Update 3/19/13: Correcting dangerous errors in the press about Bradley Manning
Until recently, with Bradley Manning’s historic statement in court taking responsibility for releasing documents to WikiLeaks, mainstream media outlets had largely ignored or paid only passing attention to the biggest leak case in U.S. history. Thus, it’s hardly surprising that when they do report on it, in addition to typically taking government arguments as fact, they frequently get basic information about Manning and his legal proceedings wrong.
These pernicious mistakes can malign Manning’s character and obscure the public’s understanding of his case. It’s left to lesser-known but far more attentive writers and legal experts who’ve been following this case more closely (some since its inception) to correct their mistakes to keep the record straight.
For instance, the Wall Street Journal recently published L. Gordon Crovitz’s error-filled piece claiming that Bradley “doesn’t explain what he was blowing the whistle on” in his plea statement, and that “The documents didn’t disclose government wrongdoing.” This leads Crovitz to claim, “Building a case that Pfc. Manning knowingly gave intelligence to the enemy seems open and shut.”
Trevor Timm, of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, corrects Crovitz’s many mistakes here, covering the many wrongdoings WikiLeaks’ releases exposed, the government’s unprecedentedly broad interpretation of “aiding the enemy,” and the fact that the war logs were significantly and responsibly redacted upon their initial publishing.
Jesselyn Radack, of the Government Accountability Project, focuses on Crovitz’s legal errors here, including his misunderstanding of the Espionage Act, basic whistleblower law, and why WikiLeaks should be protected as a news organization.
The Wall Street Journal’s hit piece comes in the wake of another mainstream press article rife with factual inaccuracies – former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller’s recent op-ed. We corrected Keller’s most harmfully false claim: he suggested that that Bradley’s motives in his statement might have been “shaped” by supporters, when in fact they tracked quite well with his chat logs from three years prior.
Finally, Jesselyn Radack contrasts Keller’s destructive piece with another op-ed in the New York Times, in which Floyd Abrams and Yochai Brenkler warn of the dangerous impact Bradley Manning’s case could have:
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.