From the beginning there was no blood on his hands. It took awhile but the history is there. Bradley Manning's unauthorized disclosure to Wikileaks was far more containable, more benign than the U.S. Government wants you to believe.
The sentencing phase of Bradley Manning's trial brought out, again, the fact that no one died due to the Wikileak documents provided by Bradley Manning. That's surprising, because a full bevy of government players, pundits, talking heads and wannabes have unequivocally said for the last couple of years that Bradley Manning's leaks killed people and caused informants to run for their lives. Oh, and the conditions of how Bradley Manning was jailed? "We" don't want to talk about that.
The paper trail is there for those who know where to find it.
There "Could" Be Blood
The story initially focused on the people outed by the April 2010 Wikileak and Taliban retaliation. The media didn't care about the fact that Bradley Manning was held in a cage in Kuwait from May until July 2010. It also ignored his awful conditions at Quantico two months later. That wasn't as important as the disaster story line that Adm. Mike Mullen former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
sold told in July 2010:
"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family."
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told Reuters his take around the same time frame:
"From our standpoint, there has been substantial damage. We believe that hundreds of people have been put at potential risk because their names have been compromised in the release of these cables."
The "it's not so bad" story line got air at a DOD press briefing where Robert Gates said:
the problems identified and the issues raised in these documents relating to the war in Afghanistan have been well known in and out of government for some time. In fact, it was the recognition of many of these challenges that led to the president to conduct an extensive review of our Afghan strategy last year, which concluded that our mission there needed a fundamentally new approach.
These documents represent a mountain of raw data and individual impressions, most several years old, devoid of context or analysis. They do not represent official positions or policy. And they do not, in my view, fundamentally call into question the efficacy of our current strategy in Afghanistan and its prospects for success.
Ooops, he had to get back in line. In his next sentence Gates says:
...the battlefield consequences of the release of these documents are potentially severe and dangerous for our troops, our allies and Afghan partners, and may well damage our relationships and reputation in that key part of the world. Intelligence sources and methods, as well as military tactics, techniques and procedures, will become known to our adversaries.
In yet another about face, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said a short time later in a Pentagon briefing in August 2010:
“Let me just offer some perspective as somebody who’s been at this a long time. Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve, and it has for a long time.
“Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many governments — some governments — deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.
“So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another.
“Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.’’
This story from the very beginning was that yes, these are old documents that won't do too much damage, but that's not the point! The point being the documents were illegally released and somebody has got to pay! The people we insulted in those documents don't want to talk to us anymore! (But, they'll come around when they need something from us.) But still! Bradley Manning and Julian Assange are dangerous traitors! They could've got somebody killed! But, don't worry, it's not too bad.
These two ubiquitous, but schizoid threads continued with the accusation that Bradley Manning has "blood on his hands" gaining dominance. The evidence that these disclosures endangered people's lives is "classified". We can't know how many people were affected or how many were dead before the release of documents as would be expected in the normal course of clandestine war making. Nothing. We get to take the Mullen/Gate et al's word for it. What the DOD did share is the initial conclusion (pdf) some months later via Robert Gates, that the leaks "did not disclose any sensitive intelligence sources or methods", but that information got buried down low on the scroll.
A couple months later, maybe NATO hadn't read the Mullen memo or maybe they were showing some independence when a reporter got this on October 17th, 2010 :
a senior NATO official in Kabul told CNN that there has not been a single case of Afghans needing protection or to be moved because of the leak.
The official line during the rest of the fall of 2010 continued to be Bradley Manning and Wikileaks recklessly endangered U.S. national interests, made our allies mad at us, gave our enemies too much information and could get people killed, but they offered no proof and equivocated their position statements. This is very different than how the U.S. viewed Scooter Libby for leaking Valerie Plame's CIA status to Robert Novak, but that inconsistency was brushed aside.
The DOD still thought they could put a lid on government employees discussing the leaked documents. (Yeah, right, here's the pdf.) Later in the month, P.J. Crowley said in January 2011:
Crowley said the State Department had helped move a small number of people compromised by the leaks to safer locations.
That doesn't sound as bad as what Mullen said. Embarrassing, but not damaging isn't that bad. We had to move a small number of people to safer locations. That's not Armageddon. That's like giving 50 people plane tickets and Visas to other countries, but the actual number of people relocated is "classified". The propaganda machine chugged onward attempting to convince us all that Bradley Manning aided and abetted the enemy and seriously damaged our diplomatic efforts in the area and it was going to blow up in our faces leading to many people dying needlessly...... and there would be
Meanwhile, Bradley Manning was incarcerated under horrid conditions. P.J. Crowley Speaker for the State Department imploded over those conditions on March 13, 2011:
A BBC correspondent reported last week that Crowley, a retired Air Force colonel, told a small audience at a university in Massachusetts the treatment of jailed former intelligence analyst Bradley Manning "is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid."
