Wikileaks source Bradley Manning pleads guilty to 10 counts
FORT MEADE, February 26 – Ingrid Burke, RAPSI. After pleading guilty to ten of the 22 counts he has been charged with by the US government, former military intelligence analyst Bradley Manning – who stands accused of having disclosed a great deal of classified information to Wikileaks - read a statement painting his actions as anchored in the interests of whistleblowing and transparency, according to a live-blog of the proceedings posted by his advocacy group, the Bradley Manning Support Network.
According to the group’s website, Manning is accused of having leaked a video showing US soldiers killing unarmed civilians in Iraq, including a photographer for Reuters and his driver. He is further accused of having leaked a multitude of Army reports and diplomatic cables that – once published by Wikileaks – dealt a humiliating blow to the US government in terms of its military and diplomatic agendas.
Manning was quoted as having said of the leaks, “I believed and still believe these are some of most important documents of our time,” and then of having defended his decision to disclose on the basis of having wanted to ignite a domestic dialogue on America’s war on terror. In his view, the footage needed to be seen by the American public, as its government had become “obsessed with capturing and killing people.”
Speaking of the Iraq killing video, he reportedly described the footage as “similar to a child torturing ants [with] a magnifying glass.”
His support network further reported that before disclosing the documents to Wikileaks, Manning had tried to leak them to several other major US media outlet. While visiting the US at one point during a tour, he had tried to pass the documents along to the Washington Post – from whom he received a rejection for lack of corroborating information, the New York Times – from whom he didn’t even receive a response, and Politico – with whom he was apparently prevented from coordinating due to a blizzard. At that point, he opted for Wikileaks which, he emphasized in his statement, never pressured him to give information, thus taking full responsibility for the disclosures.
Nathan Fuller of the Bradley Manning Support Network reported that Manning pleaded guilty to: “having unauthorized possession of one classified Army intelligence agency memo, more than 20 classified CIDNE Iraq documents, more than 20 CIDNE Afghanistan documents, more than 5 classified documents regarding Farah, and a video (Collateral Murder). He’s also pleading guilty to willfully communicating those to an unauthorized person and that doing so was service discrediting to the Armed Forces and was prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the Armed Forces.”
He did not, however, plead guilty to those documents having related to national defense, or to having believed that their disclosure could harm the US or benefit a foreign nation, according to Fuller.
One charge he did not plead guilty to was that of aiding the enemy, according to The Guardian.
The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington reported Tuesday that the government planned to pursue this charge by way of introducing as a witness a Navy Seal who may have been involved in the May 2011 operation that purportedly killed Osama Bin Ladin.
According to Pilkington, the US intended to introduce this particular witness in order to advance the theory that Bin Ladin had specifically sought out some of the information that Manning disclosed to Wikileaks in order to support its “aiding the enemy” charge against the disgraced analyst. The witness is expected to attest to the fact that he entered Bin Ladin’s compound and obtained physical evidence that Bin Ladin had procured the Wikileaks information at issue, according to the report.
Manning has a passionate group of supporters who believe that he deserves honors and praise for exposing war crimes and atrocities committed by US forces in the context of its “War on Terror,” according to the defendant’s advocacy website. He has reportedly been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 and 2012.
Not convinced that a 24-year-old analyst should be entitled to balance the interests of national security and transparency according to his own calculus, the US government acted swiftly to stop the leak.
In May 2010 – the month following Wikileaks’ release of the Iraq video – Manning was arrested in Kuwait. He was charged the following month for having leaked classified documents, according to his advocacy website.
Manning isn’t the only potential martyr to US transparency.
Wikileaks founder and chief editor Julian Assange has remained in hiding in Ecuador’s London embassy since June 2012 based on the leap of logic that if he were to be extradited by UK authorities to Sweden, he could face the death penalty in the US.
Assange has gained international notoriety in recent years for having exposed scores of sensitive and secret documents via his website Wikileaks. The present saga began, however, when the British Supreme Court upheld in May an order to extradite Assange to Sweden, where he is sought for questioning in connection with alleged sexual offenses.
After having lost his final shot at the UK shielding him from Swedish justice, Assange applied for asylum in Ecuador. Ecuador in turn agreed to the asylum grant based on concerns that Assange might ultimately face the death penalty if extradited to the US.
If convicted in the US under the 1917 Espionage Act on the basis of his Wikileaks work, Assange could face capital punishment. However, the UK only wanted to extradite Assange to Sweden to face sexual offense allegations, not to the US to face espionage charges.
If it is ultimately requested, Assange’s extradition from Sweden would only be legally feasible in the context of US assurance that capital punishment would be absolutely off the table.