Creative Commons-Licensed Illustration by Donkey Hotey

(update below)

WikiLeaks has documents on a February 2010 incident involving Iraqi Federal Police arrests and the detention and possible torture of opponents of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to a report by Philip Dorling for the Australian newspaper, The Age.

Dorling reported the media organization’s editor-in-chief confirmed it received “classified material” from Manning on the incident. The organization decided not to publish the material for “source-protection reasons” because “the person providing the material appeared to have been connected with the US military’s handling of the incident.”

Despite his admission of responsibility for disclosing the documents to WikiLeaks in court, Assange told Fairfax Media “protection of the source remained a consideration.” The organization “still can’t publish it.”

“It would be a questionable action to do so now while Bradley Manning has a potential life sentence hanging over his head,” he said. The documents will not be published until the court martial of Manning is over.

In military court on February 28, almost exactly three years after the incident, Manning stated:
On 27 February 2010, a report was received from a subordinate battalion. The report described an event in which the Federal Police or FP detained 15 individuals for printing anti-Iraqi literature. On 2 March 2010, I received instructions from an S3 section officer in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Tactical Operation Center or TOC to investigate the matter, and figure out who these quote ‘bad guys’ unquote were and how significant this event was for the Federal Police.

Over the course of my research I found that none of the individuals had previous ties to anti-Iraqi actions or suspected terrorist militia groups…

Manning printed up photos and had an interpreter review the information. She “delivered a rough written transcript in English.” He read the transcript and asked for the interpreter’s take on the content. She said “the general nature of the document was benign. It was “merely a scholarly critique” of Maliki.

The “anti-Iraqi literature” actually detailed “corruption within the cabinet of al-Maliki’s government and the financial impact of his corruption on the Iraqi people.”

…After discovering this discrepancy between the Federal Police’s report and the interpreter’s transcript, I forwarded this discovery to the top [Officer in Charge] and the battle [Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge]. The top OIC and the overhearing battle captain informed me that they didn’t need or want to know this information anymore. They told me to quote “drop it” unquote and to just assist them and the Federal Police in finding out, where more of these print shops creating quote “anti-Iraqi literature” unquote.

I couldn’t believe what I heard and I returned to the [Temporary Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility] and complained to the other analysts and my section NCOIC about what happened. Some were sympathetic, but no one wanted to do anything about it…

Manning declared, “I knew that if I continued to assist the Baghdad Federal Police in identifying the political opponents of Prime Minister al-Maliki, those people would be arrested and in the custody of the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police and very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time– if ever.” He chose to submit the information to WikiLeaks “in the hope that before the upcoming 7 March 2010 election they could generate some immediate press on the issue and prevent this unit of the Federal Police from continuing to crack down on political opponents of al-Maliki.”

Manning submitted the report, photos, a high resolution copy of the pamphlet and the interpreter’s hand-written transcript to WikiLeaks on March 4, 2010. He was told WikiLeaks needed “more information to confirm the event in order for it to be published or to gain interest in the international media.” edia.

“I attempted to provide the specifics, but to my disappointment, the [WikiLeaks website chose not to publish this information,” Manning added.

The episode involving Iraqi Federal Police had been viewed as a catalyst for Manning’s transformation into someone willing to blow the whistle on US military torture and war crimes and US government corruption and misconduct. He mentioned it in his conversation with hacker Adrian Lamo, who turned him into federal authorities:

 (02:31:02 PM) Manning: i think the thing that got me the most… that made me rethink the world more than anything
(02:35:46 PM) Manning: was watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police… for printing “anti-Iraqi literature”… the iraqi federal police wouldn’t cooperate with US forces, so i was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the “bad guys” were, and how significant this was for the FPs… it turned out, they had printed a scholarly critique against PM Maliki… i had an interpreter read it for me… and when i found out that it was a benign political critique titled “Where did the money go?” and following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet… i immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on… he didn’t want to hear any of it… he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees…
(02:35:46 PM) Lamo : I’m not here right now
(02:36:27 PM) Manning: everything started slipping after that… i saw things differently
(02:37:37 PM) Manning: i had always questioned the things worked, and investigated to find the truth… but that was a point where i was a *part* of something… i was actively involved in something that i was completely against…

The incident involving Iraqi Federal Police occurred before he decided to submit what is now known as the “Collateral Murder” video to WikiLeaks. However, prior to the incident, he submitted the contents of two databases containing military incident reports on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to WikiLeaks. These were published by WikiLeaks in July and October 2010 as the Afghan War Logs and Iraq War Logs.

Assange told Fairfax Media, “The US government has repeatedly sought to deny or suppress Manning’s motivation for his actions, and the tabloid press has tried to strip him of any political motivation.” He noted, in that respect, the statement from Manning was a “positive development.”

But, the submission of classified information on Iraqi Federal Police is not charged. The government made a veiled statement about how it was concerned Manning was admitting to uncharged misconduct in his statement. The remarks on the Iraqi Federal Police would fall into that category.

It is unclear if the government knew these documents on the Iraqi Federal Police were submitted by Manning before he said he had submitted them in his statement. The government is unlikely to press for additional charges, but the admission is likely to be cited by the government when pushing for the maximum sentence possible after he is convicted (and he will be convicted because his guilty pleas made it impossible for the judge to rule he is “not guilty”).

Given that reality, WikiLeaks might consider publishing the material as around the time that a sentencing ruling comes down. The documents could provide a critical context that shows, at least in part, why the government wants Manning to be imprisoned for decades if not his entire life.

Credit is due to independent journalist Alexa O’Brien for producing a transcript of Bradley Manning’s statement. Because the US Army remains committed to providing little to no press access to court records, O’Brien did a public service by publishing a near verbatim transcript of what Manning read in court on February 28, and she is to be commended.

Update 

One could argue WikiLeaks should release the documents now. I don’t know the exact contents of the documents. I note the submission of this classified information to WikiLeaks is not something the military charged. WikiLeaks apparently examined the material and determined to publish it now could have an effect on how long Manning is sentenced. I am not sure of the exact basis for that conclusion, but that seems to be the calculation the organization is making.

I was asked, if it would be wrong for the New York Times to sit on these documents, is it wrong for WikiLeaks to not publish? There’s some validity to this question. I don’t have a completely formulated answer to this question yet. But Manning is a source and WikiLeaks feels obligated to do what they can to ensure he is not punished even more for his disclosures. The other note to make is WikiLeaks is not covering for power by withholding information on the Iraqi Federal Police. Typically, when the Times or Post does not publish a story, it is not to protect a person being prosecuted but rather to fulfill a request made by a US government agency to not get in the way of a policy or an operation.