“The most challenging thing - in some ways this is the central goal - has been finding ways to grapple with the leaks themselves...”
— Mark Doten

The libretto for The Source is made from a patchwork of primary-source documents, including: 

  • The US military documents leaked by Pfc Manning and released by WikiLeaks: these are known as the "Iraq War Logs" and "Afghan War Diary"
  • Internet chats between Manning and former hacker Adrian Lamo, later published by Wired.com (see below for more information)
  • Tweets from Lamo regarding his decision to turn in Manning
  • an array of questions that journalists have posed to Julian Assange
  • selections of interviews, radio, social media and popular music, drawn primarily from the same time period as the leaks

librettist's note and background info

Mark Doten

The central fact of the classified materials that Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning leaked is their almost ungraspable scope. They include 483,000 Army field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and 251,000 diplomatic cables; these were released, along with video of a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, by WikiLeaks and its media partners in 2010. The reporting at the time focused less on what the leaks revealed about America’s conduct of wars and diplomacy, than on the personalities involved. While I believe that the content of the leaks is more important than any individual—including Manning—there are several players who were integral to the events, and brief descriptions of them are below. 

Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) is a U.S. army private responsible for the largest public leak of classified information in American history. She was arrested in May 2010 and in August 2013 was sentenced to 35 years' imprisonment on numerous counts of espionage, theft, and computer fraud, as well as several military infractions. She is serving her sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. Following her sentencing, she made public her transgender status and requested the treatments necessary for her gender dysphoria, but was denied this in accordance with military law.

Adrian Lamo is a former hacker who gained notoriety in the early 2000s for breaking into the computer networks of Worldcom, Yahoo!, and other corporations—he would expose security vulnerabilities, and then offer his services to the companies help them patch their weaknesses. After hacking The New York Times, Lamo was the subject of an investigation by federal prosecutors, and he pleading guilty to a count of felony computer crimes in 2004, for which he sentenced to six months of house arrest and ordered to pay restitution.

Just prior to her arrest, Manning sought out Lamo online, drawn by his reputation as a hacker, his public support of WikiLeaks, and possibly his sexual orientation (Manning was aware that Lamo is bisexual and had worked for greater LGBT rights in the 1990s). The two engaged in a far-ranging online chat, during which Manning spoke of the leaks, as well as her feelings about herself, her gender identity, life in the Army, US foreign policy, secrecy, and her hopes that her actions would lead to “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.” Lamo reported her to the authorities, which led to her arrest on May 27th, 2010, at her base in eastern Iraq.

Julian Assange is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, and was at the center of a firestorm of attention and controversy during the release of the material provided by Manning. In 2012, facing extradition from the UK to Sweden for alleged sexual offences, he was granted asylum by Ecuador, and has lived in Ecuadorean embassy in London since that time. The material provided by Manning remains the most significant leak in the history of the organization.

 The libretto is sourced primarily from the contents of the leaks themselves (Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs), and from Manning’s side of the Manning/Lamo chats published by Wired.com. Other sources include tweets from Lamo regarding his decision to turn in Manning, an array of questions that journalists have posed to Julian Assange, and selections from interviews, radio and social media, drawn primarily from the same time period as the leaks.

- Mark Doten (Librettist)


Below you can see some excerpts of the libretto, paired with screen-shots from their source material:

from movement 1: [EXPLOSIVE HAZARD]
This text is drawn from the Iraq War Logs and describes an incident that occurred on December 21, 2007.

from movement 1: [EXPLOSIVE HAZARD]
This text describes an incident on August 10, 2008 in which 2 Iraqi civilians were killed and 3 were wounded.

from movement 4: "s/as boy/as a boy"
This text is drawn from the internet chats between Chelsea Manning and Adrian Lamo.

from movement 9: [smoke when bird nears]
The text for this movement comes from the Afghan War Diaries. "Smoke when bird nears" is a phrase that appears after it has been noted than an air evacuation has been called for.