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Pvt. Bradley Manning and the New York Times: Manufacturing a Villain

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In Early Struggles of Soldier Charged in Leak Case, the New York Times published a portrait of Private Bradley Manning reminiscent of the type of character assassination J.Edgar Hoover planted in newspapers in the hey day of the communist witch hunts. The government agencies routinely planted such misinformation to discredit civil rights activists and others they considered a threat to our national security. Whistleblowers like Private Manning and Daniel Ellsberg before him are considered extremely dangerous and in the words of the then sitting (during the Pentagon Papers incident) president Richard M. Nixon ''need to be taken out'. President Nixon famously said that he did not need to wait and see if the courts would convict Ellsberg because he would destroy him in the court of public opinion. He then ordered the break in to the offices of Ellsberg's psychiatrist. Here we are again, four decades later convicting in the court of public opinion Private Bradley Manning.

The NYT article is subtle in its venom but no less deadly. In Manufacturing Consent, Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky propose a mass media propaganda model for a modern western liberal democracy such as our own, in which mechanisms for the maintenance of the status quo are less obvious, but no less effective, than in systems such as totalitarian dictatorships. Private Manning and WikiLeaks threw a hand grenade at the status quo and now these mechanisms are working overtime to repair the damage. The fact that the NYT collaborated with WikiLeaks is in keeping with the model of the cultural mechanisms at play.

I have no doubt that Private Manning, a sensitive youth, was struggling to fit into a world that did not accept his sexual orientation, nor that he fell in love with a young man who in the words of the NYT is a "self described drag queen." And to that, I say so what.

The spin of the article is that because he was an outsider, his motivation for divulging the classified information and releasing the documents was to fit in with his new friends, a "politically motivated group of hackers to whom he increasingly turned to for moral support."

The article continues:

And now, some of those friends say they wonder whether his desperation for acceptance -- or delusions of grandeur -- may have led him to disclose the largest trove of government secrets since the Pentagon Papers.

There is no evidence that Private Manning was either desperate or had delusions of grandeur. The only named sources in the article was a former neighbor Mrs. Radford, a former classmate and a former employer, all who say nothing to lead us to that conclusion.

The only named source that paints the portrait of the desperate and delusional Private Manning is the cyber informant Adrian Lamo. I find it extremely disturbing that the NYT chose not to elucidate us in this article about the well known and well documented character and controversy surrounding Adrian Lamo. Adrian Lamo was prosecuted and convicted of hacking into the very NYT and so they more than anyone know about his history of heavy drug abuse and psychological problems.

One glance at his Facebook page (which has no privacy settings so you do not need to friend him to navigate) will confirm that Lamo, if not exhibiting delusions of grandeur, at minimum is prone to self-aggrandizement and self promotion. When asked why hack, by a San Francisco Weekly reporter, he answers: "This is what I do, this is the role I was born to play." He goes on to quote a long passage about how greatness can destroy a man from the Frank Herbert science-fiction epic Dune later made into a David Lynch film, which tells the story of a young man who becomes a messiah.

He is also an avowed drug abuser. Do not take my word for it, but please watch this video from the BBC at about 3 minutes 25 seconds and you will witness the most bizarre behavior you have ever seen on prime time.

The NYT does not find it worthy of mention that the man who turned in Private Manning and the only named source in the article that eludes to Manning's motivation for the release of the documents is a total mess.

He tells a San Francisco weekly reporter that his convulsions are a result of an amphetamine overdose he suffered the year before. He goes on to say about his drug use:

I've resisted including this in news reports because I think it would make me intolerable to the government if I was advocating both intrusion and drug use, but substances that disassociate you from your senses have played a big part in my life.

Lamo goes on to explain to Wired Magazine's Khan that after his amphetamine overdoes he now takes only depressives and dissociatives.

The dissociatives are amazing... You can look at your face in the mirror and completely not recognize it.

The court issued a restraining order against Lamo, due to a complaint in which his then-girlfriend described an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse. She explains: "He carried a stun gun, which he used on me. He was very controlling. He wanted to know where I was costansantly." There are many articles that reference the taser he carries with him, sometimes used to "hack" vending machines.

We are to believe that Adrian Lamo just happened to be chatting with the total stranger Private Manning and divulged not only what he would be doing and had done but also his motivation. Adrian Lamo is the oldest trick in the book and has the footprint of the government all over it. A homeless, drug addicted convicted felon with a suspended sentence who still owes the government over $65,000 in fines is not exactly my idea of a credible witness, but rather your typical informant who says and does as he is told.

The named source in the Wired Magazine article quoted in the NYT, Private Manning's boyfriend, Mr. Watkins, states that after WikiLeaks released the video allegedly provided by Manning of the shootings of the AP journalists that "one of his {Private Manning's} major concerns once he'd done this was, was it really going to make a difference?" This concern would lead one to conclude that Private Manning's motivation, as much as one can impute motivation, was to have an impact on public opinion and perhaps on the course of the war, in the tradition of Ellsberg. If Manning wanted to influence the course of the war and deliberately broke the law and knowingly risked prosecution, he follows in the footsteps of the greats: Rosa Parks, Dolores Huerta (arrested 22 times and counting), Dr King and Daniel Ellsberg. There is no credible evidence, only government spin repackaged by the NYT, that this is not the case.

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