Bradley Manning: The Face of Heroism

ANGLO AMERICA, WHISTLEBLOWING - SURVEILLANCE, MILITARISM, JUSTICE, 4 Mar 2013

Glenn Greenwald – The Guardian

The 25-year-old Army Private, this generation’s Daniel Ellsberg, pleads guilty today to some charges and explains his actions.

bradley manning statement

(Updated [Friday 1 Mar 2013])

28 Feb 2012 – In December, 2011, I wrote an Op-Ed in the Guardian arguing that if Bradley Manning did what he is accused of doing, then he is a consummate hero, and deserves a medal and our collective gratitude, not decades in prison. At his court-martial proceeding this afternoon in Fort Meade, Manning, as the Guaridan’s Ed Pilkington reports, pleaded guilty to having been the source of the most significant leaks to WikiLeaks. He also pleaded not guilty to 12 of the 22 counts, including the most serious – the capital offense of “aiding and abetting the enemy”, which could send him to prison for life – on the ground that nothing he did was intended to nor did it result in harm to US national security. The US government will now almost certainly proceed with its attempt to prosecute him on those remaining counts.

Manning’s heroism has long been established in my view, for the reasons I set forth in that Op-Ed. But this was bolstered today as he spoke for an hour in court about what he did and why, reading from a prepared 35-page statement. Wired’s Spencer Ackerman was there and reported:

“Wearing his Army dress uniform, a composed, intense and articulate Pfc. Bradley Manning took ‘full responsibility’ Thursday [28 Feb 2013] for providing the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks with a trove of classified and sensitive military, diplomatic and intelligence cables, videos and documents. . . .

“Manning’s motivations in leaking, he said, was to ‘spark a domestic debate of the role of the military and foreign policy in general’, he said, and ’cause society to reevaluate the need and even desire to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore their effect on people who live in that environment every day.’

“Manning explain[ed] his actions that drove him to disclose what he said he ‘believed, and still believe . . . are some of the most significant documents of our time’ . . . .

“He came to view much of what the Army told him — and the public — to be false, such as the suggestion the military had destroyed a graphic video of an aerial assault in Iraq that killed civilians, or that WikiLeaks was a nefarious entity. . . .

“Manning said he often found himself frustrated by attempts to get his chain of command to investigate apparent abuses detailed in the documents Manning accessed. . . .”

Manning also said he “first approached three news outlets: the Washington Post, New York Times and Politico” before approaching WikiLeaks. And he repeatedly denied having been encouraged or pushed in any way by WikiLeaks to obtain and leak the documents, thus denying the US government a key part of its attempted prosecution of the whistleblowing group. Instead, “he said he took ‘full responsibility’ for a decision that will likely land him in prison for the next 20 years — and possibly the rest of his life.”

This is all consistent with what Manning is purported to have said in the chat logs with the government snitch who pretended to be a journalist and a pastor in order to assure him of confidentiality but then instead reported him. In those chats, Manning explained that he was leaking because he wanted the world to know what he had learned: “I want people to see the truth … regardless of who they are … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” When asked by the informant why he did not sell the documents to a foreign government for profit – something he obviously could have done with ease – Manning replied that he wanted the information to be publicly known in order to trigger “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms”. He described how he became deeply disillusioned with the Iraq War he had once thought noble, and this caused him to re-examine all of his prior assumptions about the US government. And he extensively narrated how he had learned of serious abuse and illegality while serving in the war – including detaining Iraqi citizens guilty of nothing other than criticizing the Malaki government – but was ignored when he brought those abuses to his superiors.

Manning is absolutely right when he said today that the documents he leaked “are some of the most significant documents of our time”. They revealed a multitude of previously secret crimes and acts of deceit and corruption by the world’s most powerful factions. Journalists and even some government officials have repeatedly concluded that any actual national security harm from his leaks is minimal if it exists at all. To this day, the documents Manning just admitted having leaked play a prominent role in the ability of journalists around the world to inform their readers about vital events. The leaks led to all sorts of journalism awards for WikiLeaks. Without question, Manning’s leaks produced more significant international news scoops in 2010 than those of every media outlet on the planet combined.

