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New York Times Corrects Coverage of Judge’s ‘Aiding the Enemy’ Ruling in Bradley Manning’s Trial

The New York Times has added an important correction to an article it published on a recent ruling issued by the military judge in the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning. In the ruling, the judge decided not to acquit Manning of the charge of “aiding the enemy,” which is one of the greater offenses he faces for disclosing United States government information to WikiLeaks.

On Saturday, I published a post with two letters I sent the Times urging the media organization to correct two errors in this paragraph, which appeared their story, prior to correction, as follows:

The judge, Col. Denise Lind, said the government had provided sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Private Manning knowingly gave information to certain enemy groups, like as Al Qaeda, when he passed hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks in 2009. [emphasis added]

The Times corrected the date very soon after I sent the first letter. The organization did not, however, correct the language—”sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt”—which falsely portrayed the decision. That inspired a second letter.

Now, a few days after the story was published, the Times has printed an appropriate correction:

…[T]he article incorrectly characterized the ruling of the military judge, Col. Denise Lind. She did not find the evidence presented by the prosecution was sufficient “to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Private Manning knowingly gave information to enemy groups like Al Qaeda. Instead, according to her written ruling, she found that the evidence, “viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, without an evaluation of the credibility of witnesses, could reasonably tend to establish that the accused actually knew he was dealing with the enemy.” That finding was enough to justify  keeping the “aiding the enemy” charge alive, she said, but it does not necessarily mean she will find Private Manning guilty on the charge at the conclusion of the trial…

The correction validates nearly all of my criticism of the Times story at issue here, and I thank the media organization for making the proper correction.

As noted in my requests for corrections to the Times, previously, I have publicly taken the media organization to task for not being at Fort Meade in Maryland to cover every day of Manning’s trial. It has been my contention that the organization should have had someone there every day. I have been heavily critical because of the organization’s history as a reputable establishment news outlet, one with a large audience and a great ability to help keep the public informed on news stories of importance.

A few other reporters and myself have sometimes managed to fill the void and been grateful for the exposure our coverage received because the Times was not present.That does not mean we were not privately or openly concerned that less Americans would read about what happened because the Times was not there. And, when a Times reporter has shown up, there have been instances where coverage was a bit sloppy or incomplete because they had not been there every day and were not fully aware of what had previously happened.

It is important that the Times was willing to correct their coverage. Let’s hope the organization has somebody there to cover closing arguments, the judge’s verdict and each critical day of Manning’s sentencing because, depending on the verdict, he could possibly spend the rest of his life in jail.

Photo by Brian Dewey under Creative Commons license

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."