PFC Bradley Manning, the whistle-blower imprisoned for allegedly providing classified government documents to Wikileaks in 2010, is finally receiving his day in court. He has offered to plead guilty to 10 charges related to the document leak, which could keep him incarcerated for another 20 years, but that's not enough for military prosecutors who argue that he should receive life in prison for his crime, stressing that he's lucky they aren't seeking the death penalty.
They claim that Manning's leak makes him guilty of aiding the enemy and therefore deserving of death. A spurious argument if for no other reason than Manning had no intent -- premeditated or otherwise -- to expose government information to al Qaeda, only to the American people whom he believed deserved to know the truth.
Our military is a notoriously bloodthirsty bunch.
In case you've forgotten, Manning's big "crime" was exposing some of our government's most heinous crimes against humanity. These videos and documents detailed, among other things, US airstrikes against unarmed civilians in Afghanistan and journalists and cameramen in Baghdad. It was this "Baghdad airstrike" video that reportedly put Wikileaks on the map, so to speak, as it also showed the same US helicopter firing on a family (and killing the father) who stopped to help the wounded journalists.
Naturally, our government would rather we American citizens not know about that kind of stuff. We are, as always, to be kept in the dark about the war crimes committed in our names. Young PFC Manning, who was 23 at the time, felt otherwise. He believed that these atrocities should be public knowledge, and has since been imprisoned under the most hideous conditions imaginable and threatened with execution as a result of what some may call an act of true heroism.
You have to wonder why the supposedly freedom-loving Neocons in our country want to see him hang. Typical of their thick-headed hypocrisy, these knuckle-draggers argue that truth-tellers should be put to death for their acts of courage, making the case, it seems, in favor our allowing our military to murder civilians with complete immunity. The erosion of our own rights as US citizens, suddenly, are meaningless to them.
Manning's military prosecutors agree, and would like to use his case to set a dangerous precedent that would have a permanent chilling effect on anyone who dares to expose the illegal, murderous activities our government seeks to conceal. Such whistle-blowers would face execution, or at the very least, life-long incarceration for their acts of courage. Freedom of the Press? Not so much, if they succeed in sending this young man to prison -- forever.
As the New York Times reports today:
"When it decided the Pentagon Papers case, in 1971, the Supreme Court was well aware that, as Justice Potter Stewart put it, 'It is elementary that the successful conduct of international diplomacy and the maintenance of an effective national defense require both confidentiality and secrecy.'
"Despite this clear understanding of the risks involved in leaks and disclosure, the court's decision was encapsulated in Justice Hugo L. Black's simple statement: 'The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.'
"And what could be more destructive to an informed citizenry than the threat of the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole for whistle-blowers?"
Over the course of the last few decades, our hard-won rights and civil liberties have been slowly, but steadily, slip-sliding away. From the Bush Crime Family's warrantless wiretaps to the Patriot Act's redefinition of enemy combatant to the current justification of drone airstrikes against our own citizens, we are coming to a point where it is difficult to discuss "freedom" in America without putting quotes around the word.
The possible drone strikes aren't enough; now we are at risk of being executed or locked away for life if we post something to an Internet site that could be seen by anyone, including our alleged and ill-defined enemies around the world? Enemies, it is worth noting, that were created by the kind of home-grown atrocities Manning exposed?
The framers of our Constitution would hardly recognize the place.