WikiLeaks is not — although it arguably should be.

Post and thumbnail image courtesy of Shutterstock / Rob Kints

  1. Manning is a traitor to his country. The fact that the NY Times and Washington Post would not help him in his illegal and damaging activities is not a justification for WIkiLeaks. Indeed it is a further condemnation of WikiLeaks.

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    1. QuestionEverything Friday, March 1, 2013

      He isn’t a traitor to his country. He’s a traitor to the people who were representing his country with murder and heinous crimes. He stood up for what this country was founded on and fought against the corrupt. It just so happens that the corrupt in this scenario were the ones in charge, but that doesn’t make them the equivalent of our country. People like him should be applauded, not put down by the scum that runs our land.

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    2. Freedom isn’t free, and not everyone is willing to pay the price. I’m grateful to Bradley Manning for standing up and revealing the truth.

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    3. No, Alex is correct. Most of the people who say he isn’t a traitor obviously have never served in the military and/or don’t really understand the UCMJ. He was not at liberty to share what he shared. Military members have far fewer rights than civilians.

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      1. letseathesky Monday, March 25, 2013

        “Not at liberty to share what he shared” Says who? Served in the USCG for 26 years and by god, I am glad he shared what he shared.

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  2. Tessa Mayes Friday, March 1, 2013

    As a free speech campaigning journalist, I applaud attempts to get a story out there that somebody thinks is important. And let the public decide what they think. But any leaker may have to face the consequences of breaking confidentiality agreements which is a legal and political issue but not a free speech one.

    In terms of what would journalists as opposed to Wikileaks have done with the story if they’d called back Bradley Manning, journalists would have and did sift through the leaked information to select stories with meaning and purpose. Wikileaks tried to do the same and with cooperation from some newspapers, true. But its main approach is to publish everything and let the public do the sifting, with the primary purpose behind it being the en masse leak of something and secondary purpose – although related to the first – the story.

    This publish everything philosophy, with less focus on selection, is surely what also concerns the US establishment?

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  3. No, manning did not betray america, he betrayed his superiors and his government to show the people of america and the world what their military and government were doing.

    Had manning been a private in the chinese or russian armies, or iranian or north korean, and had revealed the self same activities, america would have declared him a patriot and a hero for standing up and revealing the injustices he found.

    Your condemnation comes not from the morality of mannings actions, but from the fact that you have a personal preference and prior allegiance to the the exposed group.

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  4. I think it is quite possible that Manning would not be on trial if he had been able to work with the NYTimes or the Washington Post. But the difference wouldn’t have been that leaking to an established news source magically protected him. Rather, it would have been the difference in way that the NYTimes or the Washington Post would have handled the story. The problem with WikiLeaks is that they indiscriminately dumped all communication out there for the world to see. A more thoughtful news outlet would have edited the content, selectively publishing the things that needed to come out, and withholding those things that were more sensitive.

    Manning’s mistake is that he trusted a radical to deliver sensitive information. Not being able to work with a more thoughtful publisher is a drag, but he could have edited the information himself even while working with WikiLeaks. To the extent that he has disclosed sensitive things that should not have been published, he is a traitor – he violated the oath he made to his country. At the same time, he may also be a justified whistle-blower on other matters. Yes, it is possible to be both a traitor and a hero.

    I think it is a sorry thing that WikiLeaks was the only one who responded to him, and that may be a condemnation of the existing news hegemony. Unfortunately for Manning, it is not a defense of his mistakes, even though his intentions may have been good.

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    1. Cogent and correct Matt. Well said.

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  5. As a member of the military it doesn’t matter if it was Wikileaks or the NY Times, he is not at libertyto share that information (and certainly not that quantity of information). The Military Whistleblower’s Act requires him to go to a Congressperson or the IG.

    Case closed. He doesn’t have the same rights as a civilian. That’s what it means to be in the military. He screwed up, he put operatives in harms way, and yes, the UCMJ codes he is subject to may very well include treason.

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  6. Alan Batten Friday, March 1, 2013

    Clearly Bradley Manning broke the military rules. That should not prevent the rest of us from praising him and appreciating what he did. When our government lies to us what recourse to we have? Bradley was clearly diligent, thorough and conscientious in his work as an analyst, and courageous in acting on his belief that certain documents needed to be made public. I was very grateful to Daniel Ellsberg for setting in motion events that eventually ended our misguided war in Vietnam. Daniel Ellserg is walking around a free man (and providing astute commentary on current foreign policy issues). I regard Bradley Manning as a hero in the true sense of the word. He should be a free man too.

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  7. The Pentacon, DOD, intelligence agencies and mainstream press is the biggest organized criminal syndicate in the world, all controlled by the greed of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) and partners in crime the World Bank and IMF. They got us in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan…all failed missions to date costing 70,000 American lives, who knows how many serious causalities, and trillions of dollars in debt…all for their power, glory, careers and greed.

    The proposed 2013 defense budget to include off budget items, wars, intelligence, Homeland Security, and etc. is nearer $1.2 trillion. THAT’S 45% OF TOTAL US REVENUE OF $2.7 TRILLION! This is morally criminal and treason since it’s destroying the country economically. Investment in technology and the economy trumps everything. Five years after WWII the whole war could have been won with one US aircraft carrier.

    According to studies published in the Washington Post, 53 cents of every tax dollar goes to the military to pay for arms, salaries, facilities, overhead, and debts from Vietnam and other wars.

    This American War Machine is a crime against humanity and especially the American taxpayer as the Soviet Union war machine was to the Soviet Union: http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175361/

    We (US) are now a “‘garrison state” destroying the very qualities and virtues and principles we originally set about to save.

    Our little war habit has already ruined our democracy, now it’s killing the economy.

    -USN/USMC First Marine Division, I-Corps, Vietnam, 1966-70 (Being loyal to your country is not the same as being loyal to your government.)

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  8. America was created under the principle of ‘self government’ by the ‘people’ who have the power to direct their ‘representatives’ toward the purpose of a free and prosperous society. If we are to effect such direction with our ‘votes’ and other communications to those that ‘serve’ us, it is necessary for the ‘people’ to have all relevant information regarding what the hell this ‘government’ is up to. Servants sworn to ‘secrecy’ covering up information that would embarrass those in power (and there is no proof that anything Manning revealed resulted in other than official embarrassment) is a recipe for tyranny. Using the UCMJ to circumvent his sworn oath to defend the constitution (such as it is) from all enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC is to go down the path that led to Nuremburg.

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  9. At Nuremberg trial, the defence of “I was only obeying orders” by Axis forces was judged to be unacceptable in circumstances where war crimes were being committed.The
    current US government and its allies are guilty of numerous war crimes:

    *Us of torture (e.g. against Bradley Manning at Quantico according to UN spokesperson)

    *The outsourcing of torture to brutal US allied regimes around the world.

    *The gulag of US controlled black sites.

    *Use of depleted uranium, napalm, agent orange and cluster bombs that affect civilians for decades afterwards.

    *Promotion of Shia death squads in Iraq by the US embassy that led to a sectarian civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

    *Kill lists and use of drones that target anyone of military age.

    *The “Collateral Murder” video shows what actually happens in US occupied countries–the “true cost of war” as Manning put it.

    Under such circumstances, Manning should be applauded for “refusing to obey orders” and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize which should be withdrawn from Obama–the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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    1. ABSOLUTELY on the Peace Prize. They could take it from the war monger in the Oval Office. Then they should put him in jail along with Bush.

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  10. This is why we suck as a society. Guys like him canning and guys who crippled the economy out there as if nothing.

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