Impact of Manning case on media: "Death to Whistleblowers?"

"If successful, the prosecution will establish a chilling precedent: national security leaks may subject the leakers to a capital prosecution or at least life imprisonment. Anyone who holds freedom of the press dear should shudder at the threat that the prosecution’s theory presents to journalists, their sources and the public that relies on them." Floyd Abrams and Yochai Benkler, in a NYT op-ed published today.


  1. I might take this more seriously if he leaked it to a member of the news media, not someone with an ax to grind with the US.  Wikileaks has never been a member of the media, it has always been about creating news.  No impartiality.

    1.  He was smarter to give it to WL, I think. None of the bigger news outlets have much backbone these days and WL does make a habit of sorting through material in an effort not to release truly compromising documents.

    2. Since he tried to release it to two newspapers I’d say your point is moot.

      Furthermore, I didn’t realise that WL’s stated or implicit mission was to get even with the US. Could you point out where this is stated or expressed? WL’s policy is to publish leaked information irrespective of its source/target. Shortly before the uprising in Tunisia WL published documents proving the corruption of Tunisian officials. How does that fit into your narrative?

      Not very well.

      1. This supposed bright line on who is a journalist and who isn’t is really an illusion.  There is no rule somewhere that says not everyone can be a journalist, only a select few.  Just because Manning’s leaks did not appear in a mainstream media outlet and instead appeared on WL does not make Manning any less of a “source” or WL any less of a journal. 

        My personal belief is that the omnibus First Amendment links freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of association precisely because there is no bright line between these rights.  They leak over onto one another, and so there is no point in distinguishing them, in order to abridge a few of them.  They can’t be separated, and shouldn’t be.

        anyways…  IANACLS (I am not a constitutional law scholar)…

        1. While I am with you in spirit, a military member is given no illusions that they are under different rules. In a million instances and signed away in several contracts are all of the rights we go away to protect. He may have been a patriot to sneak this info to someone who would publish it, or he may have been a stupid publicity whore, either way, he was well aware of the fact that he could be imprisoned for life or even executed for what he did. If you want a battle to fight, look at how and why military documents are classified the way they are. the reality is that “national security” is 9 times out of 10 a ruse and maybe we should have an outside group weight in on what should/is/can be classified as “classified”, “secret” or “top secret”.

          1. The battle you (correctly) suggest fighting is, in fact, the same battle Bradley Manning was fighting. 

            He encountered “national security” being used as a ruse to cover up government crimes.  So he acted, in the only way that has ever worked.  He lost – but he was risking his future in defence of his country, exactly as he signed up to do. 

            That he was “well aware” what would happen is no reason for us not to protest against it; it just makes his heroism greater.  Every soldier is “well aware” that they may get shot in the line of duty, but we still do our best to stop that from happening.

          2. So basically you’re saying service members who witness war crimes should suck it up and expect life in prison/execution if they go public with it? 

            Because I’m pretty sure that if/when war crimes are committed, the bodies responsible classify the shit out it. 

        2. Agreed. “Journalist” is increasingly becoming an irrelevant term because we (at least people reading this) all have the ability to publish, meaning we all could be journalists.

          I am not arguing about the semantics of who is and isn’t a journalist, I’m merely pointing out that claiming he didn’t release to (what the mainstream knows as) an official news publication being a reason to ignore the validity of his contribution is just plain silly. The data was the same.

        1. Why is your suspicion that the people he gave the documents to “have an ax to grind” (whatever that means and however it might be relevant) more important to you than the misdeeds and crimes described in the documents?

          No one questions the accuracy of the information in the documents…

          …so why does it matter who made the information public?

        2. Back during the Iraq war when torture was still a big issue I was trying to make the case to my father that torture was a) immoral and b) ineffective.  I cited Ali Soufan to make my case.  My father’s response: “Well, there’s obviously some people out there with an axe to grind.”

          That’s when I realized that “that person has an axe to grind” really means “I want to cast doubt on that person’s credibility but I have no real arguments or evidence with which to do so.”

          With overtones of “Don’t bother me with the facts; my mind is already made up.”

        3. They now have an ax to grind (though I imagine Assange would prefer the spelling ‘axe’). WL has never had ‘an ax to grind’ with anyone but people abusing positions of power.

          Which is what was happening in Iraq

          And yes… get even. If you have an axe to grind it’s likely you want to get even with those you feed have discredited you. The internet has definitions for these things in case you are confused.

    3. News media. That’s hilarious.
      You mean the one that just had fucking pope smoke cams?

    4.  “Impartiality” in news is a myth in the first place.  You think the NYT or Fox News don’t have agendas?

  2. Did not appreciate this was a new precedent. I always thought the default consequence of revealing classified information was ‘go to jail forever’, and only extremely rare exceptions end differently. (At least for the original leaker; distributors and journalists sometimes get a pass, as they do in the opinion author’s examples.) But then my source of information on that topic are Government publications … so I guess they may not be completely trueful. Anyway, I’m fine with the ‘established’ model — punish the original leaker, leave re-distributors and journalists alone. Wikileaks ought to be safe.

