The Magazine

The Martyrdom of Bradley Manning

The left has a new hero.

Jan 17, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 17 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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Lamo was a hacker who operated on the fringes of the law, but he knew the difference between computer crime and offenses like Manning’s that could get people killed. He was troubled by what Manning had told him and consulted some people in cybersecurity. One of them was Chet Uber, the head of a rag-tag volunteer group, Project Vigilant, which attempts to (legally) compile evidence of cybercrime and forward it to the authorities. Uber asked Lamo to talk with Rasch, who is listed as Project Vigilant’s general counsel. (There is some dispute as to how serious Project Vigilant is; Rasch demurely describes the group as mostly “aspirational.”) Both Uber and Rasch urged Lamo to give his chat logs to the FBI. On May 25, he met with FBI agents at a Starbucks near his house in Carmichael, California.

The entire affair lasted barely a week: Manning reached out to Lamo on May 21 and was arrested within days. Lamo told Poulsen about his contact with Manning, and Poulsen, after Manning was taken into custody, convinced Lamo to give Wired.com a copy of the chat logs and to go on the record.

Yet somehow in all of this, the character who’s emerged as a folk-hero isn’t Kevin Poulsen, with his only-in-America journey from computer prodigy, to dashing hacker, to jailbird, to stud journalist. It’s Private Bradley Manning, who sits in the brig at Quantico facing eight federal criminal counts related to the mishandling of classified information. The left, both here and abroad, has turned young Manning into a cause célèbre.

Like some latter-day Mumia Abu-Jamal (or Julius and Ethel Rosenberg), Manning is being held up as a brave voice of morality and defiance, victimized by corrupt forces of “digital McCarthyism.” In December, the city of Berkeley took up a resolution to have him declared a “hero.” Michael Moore regularly posts information about pro-Manning rallies on his website. The Nation’s blog recently urged readers to remember that “without Bradley Manning and many others like him, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and all our new-found public information would be as in the dark as Manning is right now.” The Bradley Manning Support Network has sprung up to collect followers and money for his defense fund. Through their website, BradleyManning.org, you can donate cash or buy “Free Bradley Manning” T-shirts, buttons, and whistles or watch Julian Assange, on Al Jazeera, call Manning an American political prisoner. 

Other lefties, such as Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald, have actually attacked Poulsen and Wired.com for bias, journalistic malpractice, and assorted conspiratorial evildoing.That’s crazy, of course. But for these people, all reality is filtered through the lens of politics. For them, Manning and WikiLeaks are players in a grand opera about the moral depravity of America, so they must be defended and their antagonists must be attacked.

The funny thing is, Poulsen isn’t particularly an antagonist. He’s just a good reporter working a great story.

Jonathan V. Last is a senior writer at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

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