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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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The Guardian, the newspaper for which I write, has actually done a very good job, as well, of sending a reporter most of the time and covering the proceedings, but for a long time The New York Times simply ignored the trial. The newspaper that battled the Nixon administration over the Pentagon Papers, that was a beneficiary not only of Daniel Ellsberg’s leaks but also Bradley Manning’s leaks, simply ignored it and had to be shamed into finally sending somebody by those independent journalists, who kept banging on the table, saying, "Why isn’t The New York Times here?" And then, finally, their own public editor said it’s actually disgraceful that The New York Times hasn’t done more—or done anything—to cover this trial.

And I know, as somebody who writes about this case a lot, who has an extreme amount of interest in it, that I get my news from Kevin Gosztola, Alexa O’Brien, independent journalists who are at the trial, from The Guardian, as well. But in general, American establishment media outlets—I don’t think the name Bradley Manning has been mentioned on MSNBC once in the last two years, except maybe on a weekend morning show. He just doesn’t exist there. He doesn’t exist on CNN. It just has been blacked out.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the transcripts of decisions, of what’s going on in court?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, the irony of this proceeding is that what led Bradley Manning to do what he did was that virtually everything the U.S. government does is cloaked in secrecy, everything it does of any significance, and that whistleblowing and leaks, unauthorized leaks, is the only way we find out about what our government is doing. And a perfect microcosm illustrating how true that is is the Manning proceeding itself. There is more secrecy at this proceeding than there is even at Guantánamo military proceedings under George Bush. The docket is often classified and kept secret. Court orders are kept secret. There is no transcript available, so Alexa O’Brien had to transcribe his statement, Bradley Manning’s statement, using whatever instruments that she could. It really is a mockery of justice, what has taken place, and it really reflects the motivations that led Manning to do this in the first place.

AMY GOODMAN: The decision that came down from the Supreme Court on surveillance, you see it in some ways tying into this.

GLENN GREENWALD: I see it completely connected. That decision last week—in 2008, the Democratic-led Congress passed a law essentially authorizing massive new surveillance powers, allowing the U.S. government to surveil and eavesdrop on the conversation of American citizens without warrants. And instantly, theACLU filed a lawsuit saying that this law, this major new eavesdropping law, is unconstitutional. And they got all kind of journalists and activists and human rights groups to say that the mere existence of this eavesdropping power severely harms them. Five years later, the Supreme Court said, because this eavesdropping program is shrouded in secrecy, nobody can prove that they’re being subjected to the eavesdropping, and therefore nobody has standing to sue; we won’t even allow the law to be tested in court about whether it violates the Constitution.

So, this has happened over and over. The government has insulated its conduct from what are supposed to be the legitimate means of accountability and transparency—judicial proceedings, media coverage, FOIA requests—and has really erected this impenetrable wall of secrecy, using what are supposed to be the institutions designed to prevent that. That is what makes whistleblowing all the more imperative. It really is the only remaining avenue that we have to learn about what the government is doing. And that is why the government is so intent on waging this war against whistleblowers, because it’s the only thing left that shines light on what they were doing. And those who want to stigmatize whistleblowing as illegal would have a much better case if there were legitimate institutions that were functioning that allow the kind of transparency that we’re supposed to have. But those have been all shut down, which is what makes whistleblowing all the more imperative and the war on whistleblowing all the more odious.

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