The Bradley Manning case returned to the public eye this week, with the appearance of his friend David House before the federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va. probing possible prosecution of WikiLeaks and leader Julian Assange. House refused to answer questions, but later reported that all of the queries concerned Manning. He added, however, that he believed a prime focus of the feds is establishing a direct link between the soldier (now jailed at Leavenworth in Kansas after a long stay in near-solitary confinement at Quantico) and Assange.
The Manning court martial still is not set, so he has now spent 13 months in prison pre-trial.
Despite that, most Americans are still not well aware of the events leading up to Manning’s arrest, and why his supporters believe that he was unfairly “set up” for arrest or in any deserves mercy due to the unsavory way it went down. As it happens, the first questions about this were raised exactly a year ago, in a column by Glenn Greenwald at Salon covering Wired’s publication of excerpts from the “chat logs” that led to Manning’s arrest. Most of his concerns raised then remain valid today. This an excerpt from my current book Bradley Manning: Truth and Consequences (e-book here and print here.)
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On June 18, 2010, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald arrived with an impassioned, lengthy probe on the “strange” and “mysterious” Lamo/Manning story, based on a week of research and interviews with both Adrian Lamo (on tape) and Wired editor Kevin Poulsen (via e-mail).
“A definitive understanding of what really happened,” Greenwald warned, “is virtually impossible to acquire, largely because almost everything that is known comes from a single, extremely untrustworthy source: Lamo himself.” But he charged, “Lamo, who holds himself out as a ‘journalist’ and told Manning he was one, acted instead as government informant, notifying federal authorities of what Manning allegedly told him, and then proceeded to question Manning for days as he met with federal agents, leading to Manning’s detention.”
Readers who had followed only the sketchy mainstream reports on the case might have muttered “huh?” upon reading that. But Greenwald had done his homework. He traced the odd meeting up of Lamo and Manning, and Lamo’s past associations with Poulsen. For one thing: “Lamo typically sought media publicity after his hacking adventures, and almost always used Poulsen to provide that publicity.” Poulsen “out of nowhere” wrote the piece in May which Manning read, the one that profiled Lamo and mentioned his recent treatment for mental health issues.
But Greenwald also pointed to “the bizarre aspects” of this case: “Why would a 22-year-old Private in Iraq have unfettered access to 250,000 pages of diplomatic cables so sensitive that they ‘could do serious damage to national security?’ Why would he contact a total stranger, whom he randomly found from a Twitter search, in order to ‘quickly’ confess to acts that he knew could send him to prison for a very long time, perhaps his whole life? And why would he choose to confess over the Internet, in an unsecured, international AOL IM chat, given the obvious ease with which that could be preserved, intercepted or otherwise surveilled? These are the actions of someone either unbelievably reckless or actually eager to be caught…”