First I see this:
*Great* McClatchy column by Edward Wasserman on the “media’s disgraceful abandonment” of Bradley Manningmcclatchydc.com/2013/03/21/186…
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 21, 2013
So I follow the link to this:
And looming above those breathtaking role reversals is the media’s disgraceful abandonment of the boldest news source of his generation, Pvt. Bradley Manning, a soldier who in 2010 defied secrecy restrictions to feed the most influential media in the world with leaks they gratefully published, which exposed corruption and duplicity, identified torturers, energized the Arab spring, and embarrassed officialdom worldwide.
The ferocity of the Obama administration’s attack on Manning and on WikiLeaks, the online anti-secrecy organization that brokered his leaks to the media, has been withering. Manning spent the better part of a year in solitary confinement, undergoing maltreatment plainly intended to get him to finger WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as not just a conduit, but a co-conspirator.
Manning, now 25, is before a court martial in Maryland. After 1,000 days behind bars, he recently pleaded guilty to charges that could leave him there for another 20 years.
So the trial could end now, with Manning facing two decades in prison. Instead, the government is pushing ahead with a charge of “aiding the enemy,” technically punishable by death, likely to bring him life without parole.
According to Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor who’s assisting his defense, this is the first time in 150 years that anybody has been charged with aiding the enemy for leaking information to the press for general publication. Benkler says that makes secrecy breaches — an indispensable routine of journalism in the national security realm — a capital offense, if they annoy the wrong people.
The government hasn’t said what harm, if any, Manning’s leaks did to this country. The military court has indicated it doesn’t care.
Manning’s own explanation of what motivated him to leak the thousands of dispatches and cables is what you’d expect from an idealistic, thinly educated young man, at the time barely into his 20s:
“The more I read, the more I was fascinated with the way that we dealt with other nations and organizations. I also began to think the documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity that didn’t seem characteristic of the de facto leader of the free world . . . The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this was the type of information that should become public.”
The world’s most powerful news media agreed, and turned Manning’s leaks into riveting stories. (Just this month The Guardian and the BBC broke a sensational 15-month story about sectarian death squads in Iraq; it was prompted by reports he provided in which shocked U.S. soldiers described seeing Iraqi detainees who’d been tortured by their countrymen.)
But still, the media leave Manning to face his accusers in a tribunal that is barely public, and by and large the media that were his beneficiaries can’t be bothered to staff the trial that will determine his fate.
He was a great source. His information was solid. The world’s best news organizations believed it was of immense public value. So now he goes to jail, perhaps for life, and the media stand in silence?
The columnist who looks back from 40 years hence will have to squint hard to find reason to be inspired by the courage of today’s media the way we still are by the media of that long-ago classical age.
Most of you should remember Paul Harvey, the famous radio newsman of the post WWII era. His show was called “The Rest of the Story”. In this case “the rest of the story” was not kind to Bradley Manning.
When the Manning-Assange-Wikileaks story first became big news it was like a Hollywood script. Manning was a brave and noble whistle-blower who was motivated purely by patriotism and high moral principles. Julian Assange was a heroic but subversive man of mystery. Together they and Wikileaks were waging war against the corrupt establishment. Manning was allegedly both innocent and a martyr who was being tortured into falsely implicating Assange.
Since then the allegations of torture have failed to pan out and Manning has been moved to a new confinement facility with less restrictive conditions. He has confessed to most of the allegations against him so his guilt in that regard is beyond doubt.
Julian Assange is now hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London as he desperately seeks to avoid facing allegations of rape in Sweden. Meanwhile Wikileaks has been reduced to a fundraising operation for Assange, as if it were ever much more than that.
Just as with Trayvon Martin, when the cold hard facts emerged they did not fit the original narrative and the media lost interest.
But bless their hearts for trying.