This was all achieved because a then-22-year-old Army Private knowingly risked his liberty in order to inform the world about what he learned. He endured treatment which the top UN torture investigator deemed “cruel and inhuman”, and he now faces decades in prison if not life. He knew exactly what he was risking, what he was likely subjecting himself to. But he made the choice to do it anyway because of the good he believed he could achieve, because of the evil that he believed needed urgently to be exposed and combated, and because of his conviction that only leaks enable the public to learn the truth about the bad acts their governments are doing in secret.

Heroism is a slippery and ambiguous concept. But whatever it means, it is embodied by Bradley Manning and the acts which he unflinchingly acknowledged today he chose to undertake. The combination of extreme government secrecy, a supine media (see the prior two columns), and a disgracefully subservient judiciary means that the only way we really learn about what our government does is when the Daniel Ellsbergs – and Bradley Mannings – of the world risk their own personal interest and liberty to alert us. Daniel Ellberg is now widely viewed as heroic and noble, and Bradley Manning (as Ellsberg himself has repeatedly said) merits that praise and gratitude every bit as much.

UPDATE [Friday 1 Mar 2013]

In the New Republic this morning, Harvard Law Professor Yochai Benkler has a superb article warning of the radical theories being used to prosecute Manning, entitled “The Dangerous Logic of the Bradley Manning Case”. Among other things, he explains that a conviction on the “aiding and abetting the enemy” charge “would dramatically elevate the threat to whistleblowers” and “the consequences for the ability of the press to perform its critical watchdog function in the national security arena will be dire”. That, of course, is precisely why the Obama administration is doing it. That’s the feature, not a bug. He concludes: “what a coup for Al Qaeda” that the US has obliterated its core freedoms under the pretense of national security.

Meanwhile, the outstanding independent journalist Alexa O’Brien was present at the court-martial proceeding and has created a transcript of Manning’s statement, here. Among other things, he describes his reaction when he first saw the video of the Apache helicopters in Baghdad shooting at journalists and then those who came to rescue them (“The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have. They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote ‘dead bastards’ unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers”). The US government, its media and other assorted apologists have tried to malign Manning as a reckless and emotionally unstable malcontent who could not possibly have read what he leaked or made an informed choice to do so. Just read what he says to understand how thoughtful, rational, and deliberate of an act this was: “The more I read, the more I was fascinated with the way that we dealt with other nations and organizations. I also began to think the documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity that didn’t seem characteristic of the de facto leader of the free world. . . .The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this was the type of information that should become public.”

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Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. He is the author of How Would a Patriot Act? (May 2006), a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power.

Go to Original – guardian.co.uk

 

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2 Responses to “Bradley Manning: The Face of Heroism”

  1. satoshi says:

    When one believes that his or her own belief, value or moral norm on something is higher than the legal norm, the case like Manning’s occurs. Conscientious objectors and religious martyrs may be some of typical examples.

    Quote from the above article:

    “Manning’s motivations in leaking, he said, was to ‘spark a domestic debate of the role of the military and foreign policy in general’, he said, and ’cause society to reevaluate the need and even desire to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore their effect on people who live in that environment every day.’

    “Manning explain[ed] his actions that drove him to disclose what he said he ‘believed, and still believe . . . are some of the most significant documents of our time’ . . . .

    Unquote:

    Imagine as follows:

    What if a Nazi German official revealed the document on the plan of the Third Reich before Hitler began the World War II? That document was one of the most significant documents at that time.

    What if a Japanese official revealed the document on the Japanese attack over the Perl Harbor before their attack? That document was one of the most significant documents at that time.

    What if an American official revealed the document on the use of the two atomic bombs before their use? That document was one of the most significant documents at that time.

    What if an Israeli official revealed the document on the plan of founding Israel before Israel declared its independence in Palestine? That document was one of the most significant documents at that time.

    What if either a Chinese official or a DPRK (North Korea) official revealed the document on DPRK’s attack over the southern part of Korea (now RK = South Korea) before their attack? That document was one of the most significant documents at that time.

