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The New York Times on Bradley Manning & Chat Logs

December 16, 2011   ·   0 Comments

Source: NYTX

I am Bradley Manning

By Chris Spannos:

As news of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq now occupies headlines, the New York Times has swept Pfc. Bradley Manning aside as a non-news story for the “paper of record.”

Yesterday and today the Times stretched large images depicting the U.S. departure from Iraq across its front page. However, neither of these two print editions contain articles on Manning or today’s pretrial.

Manning is suspected of being the whistleblower that leaked hundreds-of-thousands of classified documents and military videos to Wikileaks, such as, the “Collateral Murder” video, the Afghan and Iraq “War Logs” and also “Cable Gate”—the largest leaks in history.

Manning’s pretrial began today and is being held under tight security at Fort Meade in Maryland.

The Times only mention of Manning today is online in an article titled “Hearing for Soldier in WikiLeaks Case” by Scott Shane, which was published at 8:25 AM EST.

If found guilty Manning could prove to be one of the Times’ most important sources since Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg blew the whistle on U.S. atrocities in the Vietnam War in what is known as the “Pentagon Papers.” The New York Times published its first front-page story about the Papers in 1971.

In his article today, Shane tells Times readers about chat logs, first published by Wired magazine, and that are supposed to be incriminating evidence against Manning:

In Web chat logs later made public by Wired magazine, Private Manning – identified in the logs only by a screen name – discussed his feelings of depression and loneliness and his motives for diverting the secret material to a ‘crazy white haired dude,’ Mr. Assange.

I spoke with Julian Assange last September for an extensive in-person video interview about his experience partnering with the Times to release the Iraq and Afghan War Logs. In the interview I asked Assange about the Times treatment of Bradley Manning and also about the chat logs:

CS: The Times describes Manning on his bio page as a ‘suspected’ source of many of these documents and a lot of the material that Wikileaks has been publishing. They also say that he describes this material in some chat logs, in a chat room. I’m wondering what you see as the problem with this—the dual positioning of Manning in this argument and also the technical problem with the chat logs…

JA: Yeah, these so called ‘chat logs’ are material handed over by a convicted felon who owed the U.S. government $60,000 from a previous conviction. And he became an informer and a publicity hound, and convicted of computer hacking. So chat logs, you can just type them up. We have no idea whether those chat logs are accurate or not. It is impossible to say. But if Bradley Manning was the source for the Afghan War Logs or other material he is a source of the New York Times. The New York Times is therefore saying, in saying that these chat logs are accurate, they’re going ‘he is the source.’ So they are exposing their source in making statements like that.

Julian goes on to say how the Times treats its sources:

“I think the New York Times treats its very high-level politically powerful sources rather well. In fact it gives them the spin they want when they hand something over to pursue their agenda. Manning, I presume, is seen by the New York Times to be just a low level soldier. And so it doesn’t matter. If he is a source for the New York Times it doesn’t matter because he can be just swept aside. He’s not politically powerful. He does not have any connections.”

The convicted felon that Assange mentions, and who is the source of the chat logs that supposedly incriminate Manning, is Adrian Lamo. Times’ readers may be interested in knowing, as the Times reported in 2003, that Lamo was arrested for hacking into the Times’ computer network and gaining access to private information. He was arrested, having created “fictitious user identities and running up $300,000 in database research charges…”

It is noteworthy that whenever the Times reports on Manning and Lamo in the same article they only refer to Lamo as a “hacker,” “ex-hacker” or “former hacker,” but fail to mention his extensive breach hacking into the Times.

The obvious question is “Why does the Times accept Lamo’s evidence against Manning unquestioningly?”

With Bradley Manning’s pretrial date having arrived and continuing into next week, the New York Times should equally report on the political and technical ambiguity of the chat logs and their source, Adrian Lamo, every time they mention them as potential evidence against Manning.

Assange concluded our discussion by highlighting the dangers of the Times reporting:

“The problem is, by naming him as the source, the prosecutor will just take that and go ‘Well, look, you were working with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, Julian Assange must have said something to you for you to write that statement…’ And then they present this to a military jury. It is very very dangerous. (View interview segment online)

Very dangerous indeed.

Chris Spannos is Editor of NYT eXaminer.

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