The third pretrial hearing in the case of Bradley Manning took place the week of June 4 at Fort Meade, Maryland. Manning, a 24-year-old private in the U.S. Army, is facing a military court-martial for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents which were later published by the website WikiLeaks. Manning has been imprisoned for nearly two years, often in conditions constituting torture, and is now facing very heavy charges. I recently interviewed Kevin Gosztola about the Manning case. Gosztola, a civil liberties blogger at Firedoglake, attended Manning's court-martial at Fort Meade, and is a co-author of Truth and Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning.
Everest: Can you first give our readers an overview of the case?
Gosztola: Pfc. Bradley Manning is an intelligence analyst in the military who allegedly leaked nearly half-a-million documents to WikiLeaks. He's accused of one of the most significant, far-reaching and impactful leaks of classified government documents in U.S. history.
These documents include the Collateral Murder video, Afghanistan War Logs, Iraq War Logs, U.S. State Embassy cables and Gitmo Files releases. The Collateral Murder video shows a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in which two Reuters journalists were gunned down. A "Good Samaritan" with his two children pulled up with a van and tried to save those wounded. He was shot and killed and his two children were severely wounded. The Afghan War Logs revealed a directive known as Task Force 373, an assassination squad of Navy SEALS and members of the Delta Forces who decided whether to arrest or kill targets. The logs also revealed that U.S. and UK forces adopted a military order, "Frago 242," to avoid taking responsibility for the torture of Iraqis by military or security forces in the country. These are just a few of the documents released to WikiLeaks.
Manning now faces charges of "aiding the enemy"; prejudicing the good order and discipline in the armed forces and bringing discredit to the military; and exceeding his authorized access on his computer by downloading software that the military claims was used to transfer documents from a secret intelligence network called SIPRnet to WikiLeaks. If convicted of "aiding the enemy," Manning could get life in prison. If that charge happens to be dropped, he then faces the other charges. The majority of each of the charges carries the possibility of up to 10 years in prison. So, even if he did not get life in prison, he could be in prison for life because the charges could add up to quite a long sentence.
Manning has been imprisoned for over 700 days, leading many supporters to argue he has been the subject of preemptive prosecution. He was arrested in June 2010. He was briefly held in Kuwait before being transferred to Quantico Marine brig in Virginia. There he was subjected to inhumane treatment and kept in isolation because the Marines placed him on "prevention of injury" (POI) watch, contending he might try to commit suicide. Psychologists disputed this and the designation was likely a form of retaliation that commonly occurs to alleged whistle-blowers. He was stripped naked and forced to sleep without any clothes two nights in a row in the spring of 2011. This created a large amount of controversy for the Obama administration and Manning was transferred from Quantico to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas in April 2011.
Everest: How is Manning holding up under all this?
Gosztola: Manning seems to be doing pretty well for someone who has been held in pre-trial confinement for over 700 days. He periodically appears to be engaged in the legal proceedings. Sometimes he just looks bored with the whole process and one can see him writing or drawing on a notepad.
Following the June hearing, he expressed thanks to his supporters: "I am very grateful for your support and humbled by your ongoing efforts." He specifically thanked Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network. He is not aware of a lot of the actions being taken in support of him at Fort Meade until they have happened. However, when he finds out, they make him very happy. He found out during the June hearing that there were supporters in the gallery wearing T-shirts that said "Truth" on them. When he heard that, his face lit up and he smiled.
Everest: Why do you think the U.S. government is acting so aggressively and harshly in this case?
Gosztola: The U.S. government has reacted so aggressively and harshly because they have to make an example out of Manning. The shocks to this American superpower caused by his alleged leaks were on a scale that no person in power could ever have imagined. Particularly troublesome for the U.S. government was the release of the cache of over 250,000 U.S. State Department Embassy cables. The release fully exposed how U.S. diplomats have used blackmail, bribery, coercion, cover-ups, fraud, misconduct and other tactics to advance U.S. foreign policy. This forced multiple ambassadors and employees of the State Department to be shuffled around to new posts in the same way that the Catholic Church moves priests guilty of sex crimes so they can avoid attention and accountability.
No person in government can point to an alleged attack by a terrorist organization and say an alleged leak by Manning caused that. Nobody can point to the death of an informant or human rights activist and say that was because of something that was published on the WikiLeaks website. Yet, the government said at the beginning that there would be great damage to national security and lives would be endangered. Well, no critical infrastructure or anything was ever damaged. The only thing hurt was the ego of American empire.
Everest: What do you think is the broader significance of this case, especially for any who oppose the unjust actions of the U.S. military and government around the world and here at home?
Gosztola: The broader significance and implications of the government's pursuit of this case is to try and make soldiers in the military who see something that upsets their conscience even less likely to blow the whistle. Manning clearly had seen some of the horrors of the Iraq war and it affected him. At one point he worked in a unit connected with an Iraqi Federal Police unit. He knew the military was turning over detainees to the Federal Police that were being subjected to torture. He complained to his superior officer but was told to basically run along and go help the military get more detainees. For any soldier who believed what they were doing in Iraq involved helping the Iraqi people, this might be enough to push someone to no longer believe the war was righteous and good.
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