9 Essential Questions About Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks
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What is in the unpublished logs?
Poulsen and Lamo both confirmed to Greenwald that Lamo placed no restrictions on publishing the chat logs in their entirety. Poulsen, however, refuses to publish the remaining 75 percent, claiming they contain irrelevant personal stuff about Manning in addition to information that would jeopardize national security if released. It seems unreasonable that Poulsen alone should make that decision and begs for the examination of the material by a third party. The remaining chat logs might hold the key to some of the unanswered questions above, e.g. how Manning first contacted Lamo; if Lamo promised Manning confidentiality; and if the chat gave Lamo sound reason to believe Manning was a threat to national security.
In a battle for free information it is frustrating that the trail leading to Manning's arrest ends blindly in an alley of unpublished chat logs. While Manning is rotting away, solitary in his cell, WikiLeaks continues to release a lava flow of information. The trial of Manning, however, might pose a serious threat to Assange as well. One last, crucial question is still up in the air:
What role did Assange play in Manning's leaks?
Assange claims to have no knowledge about any of the sources leaking documents through WikiLeaks, as it is an open platform for anonymous uploading. In the chat, however, Lamo claims that Manning confessed a relationship with Assange, who gave him instructions on how to download the files. According to the New York Times, prosecutors have been looking for proof that this is true. If so, it would enable them to prosecute Assange for conspiracy, rather than espionage, thus getting around obstacles caused by the First Amendment. It is crucial for the Obama administration to make an example out of Assange and WikiLeaks through prosecution. This might hold the key explanation of the unusual repressive conditions Manning is placed under.
If Assange is indicted, Greenwald worries it poses a threat, not only to the vision of WikiLeaks, but to an already endangered species of critical investigative journalists. Greenwald, interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, punctures the illusion: "Very rarely do investigative journalists merely act as passive recipients of classified information; secret government programs aren't typically reported because leaks just suddenly show up one day in the email box of a passive reporter. Journalists virtually always take affirmative steps to encourage its dissemination."
The story of Bradley Manning is a story of questionable reporting flawed with unknowns and withheld information. What are Lamo's intentions? What exactly did Manning tell him? And why do we have to rely on assumptions about the content of chat logs withheld by Wired and Kevin Poulsen? While Manning sits solitary in his cell, Assange continues the fight for free information, and government prosecutors advance their battle to crack down on WikiLeaks.
Ida Hartmann is a student of anthropology at the University of Copenhagen and currently a visiting scholar at University of California, Berkeley.