When Pfc. Bradley Manning pled guilty Thursday to ten of 22 charges in connection with leaking a cache of classified documents to WikiLeaks, he also revealed having first approached three news outlets: the Washington Post, New York Times and Politico.
"Manning said he talked to person at WaPo who he did not think took him seriously when he described war logs," tweeted Kevin Gosztola, a FireDogLake writer who co-authored a book on Manning and his covering his plea from Ft. Meade.
"Bradley Manning tried to contact POLITICO to give them war logs. Weather conditions hampered travel to office," Gosztola tweeted.
New York Times reporter Charlie Savage, who is also covering the proceedings, tweeted that that Manning called the Times public editor, but his voicemail was never returned. However, Savage said its not clear Manning ever reached a reporter in the newsroom.
WikiLeaks released a classified video in April 2010, believed to have been provided by Manning, in which a US Apache helicopter opened fire on a crowd in Iraq without clear provocation, killing nearly a dozen people, including two Reuters staffers. Manning was arrested the next month in Iraq. In July, WikiLeaks teamed up with several news organizations, including the Times, before publication of Afghan war documents and published the Iraq war logs in October.
It's unclear exactly when Manning may have contacted the Times, but if it was before going to WikiLeaks, Clark Hoyt would've been public editor. Hoyt served as public editor -- a position that includes being in-house critic and reader representative, not part of the newsgathering operation -- from May 2007 to June 2010.
"I have absolutely no recollection of ever hearing from him," Hoyt told The Huffington Post on Thursday.
Hoyt, who noted receiving around 300 emails a day while in the public editor job, said my call was the first time he'd heard of Manning's claim of trying to reach the paper.
"To our knowledge, Manning did not contact us," a Washington Post spokesperson told The Huffington Post.
A Politico spokesperson declined to comment.
In January, Capt. Angel Overgaard, the prosecutor in the Manning case, said that Manning would still face the same charges if he'd leaked to the Times rather than WikiLeaks -- a response to a hypothetical question coming before Thursday's revelation about Manning's attempt to leak the material to establishment media outlets. That statement, I wrote at the time, raises troubling questions for national security journalists:
Journalists will often try making a distinction between their outlets and WikiLeaks, which, some say, is more of a clearinghouse for documents or perhaps a middleman between a source and news organizations. They may point out that their news organizations put raw material in context, call for comment, and weigh the government's concerns over publishing sensitive material.
But whatever journalists may think, the prosecutor in Manning's case sees no difference between a source's relationship with a major newspaper and with WikiLeaks. So presumably, a source providing information to the Times could similarly be prosecuted for indirectly "aiding the enemy," a capital offense.
Manning pled not guilty Thursday to either "aiding the enemy" or violating the Espionage act.
This post was updated with a responses from the Washington Post and Politico.
Follow Michael Calderone on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mlcalderone