Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com blogger and former constitutional lawyer, discusses the military’s formal charging of Bradley Manning for giving classified information to WikiLeaks, Wired‘s refusal to disclose the full chat logs between informant Adrian Lamo and Manning and why whistleblowers who embarrass government are typically subjected to the Daniel Ellsberg treatment.
MP3 here. (9:53) Transcript below.
Glenn Greenwald was a constitutional lawyer in New York City, first at the Manhattan firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and then at the litigation firm he founded, Greenwald, Christoph. Greenwald litigated numerous high-profile and significant constitutional cases in federal and state courts around the country, including multiple First Amendment challenges. He has a J.D. from New York University School of Law (1994) and a B.A. from George Washington University (1990). In October of 2005, Greenwald started a political and legal blog, Unclaimed Territory, which quickly became one of the most popular and highest-trafficked in the blogosphere.
Upon disclosure by the New York Times in December 2005 of President Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program, Greenwald became one of the leading and most cited experts on that controversy. In early 2006, he broke a story on his blog regarding the NSA scandal that served as the basis for front-page articles in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers, all of which credited his blog for the story. Several months later, Sen. Russ Feingold read from one of Greenwald’s posts during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Feingold’s resolution to censure the president for violating FISA. In 2008, Sen. Chris Dodd read from Greenwald’s Salon blog during floor debate over FISA. Greenwald’s blog was also cited as one of the sources for the comprehensive report issued by Rep. John Conyers titled “The Constitution in Crisis.” In 2006, he won the Koufax Award for best new blog.
Greenwald is the author of A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok and Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics.
Transcript – Scott Horton interviews Glenn Greenwald July 12, 2010
Scott Horton: All right, everybody, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio, and our next guest is the great Glenn Greenwald. I tell you every day to read his blog. I read it every day, it seems like I ought to talk to him all the time on the show too. Welcome back, Glenn, how are you doing?
Glenn Greenwald: It’s great to be back, Scott. Glad to be here.
Horton: I appreciate you joining us. Let’s talk about Bradley Manning. He finally got charged, by who, and with what?
Greenwald: He was charged by the U.S. military with obtaining and mishandling classified information and also leaking classified information, and the charging document specifies that among the classified material that he leaked was the video that was obtained by WikiLeaks of the U.S. military attack on civilians that caused such controversy a couple months ago, an attack in Baghdad, as well as material that has yet to be released including 50 diplomatic cables which the military claimed that he also leaked. One of those actually was released by WikiLeaks about six months ago, which was a diplomatic cable involving the embassy in Iceland, as well as about 150,000 pages of diplomatic cables that the document accuses him of downloading but not leaking.
Horton: Okay, now, let’s try to break that down a little bit. First of all, it says specifically in the charging document – well, actually, first of all, is it worth going over the fact that they kept him in jail for about, what, three, four weeks, before they charged him, or should we just skip on to the details of the charges here?
Greenwald: Yeah, I mean, you know, the military obviously has some different rules in terms of its justice system than what civilian courts have. But even taking that into account, the length of time that he was detained in detention without being charged with anything was really quite unusual. They have charged him now, but there was a significant period of time where he was simply sort of sloughed away without any charges at all.
Horton: All right, and then you’re saying that in the charging document it specifically ties him to the Baghdad Reuters so-called “Collateral Murder” video and to the video of the Garani massacre in Afghanistan, is that right?
Greenwald: Well, actually, interestingly the charging document makes no mention of any video from Afghanistan. There have been reports from WikiLeaks that it has that video. They’ve said they have that video and intend to release it, but the actual charging document doesn’t say that Manning was involved in any way either in the downloading of that video or in the leaking of it. So it could be that they have a different source for that. It could be that they just don’t have the evidence for it. You know, who knows? But that is not mentioned in the charging document.
Horton: Well, and the same thing there when you talk about the different charges, about how many State Department cables he supposedly sent versus how many he downloaded, and then of course you’ve got to compare that to what it says in the chat logs, which, correct me if I’m wrong, says 260,000 State Department cables, he claims that he already sent to WikiLeaks. Is that right?
Greenwald: Well, one of the interesting parts of the charging document is how different it is than the chat logs that were released by Wired magazine in which he allegedly confessed to this hacker, Adrian Lamo, which is what started this case in the first place. There are a lot of facts that are very different, if you’ve looked at what the charging document suggests that he did versus what he allegedly said he did in those chats, including what you just mentioned, which is that in the chat he said that he had leaked 260,000 pages of documents, and yet the charging document says that he leaked only 50 cables but that he obtained 150,000 pages. And so what it suggests fairly strongly is that the military either had information about Lamo before that chat took place or they have obtained information from him or some other sources since those chats took place that have caused them to create a much different picture in the charging document. But whatever it is, they clearly have more than just what’s in the charging document, because so much of what they’re saying is different than what’s in those chats.
