WaPo Hearts Bleed Over Leaking Bradley Manning, But They Can't Place Him or Supporters on the Left

Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine carried a cover story that oozed with compassion for radical-left WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning. Just as they did in last August's "antiwar hero" story, the Post utterly failed to locate Manning and his supporters on the far left. They were merely "free-information activists." They were the same kind of folks who wanted America to lose the Vietnam War, like Daniel Ellsberg, but that didn’t make them liberals. Post reporter Ellen Nakashima summed up:

For most of the past year, Manning spent 23 hours a day alone in a 6-by-12-foot jail cell. His case has become a rallying point for free-information activists, who say the leaked information belongs to the American people. They compare the 23-year-old former intelligence analyst to Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Vietnam War-era Pentagon Papers, and decry excessive government secrecy.

" What is happening to our government when Bradley Manning is charged with aiding the enemy?" asked Pete Perry, an organizer with the Bradley Manning Support Network. "Who is the enemy? Information? The American people?"

This stunning display of willful ignorance of America's enemies just lays there in a story with no real political critics of Manning except a perfunctory citation of how "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called the cable leaks 'an attack on America's foreign policy interests.'"

From there, Nakashima, who'd just mentioned Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, claimed "The case raises troubling issues. Placing information in the public domain has never before been construed as aiding the enemy."

Most of Nakashima's story was personal, not political, attempting to understand what would make free-spirited Bradley join the Army: "Manning had a history of emotional outbursts throughout his youth, and they continued during his Army service, culminating in a breakdown in Baghdad. How did a young man of such promise wind up in a brig?"  

Nakashima painted a sympathetic portrait of a boy with seriously inadequate parents who had some anger-management issues of his own. One-time employer and software developer Kord Campbell was highlighted in bold text for stating about Manning at 17:  "Nobody's been taking care of this kid for a really long time."

But he was never on the left. He just had "consciousness," as in "Bradley showed a political consciousness about the Iraq war. 'He didn't like that people were being killed, especially the citizens, innocent people,' Campbell said."

But you could be angry about civilian casualties and oppose the Iraqi insurgents, who targeted civilians, as opposed to the American troops, who worked assiduously to avoid civilian casualties. No such distinctions were going to be made by the Post. They were hinting that Bradley's "consciousness" opposed U.S. intervention. They were the only inhumane people.

The magazine story had pictures of pro-Manning rallies with signs that say "Codepink.org" on them, but the captions said they were only "supporters," not leftists. Any non-liberal who made it to the end of this sympathetic Post Magazine portrait would get seriously sickened by the concluding paragraphs about how this could have all been avoided with more compassion for Bradley:

Manning, with his history of emotional fragility, should at a minimum have had his clearance reviewed, said Joel F. Brenner, former national counterintelligence executive. His outbursts and emotional issues "should have been the big trigger."

Nobody "cared about him," said the intelligence official familiar with the case. "If somebody had taken an interest or tried to work with him, that very well may have changed his behavior."

David Charney, a psychiatrist who has consulted on espionage cases, said supervisors can be trained to recognize signs of distress in people before they take actions that could harm national security. Young adults often don’t know their place in the world. "When there’s a lot of confusion about that," he said, "then you really are talking about a deeper sense of being unmoored in life." 

In a Monday online Q&A, Nakashima repeated:

I set out not to judge the act - and I don't have conclusive evidence he did it - but to explore what people, places and events shaped the young man. What confluence of factors were at work in his life that led him to where he is today?

...Now according to Jordan Davis, Bradley was also a pragmatist who as an adolescent argued for a strong military and in favor of the U.S.' right to defend its interests overseas, with force if necessary. He defied labels. He told friends who have visited him in Quantico that while he was appreciative of the support of protesters, he felt miscast as "anti-war." He also was not religious, though his mother attended Catholic church. He shared many deep conversations about atheism with a friend in Boston. He was a complex young man.  

But Nakashima also agreed with questioners that "The short answer is yes, there is far too much information that is classified when it need not be, or classified at too high a level, or simply held back for other reasons - someone deems it part of internal decision-making process." 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis