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Does The Media Have An Obligation To Bradley Manning?

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nytimes.com
nytimes.com

The New York Times gave front-page treatment Sunday to reporter Scott Shane's profile of John Kiriakou, a former CIA operative expected to land a sentence of 30 months in prison for providing the name of a covert agent to a freelance writer who, in the end, didn't publish it.

Writing in a first-person style that drew praise from the paper's ombudsman, Shane described how Kiriakou had been a source for him, too. Kiriakou's case is one of six being prosecuted amid the Obama administration's unprecedented war on leaks.

Marcy Wheeler wrote today that Shane's profile "serves as a narrative pre-sentencing memo, offering a range of reasons why Kiriakou should get less than the 30 months his plea deal currently recommends," and asked if accused WikiLeaks leaker Pvt. Bradley Manning deserved the same treatment from the paper of record.

When it comes time to argue why Manning should not spend his life in prison, will the NYT make the same compelling case it did for Kiriakou? Or will its silence condone the illegal treatment of one of the NYT's most important recent sources?

The Times, which worked with Julian Assange before famously falling out with the WikiLeaks founder, published numerous articles in 2010 and 2011 based off the cache of documents believed to have been leaked by Manning. The WikiLeaks cache provided journalists with countless revelations about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and world diplomacy.

And yet, Manning's case hasn't received significant U.S. coverage, including from the Times. That's even as the most serious charge leveled, of indirectly "aiding the enemy," carries implications for the news media. The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald explained a few months back:

The implications of this theory are as obvious as they are disturbing. If someone can be charged with "aiding" or "communicating with the enemy" by virtue of leaking to WikiLeaks, then why wouldn't that same crime be committed by someone leaking classified information to any outlet: the New York Times, the Guardian, ABC News or anyone else? In other words, does this theory not inevitably and necessarily make all leaking of all classified information - whether to WikiLeaks or any media outlet - a capital offense: treason or a related crime?

Such questions remain, as Manning's case was delayed today until June, following a short reduction in confinement due to harsh treatment.