    1. punish the original leaker

      Punish whistleblowers that expose corruption and war crimes?


  3. The lesson here is: If you’re gonna steal stuff that will piss off powerful institutions then don’t blab about it to some asshole on the internet.

    1. Yeah, it’s much better to keep war crimes and corruption to yourself and skip all that patriotic hero shit.  Well, that is… if you’re a coward, anyway.

      1. Whoa dude.. relax. Did I say what he did was wrong?

        I was talking about blabbing to that Lamo asshole. Sharing them was right. Blabbing about it to Lamo (or anyone) was very silly. If he had told his boyfriend instead of Lamo he’d be in a much safer position right now.

  4. I think both Manning and Wikileaks shows the importance of Anonymity when doing things our owners don’t approve of. Don’t stick your head up, snipe them from where they can’t see.

    1.  There’s a million ways to do that, too.  I don’t know why these people did it the way they did it.  Mistakes were made that could easily have been prevented.

        1. Assange didn’t reveal Manning’s identity.  Adrian Lamo did.  Your confidence in your opinion on this matter doesn’t appear to match your grasp of the facts.

    2. I think both Manning and Wikileaks shows the importance of Anonymity when doing things our owners don’t approve of. Don’t stick your head up, snipe them from where they can’t see.

      It doesn’t always work that way, unfortunately.  If people within the military and government don’t publicly come forward, it’s often much easier to sweep corruption and war crimes under the rug.

      We need still need heros who are willing to make that sacrifice.

      Instead of advising them to stay hidden, maybe you should take a moment and thank those that stick their necks out for you?

  5. The Federal sentencing guidelines in this case should not shock anyone. The greater bulk of US federal criminal law has gone beyond draconian into horrific realms. I think the prosecutors in this case are looking to hoist Manning up to the level of the worst spy cases.  Robert Hansen or Aldrich Ames the kid is not…and that they are trying to depict him as such should be deeply disturbing to anyone with a sense of fairness and justice.

    So…yeah…this is quite “chilling.” Business as usual for federal prosecutors….and THAT is what desperately needs investigation.

  6. I don’t really understand – should government employees privy to classified information be allowed to reveal that information with no consequences if they feel it’s ‘justified’? I mean, I agree with what Bradley Manning did but the legality of his actions aren’t something that can be determined by internet poll. Whether you revealed it to WL or the NYT doesn’t matter – leaking classified info and documents gets you put in jail regardless of whether you or others feel it was the right thing to do. Legal penalties are the price you pay for civil disobedience, and one isn’t exempt from that just by virtue of being a journalist’s source of information. 

    1. Legal penalties are the price you pay for civil disobedience

      And hanging is the price that you pay for war crimes. Neither is particularly pleasant, but one of them is a consequence of positive moral choices and the other a consequence of participating in evil.

    2. I think the problem here isn’t that Manning doesn’t accept the appropriate consequences for his civil disobedience, but that the consequences have already been more severe (two and a half years before a trial, some of that time spent in conditions described by a UN rep – among many others – as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading”) than they should have been.  That he’s being charged with the crime of “aiding the enemy,” is absolutely preposterous, as there’s zero evidence to support that claim.

        1. What’s your point?  Are you saying it’s better to keep your mouth shut when you witness war crimes and corruption?

          What a fine patriot you are….

    3. I don’t really understand – should government employees privy to classified information be allowed to reveal that information with no consequences if they feel it’s ‘justified’?

      Not if they feel it’s justified.  (That would be called a “straw man argument”.) I would think it would be appropriate for a third party — perhaps a grand jury — to make that judgment.  Such judgments should be taken into consideration when the whistleblower in question is charged for leaking the information.

    4. should government employees privy to classified information be allowed to reveal that information with no consequences if they feel it’s ‘justified’?

      When the exposed information is war crimes and corruption, FUCK YES.

      Any other questions?

      In the meantime, have a look at what other “government employees” are doing…

  7. Seems to me the real lessons is “don’t get caught”– Manning could have been more cautious and disengaged.  Leak the info as anonymously as possible and don’t discuss it with anyone.

  8. The lesson is the war on violence is a not a winnable war. The more you fight, the more you change, the less there is worth protecting. 

  9. ” national security leaks may subject the leakers to a capital prosecution or at least life imprisonment. ”

    So what’s the problem?

    1. “if its written somewhere then it must be right, so don’t think for yourself and drink the government kool-aid”

      Gandhi broke the Law. MLK and Rosa Parks broke the law. Daniel Ellsberg broke the law. The law is written by people and is not an unassailable thing. The law is often wrong. We make the law and I’d say that the large majority of Americans would think that Manning should be free. The law says homosexuals can’t get married in most places… do you think that is also right?

      What’s the problem? People like you who belittle the dangers and great personal sacrifice that people like Manning undertake to make the world better are the problem.

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