Friday, July 15, 2011

How Wired Magazine Helped The US Government Try To Frame Julian Assange (And Failed)

We've learned a few important things from the full transcripts of Bradley Manning's online chats with Adrian Lamo. Glenn Greenwald has already focussed on how with-holding the full transcripts has damaged the reputations of Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks. But it's worth examining in more detail exactly how Wired's subterfuge has affected Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in particular.

Firstly, and most importantly, it's now clear that Julian Assange did NOT know if Bradley Manning was the source who leaked the US cables to WikiLeaks. Manning tells Lamo that Assange “knows little about me” and “he takes source-protections uber-seriously.” Furthermore, he says, Assange "won’t work with you if you reveal too much about yourself.” Assange even (allegedly) instructs Manning to lie about his identity!

This blows apart the US government's protracted efforts to suggest that Assange actively enticed Manning to hand over the cables, and thereby charge the Australian with criminal activity. In fact, it was only through his own protracted sleuth work that Manning even confirmed in his own mind who HE was talking to: "it took me four months to confirm that the person i was communicating [with] was in fact assange".

Why would Wired with-hold this critically important information, unless they were actively co-operating with US agents trying to fabricate charges against Assange? Given that Lamo had notified authorities of Manning's alleged actions while still continuing to chat with him, it's logical to assume the Feds would have wanted to censor any published details. Wired appears to have willingly complied, without informing readers.

The full transcripts also destroy whatever shreds remain of Adrian Lamo's tattered reputation. The ex-hacker - who has been described as "the FBI's star witness against WikiLeaks" - appears to have deliberately deceived Manning from the beginning, then lied repeatedly to have the public believe that he didn't. He claimed to be both a journalist and a minister, repeatedly assuring Manning that their conversations were "never to be published". Why would Wired redact these portions of the transcripts, expect to maintain the illusion that Lamo is a credible source?

In fact, Lamo comes across as a sociopath. His callous disregard for Manning's fraught emotional state is evident throughout the transcripts, as is his interest in Assange. Lamo repeatedly asks about Assange, and how he can get in contact with him. He even offers to work for WikiLeaks. At one stage Manning pours his heart out while Lamo goes away to have a cigarette break. When he gets back, Lamo presses Manning for more details of confidential data and Manning snaps: "im not a source for you… im talking to you as someone who needs moral and emotional fucking support".

Ironically, it seems Manning only reached out to Lamo after reading a Wired article about Lamo's own experiences as a sexually confused, frequently homeless, drug-addicted "child prodigy" hacker with Aspergers Syndrome. He really couldn't have picked a worse target. Towards the end of the chat logs, when Lamo has already snitched on his "friend", he asks Manning if he is a "leftist" or a "centrist". Manning rebuffs such political pigeon-holing.

"I’m a fan of of realpolitik myself," boasts Lamo.

Realpolitik is the favoured politics of Kissinger and the neo-conservatives, where moral principles do not apply and the end always justifies the means. I wonder what the USA's favourite dictators in the Middle East think of such ideology nowadays?

Wired Editor-In-Chief Evan Hansen seems a bit more conflicted, writing a Huffington Post article titled: "Is Bradley Manning a Traitor or a Hero?" Evans plays Pontius Pilate, wringing his hands over the "divisive national debate about the role and legitimacy of whistleblowers" while claiming that Wired only held back details of the chat logs "out of respect for Manning's privacy". The facts suggest otherwise.

Why can't Hansen just admit that he considers Manning a dangerous traitor, that he happily helped sell him out, and that he protected Lamo on instructions from the government? It seems neither Hansen nor Lamo have any real moral compass. They take their orders from authority and cling to "patriotic" cliches for justification. While innocent lives are destroyed, Hansen and Lamo are left swinging in the breeze, unable to justify their own actions, unwilling to repent them.

