In 2010, 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was charged with leaking classified information to Wikileaks, which was widely seen as a catalyst for the Arab Spring that began in December 2010.
Asia Times reported that the documents revealed “US war crimes, including the video of US soldiers in a helicopter gunship enjoying themselves murdering civilians walking along the street as if the soldiers were playing a video game.”
“According to the US Military Code, US soldiers are required to make war crimes known. However, the law on the books provided no protection to Bradley Manning,” wrote Paul Craig Roberts.
Last week, Bradley Manning’s defense faced off with military prosecutors in Ft. Meade, Maryland to argue that all charges be dismissed because of “unlawful pretrial punishment.” This hearing was second in importance only to the court martial.
Manning testified about his treatment at a military prison in Quantico, Virginia. He can only see natural light as a reflected gleam from a window down the hall when he holds his head to the door of his cell and looks through the crack. His 6ft by 8ft cell contains a toilet that is in full vision of the guards. When he needs toilet paper, he told the court, he has to stand to attention and shout: "Lance Corporal Detainee Manning requests toilet paper!" Held in solitary confinement and prohibited from exercising, Manning testified that he is “authorized to have 20 minutes sunshine, in chains, every 24 hours.” Expert witnesses stated that these harsh restrictions are worse than Guantanamo Bay or even death row.
Military judge Colonel Denise Lind announced that Manning's court martial, which had been set to begin in February, would now be delayed until March 16 at the earliest, due to the debate over his unlawful confinement.
Under the most severe of the 22 counts he faces – "aiding the enemy" – Manning could be detained in military custody for the rest of his life. In a proposed plea bargain, Manning would admit to leaking a battlefield video file, classified memos, Iraq war logs, Afghanistan war logs and other classified materials. He would also plead guilty to wrongfully storing classified information, in hopes of a lighter sentence.
Meanwhile, peace activists around the world are pushing for dismissal of all charges. Protests at Fort Meade, recruiting centers, and US embassies demanded fair treatment for Bradley, considered by many to be the most important whistleblower of our time.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel published a letter of support in The Nation on December 3, 2012, which stated:
“We Nobel Peace Prize laureates condemn the persecution Bradley Manning has suffered, including imprisonment in conditions declared “cruel, inhuman and degrading” by the United Nations, and call upon Americans to stand up in support of this whistleblower who defended their democratic rights...
If Bradley Manning released the documents, as the prosecution contends, we should express to him our gratitude for his efforts toward accountability in government, informed democracy and peace.”
Ray McGovern, a high-ranking retired C.I.A. analyst, called Manning “our friend” and “a hero.”
Bradley Manning Support Network is asking all people to submit photos of themselves holding a sign that reads “I am Bradley Manning,” to show the world that people from all walks of life believe the public deserves to know the truth. Their website, iam.bradleymanning.org states:
“Whistle-blowers play an important role in a democracy, and by revealing evidence of unpunished war crimes, as well as secret corporate influence on U.S. foreign policy, Bradley Manning acted in the interest of American citizens.”
Commentator Glenn Greenwald wrote, “Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything.”
David House, a 23-year-old MIT researcher who befriended Manning after his detention (and then had his laptops, camera and cellphone seized by Homeland Security) is one of the few people to have visited Manning several times at Quantico. He describes worrying changes in Manning’s physical appearance and behavior just over the course of a few months.
President Obama's state department spokesman, retired air force colonel PJ Crowley, resigned after publicly condemning Manning's treatment.
According to chat logs released by Wired Magazine, Manning clearly believed that he was a whistle-blower acting with the noblest of motives.
Manning told hacker Adrian Lamo that the leaks were intended to create “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
Manning described to Lamo the incident which first made him seriously question the US government. He was instructed to work on the case of Iraqi “insurgents” who had been detained for distributing so-called “insurgent” literature which, when Manning had it translated, turned out to be nothing more than “a scholarly critique against PM Maliki.”
“I had an interpreter read it for me… and when i found out that it was a benign political critique titled “Where did the money go?” and following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet… i immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on… he didn’t want to hear any of it… he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees… i had always questioned the things worked, and investigated to find the truth… but that was a point where i was a *part* of something… i was actively involved in something that i was completely against…” wrote Manning.
Lamo reported Manning to US authorities.
“The government's radical theory is that, although Manning had no intent to do so, the leaked information could have helped al-Qaida, a theory that essentially equates any disclosure of classified information – by any whistleblower, or a newspaper – with treason,” writes Greenwald.
79-year-old former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who is often praised for his 1971 leak of the Pentagon's secret history of the Vietnam War, said that Wikileaks' disclosure of government secrets on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and thousands of diplomatic cables was “exactly the right thing” to do. Ellsberg once faced criminal charges over his leak, but they were thrown out by a judge.
But military law experts told The Huffington Post that the odds are low that his charges will simply be dismissed.