Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian: “I can’t think of a time when there was ever a story generated by a news organization where the White House, the Kremlin, Chávez, India, China, everyone in the world was talking about these things. … I’ve never known a story that created such mayhem that wasn’t an event like a war or a terrorist attack.”
His subsequent arrest, 2-year detention, and trial have aroused passions for beheading from some, alongside vigilant ‘hacktivism,’ grassroots protest, and academic disapproval of the US government from others.
Pfc. Bradley Manning, 24, is accused of 22 charges, including aiding the enemy, a capitol offense. The prosecutors have said they would not pursue the death penalty, but a conviction on that count would still result in a life-sentence.
He is being charged over the leak of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables as well as the Iraq and Afghan war logs to Wikileaks. It was among the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public.
After his arrest in 2010, Pfc. Manning was put on suicide watch at the maximum security prison in the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico, Virginia. This led to essential solitary confinement and harsh treatment that The Young Turks anchor refers to as ‘no-touch torture.’ [For an 'a typical day for Pfc. Bradley Manning', see David Coombs' website here.]
The method of imprisonment sparked international outrage, with the UN torture chief officially condemning it as ‘cruel and inhuman treatment,’ and 295 academics — many prominent American legal scholars — signing a letter arguing the detention was unconstitutional.
Since then, he was moved to a medium-security imprisonment at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is allowed clothing, personal items, more space, exercise, and to mingle and speak to other inmates.
This was all during pre-trial detention, which has played prominently in arguments in Manning’s 2 years of ongoing pre-trial hearings. The actual court-martial is not scheduled until early next year. David Coombs, Pfc. Manning’s defense attorney, has criticized the treatment of Manning as well as the military’s handling of the case, arguing that the military imposed harsh charges in order to force Manning to give evidence against Assange, the head of Wikileaks at the time. Coombs has also suggested that much of the evidence he has been able to review identifies that:
The main thing [the military] were concerned about was being portrayed in a negative light.
The military judge overseeing the case decided last month that no evidence or arguments were to be admitted to consider the amount of harm his leak of classified documents has caused to U.S. national security and foreign relations. Coombs believed it to be relatively little. This means that only the act of leaking will be considered, not any potential harm or benefit related to the leaks themselves.
Despite the arguments, and though Manning has been held for these two years without being convicted of any crimes, it is fairly certain that Pfc. Manning was the culprit. The trial remains to determine the extent of evidence permitted considering Manning’s treatment, the charges, and the sentencing.
Pfc. Bradley Manning has had quite an impact. Thousands of people have declared their support to ‘Free Bradley Manning’ through the international Bradley Support Network. Rallies and protests in support of open government, journalistic muckraking, and in opposition to the Iraq and Afghan wars have spawned as a result. Manning was actually nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 and again in 2012.
There has been exuberant focus of the US media on Bradley Manning, his trial, his character, Julian Assange, what the implications are for data security in the military, and the potential harm these leaks have on America. Less prominent, though also as a result, there has been a renewed debate over the potential issues with the security apparatus erected in the wake of 9/11 in addition to discussions over the possible issues and benefits of open government and the ethics around whistle-blowing.
It is to these issues, which I will turn in the second part of this series. In a final part of this series, I will discuss the arguments Coombs and the prosecutor might have made over the actual harm and benefit done by Manning’s leaks, if this evidence were permitted.