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Simpich writes: "If reporters like Sanchez would take a few minutes out to review the court record, they'd realize that Bradley Manning was very selective in choosing the documents that he released to Wikileaks."

Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. (photo: New Republic)
Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. (photo: New Republic)

Manning Chose Documents for Release as Selectively as Snowden

By Bill Simpich, Reader Supported News

12 June 13


RSN Special Coverage: Trial of Bradley Manning

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ournalists like Raf Sanchez of the Daily Telegraph claim that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was more selective in his releases than Pfc. Bradley Manning. With no evidence, Sanchez claims that Manning "at some point simply threw open the box and hoped for the best." Yes, Manning released 700,000 documents, but that was not simply a data dump. It is the quality and nature of the documents that has to be analyzed.

Snowden has revealed two highly secret NSA surveillance programs, with the promise of more to come. Ellsberg points out that Manning's documents were at a lower level of classification than the Pentagon Papers, which exposed Johnson administration policy decisions on Vietnam. Manning's documents focused on war crimes and corruption at the ground level. His revelations about the Tunisian government led to the Arab Spring. Ellsberg says that Manning's exposure of American war crimes led to the Iraqi government refusing to grant American troops immunity and ensuring the total withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq.

If reporters like Sanchez would take a few minutes out to review the court record, they'd realize that Bradley Manning was very selective in choosing the documents that he released to Wikileaks. Manning also knew that Wikileaks would exercise good judgment in catching anything he might have missed. Wikileaks was very careful in reviewing the documents again and redacting appropriate passages that might endanger individuals. Wikileaks asked the US government to go through the leaked documents to make sure that no innocent people were identified, but was rebuffed. No one has shown personal harm due to Manning's revelations. Even Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called the effect of WikiLeaks’ releases on U.S. foreign relations "fairly modest," as every government in the world knows that the American government "leaks like a sieve."

I remain stunned by how the traditional media has ignored the opening statement of Bradley Manning's defense counsel, David Coombs. A good lawyer doesn't say anything during opening statement that can't be proven. If you go out on a limb and can't make your case, you lose your credibility. Coombs is a very meticulous attorney. Coombs told Judge Denise Lind that Manning was highly selective in the documents he chose for release. "He had access to literally hundred of millions of documents as an all-source analyst, and these were the documents he released." Coombs stated that Manning selected information that he believed could not be used against the United States or by a foreign nation. (Transcript, 6/3/13, pp. 78, 87)

There is the "Collateral Murder" video, with its gunsight footage displaying civilian adults and children being attacked by men in an Apache helicopter who laughed as they committed cold-blooded murder. Manning knew that Reuters had lost two journalists in this incident and had made an FOIA request for a copy of the video, and that the United States had lied in its response two years later by indicating that no copy of the video was available. (Transcript, 6/3/13, at pp. 80-81).

There are the Afghan War logs/Iraq War logs, kept by the soldiers after clashes with enemy forces. These clashes were known to the other side and were hardly secret. Coombs said that the logs chosen by Manning never contained the names of intelligence sources, and that the information that he provided was all "stale" as it was more than 72 hours old. (Transcript, 6/3/13, pp. 78-79)

On the State Department cables known as "Cablegate," Manning knew that these cables could not contain intelligence sources and could not have key sensitive information. He also knew that the information in these cables tended to be unclassified. (Id., at p. 83)

On the Guantanamo Bay files of detainee interrogations, Manning knew that they contained no intelligence sources, but rather biographical information.

Yesterday I spoke with Nathan Fuller, one of the key journalists covering the Bradley Manning case over the last three years. Fuller agreed that Manning had been highly selective, and referred me to the June 10 edition of a blog written by "Tarzie". Fuller and Tarzie have done a great job teasing out this story, and deserve credit.  Tarzie's analysis is provided here:

