Convicted leaker Chelsea Manning’s interview with the government-funded Australian radio station Triple J was cut short after the interviewer asked Manning about the documents Manning released that were found in Osama Bin Laden’s compound.
“Some of your leaked documents were found in Osama Bin Laden's compound though, after his death, that's information in the hands of one of America's biggest enemies,” host Tom Tilley said to Manning. “Do you have any regrets about that outcome? What did you think when you heard that?”
“Ah, look, I can’t really talk about specifics of my court-martial,” said Manning, who leaked over 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks. “The record of the trial is still classified.”
“But why does that mean you can’t say how you felt when you found out that piece of information?" Tilley asked pushing back. “Do you dispute that’s true?”
“Ah, I can’t — I can’t even tell you whether or not we dispute that it’s true,” Manning responded. “It’s that highly classified.”
“Ok. What was the message you were hoping-?” Tilley said before being cut off by a media minder.
Manning was then told to hang up.
“Why?” asked Tilley. “Why can't we carry on this interview? What was wrong with my questioning? If you guys are talking about transparency and openness, surely we can continue this interview.”
Then, Suzi Jamil, the director of Think Inc. came on the line and told Tilley that “what’s a priority for us is to be respectful to our talent.” Jamil admitted that “there may be nothing wrong with your questioning, but we just want to be respectful to Chelsea, because she’s given up her time to have this conversation.”
“But don’t you think you should be respectful to the Australian people?” Tilley responded. “This is a taxpayer funded government broadcaster, we're giving her the platform to come on and put forward her views. Surely she can answer some reasonable questions.”
Jamil then told Tilley that “we’d rather not move forward any further,” and ended the interview.
"I believe that someone with a well known controversial history is going to get the opportunity to speak on the national broadcaster and air their political views, they also need to be prepared to answer some accountability questions for their actions," Tom said about the incident on the radio show, Hack. “As to why I made sure the people jumping in knew they'd be going to air — as journalists we can't let a precedent be set where media minders can interrupt interviews whenever they want. It would mean they could do it all the time, and they'd have too much power to manipulate the messages."
Manning was banned from Australia last week before Manning’s speaking tour was scheduled to begin.
Prior to the interview ending, Tilley also asked about Manning’s criminal background prompting Australia banning Manning. “Do you believe you have a substantial criminal background?” Tilley asked.
“Words like criminal are used very arbitrarily — especially in this regard,” Manning said. “They basically allow certain people that have whatever record they may have in that might toe the line so to speak.”
“Well, some Australians are concerned that allowing you here on a speaking tour would send the message that risking national security is okay. What answer would you have for those critics?" Tilley asked.
“National security isn’t — it’s often used by powerful people and institutions as a sort of argument by authority," said Manning. "If you actually try to pin them down on an argument of national security, they’re often quite lacking. So I think folks should be more critical in how they engage with such institutions, especially when they use such vague assertions like ‘oooh national security, or border security’ or any of these other concepts.”