Why Bob Woodward And His White House Sources Should Be On Trial Before Bradley Manning
from the low-court,-high-court dept
As we noted recently, one of the key questions in Bradley Manning’s trial is whether or not his leaking of information amounted to aiding the enemy, a charge which can lead to a death sentence. This is troubling on many levels, considering the evidence is pretty clear that Manning was actually trying to do the opposite: aid the US, by providing more openness and transparency, not help Al Qaeda. Even scarier, the government’s ridiculously broad interpretation of “aiding the enemy” seems to be revealing or publishing any information that Al Qaeda might like. As Glenn Greenwald notes, if that’s the case, famed investigative reporter Bob Woodward (one half of the duo who revealed Watergate) and his White House sources should be on trial first.
But let’s apply the government’s theory in the Manning case to one of the most revered journalists in Washington: Bob Woodward, who has become one of America’s richest reporters, if not the richest, by obtaining and publishing classified information far more sensitive than anything WikiLeaks has ever published. For that reason, one of Woodward’s most enthusiastic readers was Osama bin Laden, as this 2011 report from AFP demonstrates:
“Al-Qaeda has released a video marking the anniversary of 9/11 which includes a message from its slain leader Osama bin Laden to the American people . . . . He recommended that Americans read the book ‘Obama’s War’ by Bob Woodward which details wrangles over US military decision-making.”
If bin Laden’s interest in the WikiLeaks cables proves that Manning aided al-Qaida, why isn’t bin Laden’s enthusaism for Woodward’s book proof that Woodwood’s leakers – and Woodward himself – are guilty of the same capital offense? This question is even more compelling given that Woodward has repeatedly published some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets, including information designated “Top Secret” – unlike WikiLeaks and Manning, which never did.
Indeed, he goes on to point out a report from 2010 by Michael Isikoff showing that Woodward’s book revealed a ton of highly sensitive info.
In the first 12 pages of his new book, “Obama’s Wars,” famed journalist Bob Woodward reveals a wealth of eye-popping details from a highly classified briefing that Mike McConnell, then-director of National Intelligence, gave to President-elect Barack Obama just two days after the November 2008 election.
Among the disclosures: the code names of previously unknown National Security Agency programs, the existence of a clandestine paramilitary army run by the CIA in Afghanistan, and details of a secret Chinese cyberpenetration of Obama and John McCain campaign computers.
The contents were so sensitive that McConnell, under orders from President George W. Bush, barred Obama’s own transition chief, John Podesta, from sitting in at the briefing, which took place inside a tiny, windowless and secure room known as a SCIP (or Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.)
Thus, under the basic argument being used against Manning, any government source who provided info to Woodward — and Woodward himself — could be subject to the same charges (and potential death penalty). That is, to put it mildly, insane. And, yet, very few journalists are speaking out about how ridiculous the charges are against Manning. Sometimes this is because they’re just not paying attention. Or it’s because they don’t like Wikileaks. No matter what the reason, it’s quite scary.
What this really shows, however, is that it appears the Obama administration — which has gone after a ton of journalists who have published embarrassing information — is using these lawsuits strategically. If you reveal highly sensitive info that makes them look good: no problem. If you reveal much less sensitive info that makes them look bad: watch out.