WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange has been cast as a heroic champion of free speech and public enemy number one to the most powerful government in the world. But his ongoing expose of US foreign policy would not have been possible without the work of a young American soldier - Private Bradley Manning. It was Manning who allegedly stole the classified video and documents released to the world by WikiLeaks in 2010.
WikiLeaks' Forgotten Man says the U.S. Army private masterminded the biggest intelligence breach in history from a humble military desk in Iraq - and it tells the story of the man who betrayed him, former hacker Adrian Lamo. In an extraordinary interview Lamo reveals how he came to know Bradley Manning, claiming the soldier openly confessed to his role in the WikiLeaks scandal through online chats that are presented in the film.
Manning is quoted saying "I'm a high profile source...and I've developed a relationship with Assange". He says he released the cables because "I was actively involved in something I was completely against". But one of Lamo's old friends, former hacker Kevin Mitnick, is suspicious of Lamo's evidence and his motives, "I call into question the authenticity of the chat logs, because I know his personality".
While Julian Assange awaits the results of British efforts to extradite him to Sweden for sex charges, Manning now languishes in solitary confinement in a US military prison, facing a possible life sentence. But he's considered a hero to people like Daniel Ellsberg, the whistle-blower who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971. He says "Bradley Manning has shown a willingness to give his life and his freedom for his country. And you can't be more patriotic than that."
Ellsberg writes in support of Manning in The Guardian.
This shameful abuse of Bradley Manning
by Daniel Ellsberg
The WikiLeaks suspect's mistreatment amounts to torture. Either President Obama knows this or he should make it his business
President Obama tells us that he's asked the Pentagon whether the conditions of confinement of Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with leaking state secrets, "are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are."
If Obama believes that, he'll believe anything. I would hope he would know better than to ask the perpetrators whether they've been behaving appropriately. I can just hear President Nixon saying to a press conference the same thing: "I was assured by the the White House Plumbers that their burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg's doctor in Los Angeles was appropriate and met basic standards."
When that criminal behaviour ordered from the Oval Office came out, Nixon faced impeachment and had to resign. Well, times have changed. But if President Obama really doesn't yet know the actual conditions of Manning's detention – if he really believes, as he's said, that "some of this [nudity, isolation, harassment, sleep-deprivation] has to do with Private Manning's wellbeing", despite the contrary judgments of the prison psychologist – then he's being lied to, and he needs to get a grip on his administration.
If he does know, and agrees that it's appropriate or even legal, that doesn't speak well for his memory of the courses he taught on constitutional law.
The president refused to comment on PJ Crowley's statement that the treatment of Manning is "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid". Those words are true enough as far as they go – which is probably about as far as a state department spokesperson can allow himself to go in condemning actions of the defence department. But at least two other words are called for: abusive and illegal.
Crowley was responding to a question about the "torturing" of an American citizen, and, creditably, he didn't rebut that description. Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity – that's right out of the manual of the CIA for "enhanced interrogation". We've seen it applied in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. It's what the CIA calls "no-touch torture", and its purpose there, as in this case, is very clear: to demoralise someone to the point of offering a desired confession. That's what they are after, I suspect, with Manning. They don't care if the confession is true or false, so long as it implicates WikiLeaks in a way that will help them prosecute Julian Assange. [More here.]
"WikiLeaks' Forgotten Man" is available online here.