Update on the Bradley Manning trial

As the Bradley Manning kangaroo court trial enters its final phase, Alexa O’Brien gives a recap of where things stand. She says that in addition to Manning, journalism and WikiLeaks are on trial as well.

She highlights the testimony of Professor Yochai Benkler, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, who told the judge that:

“the cost of finding Pfc. Manning guilty of aiding the enemy would impose” too great a burden on the “willingness of people of good conscience but not infinite courage to come forward,” and “would severely undermine the way in which leak-based investigative journalism has worked in the tradition of [the] free press in the United States.”

“[I]f handing materials over to an organization that can be read by anyone with an internet connection, means that you are handing [it] over to the enemy—that essentially means that any leak to a media organization that can be read by any enemy anywhere in the world, becomes automatically aiding the enemy,” said Benkler. “[T]hat can’t possibly be the claim,” he added.

Benkler testified that WikiLeaks was a new mode of digital journalism that fit into a distributed model of emergent newsgathering and dissemination in the Internet age, what he termed the “networked Fourth Estate.” When asked by the prosecution if “mass document leaking is somewhat inconsistent with journalism,” Benkler responded that analysis of large data sets like the Iraq War Logs provides insight not found in one or two documents containing a “smoking gun.” The Iraq War Logs, he said, provided an alternative, independent count of casualties “based on formal documents that allowed for an analysis that was uncorrelated with the analysis that already came with an understanding of its political consequences.”

The court is in recess until Thursday at 9:30 am US Eastern time.

I fear that Manning will get a long prison sentence that will effective amount to life in prison. The Obama administration has created a mockery of the legal system that is designed to make Manning into a symbol of the harsh treatment any whistleblower will receive. Having gone to such lengths to ensure a conviction, it is highly unlikely that the judge will be allowed to show any leniency.

I hope I am wrong.

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