- It is Bradley Manning we have put on trial, not the impresarios of war, not the CIA torturers or their lawyers. The Iraq War, which began with a lurid overture of secrecy and lies, is now getting its dissonant coda: a private court-martialed for telling the truth, a trial unfolding behind a thick wall of official secrecy. The past decade has witnessed the carnage unleashed by militarized cluelessness. In the story of Bradley Manning, who has been the ethical citizen and who the rampaging criminals?
- His conviction on Espionage Act charges poses grave dangers for American journalism.
- The Chilling Manning Trial
July 31, 2013 | In late July, the trial of Bradley Manning finally came to a close in a heavily air-conditioned courtroom in Fort Meade, Maryland, where the young private from Crescent, Oklahoma, was prosecuted for the largest security breach in US history.
Manning had already pleaded guilty to ten of the lesser charges against him—for instance, unauthorized possession and improper storage of classified material, which together carry a maximum twenty-year term. But this was not enough for the prosecution: it pressed on with a dozen more serious offenses, including the potential capital crime of aiding the enemy as well as charges stemming from the Espionage Act of 1917, which Richard Nixon retooled as a weapon against domestic leakers in his vendetta against Daniel Ellsberg. (Such a use of the statute has never been decided on the legal merits until this case.) Judge Denise Lind announced a verdict that splits the difference, acquitting the soldier of aiding the enemy but convicting him on the Espionage Act charges. Private Manning could still face a prison term of more than 130 years (the sentence will be determined in a separate proceeding). The consequences for American journalism are grave, as the government now has even greater incentive to prosecute as a spy any confidential source who passes classified information to the press, criminalizing what has long been a vital (and tacitly accepted) conduit of essential public information. Such collateral damage to the Fourth Estate will not be mourned by a government that has become aggressively intolerant of leaks, whistleblowers and, it often seems, a well-informed citizenry.
01 August 13 | What matters here is not that Manning was found guilty of leaking – which he admitted to and will not get anything like 136 years for – but that he was found not guilty of “aiding the enemy.” That “not guilty” is a good thing, but it doesn’t mitigate the reality that “aiding the enemy” was a bogus and dangerous charge in the first place. The fact that the government would even pursue it is chilling to a free press.