05.06.11

This Week's Best Journalism

From the life story of imprisoned Army Private Bradley Manning to the wild, crazy genius of Werner Herzog’s new 3-D movie about cave art, The Daily Beast picks the best longform journalism from around the Web this week.

1. Who Is WikiLeaks Suspect Bradley Manning?

Ellen Nakashima, The Washington Post Magazine

For most of the past year, suspected WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning spent 23 hours a day alone in a 6- by 12-foot jail cell. His case has become a rallying point for free-information activists, who say the leaked information belongs to the American people. They compare the 23-year-old former intelligence analyst to Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Vietnam War-era Pentagon Papers, and decry excessive government secrecy. “What is happening to our government when Bradley Manning is charged with aiding the enemy?” asked Pete Perry, an organizer with the Bradley Manning Support Network. “Who is the enemy? Information? The American people?”

2. What Happened to Air France Flight 447?

Wil S. Hylton, New York Times Magazine

The vanishing of Flight 447 was easy to bend into myth. No other passenger jet in modern history had disappeared so completely—without a mayday call or a witness, or even a trace on radar. The airplane itself, an Airbus A330, was considered to be among the world’s safest. It was equipped with the automated fly-by-wire system, which is designed to reduce human error by letting computers control many aspects of the flight. And when, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the ocean, Flight 447 seemed to disappear from the sky, it was tempting to deliver a tidy narrative about the hubris of building a self-flying airplane, Icarus falling from the sky. Or maybe Flight 447 was the Titanic, an uncrashable ship at the bottom of the sea.

3. Interrogating Saddam Hussein

Garrett M. Graff, Washingtonian

As soon as FBI agent George Piro began to speak, Saddam Hussein knew the agent was Lebanese and Christian—a good background for the interrogation: Lebanese in the Middle East are generally neutral, and being a Christian meant that Piro didn’t have a side in Iraq’s intense Sunni/Shiite Muslim rivalry. Hussein tried to be helpful by speaking Arabic with a Lebanese accent, even as, month after month, Piro’s Arabic acquired an Iraqi inflection.

4. Mad German Auteur, Now in 3-D!

Chris Heath, GQ

The daring German filmmaker Werner Herzog once walked a thousand miles to propose to a woman. He once plotted to firebomb his leading man’s house and ate his own shoe to square a bet. He once got shot in the stomach during a TV interview, then insisted on finishing. And despite it all, his latest adventure—a 3-D documentary about cave paintings—still sounds batshit crazy.

5. Woman of the World

Jonathan Alter, Vanity Fair

In her ninth year as America’s most admired woman, Hillary Clinton is dealing with radical change across the globe, as well as trying to transform U.S. diplomacy on the nuts-and-coffee level. But despite the secretary of state’s punishing pace—half a million miles in her Boeing 757—and her complex relationship with President Obama, Clinton seems clear about what she can (and can’t) accomplish, and, as Jonathan Alter reports, her friends are clear about something else: Madam Secretary is in her element.

6. A Decade on the Lam

Christopher Dickey, Ron Moreau, Sami Yousafzai, Newsweek

How much longer will al Qaeda survive? There’s no telling, when it took a decade of intense effort just to bring down its leader. Christopher Dickey, Ron Moreau, and Sami Yousafzai report on the frustrating years of searching for Osama bin Laden—and why his killing doesn’t mean the war on terror is over.

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