2011-07-16 How Wired Magazine Tried (And Failed) To Help The US Government Frame Julian Assange

We've learned a few important things from the full transcripts of Bradley Manning's online chats with Adrian Lamo. Glenn Greenwald has already focussed on how Wired magazine's decision to with-hold the full transcripts has damaged the reputations of Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks. But it's worth examining in more detail exactly how Wired's subterfuge has affected Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in particular.

Firstly, and most importantly, it's now clear that Julian Assange did NOT know if Bradley Manning was the source who leaked the US cables to WikiLeaks. Manning tells Lamo that Assange “knows little about me” and “he takes source-protections uber-seriously.” Furthermore, he says, Assange "won’t work with you if you reveal too much about yourself.” Assange even instructs Manning to lie about his identity!

This blows apart the US government's protracted efforts to suggest that Assange actively enticed Manning to hand over the cables, and thereby charge the Australian with criminal activity. In fact, it was only through his own protracted sleuth work that Manning even knew who HE was talking to: "it took me four months to confirm that the person i was communicating [with] was in fact assange".

Why would Wired with-hold this critically important information, unless they were actively co-operating with US agents trying to fabricate charges against Assange? Given that Lamo had notified authorities of Manning's alleged actions while still continuing to chat with him, it's logical to assume the Feds would have wanted to censor any published details. Wired appears to have willingly complied.

The full transcripts also destroy whatever shreds remain of Adrian Lamo's tattered reputation. The ex-hacker - who has been described as "the FBI's star witness against WikiLeaks" - deliberately deceived Manning from the beginning, then lied repeatedly to have the public believe that he didn't. He claimed to be both a journalist and a minister, repeatedly assuring Manning that their conversations were "never to be published". Why would Wired redact these portions of the transcripts, expect to maintain the illusion that Lamo is a credible source?

In fact, Lamo comes across as a sociopath. His callous disregard for Manning's fraught emotional state is evident throughout the transcripts. Lamo repeatedly asks about Assange, and how he can get in contact with him. He even offers to work for WikiLeaks. At one stage Manning pours his heart out while Lamo goes away to have a cigarette break. When he gets back, Lamo presses Manning for more details of confidential data and Manning snaps: "im not a source for you… im talking to you as someone who needs moral and emotional fucking support".

Ironically, it seems Manning only reached out to Lamo after reading a Wired article about Lamo's own experiences as a sexually confused, frequently homeless, drug-addicted "child prodigy" hacker with Aspbergers Syndrome. He really couldn't have picked a worse target. Towards the end of the chat logs, when Lamo has already snitched on his "friend", he asks Manning if he is a "leftist" or a "centrist". Manning rebuffs such political pigeon-holing. "I’m a fan of of realpolitik myself," boasts Lamo.

Realpolitik is the favoured politics of Kissinger and the neo-conservatives, where moral principles do not apply and the end always justifies the means. I wonder what the USA's favourite dictators in the Middle East think of such ideology nowadays?

Wired Editor-In-Chief Evan Hansen seems a bit more conflicted, writing a Huffington Post article titled: "Is Bradley Manning a Traitor or a Hero?" Evans plays Pontius Pilate, wringing his hands over the "divisive national debate about the role and legitimacy of whistleblowers" while claiming that Wired only held back details of the chat logs "out of respect for Manning's privacy". The facts suggest otherwise.

Why can't Hansen just admit that he considers Manning a dangerous traitor, that he happily helped sell him out, and that he protected Lamo on instructions from the government? It seems neither Hansen nor Lamo have any real moral compass. They take their orders from authority and cling to "patriotic" cliches for justification. While innocent lives are destroyed, Hansen and Lamo are left swinging in the breeze, unable to justify their own actions, unwilling to repent them.

Meanwhile Tim Webster, the US Army Counterintelligence agent who first talked Lamo into working with the feds, is doing a good Jack Nicholson "Code Red" impersonation in the Wired comments:

"Manning is a traitor. You and others like you can cry and moan and wring your hands and pace back and forth while braying the words "hero" and "duty" and "patriotism" all you want -- words which you and your ilk know nothing about -- but rest assured that Manning will get precisely what he deserves (that is, almost: apparently death is off the table)."

I'm sure Webster is a big fan of Wired magazine. More discerning readers should by now be cancelling their subscriptions.

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