Though Bradley Manning's military hearings (and imprisonment) are far from over, books on his life, the materials he is accused of leaking, and his hearings are beginning to appear. Sinclair Books (New York) has published a book by Greg Mitchell of The Nation and Kevin Gosztola of FireDogLake entitled "Truth And Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning." It is available at Amazon in e-book format for $3.99, $12.99, paperback. Though it shows some signs of being an "instant book," the detail and thinking that went into the work makes for extremely worthwhile political analysis. It provides a strong factual recounting of the Lamo affair, which helped "capture" Manning. It provides excellent context for the military hearings, and documents Manning's imprisonment and mistreatment by authorities as well as we can determine from the outside. It covers the damage assessment from the leaks well. It's very acessible; for example, by drawing attention to the moment when Daniel Ellsberg placed his hand on Bradley Manning's shoulder in the military courtroom, the authors brilliantly provide historical context and meaning that explains to the reader in a single image why Manning's story is so important. The one complaint this reviewer has is the book's failure to explain who Manning is. It contains the full recounting of the family problems and sexual identity questions, but doesn't seem to provide a context that ties neatly with the document release. The authors, of course, had no access to Manning, which makes such a discussion difficult.
Instant History, Wikileaks Style
Both authors are columnists, Greg Mitchell is probably more widely read than Kevin Gosztola (though I dare say the very young Gosztola has an amazing future in front of him). Having read the columns of both on Manning before reading the book, I am pleased to report that the book does not read like they simply cut and pasted columns to make an instant book.
Mitchell wrote the first part of the book, covering Manning's life, arrest, imprisonment up to the hearings, and the beginning of the movement to demand his freedom. Gosztola wrote the second part, covering the hearings and Manning's continued imprisonment. Of the two, through an unscientific analysis (searching for large quoted text fragments with Google), Mitchell appears to have "re-used" the most text. It appears the method was to take whole paragraphs from The Nation columns, sometimes placing paragraphs from single columns in different chapters, and then writing text to tie it all together. This is not a complaint. It works well from an organizational stand point, because the book has been divided into chapters on "The Arrest," "The Leaks," and so forth, whereas the columns by necessity lumped everything together under the pressure of chronological occurrence. It's news vs. an organized story. Compare it to the day by day news releases as fresh Wikileaks cables were released, vs. political columns citing cables as footnotes months after the cable releases, with the added ability to quote cables across many daily releases. Gosztola appears to have done much more wordsmithing to his columns, mostly, I believe, to compress multiple days of courtroom proceedings stories into faster, distilled accounts.
There should be no concern that the quick release of this book makes it any less important than a book that might appear a year after the events. This book is definitely worth its very reasonable price, and its existence performs a vital function. The mainstream media, which has kept the state's secrets so well in recent years, cannot be trusted in matters such as this case.
The Lamo Affair and Manning's Arrest
Greg Mitchell covers the Lamo affair, which "caught" Bradley Manning well, though of course it was Glenn Greenwald that focused the world's attention to Lamo and the edited chat logs. Mitchell has some excellent insights, however. He focuses on the most significant fallout of the arrest in probably the most important passage of the first part of the book:
"Perhaps the most significant fallout, however, was this: The arrest suggested that leaking to WikiLeaks was a dangerous thing, despite the organization's vow of never compromising a source. In fact, it had not compromised a source in this case, but you'd only know that if you were following the story closely. In many ways, it was a dream come true for U.S. officials. WikiLeaks early that year had leaked that U.S. Counterintelligence Center report (also allegedly thanks to Manning) which discussed ways to destroy the group's reputation as a safe harbor for leakage. Now, to some extent, that had been accomplished in an unforeseen way."
Mitchell provides good context for Lamo's chat logs, noting that it's foolhardy to treat them as pure evidence, and pointing out that the military prosecution appears to depend upon them. He firmly points out that government sources have been quoted (anonymously, of course) as saying that the government still has no firm evidence of a Manning-Wikileaks leak. In fact the book notes the differences in cable releases in which it appears the publishing newspaper obtained a different release than the cables allegedly stolen by Bradley Manning (testimony of David Shaver, who did a forensic examination of Manning's computer).
There was a minor quibble I had with the section on the Lamo chats. In some of the chat log sections reproduced, Manning is attributed with his nickname, Bradass87, in other parts, as "Manning." Likewise, for "Adrian" and "Lamo." This was a minor annoyance, and could have been handled with a simple editing fix.
The remainder of the first part of the book does an excellent job of documenting the conditions in which the United States holds Bradley Manning, and the mistreatment he has suffered.
As the "bread and butter" of the book, Gosztola's account excels. From the very start, noting the decision to try in Ft. Meade, vs. Manning's original post, Ft. Drum, the book connects every small detail to the larger national issue. In the Meade vs. Drum issue, the book notes that Meade is part of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, as well as containing the headquarters of the U.S. Cyber Command, the National Security Agency, and the Defense Courier Service.
The book makes a strong case for undue Executive branch influence upon the army hearings, noting, for example, that the presiding officer in the December pre-trial hearings had left the Department of Justice only two weeks before the trial. The denied witnesses and pre-judgments are covered thoroughly, and the 20,000 foot view was explained. A few outstanding points:
- The book highlights the lack of testimony by Adkins, the highest military officer on the base. He did not share important information regarding Manning with other officers. The information probably would have gotten Manning transferred prior to the alleged document releases. Adkins was allowed not to testify on the grounds that he should not have to answer questions that might incriminate himself. The hearing officer refused to give him immunity to make him testify.
- The book provides an excellent explanation for the defense resting in pre-trial hearings after only calling a few witnesses. Gosztola explains it as the defense having had to choose between waiting for the material they need to conduct a defense vs. an interminable pre-trial detention.
- The book declares the Lamo testimony the most fascinating part of the hearings: "It was one of the few times where the prosecution's case showed clear weakness and that is because, as Manning's attorney, David Coombs was trying to show, Lamo notified law enforcement and continued to chat with Manning, which made it seem like Lamo tried to entrap him."
- That President Obama and and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey, have both declared the guilt of Bradley Manning even before he went to trial was duly noted.
- The mention by Judge Lind at the March 10 hearing, that it would have been easier for her had she had a transcript of the December hearing, and the response by the defense, "The defense would appreciate it too if we had a verbatim transcript," as well as Judge Lind's astounding question "Please remember I just joined this case. Who is Adrian Lamo?' were appropriately highlighted. Both quotes underscore the odds that are stacked against Bradley Manning.
- The comical withholding of important emails to prosecution because they contained the word "WikiLeaks" was documented in a similar fashion.
- The damage assessments from the release of the WikiLeaks papers and cables is a big question for the defense. The assessments have been withheld from the defense, and those who wrote them denied as witnesses. The book quotes Coombs, stating they would confirm defense belief that no sources or methods revealed have caused minimal damage; or that they could reveal they have caused terrible damage. The book more than adequately covers the secrecy issues as they prejudice Manning's ability to mount an adequate defense.
The Most Dangerous Man in America
In my opinion, the single best device of "Truth And Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning" is Kevin Gostolza's use of the moment in the trial at which Daniel Ellsberg touched Bradley Manning's shoulder to say hello as an emblem of this trial's place in U.S. history"