Bradley Manning versus Bob Woodward

Bradley ManningSome 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.


  1. The Lorax says

    What this country needs is a guaranteed right of freedom of the press!

    … what? Oh…

    What this country needs is to understand that criticism of the American culture and investigation of the American government are good things that everyone who considers themselves a patriot should partake in.

    … and as long as I’m dreaming, I’d like to visit Mars…

  2. Rodney Nelson says

    First, Woodward never signed a form saying he would not divulge classified information and outlining the punishments for such divulging. Manning did.

    Second, Woodward was given the information. It would be one thing to go after whoever gave the data to Woodward but Woodward himself is not actually liable. Manning is in the position of the person giving Woodward classified information, only Manning gave it to a different journalist, Julian Assange.

    No, Greenwald is talking out of his ass. Manning broke the law by giving classified material to Assange and is liable for punishment. I wouldn’t object to Greenwald calling for Woodward’s sources to be given the same treatment as Manning and I will agree that Manning is being treated very badly while in custody. But Manning brought it upon himself when he knowingly released classified information to Assange.

  3. Mano Singham says

    It is true that there are some differences between Woodward and Manning. It is true that Woodward was the recipient of classified information while Manning was the source. But Woodward was a secondary source in that he published widely publicized books and articles containing the secrets he received and is lauded for his work. What is interesting is that the government seems to have absolutely no interest in discovering who Woodward’s sources were and still gives him access to high-level people, while with low-level unauthorized whistle blowers they put the screws on everyone until they find the culprit.

    Also, as was pointed out before, Woodward published secrets that had ‘top secret’ classification, unlike Manning.

    In addition, Manning had no interest in making money for his leaks or even gaining fame. Woodward clearly does it for both. He makes tons of money by peddling government secrets in books, articles, and on TV. In other words, Woodward, unlike Manning, is selling the government’s secrets for private gain.

    As for Manning signing a document that promised he would not reveal secrets, the interesting thing is why Woodward did not have to sign such a document when he received these briefings containing classified information. Such non-disclosure statements are routine in the business world. The likely reason he was not asked to sign (assuming he did not) was that he was being used as a conduit to advance the government’s message. There is a clear double standard that has less to do with leaks and more to do with who leaks and the purpose of the leaks.

    Greenwald is not interested in having Woodward prosecuted because he believes in transparency. He wants to encourage leaks of government wrongdoing. He is pointing out that the government has two widely different standards for responding to leaks of classified information, depending on whether they serve the government’s purpose or not.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    It’s too rarely mentioned that the database from which Manning pulled the leaked information was freely open to many members of the Iraqi military, whose loyalty to the US-installed quisling regime was about as reliable as that of ARVN to the American puppets in Saigon (i.e. zero to negative).

    In other words, Manning spilled beans which were already poured across the street.

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