Meanwhile Tim Webster, the US Army Counterintelligence agent who first talked Lamo into working with the feds, is doing a good Jack Nicholson "Code Red" impersonation in the Wired comments:

"Manning is a traitor. You and others like you can cry and moan and wring your hands and pace back and forth while braying the words "hero" and "duty" and "patriotism" all you want -- words which you and your ilk know nothing about -- but rest assured that Manning will get precisely what he deserves (that is, almost: apparently death is off the table)."

I'm sure Webster is a big fan of Wired magazine. More discerning readers should by now be cancelling their subscriptions.

UPDATE: Amended para 2 per comments below: thanks for your input guys. JA's ALLEGED instructions about not revealing source's identity clearly demonstrate just how carefully he designed the WikiLeaks platform.


  1. consider an adittion to your second paragraph where you list 3 arguments. argument no 4: “lie to me” he says - timecode (02:57:01 PM)
    with kind greetings

  2. Not sure exactly what Lamo meant with that line, nighbee. Presumably living in some kind of Machiavellian universe, challenging Manning to play his game. Weird.

    Meanwhile, the US government has used this concocted fig leaf of doubt over WikiLeaks' legality to justify a Grand Jury, and companies like Visa and Mastercard have used it as justification for their financial blockade. What a sad farce.

  3. Gary Lord, juding from the context of the "lie to me" - quote, it was JA would told BM to lie to him.

    At this point in the chatlogs, BM quotes and paraphrases what JA apparently had done to ensure source protection of BM.
    By telling BM to provide him with false personal information ("lie"), it seems that JA wanted to make sure that he (= JA) had no idea of the real identity of BM.
    ( )

    I second nighbee's suggestion of amending the paragraph on source protection.

    Other than that, I really enjoyed this blog post as you all too validly point out the infamous role of Wired and the hypocrisy behind their decision to hold the missing parts of the chatlogs back for more than a year.

  4. Sorry, guys, my bad. Should have checked the "lie to me" ref but trusted my bad memory. Was trying to get this blog post out the door while also getting my two boys off to football games tonight - I am NOT getting paid to spend time writing this stuff! Where's MSM etc. Updating with your suggestions, thanks.

  5. Yeah, I fully agree with you, Gary Lord.
    Where the f *is* the MSM in this case?!
    I guess it's safe to assume that every blogger doing stuff on WL and JA has been puzzled at one point or another by the absence of the MSM (and if there're around, they only manage to churn out slimy hit-pieces like the last one on JA's appeal hearing as published by the Hately Fail).

    Anyways, I really appreciate that you updated the post, even whilst being busy with evening activities (football is *serious business* after all!).

  6. No call-out on Kevin Poulsen?

  7. Lamo...Manning...? We need to push to end the USA CORRUPTION THAT IS PROSECUTING MANNING AND WIKILEAKS...We do not need the details, we need to expose every asshole in the government from 1980 to now and get them out of the government...Focus people, focus on rigged VOTING MACHINES, CORRUPT SENATORS AND CORRUPT CONGRESS, AND BACKDOOR DEALS BETWEEN WALL STREET AND AMERICAN GOVERMENT

  8. Who is the Rose, where indeed is the #$%* is the MSM?

    Glenn Greenwald today looks at how the MSM is completely ignoring Jeremy Scahill's shocking revelations of a new CIA gulag in Somalia:

    This is no accident. Back in the 1970's the CIA boasted that they had an agent in every major US media organisation. It's clear that such organisations are now under the influence of govt, to the point where a magazine like Wired probably would not be allowed to survive if its editors did not toe the line.

    The global hysteria over Murdoch's phone hacking is laughable when you consider how much, much deeper the corruption runs.

  9. Anonymous, I will have to leave Poulsen for another day!

    Meanwhile, the Guardian's James "Mr ex-Wikileaks" Ball has an article on Wired and Lamo due out tomorrow. Says it will "put some cats among pigeons". We shall see...

