Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


Sandra Davidson


The United States government has charged Pfc. Bradley Manning with leaking to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks unprecedented amounts of classified information. Prior to publishing the Afghan War Logs, WikiLeaks provided the documents to The New York Times and other newspapers around the world. This article begins by reviewing how Manning reportedly leaked the documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as diplomatic cables. It then traces decades of legal precedents surrounding leaks, leakers, and journalists in the United States, suggesting similarities and differences between the past and present. This article thus provides a historical context for the unfolding saga of Manning, Assange, and WikiLeaks. It also explores the broader question of weighing the value of openness against government claims of national security. The question of protection for leakers remains a divisive issue; the ease of leaking massive amounts of information makes the issue even more compelling in this age of speed-of-light, world-wide communication.