Yossi Melman’s “An Inside Look at the WikiLeaks Revolution” in Haaretz today is disturbing on multiple levels. A biased piece loaded with gossip regarding Assange is expected, I suppose, but one that treats Bradley Manning as if he were tried and convicted is not. Bradley Manning has been charged, but no facts of the case have yet been established in a court of law. Manning is charged and nothing more. Not even a hearing has taken place during which some evidence has been presented. Manning’s status is easily verified; consequently, journalists of reputation and responsibility have largely dealt with the problem of Manning ‘s legal limbo by qualifying the language used around his purported behaviors as “alleged.” One would never know that Manning hasn’t been tried and convicted, however, based on Mr. Melman’s piece today. He writes:
"The documents in question were leaked last year by Bradley Manning, a 23-year-old private who served in an intelligence unit of the U.S. Army in Iraq. After the fact, he said his motives were ideological and political, and that he wanted to tell the world the truth and expose his government's lies."
“After the fact, he said…”? According to whom? Were you there, Mr. Melman? Of course not, and neither was anyone else, but you’d never know from this account. Melman never references Adrian Lamo as the source of this intimate account and, in fact, only briefly mentions him as the guy Manning confessed to. Nothing is said about Mr. Lamo’s significant credibility issues or his propensity to embellish and embroider. Why is that? And there’s this:
"Manning was surprised to find that although the secret operations room in which he served as a computer expert was safeguarded by a five-digit entry code, anyone could knock on the door and come in. And so, at an intelligence base in the desert 50 kilometers from Baghdad, without planning ahead, he copied a quarter of a million secret documents onto a few personal discs, on which Lady Gaga songs had previously been burned."
If you are appalled at this point, you should be. Now Mr. Melman claims to know Bradley Manning’s feelings. “Surprised”? Well, tell us more, Mr. Melman. Was he perspiring heavily? Did he feel nauseated? Mr. Melman is clearly in the know, as they say in show biz. Several more paragraphs follow in this vein without a single referenced source. Not one citation. Not one use of “alleged.” Not one shred of independently verified evidence. Wired magazine’s claims, Adrian Lamo’s claims, a conversation with David Leigh, and the Guardian’s book are all that’s necessary, I guess, in Mr. Melman’s journalistic world to write without reserve.
Little in this piece can remotely be considered journalism. Well, I suppose we could accept the facts that Mr. Melman a) spoke with David Leigh and b) was unsuccessful in snagging an interview with Julian Assange as accurately reported and sourced. Heresay informs Mr. Melman’s preferred narrative nicely, so picayune details like sourcing, citation, and verification can be easily ignored when it comes to both Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. The supreme irony of this mess, of course, is that Mr. Melman’s lazy and irresponsible reporting typifies exactly the eroded journalistic standards that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks decry. Sadly, Mr. Melman has plenty of company in this regard, so it’s no wonder, then, that none of us are “surprised.”