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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/26/11

Did PBS Smear Bradley Manning?

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Julian Assange stopped by the chat to ask the producers a question:

Why did Frontline not do basic fact checking on the false and libelous statement "Julian said 'Informants deserve to die'"? This has had substantial re-reportage based on its airing by Frontline. Its speaker, David Leigh is well known to be locked into tawdry personal vendetta against WikiLeaks (as any check of his twitter feed davidleigh3 would show). The statement has been repeatedly denied by me, is the subject of pre-litigation legal action and two Spiegel reporters who were at the table, John Goertz and Marcel Rosenbach (the only independent witnesses) deny it. Is this Frontline's standards for journalism? Similarly, Why did Frontline present Daniel Domschiet Berg's claims about WikiLeaks content sales as credible, when two thee prior accusations (in relation to Aftonposten, Aftonbladet and Al Jazeera) have been demonstrated to be wholesale inventions?

The producers responded:

We did talk with others about David Leigh's allegation. Several people confirmed that you had initially wanted to publish all the Afghan War Logs without redacting names. We also allowed you to deny the charge. As for content sales, you mentioned in your interview that you had explored financial incentives to improve the reception of the Collateral Murder video. There is more about this in the transcript of your interview that is published on Frontline's website.

True, the full transcript allows one to get a complete sense of the person that is Julian Assange. But, the problem for Assange is not that he didn't get ample time to speak. The problem is that every time he was asked a question it was about a criticism, which forced him to be on the defensive. For the most part, he never was able to just explain WikiLeaks as if he were speaking to an audience that knew very little about WikiLeaks.

On Bradley Manning, Brian Manning's father hopes this documentary humanizes Manning. One certainly hopes that this helps people better understand why Manning might have blown the whistle and released classified information. But, the key problem here is that the idea that he was compelled to reveal war crimes and social injustice does not factor into the story FRONTLINE presents.

This is addressed in the chat:

In the chat logs attributed to Bradley by the FBI, he says that he became disillusioned with the military when he was asked to help arrest professors who were publishing a "Where did the money go?" critique of the Iraqi government. Why is this not mentioned in a speculative analysis of what motivated Bradley's actions?

We considered it. There were many things that clearly motivated Manning. The incident you mention was among them. We stuck with those things that more generally summarized his struggle with what he was witnessing.

Generally summarized his struggle with what he was witnessing? Witnessing what? Are the producers suggesting that he saw what was happening in the Iraq War and could not handle it and it made him become more passionate in his advocacy for gay rights, which would mean he was showing a total disrespect for authority?

There is no discussion whatsoever about what Manning might have experienced while in Baghdad. There's also nothing on whether the two classified networks that were compromised are now being secured so a breach does not happen again.

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I asked the producers what they were hoping their audience would understand after viewing the documentary.

"We hope they get a better understanding of the people at the center of this controversy. We welcome debate and discussion," the producers responded.

That, to me, is a kind of dog-ate-my-homework reflexive answer. Most producers would say this about any documentary they produce. 

Why did the producers really want to make this documentary?

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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