Keller: NYT probably would have kept Manning's documents to itself

The New York Times


Bradley Manning has said part of the reason he leaked his trove of documents to WikiLeaks was that he couldn't navigate The New York Times' telephone system. Former Times Executive Editor Bill Keller wonders what may have happened had Manning got through:

I’m pretty sure that if we had been the sole recipient we would not have shared Manning’s gift with other news organizations. That is partly for competitive reasons, but also because sharing a treasury of raw intelligence, especially with foreign news media, might have increased the legal jeopardy for The Times and for our source.

A lot of the documents in Manning's database were too local for the Times, he adds, writing, "WikiLeaks got much more mileage out of the secret cables than we would have done."

Prosecutors probably would have leapt on Manning no matter who received the documents, Keller writes.

Although as a matter of law I believe WikiLeaks and The New York Times are equally protected by the First Amendment, it’s possible the court’s judgment of the leaker might be colored by the fact that he delivered the goods to a group of former hackers with an outlaw sensibility and an antipathy toward American interests. Will that cost Manning at sentencing time? I wonder. And it might explain the piling on of maximum charges. During pretrial, the judge, Col. Denise Lind, asked whether the prosecution would be pressing the same charges if Manning had leaked to The Times. “Yes, Ma’am,” was the reply. Maybe so. But I suspect the fact that Manning chose the anti-establishment WikiLeaks as his collaborator made the government more eager to add on that dubious charge of “aiding the enemy.”

Related: Law enforcement agencies, others, grapple with definitions of "journalist" when issuing press passes (Associated Press)

Previously: NYT doesn’t remember call from Bradley Manning

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.

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