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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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Bradley Manning is escorted from a hearing, on January 8, 2013 in Fort Meade, Maryland. Manning has told a military tribunal that he leaked incident logs from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks in order to start a "public debate".

 

The following is a Democracy Now! interview with Glenn Greenwald on the terrifying persecution of Bradley Manning. 

As we broadcast from the Freedom to Connect conference, we look at one whistleblower who used the Internet to reveal the horrors of war: U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning. Military prosecutors have decided to bring the maximum charges against Manning after he admitted during a pretrial hearing last week to the largest leak of state secrets in U.S. history. In a bid to secure a reduced sentence, Manning acknowledged on the stand that he gave classified documents to WikiLeaks in order to show the American public the "true costs of war" and "spark a debate about foreign policy." Manning pleaded guilty to reduced charges on 10 counts, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. But instead of accepting that plea, military prosecutors announced Friday they will seek to imprison Manning for life without parole on charges that include aiding the enemy. Manning’s court-martial is scheduled to begin in June. We speak with Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, who has long covered the case, about what this means for Manning and its broader implications for whistleblowers and the journalists they often approach.

Glenn, welcome Democracy Now!

GLENN GREENWALD: Great to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of what the military prosecutors are pushing for now, life without parole for Bradley Manning, and what he said in court last week, not far from here, just down the road at Fort Meade.

GLENN GREENWALD: There are several levels of significance, the first of which is the most obvious, which is that this is a case of extraordinary prosecutorial overkill. The government has never been able to identify any substantial harm that has come from any of the leaks that Bradley Manning is accused of and now admits to being responsible for. Certainly nobody has died as a result of these leaks, even though the government originally said that WikiLeaks and the leaker has blood on their hands. Journalists investigated and found that there was no evidence for that. So, just the very idea that he should spend decades in prison, let alone be faced with life on parole, given what it is that he actually did and the consequences of it, is really remarkable.

But even more specifically, the theory that the government is proceeding on is one that’s really quite radical and menacing. That is, that although he never communicated with, quote-unquote, "the enemy," which the government has said is al-Qaeda, although there’s no evidence that he intended in any way to benefit al-Qaeda—he could have sold this information, made a great deal of money, had he wanted to. All the evidence indicates that he did it for exactly the reason that he said, with the intent that he said, which was to spark reform and to bring attention to these abuses. The government is proceeding on the theory that simply because the information that’s leaked ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda had an interest in it, that constitutes aiding and abetting the enemy. And what that essentially does is it converts every form of whistleblowing or leaks into a form of treason. There’s evidence that Osama bin Laden was very interested, for example, in Bob Woodward’s book—books, which have all sorts of classified information in them at a much higher level of secrecy than anything Bradley Manning leaked. That would mean that not only the leakers to Woodward, the highest-level members of government, but even Woodward himself, could be depicted as a traitor or be accused of aiding and abetting the enemy. It’s an extraordinarily menacing theory to journalism and to whistleblowing and leaking.

 
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