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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.

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Comments on “Why Bob Woodward And His White House Sources Should Be On Trial Before Bradley Manning”

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doughless (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You keep mentioning this, but no civilian had access to those documents, so to be in a position to even leak them in the first place, you are, by definition, subject to UMCJ.

And when those documents detail crimes against humanity, you now have a dilemma: keep your mouth shut because you signed a piece of paper, or actually do your duty to serve and defend this country by revealing the crimes being committed by the very institutions meant to defend us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike, it seems things are about to get a lot worse soon:


“If the prosecution?s argument is upheld, the case will set a precedent for treating WikiLeaks, the media and the Internet as a whole as an extension of the battlefield, in which whistleblowers, journalists and others may be charged with aiding terrorism.”

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I always wonder why people forget that the democracy is supposed to be “we, the people”…

Yet, people attack the government instead of looking into why we are suppressing information.

It’s really not that hard. Who controls the politicians? Who has excesses funds to supply the president with funds to further their agenda?

That would be the very wealthy. We have an established shadow democracy that the FBI, CIA and other governmental entities answer to. The ones that further their existence would be the same ones that use bribery and extortion to create their ill-gotten billions.

Honestly, I would rather people focused on how to create a better alternative than a government only interested in helping out the extremely wealthy to the detriment of the entire nation.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You’re right in that government favors the wealthy; that much is obvious. But I believe that their agenda is to disarm us and destroy our national sovereignity, then transform us into a socialist slave state where we’re monitored 24/7 by an Orwellian nightmare government. They know the only thing standing between them and complete hostile takeover is about 100 million armed Americans, hence their constant push to ratify the 2nd Amendment. (Nevermind that they’re violating their sworn oath to protect the Constitution, but they don’t care.)

The agenda to disarm us is promoted with slick mass-media exposure and plenty of sympathy plays and rants against “lunatic” gun owners in order to goad people into making an emotional response rather than a rational one. Remember that what happened in countries like Russia, China, Cuba, etc. can happen here just as well, if we allow government to have its way.

It’s alarming how liberal-socialists attempt to paint the Constitution as somehow being old-fashioned, all the while exercising their 1st Amendment rights –which, ironically, is guaranteed by the 2nd. Oh, and did you hear about how Obama and Bush Jr. now have life-long secret service? It’s sheer hypocrisy to decry Americans for exercising their 2nd Amend. rights while giving themselves armed security detais (fully equipped with “assault weapons,” no less) at taxpayer expense.

You wanna bet that Senator Feinstein and the rest have armed security and own guns themselves? Heck, she gave herself the right to concealed carry while denying the same for other Californians, even carrying it into the hospital, i.e. a ‘gun-free zone’. No charges were pressed. shrugs Apparently elected officials don’t need to operate under the same laws as the people they (supposedly) work for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Manning is being held and tried for

“Manning is being held and tried for” violating a slew of offenses contained in the UCMJ. Even if WikiLeaks was entitled to publish them, Manning was not entitled to provide them in the first place…no matter now noble he and others may try to describe his motivations.

Anonymous Coward says:

I see what they are doing here. First they start to completely ignore the laws regarding whistleblowers, and start a massive crackdown against whistleblowers, and second, they start making it illegal to even READ the leaked material.

And we have a bit of proof that that’s what they want to do from when the Wikileaks cables were revealed. They banned all government employees from reading them. And now they want to extend that to the whole population.

This should be US’s new motto, instead of “land of the free, home of the brave”, it will be “If you read about our crimes, you’re aiding terrorists!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike, on this particular one, it isn’t so insane because Manning and Woodward fall under different law systems. Woodward falls under civilian law. Manning falls under the UCMJ; which was specifically written with 2 overall goals in mind.

One: Allow broad prosecution to keep anything from falling through the cracks.
Two: Remove as many loopholes as possible.

Military Justice is a completely different beast than Civilian Justice.

I don’t think Manning will get the death penalty because this is a heavily politically charged case with the entire world looking over our shoulders, the military does not need the bad press, but it’s a near certainty he will get life in prison.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As was mentioned above, Woodward published that information, his sources at the White House where the ones that blew the whistle.

In this case, Manning would be the source in the government, and Wikileaks/Assange did the publishing of said info.

And there’s a big chance some of Woodward’s sources fell under the UCMJ. Except since they didn’t get caught, everything is fine and dandy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

what charges ?? what court trial ??

(spoiler) there was none, for perfectly legal reasons. It was not ‘handled badly’ by the Government. It was handled exactly how you laws apply. As is what is happening to manning.

Manning has little choice but to try for some plea, to get life instead of Death. This will entail providing further information to the Government like who he gave the information too, when and why.

