Private First Class Bradley Manning is on trial now after releasing information to the public. He has already spent 1,108 days in confinement awaiting trial. The information he shared exposed the unjust detainment of innocent people in Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and served as a catalyst for pro-democracy movements in the Arab world. Instead of the cold, clean images of drone planes soaring and American flags waving that mainstream news outlets project, the information Manning helped release displayed the disturbing, human truth about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Among other crimes, the whistleblower is accused of “aiding the enemy”—a capital offense and his most serious charge. A conviction on this charge would mean life in prison, and a possible death sentence.
Since it’s the public who benefited from this information, does that make us the enemy? What price will future whistleblowers pay? These are the questions posed on the Manning support network website, I Am Bradley Manning. The site is set up in part to promote a new PSA film created by the eponymous group.
The site’s tagline reads, “I am Bradley Manning because I believe the public deserves the truth and whistleblowers deserve a fair trial.”
The video I Am Bradley Manning features big-names including actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, Russell Brand and Peter Sarsgaard; filmmaker Oliver Stone; musicians Tom Morello and Moby; journalists Chris Hedges, Phil Donahue and Matt Taibbi; and author Alice Walker among others, carrying signs to declare they, too, are Bradley Manning. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg tells the camera, “I was Bradley Manning.” The video’s participants call the “aiding the enemy” charge absurd.
The dialogue opens with the question, “When you join the military are you asked to keep any war crimes you might see secret?”
The video proceeds to pose important points that pertain to Manning’s case, including facts like:
The cables Manning released were not “top secret” documents.
The whole concept of the whistleblower protection laws in place is that you cannot get in trouble for reporting illegal or improper activity.
Manning exposed real war crimes.
The most stark example of war crimes Manning exposed is the video from Iraq titled Collateral Murder. (None of the people associated with the murder of unarmed civilians and journalists, as shown in Collateral Murder, have been arrested or tried for their crimes.â€¨â€¨)
Shortly after passing the military information to WikiLeaks, Manning asked former hacker Adrian Lamo this question: “If you saw incredible things, awful things…things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington D.C….what would you do?”
The video echoes this question in a call-to-action statement at its close. Thousands of people in solidarity have posted photos of themselves holding “I am Bradley Manning” signs to iam.bradleymanning.org.
Manning has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and almost 65,000 people have already signed a Roots Action petition asking that he receive the prize.
“I want people to see the truth, because without it you cannot make informed decisions as a public,” Manning says in a chat logs with journalist Adrian Lamo prior to his arrest. He also said he hoped the publication of the diplomatic cables would ignite “worldwide discussion, debates, and reform.”
Now it is for the public to influence the future of one whistleblower, and whistleblowers at large.
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