So Bradley Manning will go to jail for telling the world what the US government is doing. I suspect that it was his release of the Collateral Murder video, in which US troops in a helicopter gunship shot people (including two Reuters journalists) walking along a street and then also gunned down passersby who stopped to help the wounded, all the while exchanging gleeful comments and congratulations at this act of cold-blooded murder, that triggered the desire by the Obama regime to have him punished as severely as possible. They now have their pound of flesh from Manning and seek to get the same from Edward Snowden.
Even though Manning’s defense lawyer says that he will be eligible for parole after about seven years, and he and others are calling for a pardon, I think it is highly unlikely that the government will allow that to happen unless there is a massive change in public opinion that leads a new government without so much blood on its hands coming into office, the way that Jimmy Carter was able to unconditionally pardon Vietnam war draft resisters on his first day in office in 1977.
Alexa O’Brien, who has been tirelessly covering the trial, has provided a verbatim account of Manning’s statement made at his sentencing hearing. In it, he apologizes for the “hurt” he caused other people and the US, that he did not intend to do so, and that it was the unintended consequence of him not thinking things through. The statement had the eerie flavor of the forced ‘confessions’ one hears at political show trials of opponents of repressive regimes.
But as Rainey Reitman of the Freedom of the Press Foundation says, no such apology is warranted.
For years now, the government may have attempted to paint a dire picture of WikiLeaks’ potential impact, but they’ve also admitted, quietly but repeatedly, that the results have been more embarrassing than harmful.
Even when the WikiLeaks hysteria was in full swing, government officials from the State Department have briefed Congress on the impact of the Wikileaks revelations, and have said that the leaks were “embarrassing but not damaging.” U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that, while some of the information may have been embarrassing, “I don’t think there is any substantive damage.”
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has admitted the leaks caused no serious damage, telling Congress that the reactions to the leaks were “significantly overwrought.” He went on to say: “Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.”
At the same time, Reuters reported that other officials were admitting in private that they were exaggerating the damage that resulted from the leaks in order to bolster the legal efforts against WikiLeaks and Manning.
This has born out in Manning’s trial and sentencing hearing. It’s why the government fought so hard to keep its official WikiLeaks “damage assessments” from being revealed in court. It’s why, despite all the government’s overwrought pronouncements early on of “blood on the hands” of those responsible, a U.S. official was forced to admit under oath in Manning’s sentencing hearing that not a single person died as a result of the releases.
Kevin Gozstola says that Manning weighed very carefully the consequences of his actions. As Manning himself earlier said of the murder video, “The most alarming aspect of the video to me was the seemingly 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.”
But of course, no one who was involved in those murders or any of the people involved in the entire extensive program of torture or approving torture has faced any prison time.
“When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system,” said Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.”
Indeed, the architects of the torture justifications under the Bush/Cheney regime have gone on to have careers as professors of law (John Yoo) or Appeals Court judges (Jay Bybee) instead of having to answer for their actions. Nowadays, the worst crime is to embarrass the US government by revealing the crimes it is committing.
What irks me are those who knowing this, still say that Edward Snowden should have ‘followed the rules’ and taken it up through the proper channels. This article describes what happened to others who did, how they suffered for their acts of conscience. [UPDATE: Commenter Pteryxx informs me of another case of persecution of a whistleblower who went through the proper channels.] Snowden knew much of this history and that influenced why he did what he did. And he was perfectly justified in doing so.
Now another whistleblower has come forward, this time it is Sabrina De Sousa, a former CIA agent, who tells her version of what really happened in the case of Robert Seldon Lady, the CIA agent who was convicted in Italy for kidnapping a Muslim cleric Osama Mustapha Hassan Nasr off the streets of Milan in Italy in 2003 and then ‘rendering’ him to Egypt to be tortured. Sousa was one member of the 23 CIA agents who, along with Lady, were convicted in Italy of that crime and is now speaking out.
Jonathan Landay of the McClatchy news service points out that what is significant about De Sousa’s revelations is that the US government has never acknowledged that they were involved in the kidnapping and torture of Nasr. Now someone who was part of that operation has gone on the record with that information. This is the valuable service that whistleblowers provide. They force the government to acknowledge their actions and not hide behind a shield of secrecy that allows them to deny their crimes.
In his statement, Manning said “How on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better over the decisions of those with the proper authority?”
I believe that he has changed the world for the better and that hope for the future lies precisely with lower level people like Manning and Snowden who have not had their ideals corrupted by their desire for career advancement in order to reach the levels of ‘the proper authorities’ and become like the despicable Yoo and Bybee.
And for that, I salute them.