Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bradley Manning: Why I Did It

The revered whistleblower pleads guilty to several charges but his court martial continues on the most serious charges and Manning still faces a life behind bars.

Bradley Manning (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

While American media this week focused its laser beam on Oscar winers and losers (Washington's sequestration drama/comedy didn't receive a single nomination) US Army Private Bradley Manning, in submitting guilty pleas to some of the charges the US government has leveled against him, read a 35 page statement during his court martial proceedings in which he explained that his rationale for leaking a massive trove of documents was to show Americans "the true coast of war" and to spark public debate not only about the US wars against Iraq and Afghanistan but about how our government conducts itself outside the media spotlight.

"The more I read, the more I was fascinated with the way that we dealt with other nations and organizations. I also began to think the documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity that didn't seem characteristic of the de facto leader of the free world. . . .The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this was the type of information that should become public."

Manning released the documents anonymously to the whistleblower web site Wikileaks, he writes in his statements, only after he'd offered them to the Washington Post and New York Times and neither paper expressed interest in them.

In explaining why he released the infamous "collateral murder" video taken from a US attack helicopter, which recorded not just images but the voices of US soldiers as they wantonly slaughtered civilians from the air, and then slaughtered the civilians who came to the aid of the victims, Manning said:

"The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have. They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote 'dead bastards' unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers".

Manning also explained the governments tiered document classification system and gave a detailed account of the procedures he used to make sure he wasn't leaking anything that would aid US enemies. He was an army intelligence analysts so had to do research about the State Department cables he released.

"Up to this point,during the deployment, I had issues I struggled with and difficulty at work. Of the documents release, the cables were the only one I was not absolutely certain couldn't harm the United States. I conducted research on the cables published on the Net Centric Diplomacy, as well as how Department of State cables worked in general."

Overall, his statement shows that he is hardly the unstable, impulsive character the media and US government have portrayed him to be.

Private First Class Manning, now 25, 22 when the leaks occurred, has been in military prison for more than1,000 days, much of it under harsh solitary confinement that a UN report says amounted to torture.

Manning is charged under military law and also under the Espionage Act of 1917. The highly secretive Obama Administration has charged more whistleblowers, six, under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined in an effort to suppress dissent, it is widely believed on the Left.

Contributing to this belief are this case, his persecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and other ways in which President Obama has increased his power to silence those who would disagree with him while ignoring the precepts that have made our a free and open society and acting outside the traditional boundaries we have set for ourselves under the rule of law. He has continued and expanded the Bush Administration's domestic spying programs and encouraged the passage of and then quickly signed into law the notorious NDAA, giving him the authority to have the military arrest and detain US citizens without charge, inside or outside our borders, without ever having recourse to counsel and without anyone ever knowing they've been snatched off the street, and he has conveyed upon himself the authority to use stealth drones to assassinate anyone, including US citizens, anywhere in the world.

Note: Although Manning read his statement, which he said he wrote himself in the brig, in front of a packed courtroom that included members of the news media, no one has a copy of it. His military judge has refused to release copies of anything having to do with the case, including filings and daily transcripts of the proceedings, as is done in civilian courts where everything is a public record. In the limited coverage his statement is being given in the media, the details about Manning's statement mainly come from the notes of the few journalists who have bothered to cover the case. Free lance reporter Alexa O'Brien has turned her notes into a transcript that is a very good account of the statement, according to those who were in the courtroom.

American constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald wrote insightfully about Manning's statement for The Guardian, going into its significance and the significance of President Obama's crackdown on whistleblowers and dissent. Greenwald also talks about the significance of the information Manning released, which has been the basis for almost countless news stories around the world and has provided valuable insight into US foreign policy and the unseemly ways in which the US often conducts its business. Many people credit news accounts based on cables Manning released about the State Department's knowledge of and acquiescence to corruption in Tunisia and Egypt with igniting the Arab Spring, which began soon after the cables were released.

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