Manning-Wired Controversy Heats Up
By Staff News & Analysis - January 04, 2011

Wired's refusal to release or comment on the Manning chat logs … Wired posted a two-part response to my criticisms of its conduct in reporting on the arrest of PFC Bradley Manning and the key role played in that arrest by Adrian Lamo. I wrote about this topic twice — first back in June and then again on Monday. The first part of Wired's response was from Editor-in-Chief Evan Hansen, and the second is from its Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen. Both predictably hurl all sorts of invective at me as a means of distracting attention from the central issue, the only issue that matters: their refusal to release or even comment on what is the central evidence in what is easily one of the most consequential political stories of this year, at least. – Glenn Greenwald at Salon

Dominant Social Theme: It's all right, Ma. Let's move along. Nothing to see here.

Free-Market Analysis: What to do with Glenn Greenwald? This high-profile columnist for Salon may be the most gutsy mainstream reporter in America, and he's in the middle of another battle – questioning Wired magazine reporters over why they will not release the transcripts they have of PFC Bradley Manning and his dialogue with hacker-turned-informant Adrian Lamo.

It was Lamo who supposedly conducted numerous electronic chats with Manning and then turned him over to the FBI and the US military for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified US memos to Julian Assange's WikiLeaks. Greenwald has been a supporter of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, but Manning's captivity has caused him to devote a good deal of ink to what he considers to be a questionable narrative surrounding Manning (see article excerpt above). Simply put, he believes that Lamo is not telling the truth about his interactions with Manning.

We, too, would tend to believe that the whole truth is not being told regarding Manning. But we think it's more complicated than this. In numerous articles we have explored the idea that Assange is being used, knowingly or not, to disseminate information that can justify more Internet censorship, while whipping up additional nationalistic xenophobia that helps the powers-that-be justify further wars, perhaps with Iran.

Within this context, Manning fits right in. Manning supposedly downloaded 250,000 documents onto a small drive while singing along to Lady Gaga, or so we are told. He turned them over to WikiLeaks somehow and WikiLeaks has been leaking them ever since. The Manning narrative closes the circle. If one analyzes WikiLeaks-as-psyops, the Manning tale is a satisfactory one. It has been reported that Manning was in a "bad place" when he delivered the information to WikiLeaks. Thus Manning is no Nathan Hale crying "give me liberty or give me death." This is reportedly a sad, gay soldier jilted by his lover and taking the opportunity during a Lady Gaga sing-along, to download secret information.

There is a lesson to be drawn from this or so US intelligence may hope: "People like Manning are unstable and will, when unhinged, damage national security at the drop of a hat. It is very unfortunate that a sociopath like Julian Assange had created a facility that enabled Manning's rage." … Assange's tale is just as convenient in our view: "A tall, handsome blond stranger, living out of a string of hotels and borrowed flats changes the world with WikiLeaks by making nations accountable to their citizens." It's a Robin Hood versus Nottingham narrative and perhaps a tad too good to be true.

Greenwald would not see the points we're making here about Assange, in whom he believes. However, he does seem to think that Manning is not what he appears to be. In the article excerpted above, which appeared over the weekend, he spends a good deal of time going over the inconsistencies in Lamo's story. Turns out – and Greenwald seems to prove it – that Lamo has explained how he came to meet Manning two or three different ways. He spent time speaking directly to Greenwald about Manning, but when Greenwald checked other sources it became clear that Lamo had told different tales. It doesn't help Lamo's credibility that he was institutionalized for several months before "meeting" Manning (due to depression) and becoming the repository of Manning's secrets.

Lamo turned Manning in for revealing state secrets to WikiLeaks. He also was the subject of an article in Wired magazine, which subsequently obtained the emails between Lamo and Manning. The writers and editors involved from Wired magazine are editor-in-chief Evan Hansen and Kevin Poulsen who apparently runs a department for the magazine called Threat Level: Privacy, Crime and Security online. Here is how Poulsen describes Wired's involvement in an article entitled "Putting the Record Straight on the Lamo-Manning Chat Logs":

If you're just tuning in, was the first to report, last June, on the then-secret arrest of Pfc. Bradley Manning. I learned of the arrest from Adrian Lamo, a well-known former hacker on whom I reported extensively from 2000 to 2002. It was Lamo who turned Manning in to the Army and the FBI, after Manning — isolated and despondent — contacted him online and began confiding the most intimate details of his life, including, but by no means limited to, his relationship with WikiLeaks, and the vast databases he claimed to have provided them.

Greenwald accuses Hansen and Poulsen of holding back information. He argues that Lamo's explanations have not held up regarding Manning and that Hansen and Poulsen should release the entire email record of Manning's conversations with Lamo. Without providing a specific motive, Greenwald has made a case that Manning may not be guilty of what Lamo claimed he was. And the intimation is that Hansen and Poulsen are sitting on exculpatory information while Manning languishes in solitary confinement in a military brig with his mental health eroding.

This is why we began this article by suggesting that Greenwald was a courageous reporter. What he has done – though he hasn't quite come out and said it – is accuse the reporters of a major magazine of covering up a failed or failing US military-intelligence operation. The implication is that America's military and civilian intelligence operatives set up Manning as the WikiLeaks' leakers; and that this perhaps is what Wired's journos don't want to reveal. They have information, Greenwald suggests, that tells another tale.

Is there electronic data in the hands of a mainstream news operation that could entirely change the context if not the facts of Manning's incarceration? Hansen and Poulsen have claimed in a written rebuttal to Greenwald that further revelations might disrupt Manning's privacy. But this explanation, floated on Wired's own website, received a good deal of pushback. Not everyone seemed to believe that Wired's top guns, having intensively covered Manning's incarceration, now have his best interests at heart.

Why is all this important? For several reasons. First of all, it points up the truth-telling of the Internet. WikiLeaks-style ‘Net operations are gradually shifting the playing field away from the paranoid brand of modern nation-state secrecy. Second, within this context, intelligence operatives are running up against the revelatory nature of the Internet and its propensity to provide electronic fingerprints. It has hard to run a psyops campaign when Greenwald is reporting on you and there are emails that may contradict some or much of the operation you are trying to realize.

Finally this entire situation reminds us a little bit of the France's Dreyfus affair – which was no small episode. The Dreyfus affair rent France asunder at the turn of the 19th century. In 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer was sentenced to life imprisonment for supposedly leaking military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. He was imprisoned, in solitary confinement, in the penal colony at Devil's Island in French Guiana. Later on it turned out that he had not done the crime, but his release was delayed in part due to anti-Semitism.

The Manning case is no Dreyfus affair, thus far. But there are too many episodes these days in which American intel agencies seem to create false flag situations. FBI agents have admitted that some of the "terrorist" episodes that have taken place in America lately have been, in a sense, fabricated. The justification is that those involved are given multiple opportunities to opt out. But there is a fine line between investigating a potential terrorist incident and facilitating it in order to justify one's institutional existence.

Edited on date of publication.

After Thoughts

Is the Manning case at some level disinformation? A kind of psyops? We have no idea – anymore than with Assange. But at some point, given the continued questions about the war on terror, some operation is going to unravel under the glare of the global blogging community. There was a vibrant tradition of authoritarianism in the 20th century; but neither Hitler's Germany nor Russia's Stalin had the truth-telling of the Internet to contend with. That may make a bigger difference than the Anglo-American powers-that-be now expect.

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