In one of his chats with Adrian Lamo, the man who ratted him out to the government, Manning described the trove like this:
260,000 state department cables from embassies and consulates all over the world, explaining how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective …
… there's so much … it affects everybody on earth … everywhere there’s a US post … there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed … Iceland, the Vatican, Spain, Brazil, Madagascar, if its a country, and its recognized by the US as a country, its got dirt on it. (Source: Wired)
Clearly Manning felt, correctly, that the whole trove was the story. As a whistleblower, he had the choice of selecting a handful of scandals and thereby telling only an arbitrary fraction of the story (with a commensurately smaller impact), or releasing the whole trove unedited so that journalists and others could crowd-source the big picture. In light of the trove’s size, telling the whole inside story of American imperialism was just not compatible with the kind of meticulousness with which Snowden credits himself. Manning’s documents also had a far lower secrecy classification than Snowden’s; most were not classified at all. In other words, it’s simply not fair or substantive to compare Manning to Snowden in this regard.
Nevertheless, comparisons are being made and, despite the particular challenges of the project Manning undertook, he still compares well. Listed below are all the items provided by Manning that Wikileaks published, along with remarks about their sensitivity. Where warranted, I have quoted Manning’s trial statements regarding his thinking at the time about the impact of each leak:
1. Reykjavik13 – a diplomatic cable suggesting that Iceland had sought the United States’ help in resolving a dispute with the United Kingdom over the UK’s use of anti-terrorism legislation to secure payment by Iceland of the guarantees for UK depositors. Since this is a matter that involved neither US intelligence nor military, Manning obviously had no reason to believe it put anyone at risk.
2. "Collateral Murder" – the military’s gunsight footage from a Baghdad air strike on a group of eleven mostly unarmed people, including two Reuters journalists whose cameras were allegedly mistaken for weapons. Eight people were killed, rescuers were fired upon and children were injured in the attack. There is no national security argument that can be credibly made against the leaking of a video that documents war crimes, particularly one documenting an incident that happened three years before Manning leaked it and which had already been covered in several news accounts.
3. Afghan War Logs/Iraq War Logs – a collection of SigActs, records created by US military regarding Significant Activities, including civilian deaths. Here is what Manning said in his court statement about their sensitivity:
In my perspective the information contained within a single SigAct or group of SigActs is not very sensitive. The events encapsulated within most SigActs involve either enemy engagements or causalities. Most of this information is publicly reported by the public affairs office or PAO, embedded media pools, or host nation (HN) media.
Although SigAct reporting is sensitive at the time of their creation, their sensitivity normally dissipates within 48 to 72 hours as the information is either publicly released or the unit involved is no longer in the area and not in danger.
4. "Cablegate" – leak of 251,287 State Department cables, written by 271 American embassies and consulates in 180 countries, dated December 1966 to February 2010. Manning’s remarks:
I thought these cables were a prime example of a need for a more open diplomacy. Given all of the Department of State information that I read, the fact that most of the cables were unclassified, and that all the cables have a SIPDIS caption [denotes a cable is appropriate for widely sharing within an interagency audience], I believe that the public release of these cables would not damage the United States.
5. Guantanamo Bay Files – a collection of Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs), memos giving basic and background information about a specific detainee held at some point by Joint Task Force Guantanamo. Manning’s trial statement indicates, once again, that he carefully considered intelligence and national security risk:
Reading through the Detainee Assessment Briefs, I noticed that they were not analytical products, instead they contained summaries of tear line versions of interim intelligence reports that were old or unclassified. None of the DABs contained the names of sources or quotes from tactical interrogation reports or TIR’s. Since the DABs were being sent to the US SOUTHCOM commander, I assessed that they were intended to provide a very general background information on each of the detainees and not a detailed assessment.
In addition to the manner in which the DAB’s were written, I recognized that they were at least several years old, and discussed detainees that were already released from Joint Task Force Guantanamo. Based on this, I determined that the DABs were not very important from either an intelligence or a national security standpoint.
Any discussion of the alleged recklessness of Manning’s leaks must also include the reminder that prior to the publication of the State Department cables, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange sent a letter to the U.S. Department of State, inviting them to "privately nominate any specific instances (record numbers or names) where it considers the publication of information would put individual persons at significant risk of harm that has not already been addressed." Harold Koh, the State Department’s Legal Adviser, rejected the proposal, stating: "We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained U.S. Government classified materials." Despite the State Department’s apparent lack of urgency, Wikileaks redacted the names of sources and others in potentially vulnerable positions before publishing. Unredacted cables were only published after a security breach by a Guardian writer necessitated it. (Source: Wikipedia).
Similarly, Wikileaks offered to allow the Department of Defense to review the War Logs for potentially risky material, but this offer too was declined. (Source: Salon).
Considering the nature of the leaks themselves, the care with which Manning considered the military and intelligence risk of each document set, and the way both the US State Department and Department of Defense declined to review the leaks and thereby vindicated Manning’s risk assessment, it should come as no surprise that not a single injury to, or death of, U.S. military or intelligence personnel can be attributed to his extraordinary whistleblowing.
In other words, Manning’s alleged recklessness is pure legend, a lie told again and again to minimize the real significance of his disclosures, to foster fairy tales about his emotional instability, to justify both the hideous treatment he has received at the hands of the U.S. military and the disgusting extent to which he has been smeared and trivialized by the few reporters and pundits who even bother with his extremely consequential case.
It is unfortunate that the indoctrination to which we have all been subject with respect to Manning has apparently infected Snowden too, a remarkable whistleblower in his own right. One hopes Glenn Greenwald, who has been Manning’s most vocal high-profile advocate and who is now instrumental in making Snowden’s leaks public, will give him an opportunity to possibly reconsider or clarify his position.

We can and should rely on lawyers like David Coombs, journalists like Nathan Fuller, and bloggers like Tarzie, who have been following this story for years. We should challenge those who offer facile opinions in the Manning trial without having done the necessary preparation. Everything indicates that Bradley Manning – like Edward Snowden – did his homework. your social media marketing partner
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