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Bradley Manning

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The Spiegel reports on a trial that begins today, of the Wikileaker Bradley Manning:

Daniel Ellsberg knows a few things about heroes. In fact, many Americans see him as a hero. When he was working for a key think tank associated with the United States military, Ellsberg photocopied the so-called Pentagon Papers, 7,000 pages of top secret analysis and documents that revealed that American politicians knew all too well how hopeless the situation in Vietnam was. When the New York Times published the secret documents in 1971, it opened the eyes of Ellsberg’s fellow Americans once and for all to the details of a disastrous war.

But when Ellsberg, now 80 and white-haired but still energetic, talks about heroes, he is no longer thinking about the past. Today he says that Bradley Manning, the presumed source of the classified documents about American military officials and diplomats published by WikiLeaks last year, is “unreservedly a hero.” There are so many things Manning’s actions uncovered, says Ellsberg, as he begins to rattle them off. Could the Arab Spring have materialized without the WikiLeaks reports on the corruption of Arab potentates? And would anyone have been talking about war crimes committed by American soldiers in Iraq without the documents on detainee abuse?

Starting on Friday, Ellsberg intends to do his best to ensure that Manning will also go unpunished. That’s when the public military proceedings against the presumed WikiLeaks source is set to begin at Fort Meade, a US Army base near Washington DC. Prosecutors have assembled 34 charges against Manning, the most serious of which is “aiding the enemy.”

The defense is also extremely well prepared. David Coombs, Manning’s attorney, has summoned witnesses for the defense, including US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — and Daniel Ellsberg. Hundreds of journalists and thousands of protesters from around the world are expected to turn up as the military court addresses the question of whether Manning is an irresponsible hacker or a hero.

The star witness Coombs will use to support his first claim could not be more convincing: the White House. The attorney claims that a senior White House official, together with a large staff, carefully combed through the classified documents. And, lo and behold, says Coombs, the conclusion of this review was that the release of the documents did not do “any real damage to national security.”

If Manning’s defense team manages to convince the court to order the release of this classified document, it could at least soften the charge of “aiding the enemy.” It was for this reason that Coombs wanted Secretary of State Clinton to testify before the court over whether US diplomacy is not in fact running as smoothly as ever despite the publication of the WikiLeaks documents. But the government has since turned down his request to have both Clinton and Obama testify in the trial.

Nevertheless, US legal experts believe that a conviction of the defendant is practically certain, because the evidence that he betrayed government secrets is so clear. “Does anyone seriously believe that he will be acquitted?” asks military law expert Philip Cave. It’s true that mistakes made by Manning’s superiors could prove to be mitigating, as could the motives behind his presumed act of treason. Nevertheless, a long prison sentence seems likely.

“He broke the law,” President Obama, a proponent of whistleblowers before his election, has already decided.

The waves of change rippling across the world could have come from many sources, and the Wikileaks could certainly be among them. That is hardly likely to be the question that exercises the court where Manning will be put on trial. Whether he is guilty depends on the charges brought against him. The question that the Spiegel reports is simple: did Manning actually harm US interests or is he being prosecuted by an establishment which caught a pie in the face?


Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

December 16, 2011 at 5:31 am

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