He might be a hero in your eyes, but he is not going to be a martyr, unless he is totally brain dead (or will be).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

the charges were dismissed because under US law (constitutional law) because it was leaked by a Senator and it was a Congressional Record, so not bound by the same laws and rules as a serving military person has in relation to secure information.

So there was no case to be faced for a treason trail or conviction.

(confirmed by the Supreme Court in decision Gravel V. United States.)

Bit of research goes a long way.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Depends on what info you’re talking about. This isn’t just about the Pentagon Papers; Woodward also recently published a book, “Obama’s Wars”, that leaked classified information.

The difference is that the stuff on Woodward’s book glorifies the government, so they’re okay with the leaks. When the leaks are embarrassing, that’s when the espionage charges come out. See Stephen Kim and Thomas Drake as prime examples.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Bob Woodward? Seriously?

Have we totally forgotten that Robert Novak outed a deep cover CIA operative??? Valerie Plame.

At the time it went to press, President Bush said that whoever leaked her identity would be tried for treason.

When it came to light that it was most likely Dick Cheney, they found a scapegoat in Lewis “Scooter” Libby. And the best part is that Libby is only found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice, no mention of outing a CIA operative or treason.

To cap it all off, President Bush commutes his 2 year sentence.

The sheeple will tolerate almost anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bob Woodward? Seriously?

It’s not really an indication of tolerance is it? More likely a combination of ignorance (for which the captive media shares blame) and indifference. There is plenty of intolerance out there, whether anything can be done about it is a different story.

UCDavis has to shell out a bunch of money due to the dumbassery of a rent-a-cop with mace, but ultimately who is it stuck with the bill? Yeah, you guessed it – the tax payer. So, although it is nice to demonstrate and show your support for a cause etc in the end it simply costs you more and accomplishes little other than providing some internet humor and billable hours for lawyers.

Bleys (profile) says:

Re: Bob Woodward? Seriously?

Dude, this is wrong on every level. It wasn’t Dick Cheney and it wasn’t even Scooter Libby. Scooter was nailed on the same thing Martha Stewart was – covering things up/obstructing the investigation.

Richard Armitage was the source of the leak. (3 seconds and the google machine proves that: http://articles.cnn.com/2006-08-30/politics/leak.armitage_1_novak-and-other-journalists-cia-officer-valerie-plame-plame-and-wilson?_s=PM:POLITICS )

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”

Makes me wonder why and how newspapers are failing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“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).

Of Course they are.. just like it is happening to manning for providing info the wikileaks, if someone caught those people providing that intel (if any), they could be charged and convicted of the same crime.

Manning was also a holder of a security clearance, this in an international (NATO) agreed principle, as such he had to sign away specific rights, including the right to provide any information he comes across in the course of his duties to people without said security clearance.

This is a criminal offense.

It is also something jurnalists are not required to sign, but it is equally an offense to receive or solicit such information that is known too or held by someone with a security clearance.

It is also an offense if someone with a high clearance to travel to certain countries or to communicate to certain people, without first getting permission from the security body that cleared you. This applies for several years after you leave the service.

You also continue to hold your clearance for years after you leave the military, although you are not exposed to any critical information, security is based on a ‘need to know’ basis, and even if you have a clearance (and the highest) if you do not need to know something you do not get access to it.

Manning is bound by these laws, and that is what he sighed onto when he took on that job, he gave up his free speech rights with it comes to information gained in the course of his employment, so free speech in no defence for him, as the military and NSA will produce the document he signed when he was given his clearance that states he gives up his free speech rights to gain the privilege of his clearance.

He (or masnick) does not get to decide if he was doing good or bad for his country, most would be able to put up a strong argument that he did in fact aid the enemy, he most certainly was fully aware of his legal responsibilities and the consequences should he disregard them.

He will get life minimum, make all the excuses you like, he did what he did knowing full well the legal consequences of his actions (with malice, and intent). For good or bad does not matter, the act itself is criminal and has the death penalty.

Look up Robert Hanssen, Manning is in the same class, if he cooperates with authorities and implicates others (assange) his death sentence will probably be commuted to life, it will be mannings choice.

At the present time NSA, CIA have mannings balls in a vice, it will be up to manning to plead a deal and that deal will involve him giving up the full details of his activates, as in the Hanssen affair.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: Re:

LOL Hanssen is in the same class as Manning?

Hanssen gave intelligence directly to Russian Intelligence agencies. He profited to the tune of $1.4 million. He outed CIA informants and operatives, which is more like Dick Cheney’s class than Manning’s.

By the way, nothing Manning leaked was Top Secret. And no one has proved “malice, and intent” yet, and they probably won’t because Manning’s goal was not to injure the US or help its enemies. Keep that in mind while you’re calling for his head.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

it’s also a crime for woodward to receive or divulge any information he received is he is aware that information is bound by a formal security clearance.

ie, if you receive a document with “secret” on it, and you then read it and tell others about it, you are liable under the same act.

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