Horton: Well, another thing made clear by those charging documents too is that they’re throwing the book at him big-time, right?
Greenwald: Right, well, if you look at what the charges are and the penalties that are available, he actually faces up to 52 years in prison. Now there is absolutely no indication whatsoever that he did anything to harm national security. I mean, remember, the only documents that he’s actually accused of leaking that have actually been publicized are the video of the Apache helicopter attack in Iraq which obviously revealed no national security secrets. It embarrassed the United States, and it spawned the kind of debate about our war there that the military certainly wants to avoid, but nobody has ever suggested that that resulted in any national security harm, as well as this very innocuous diplomatic cable from Iceland, involving the ambassador to Iceland, that embarrassed the Icelandic authorities but certainly didn’t even arguably lead to the disclosure of classified information, yet they created the charging document in such a way that he could basically spend the rest of his life in prison. We’re talking about a 22-year-old private first class who, whatever else you want to say about him, was clearly motivated by leaking what he thought was evidence of very serious corruption, and in the case of the video, even war crimes, I mean shooting at unarmed rescuers of the wounded in their own country. And so clearly this is just part and parcel of the effort of the Obama administration that we’ve seen in multiple cases to intimidate and deter would-be whistleblowers from exposing embarrassing government secrets.
Horton: It seems kind of surprising– well, I don’t know, I guess it’s not surprising. It seems it probably made it worse, I guess, is what I was going to try to say there, that they’re just smearing the kid and they’re denying exactly what you just said. He’s motivated here by a crisis of conscience, etc. And they’re saying, “No, he’s a sissy. He’s despondent and he’s very sad and his friends don’t like him anymore, and that’s why he did this. He’s just vacuuming up data,” according to Lamo. And then the Washington Post ran an article that was picked up by I think every other newspaper in the United States that was titled, “Oh, the kid’s despondent.” That’s the best they can do with him. They’ve got nothing else to attack about him, Glenn, and so they’re assassinating his character by saying he’s weak.
Greenwald: Well, it’s interesting. One of the things that you can do is look at how whistleblower cases are handled typically, and you find exactly that same pattern. I mean, that’s even true more generally if there are disgruntled employees who expose embarrassing secrets involving corruption and wrongdoing on the part of their employer, the employer always tries to suggest that they’re doing it out of vindictiveness or vengeance because they were denied a promotion or have emotional problems or whatever. And no less a person than Daniel Ellsberg actually talked about how the treatment to which Bradley Manning is being subjected by the government and the press is basically identical to what they tried to do with Daniel Ellsberg when he blew the whistle on the Vietnam War. And of course the Nixon administration got caught breaking into his psychiatrist’s office precisely because they wanted dirt on him to depict Ellsberg as being this, you know, sort of mentally unstable, mentally unbalanced individual in order to discredit his exposure. So this idea of whispering that, you know, Bradley Manning was somehow angry or mentally imbalanced is just par for the course. It’s what governments do when their secrets get exposed and they want to discredit the whistleblower.
Horton: Well, that’s funny. It sounds like you can just refer to the Washington Post and the government in the same breath as the same thing, really, huh?
Greenwald: Well, it’s interesting, you’re right. I mean, in my answer I really didn’t distinguish, because you asked me about the Washington Post and I responded by talking about what the government does. I mean, and you know you see that over and over and over again where the dirty work of the government is done by the largest media outlets. I mean, that’s their role. I mean, when the government wanted to propagandize about the Iraq War, it used the New York Times. When it wanted to, you know, spread war propaganda involving Jessica Lynch’s Rambo-like heroic firefight with Iraqi monsters and the heroic rescue by the Marines from the hospital, all of those lies, you know, that was planted with the Washington Post. And you see that over and over and over again where very uncritical reporters simply repeat what they’re told by government sources and do their dirty work for them. And that’s exactly what’s being done here.
Horton: Well, and I’ve been reading your blog, and you’ve been calling them out, saying, “Hey, you’ve shown in your work there that you have access to more of the transcripts of Manning and Lamo the Snitch than has been published at Wired – let’s see the rest of them,” and they won’t even talk to you about it.
Greenwald: And you know that’s really bizarre. One of the things that, you know, what I did before I began –
Horton: Real quick here, 20 seconds.
Greenwald: Sure. – was I litigated. And what you know is that when people release to you bits and pieces of information but not the whole thing, it’s because the stuff they’re not releasing [doesn’t fit] with the picture they want to paint, and that’s what’s going on here as well.
Horton: Yeah, “Brady material.” That’s Glenn Greenwald, everybody. Salon.com/opinion/greenwald. Thanks, Glenn.
Greenwald: My pleasure, Scott.