WASHINGTON – Wednesday afternoon the White Phone got on the record with Scott Horton, lecturer-at-law at Columbia University and Harper’s columnist, after catching an informative at Fordham University panel discussion on C-SPAN. There on October 16 Mr. Horton had characterized the whistleblower status of Army Private Bradley Manning as tenuous. Private Manning’s alleged leaking, Mr. Horton said at Fordham, did not utilize “the sort of filtering” the professor associated with whistle-blowing. Seemingly contradicting the probable defense arguments of the private’s attorneys, Mr. Horton added the claim that Private Manning released “all the confidential cable traffic that he was able to access.”
Military prosecutor have accused Private Manning of leaking thousands of classified State Department cables to WikiLeaks, the transparency advocate organization since beleaguered by rape accusations against its founder and a multinational financial blockade.
Mr. Horton touted his own work with whistleblowers at the Abu Ghraib facility and — as he had at Fordham — suggested that Private Manning would have had better luck exposing systemic criminality apparent in the cables by approaching inspectors general or Congress itself. This approach, he suggested, might have angered military brass but would have left them unable to intimidate or silence the private, who has faced months of solitary confinements and now multiple decades of his life in military detention.
In a Fort Meade pre-trial hearing Manning attorney David Coombs made inquiry as to whether any screening and pre-censorship of the cables by Private Manning could affect either charges and sentencing. Mr. Horton’s asserting this month that Manning had just leaked all available cables writ large is troubled by the easy-to-anticipate claim by his attorneys that the private had exercised some degree of discretion. The leaking of the entirety of what was cables provided probably by Manning was the product of coordinated operational security bungling by a Guardian reporter, who headlined a chapter in a book about WikiLeaks with the password used to unlock an aggregate file, and a WikiLeaks associate who, upon leaving the organization, shuffled a version of the insurance file onto a public service. In 2011 Internet Chronicle researchers attempted to plug the Guardian password into the “insurance file,” the one publicly available on torrent via The Pirate Bay, to no avail.
Asked about statements by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) accusing the “Cablegate” documents of leading to real casualties in the Afghanistan-Pakistan military theater, Mr. Horton characterized the senator’s statements as “foolish” and a parroting of the administration’s overblown estimations of the cables’ impact. Speaking from his New York City office, the professor said that it wasn’t clear that anyone had been physically harmed by the leaks, whether they had been informants to the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF; or servicemen and servicewomen themselves.
In the wake of her groundbreaking expose on the ever-expanding veil of government secrecy, in 2011 The Internet Chronicle consulted Washington Post reporter Dana Priest on the reputed harm caused by the “Cablegate” documents. Last year on September 7 The Internet Chronicle asked Ms. Priest about the nature of the intentions of those who claim to be concerned about the potential deaths of civilian informants or human rights activists following the recent, unredacted leak of the diplomatic cables. This reporter confused the host of the event, seated away from Ms. Priest’s microphone, with William Arkin, the Post report’s co-author, to whom he bore a vague resemblance.