Some have sought to argue that Bradley Manning was not a mere whistleblower exposing government wrongdoing but someone who deliberately revealed classified secrets that benefited the enemies of the US, thus making his actions more akin to espionage. While this may not necessarily excuse his treatment, it definitely makes him a less sympathetic figure to the public than other whistleblowers and may explain why there has not been greater outrage at the way he has been treated.
But Glenn Greenwald takes that argument apart, showing that leaks of classified information by high government officials occurs routinely in the US. In fact, the government routinely advances its own agenda by selectively leaking secrets and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post is one of those people who has built almost his entire career by receiving and publishing such secrets. Greenwald argues that if Manning is being prosecuted, why not Woodward? In fact, Woodward even published information classified as ‘Top Secret’, something that neither WikiLeaks nor Manning are accused of doing.
The reason that Manning is being treated differently is that WikiLeaks is a non-establishment media entity. Unlike the mainstream US media, which is careful not to reveal serious illegal, or even deeply embarrassing, actions by the US government and in fact often clears information they receive with them before publishing it, WikiLeaks has no interest in shielding the government from the consequences of its wrongdoing. That was Manning’s ‘crime’.
Of course, Greenwald is not suggesting that Woodward should also be prosecuted. He is merely pointing out the blatant hypocrisy. But he also expresses surprise that so many media outlets seem to be not disturbed by the government, in Manning’s case, cracking down on a practice that they themselves indulge in and benefit from. The New York Times did not initially even bother to send a reporter tot cover the Manning hearings, though they themselves benefitted enormously from the information revealed by Wikileaks.
As Greenwald says:
The answer to these questions are, of course, obvious: the Obama administration is not interested in punishing the disclosure of classified information generally. It is interested in punishing – and deterring – only those leaks which reflect poorly on the US government by disclosing its bad acts. Bob Woodward is a servant-journalist for US government officials, and his continuous unauthorized disclosures of highly sensitive secrets advance the agenda of those officials, and are therefore not viewed with disfavor, even though they are just as arguably criminal, if not more so.
As Lowell wrote in his letter, the leaks by these high-level officials to Woodward are intended “to curry favor with the media and the public”. By contrast, Manning’s leaks – and those of the other whistleblowers prosecuted at record rates by the Obama administration – were designed, as Manning wrote in the chat logs when he thought he was speaking in confidence, to trigger “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms”.
The fact that Woodward’s far more sensitive leaks have never been the subject of any investigation underscores the clear and obvious point: protection of government secrets is the pretext for these prosecutions. The actual purpose is to intimidate everyone from exposing secret government wrongdoing and to severely punish those who do.
That is the government-elite media complex at work.