Co-authored by Robert Parry
Almost four decades after Defense Department insider Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers -- thus exposing the lies that led the United States into the Vietnam War -- another courageous "national security leaker" has stepped forward and now is facing retaliation similar to what the U.S. government tried to inflict on Ellsberg.
Army Intelligence Specialist Bradley Manning is alleged to have turned over a large volume of classified material about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to Wikileaks.org, including the recently posted U.S. military video showing American helicopters gunning down two Reuters journalists and about 10 other Iraqi men in 2007. Two children were also injured.
The 22-year-old Manning was turned in by a convicted computer hacker named Adrian Lamo, who befriended Manning over the Internet and then betrayed him, supposedly out of concern that disclosure of the classified material might put U.S. military personnel in danger. Manning is now in U.S. military custody in Kuwait awaiting charges.
Though there are historic parallels between the actions of Manning today and those of Ellsberg in 1971, a major difference is the attitude of the mainstream U.S. news media, which then fought to publish Ellsberg's secret history but now is behaving more like what former CIA analyst Ray McGovern calls the "fawning corporate media" or FCM.
In the Ellsberg case, the first Pentagon Papers article was published by the New York Times -- and when President Richard Nixon blocked the Times from printing other stories -- the Washington Post and 17 other newspapers picked up the torch and kept publishing articles based on Ellsberg's material until Nixon's obstruction was made meaningless, and ultimately was repudiated by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today, the major response of the Times, Post and other tribunes of the FCM has been to write articles disparaging Manning, while treating Lamo as something of a patriotic hero.
The Washington Post depicted Manning as a troubled soldier, "slight" of build, a loser who "had just gone through a breakup," who had been "demoted a rank in the Army after striking a fellow soldier," and who "felt he had no future."
The Post even trivialized Manning's motive for leaking the material, suggesting that he was driven by his despair, thinking "that by sharing classified information about his government's foreign policy, he might 'actually change something.'"
Lamo also was quoted, speculating on what prompted Manning's actions. "I think it was a confluence of things -- being a thin, nerdy, geeky type in an Army culture of machismo, of seeing injustice," Lamo told the Post.
Meanwhile, the New York Times put Lamo's motives in the most favorable light.
"Mr. Lamo said he had contacted the Army about Specialist Manning's instant messages because he was worried that disclosure of the information would put people's lives in danger," the Times reported. "He said that Army investigators were particularly concerned about one sensitive piece of information that Specialist Manning possessed that Mr. Lamo would not discuss in more detail."
The Times quoted Lamo as saying: "I thought to myself, 'What if somebody dies because this information is leaked?' "