Max Read's post about the Army's release of a photo of Bradley Manning wearing a wig and makeup lacked one important detail — how and why the photo was released. Although he never actually says it, Read's post strongly implies that the Army released this photo unprompted and for the purpose of embarassing Manning.
That's not true.
But it didn't stop the outrage from a number of Gawker posters, many of whom condemned the Army for releasing the picture as a "smear" attempt by a federal government intent on denying Manning his rights. Actually, the release of the photo was actually the result of a long and hard fight by transparency activists, who back Manning, to force the military to open up. The release is actually a symbol of the rights that we do have as citizens.
Since Manning's trial was first scheduled, transparency activists have fought the Army to release as much information as possible about the case. Finally, in June, just before a judge was due to rule in a FOIA lawsuit filed by transparency activists demanding that the Army release all trial documents, the Army began dumping information online. And, since then, has provided an ongoing release of trial documents as they become available. Nearly all the documents from the case — motions, filings, exhibits, etc. — are available and posted online, both in the Army's online FOIA reading room, and on sites that support Manning, like Firedoglake, which has the full set of documents here.
That means, any document introduced in court can and will be released publicly — and automatically. The Army agreed to release these documents and if they hadn't, they may well have been ordered to by a judge. And in this case, the documents were introduced in court by the defense — by Manning's own lawyers. Despite the speculation of many Gawker commenters that the Army was out of line and immoral in the release of this document, a refusal by the Army to release the picture would've been the real misdeed.
While many would argue this case has been anything but fair to Manning, the release of this photo is not another lowblow from the Army — it's one of the few victories that Manning supporters and transparency activists have had in this case. This picture might be personally embarassing to Manning, but knowing that the Army will submit to the threat of a civilian judge and release key documents in a trial to deprive a whistleblower of his freedom (or life) is actually a very, very good thing.
It's a shame Read left that out of his post.
UPDATE: The very pro-Manning journalist who has been collecting all the court documents, tweeted confirmation that the release of this picture was prompted by the Manning defense team, not the army:
And Max Read updated his piece and changed the headline: