Wired compromised Wikileaks source - and now what?
Jul 15, 2011
Wired's involvement in the Manninggate scandal raises questions about journalistic integrity and the fate of Bradley Manning.
In 2010, there was no global event as unstoppable as the vortex of open information unleashed by Wikileaks, the Australian whistleblower Julian Assange's platform that revealed to the world how global diplomacy is essentially a network of lies and betrayals. Bradley Manning, the great hero of the story - as Assange himself claims - however, still lies in jail and there are reasons to believe that he will never get out of there, despite being only 24 years old. The revelation that the highly respected Wired may have played a role in Manning's moral conviction raises a number of questions about the episode.
In short: Manning was an Army information officer and leaked information to Wikileaks. Contacted by hacker and wannabe journalist Adrian Lamo, Manning confessed to being the source of WL's information. Lamo denounced Manning who was arrested, but swore that Manning had not asked for journalistic source protection and that he only acted this way because "lives were at risk" in a piece from Wired. The magazine even published the excerpts from the chats between Manning and Lamo that would "prove" that Lamo was telling the truth. The day before yesterday, Wired finally published the chats between Lamo and Manning in full and the startling result is that the magazine manipulated the excerpt previously published, removing parts where it was clear that Lamo was lying and that he got Manning's confession by promising source protection. Adrian Lamo had Wired's arguments as his defense thesis and the magazine endorsed his thesis. Whether she was mistaken, was deceived, or simply took sides is now the question.
What to do in a situation where one is sure that a person is in jail due to, at best, a journalistic error? Bradley Manning is unlikely to get out of jail anytime soon. In the US, he is seen as an enemy and traitor by a large part of the uneducated population of the country. If Wired is unquestionably serious, having gone from an important design magazine to the center of digital media discussion in the world, it is pertinent to imagine that its responsibility has been magnified by its magnitude.
As I write this post, the world's most famous digital media magazine, whose editor invented the long tail theory, entered Twitter's topics and thus, something much simpler and more important comes to the fore. What is it like to be a journalist? What is one's commitment to the truth? How many times can one make a mistake and how to limit the damage of a mistake? Is this possible to do? Was the magazine involved with the government in an attempt to catch Julian Assange?
The feeling that Adrian Lamo was a psychologically unbalanced, mythomaniac and attention seeker was notorious, but thanks to Wired's intervention, the pseudo-hacker and journalist managed to get a momentary acquittal (now, he is on the run for fear of being killed). However, Manning is still in jail and the neocons want him dead as an example for treason. Wired seems to have let its hunger for status swallow the design and technology magazine of yesteryear. It started to deal with economy, digital media and, in the Manninggate, politics. It failed in its primary task: journalism (a task in which it was very good, by the way).
Is an apology enough? If their involvement in the mess is proven, no. "Ayin tachat ayin", or the Law of Talion of "an eye for an eye"? Also no. Either way, Manning will continue in jail. And Wired will not. It is (or at least appears to be) one of the sad situations in which there is no possible justice.