Chelsea Manning’s treatment was appalling, but that doesn’t mean we have to whitewash the indiscriminate document dump of diplomatic cables that helped turn Wikileaks into a thing. With that out of the way, I present to you a Buzzfeed headline.
Except that… wait for it… that’s not what the story actually indicates.
Regarding the hundreds of thousands of Iraq-related military documents and State Department cables provided by the Army private Chelsea Manning, the report assessed “with high confidence that disclosure of the Iraq data set will have no direct personal impact on current and former U.S. leadership in Iraq.”
The report also determined that a different set of documents published the same year, relating to the US war in Afghanistan, would not result in “significant impact” to US operations. It did, however, have the potential to cause “serious damage” to “intelligence sources, informants and the Afghan population,” and US and NATO intelligence collection efforts. The most significant impact of the leaks, the report concluded, would likely be on the lives of “cooperative Afghans, Iraqis, and other foreign interlocutors.”
Oh, well, then. Just foreigners. No harm, no foul. Indeed, take a look at the redacted lists on page 3-4.
Overall, when assessing Leopold’s summary, keep in mind that entire pages of the report—and large sections on effects—are redacted; the single pull quotation, noting that the disclosure of the Iraq data set likely entailed “no direct personal impact on current and former U.S. leadership in Iraq” means exactly that. And the “serious” damage to HUMINT and SIGINT is actually kind of a big deal.
Last year, while in seventh grade, my daughter did some exercises designed to show how the very structure of news reports can generate bias. If this piece had been out, I would’ve suggested she use it for the project.