An IT professional-turned-independent journalist in her 30s, O'Brien has been a player in a number of major protests against the Obama administration. She's a plaintiff in a lawsuit launched by journalist Chris Hedges against the Obama administration over a law mandating indefinite military detention for suspected terrorists. Starting in January 2011, she covered WikiLeaks' release of the State Department cables.
The fruits of O'Brien's labor bear testament to the potential of independent journalism in the post-WikiLeaks era: 27 transcripts, the most complete collection of filings in the case publicly available and a docket whose numbered section alone runs to 466 entries.
The transcripts, assembled from notes she takes in real time, are something of a wonder. The judge in the case, Col. Denise Lind, had until last week refused to release her rulings on paper, instead reading them out in court. One reporter calculated that a February ruling ran to 23,000 words, which Lind read at a rate of 180 words per minute. The transcript of that is listed on O'Brien's website as "coming soon," but another of a pretrial hearing in November, which runs more than 52,000 words, is online.
Along with several other independent reporters who have oscillated between advocacy and journalism, O'Brien is a Manning supporter. But she is adamant that her meticulous transcripts are just the facts -- and even mainstream reporters seem to agree.