As I wrote yesterday, the influential PBS Frontline series presents a full hour tomorrow on WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning. They’ve posted three teasers and excerpts already. What might be most significant, and controversial, about Tuesday’s show — which appears almost one year from the day of Manning’s arrest — is what appears to be an attempt to link Manning to Assange (or someone else at WikiLeaks) in a more direct way than what has emerged to date.
The idea that Assange did not simply receive massive, anonymous uploads from a military intelligence officer forms the heart of the U.S. government’s attempt to prosecute him under the Espionage Act. To carry that off, the Department of Justice probably has to convince a grand jury that Assange directed or assisted Manning in his leaking or had some other intimate contact.
Assange has denied this (some times a little vaguely), while asserting that he had never heard Manning’s name until the soldier was arrested. Several months ago, NBC reported that the U.S. so far had not gotten any evidence out of Manning or anyone else establishing a more aggressive Assange role in the leak. There are tantalizing hints, however, in the now infamous Manning-Adrian Lamo “chat logs,” and I have published relevant extracts below. But one also has to remember that a) some question the veracity of these logs, b) in any case, they have been heavily redacted, and it’s not known what exactly has been omitted, and c) Manning might merely have been boasting, wrongly, about knowing Assange in the logs.
Frontline also considers, among other angles, whether the leaked files were not uploaded to WikiLeaks’ main portal but possibly were “handed off.” That is, with some third party intervention. The lengthy summary of the coming episode (if history is any guide, it will appear online first, on Tuesday morning)
In the chat logs below, I have omitted one key segment, which you can find in an important blog piece posted last Friday by New Yorker writer Raffi Khatchadourian, one of the keenest observers of all things WikiLeaks for the past year.
In the piece, he points to a little noted detail in the chat logs – Manning’s reference, one year ago this week, to a 10,000 word profile of Assange set to be published two weeks later in The New Yorker, and written by Khatchadourian. (It figures prominently in my book,The Age of WikiLeaks). The writer now asks: How could Manning, over in Iraq, and likely not plugged into the New York magazine scene, know about the article, right down to its length? Likely it had to be, if not Assange, someone else connected to WikiLeaks.
Khatchadourian admits that he has not written about his connection to the case previously because it opens him up to questioning, even a subpoena, from federal authorities. To his credit, he then goes on to state that even if Assange is linked more directly to Manning any federal prosecution of the WikiLeaks leader would still be misguided.