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.