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Glenn Greenwald: Why the Obama Administration's Persecution of Bradley Manning Should Terrify Us All

The Government's charges portend a dangerous new world for journalists and whistleblowers.

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AMY GOODMAN: The judge in the case, Denise Lind, asked an interesting question of prosecutors. She said, Would you be going after him in the same way if he had given this information to The New York Times, as opposed to WikiLeaks?

GLENN GREENWALD: Right, and they said, "Absolutely."

AMY GOODMAN: They said, "Yes, Ma’am."

GLENN GREENWALD: And there’s even an indication that you could take this theory and use it to prosecute journalists, as well. Obviously journalists are not subjected to the uniform rules of military justice, but there are theories that the Obama—that the Bush administration has suggested, and that the Obama administration has even played around with, that if journalists are participating in or somehow encouraging leaks of serious classified information, that they, too, could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act for endangering American national security. And so, it isn’t just a threat to Bradley Manning, it’s not just a threat to whistleblowers, it’s really a threat to the very act of investigative journalists. And if you talk to real investigative journalists, even one at establishment newspapers like The New York Times, Jim Risen—the most decorated investigative journalist in the country, one of them, the Pulitzer Prize winner, has himself been implicated and drawn into some of these cases—there is an extraordinary chilling effect that has descended, by design, over the entire news-gathering process.

AMY GOODMAN: I just wanted to go to some of Bradley Manning’s quotes. Testifying before a military court Thursday, U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning said of his motivation to leak classified documents, quote, "I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information ... this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general." He added, quote, "I believed that these cables would not damage the United States. However, I believed these cables would be embarrassing." He said he took the information to WikiLeaks only after he was rebuffed by The Washington Post and The New York Times. It was interesting. He said he had gone to The New York Times and The Washington Post first.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. Well, what’s really interesting about that statement—obviously he’s making the statement in court when he’s facing a prospect of life in prison, and so some people might call the sincerity of those statements into question. The interesting thing to me, though, is that in the chat logs that were published over a year ago with the government informant who turned him in, he said very much the same thing while he thought he was speaking in complete confidence, to somebody who had promised him confidentiality, about what led him on this path, that he had become disillusioned first about the Iraq war when he discovered that people they were detaining weren’t really insurgents but were simply opponents of the Maliki government, and he brought it to his superiors, and they ignored him. He then looked at documents that showed extreme amounts of criminality and deceit and violence, that he could no longer in good conscience participate in concealing. It was really an act of conscience, pure conscience and heroism, that he did, knowing he was sacrificing his liberty. And what’s so persuasive to me isn’t just this extremely deliberative, thought-out statement that he gave in court, but how closely it tracks to what he thought was a private conversation explaining his behavior, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about who is covering this trial?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, what’s really fascinating is that there have been several individuals who have been covering every single step of the trial, and almost none of them works for a major media outlet. There are independent journalists—like Kevin Gosztola, who writes for Firedoglake, the liberal blog; there is Alexa O’Brien, who is simply an independent journalist who writes on the Internet and covers her own expenses and operates independently—who are the real sources for the coverage of the Manning trial.

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