P.J. Crowley in a rare dose of candor should get some points for admitting keeping a guy in a solitary confinement cell without clothes, bedding or reading material with the lights on 24/7. Then the Military commander in charge of Manning's custody compounded these atrocious conditions by forbidding him to exercise inside the cell, sleep during the day or speak unless spoken to. Heaven forbid a government employee say treating a prisoner this way "is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid".
Manning's jail conditions implied that Bradley Manning was a bad ass of the first degree. These conditions helped sell the idea that as far as the U.S. government is concerned; Bradley Manning is a dangerous enemy of the state who aided and abetted the enemy who needs to be softened up and disappeared. The April 20, 2011 transfer to Leavenworth was a welcome relief.
May 2011 to the trial
This two-faced story kept going for 3 years with Adm. Mike Mullen's reckless endangerment talking point drowning out any other pertinent point. Reports of no one was killed continued to be reported, but people remember the myth not the debunking. After a while of the media repeating Manning=traitor, ignoring his appalling incarceration conditions and downplaying this was all "old, out of date information" got lost in the frenzy. I believed the danger was real and didn't really look for the old, out of date aspects of the documents or as the timeline continued; appreciate the fact that many of the 900 people outed in those documents were already dead before the documents were released.
Bradley Manning was placed on the back burner for most of America from the Spring of 2011 until December 2012/January 2013 when the military ended up fessing up to torturing Bradley Manning for 9 months of his pretrial detainment. It has been much better since he was transferred to Leavenworth as he had human contact with other pretrial detainees. Manning's been back to Quantico for the trial - no word if he went back to Quantico's punitive detainment procedures. The pundits, politicians, strategists and media personalities never have explored the inconsistency of the government's position regarding this leak. The damage they said was sure to be, never happened.
Phillip J. Crowley may have lost his job at the State Dept, but he quickly got back to saying all the right things and did so again last week on July 31, 2013.
It's important to understand that Bradley Manning did significant damage; among other things he put the lives of real people and the careers of real people at risk.
These were individuals who had perhaps talked to soldiers in a war zone, or diplomats, or activists who talk to US diplomats around the world so that the American administration could understand what's happening in the world and have perspective.
And in doing so - particularly in autocratic societies - they put these people's lives at risk, and in some cases they still remain at risk.
They can't let it go even after the verdict. They can't let it go after the facts show they overplayed the situation. They want payback for being panicked and embarrassed, but that isn't very dignified; that needs to be "refocused". What's a government to do? Oh, they can argue in the sentencing phase about what the possible damages these leaks could do in the future. They want to present speculation as fact in the sentencing phase. That's interesting because I'm interested in the actual damages done to date. Why not present the harm already done? Tally it up and present that. Oh, you can't? because there isn't any? OK there is some, but not much there? not enough there to ....? huh
The government's story that these leaks killed people and caused irreparable harm
remained the same until it changed in the post trial sentencing phase. Could the fact that these statements were made under oath and subject to perjury laws have anything to do with the change of story?
At the sentencing phase of Bradley Manning Ret. Brig. Gen. Robert Carr testified:
.... that his task force identified more than 900 Afghan names as potentially at risk in the 70,000-plus leaked files. But only a single death -- of someone not actually named in the logs -- was ever linked to WikiLeaks.
"As a result of the Afghan logs, I only know of one individual that was killed," Carr said. "The individual was an Afghan national. The Afghan national had a relationship with the United States government, and the Taliban came out publicly and said that they killed him as a result of him being associated with the information in these logs."
Defense lawyer Maj. Thomas Hurley immediately objected, asking Carr whether that person was actually identified by name in the war logs.
"The name was not there," Carr acknowledged. "The name of the individual that was killed was not in the disclosures."
Col. Denise Lind, the judge overseeing Manning's court martial, sustained the defense objection.
Carr also said he was not aware of any sources in Iraq who were killed because they were named in the war logs.
Go that? No one died because of Bradley Manning's leaked documents. Of the 900 identified in the documents "many" were already dead before the leak (how "many" remains classified). Perhaps talking to the CIA in a war zone endangered these people's lives far more than Bradley Manning releasing these documents or Wikileaks for publishing them.
War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things
10:19 AM PT: I originally wanted to write a diary about the damages Bradley Manning did, but the links told me a different story. I was entirely sympathetic to our government's case, but sometimes research takes us where we don't want to go. The only point of this diary is that no one died as a result of Bradley Manning's actions.