On behalf of US Army Private Chelsea Manning
(previously known as Bradley Manning), I want to thank the International Peace
Bureau for its award of the Sean MacBride Peace Award to Private Manning. When Chelsea was told by her lawyer that IPB
had selected her as the recipient of this year's award, she was overwhelmed
that such an organization would recognize her actions as actions for peace. She knows the history of the MacBride Peace Award,
in honor of Sean MacBride, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, founding member of
Amnesty International and a tireless advocate for peaceful resolution of
conflict. Private Manning recognizes the
works of previous awardees and is deeply honored to be included in their ranks.
As you know, Private Manning is not here to receive
the award in person as she is incarcerated in the US military prison at Fort
Leavenworth, Kansas after she was sentenced on August 21, 2013 to 35 years in
prison for giving over 800,000 pages of government documents known as the Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and Diplomatic
files to the online publishing organization Wikileaks. Materials Private Manning provided documented
human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law by US military,
by Iraqi and Afghan military forces operating alongside US forces, and by military
contractors. The files included reports on illegal and inhumane battlefield actions
and previously unseen footage of journalists and other civilians being killed
in US helicopter attacks; information which should have been made available to the public.
Private Manning said she acted on the belief that she
could spark a meaningful public debate on the cost of war, and specifically on
the conduct of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. She said she did not intend to harm the
United States, but wanted to have information about the wars more transparent
to the American public. In her February 28, 2013, 10,000 word statement to the
, Private Manning said, "I believed that if the general public, especially
the American public, had access to the information contained within the [Iraq
and Afghan War Logs] this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the
military and our foreign policy in general as well as it related to
Iraq and Afghanistan."
Private Chelsea Manning's sentence of 35 years is one that we would have expected for someone who disclosed information in order
to harm the United States or who disclosed information for monetary game.
Private Manning did neither.
Private Manning's attorney David Coombs, wrote in a
letter to the Secretary of the Army for a pardon and/or commutation of Chelsea's
sentence that, "Although the government is entitled to protect sensitive
information, the documents in this case did not merit protection. Many of the
documents released by Private Manning were either unclassified or contained
information that the public had a right to know. None of the disclosed
documents caused any real damage to the United States. Instead, these documents
simply embarrassed our country by revealing misconduct by the Department of
Defense and unethical practices by the Department of State.
We rely upon whistleblowers, even in those
instances that might cause embarrassment, to keep our government accountable to
its people. Private Manning is a military whistleblower. She disclosed
documents that were vital for a healthy public debate about our conduct
in Iraq and Afghanistan, our detention policies in Guantanamo, and our
diplomatic activities around the world. The sentence given to her by the
military judge grossly exaggerates the seriousness of her conduct. It will
undoubtedly have a chilling effect on future whistleblowers and damage the
public's perception of military justice."
Civil rights organizations have criticized the harsh
sentence given to Private Manning. Lisa
Clayton, who co-directs the Brennan Center for Justice, Liberty and National
Security program, called the 35-year sentence unprecedented and stated, "it is
dramatically longer than the longest sentence previously ever received for
disclosing classified information to the media, which was two years."
Ben Wisner, the director of the American Civil
Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy, and Technology project, said "a legal system that does not distinguish
between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the
nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of
critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability."
Ana Fitzgerald, the director of Amnesty
International's Research and Crisis Response, said, "Chelsea Manning should
be shown clemency in recognition of her motives for acting as she did, the
treatment she endured in her early pretrial confinement, and the due process
shortcomings during her trial."
While Chelsea Manning faces many years in prison for
the public disclosure of documents to WikiLeaks, numerous high-level officials
have never been held accountable for the grave human rights violations
committed during the United States war on terror including kidnapping,
extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention and torture.
Documents released by Wikileaks were published in numerous
national newspapers as Chelsea had hoped, citizens around the world read how many of their governments cooperated
with the United States in kidnapping, imprisonment and torture in US war on
terror -- and were outraged as she had been.
Private Manning has already paid a heavy price for
her whistleblowing. She has been held for more than three years in military
confinement. A substantial portion of that confinement was spent in unlawful
solitary confinement at Marine Corps base Quantico. She endured a three-year
protracted legal process and faced a meritless charge of aiding the enemy,
which the court dismissed for lack of evidence.
The MacBride Award will encourage and hearten Private Chelsea Manning while she is in prison. I urge everyone to write Chelsea while she is in
and to donate to the Chelsea Manning educational fund that the Private Manning Support Group has set up to provide money for her to attend college when she returns to our community.
Again, on behalf of Private Chelsea Manning, I want
to thank the International Peace Bureau for selecting her as the recipient of
the 2013 Sean MacBride Peace Award.
Ann Wright receiving the Sean
MacBride on behalf of Private Chelsea Manning. She is a member of the
Private Manning Advisory Board.