  10. Excellent blogpost! Clear. Consize. Connecting the missing dots we are ;) (Just to even perfect it: could there be two typos? 5th paragraph, secondlast line: except instead of expect; 7th paragraph, secondlast line, double 'of of' instead of 'of')

  11. Who owns "Wired Magazine"?
    Connect some more dots....

  12. Asperger's Syndrome, not Aspberger's Syndrome.

  13. Wired is owned by Conde Nast, Conde Nast is owned by Advance Publications.

  14. Which both look like they are owned by Samuel Irving Newhouse Jr.

  15. @Anonymous 2:16am

    Check the political affiliation of the owner....

  16. The revelation of news media accessing phone conversations by way of hacking may have far reaching implications of how any news source ought to be judged. The trust that truth is really represented has been deeply shaken. Murdock is probably just the tip of the iceberg. There is much to be said for Fernando's comment but it's deeper than that.

  17. This should really come as no surprise, as Wired have been a pro-gov propaganda site in regards to WL since Collateral Murder was released..

  18. I did look into the ownership structure. Most of the Conde Naste titles are non-political, specialising in golf, travel, etc. Of course there's always a political dimension to things but the Newhouse family are no Murdoch clan.

    Meanwhile the intersection of media, politics and the Internet makes Wired a more political outlet than it would have been 10 years ago. I am not saying they are controlled by the feds, but pressure was clearly exerted here after Lamo gave them the chat logs.

    Wired should have been honest and said that the feds would not let them publish the full transcripts, if that's what happened.

  19. Isn't Wired Magazine distinct from Wired Online? It's the latter that's in hot water, no? Can the former plausibly claim not to have been responsible for the disturbing behavior of the latter?

  20. My Jack Nicholson is pretty good in person, too, for what it's worth. :)



  21. In defence of one mainstream media outlet:

    "Sueddeutsche Zeitung", one of Germany's largest national quality newspapers, ran a *huge* article on Manning and the latest developments on the Lamo-Manning chatlogs in their print edition dated 16 July 2011.

    The article is unfortunately not available online but there is one great quote that stands out: "Had Adrian Lamo kept his mouth shut, Bradley Manning would have most certainly never been identified."

    Compare that to what James Ball wrote in his article, also dated 16 July 2001, "All the encryption in the world wouldn't have kept Bradley Manning safe" : "

  22. James Ball is out of his depth now. His WikiLeaks experience served him well, but the use-by date has expired.

  23. Just realised that I somewhat misquoted Sueddeutsche Zeitung in my last post above: the original quote doesn't give Manning's name but rather uses the expression "alleged WikiLeaks source".

    The corrected quote would then read as follows:
    "Had Adrian Lamo kept his mouth shut, WikiLeaks' alleged source would have most certainly never been identified."

    This doesn't change the point of the quote though.

    Oh, and James Ball's article was of course written in 2011, not 2001 as I typed above.

    A positive point of the different opinions reflected by Sueddeutsche Zeitung and The Guardian is that press pluralism still exists to a certain degree in Europe.

    I'm in full agreement with your last statement on James Ball, GL.

  24. Assange Is Innocent, and any jury with comomon sense will make sure of that. He is just doing what ALL governments do everyday, except they hide all their nasty lies, and Assange is making them known.. & has yet to show any ulterior motive for anything else, expect to publish FACTS as a journalist does. He just happens to be the Best in the world to report pure unbiased facts, not BS crap that makes headlines everyday.. I say keep ahead FULL STEAM a storm is brewing hard and fast...

  25. Yeah, I fully agree with you, Gary Lord.

  26. Kevin Poulsen was an editor at Wired and Lamo's main contact. It should be assumed the editing of the chatlogs was done either by Poulsen or with his knowledge and (given he has never complained) consent.

  27. Lamo comes across as an overbearing salesman.Psychotic manners.Intel makes great use of them. Go getters.Along the lines of the workers the FBI was paying and using to set people up for political results.Theatre aaisnd public effect and impact is a big thing in justification politics like the Whitlam Dismissal.