    What if either an American or a British official revealed the document on the coup to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran before the coup? That document was one of the most significant documents at that time.

    What if a Soviet Union official revealed the document on the USSR’s attack over Afghanistan before their attack? That document was one of the most significant documents at that time.

    All these above assumption cases, if they actually occurred, would not only spark domestic debates of the role of the military and foreign policy in general but also could change the history.

    Now how about this case? What if a cardinal at Vatican revealed the document on the money laundering relating to Vatican? That document is one of the most significant documents of our time. Then, that would surely spark debates of the role of the Church and more. Look at the American government – the most powerful political and military power in the world. Look at the Vatican – the most powerful religious and financial power in the world. The United States has Manning. Does the Vatican have a Manning?

    It is very often, if not always, that the power is secretly exercised. It is very often, if not always, that the power secretly exercised damages the democracy and breaches fundamental human rights. Above all, the regime of power that secretly exercises its power against democracy and/or against human rights tends to fall into a decline.

    One of the essential components of democracy is people’s “right to know”. In this context, I am referring not only to the information on the environmental, health and safety information but also to that on military and foreign policy in general as Manning says. I never say that the national security should be sacrificed but the excuse for the national security has been abused too much in the contemporary society. Who makes the decision to hide the information from the people? According to what criteria? Do any clear and reasonable criteria exist? If so, who made the criteria? On what ground? Did the majority of the American citizens accept those yardsticks (if any)?

    Access to information is a vital right of people in a democratic society; nonetheless, when that is cunningly denied or hidden, some people like Manning take action. He knew what he was doing. He knew the consequences of his action, which could affect the rest of his life. He believed (and believes) that there were (and are) far important things for which he should sacrifice his (possibly happy) life. And he did it.

    Meanwhile, however, people’s privacy is being seriously invaded by the government and/or relevant authorities. That is, the government or relevant authorities hides their essential information, deceive their people and intrudes on the privacy of individuals. So, the government has the right/obligation to protect the information on foreign policy or the like but the people should allow the government to collect their private information? What kind of “democratic” society is it? That reminds me of George Orwell’s “1984”. If Orwell is alive, would he prepare the updated version of “1984”?

    Does the Obama administration want the people to believe only the government-released “official” information? In DPRK, the Kim administration is doing essentially the same. Do not think that there is still a large difference between the United States and DPRK. Step by step, the “democratic” situation of the United States gets close to that of DPRK. Only a bit more, only a bit more, and only a bit more… And one day, by the time the people of the United States will realize that, it will be too late. Compare the United States in 1948 when Madam Eleanor Roosevelt proudly announced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the United States today when a substantial number of the political leaders/the government officials are ridiculing the UDHR and do not care for it anymore.

    Saddam Hussein used to say, “Iraq is the most democratic country in the world. Why? Because our government guarantees the people the maximum freedom to support and to agree with our government’s policy.” Ask President Obama if the United States is the most democratic country in the world. He will surely answer, “Yes.” Then, ask him why the United States is the most democratic country in the world. And then, compare his answer with that of Saddam Hussein.

    By using this opportunity, let me quote some vital part of (an excerpt from) an essay from http://www.oas.org/dil/access_to_information.htm

    Quote:

    Information & Democracy

    Access to information is the principal tool for citizen participation in a democratic system — indispensable for an informed electorate, government accountability and the proper functioning of the political and electoral process.

    This concept of access to information as a political right in the democratic system stems from the Inter-American Democratic Charter which recognizes that transparency in government activities, probity, responsible public administration on the part of governments, respect for social rights, and freedom of expression and of the press are essential components of the exercise of democracy. Furthermore, the Democratic Charter indicates that citizen participation and transparency in government activities are basic principles of democracy. The right to access is an essential aspect of both provisions because in a system where people lack access to information, they do not have the information they need to inform their political decisions. By contrast, in a system that protects this right, people have the information required to participate and effectively exercise their political rights guaranteed in any representative democracy.

    Information & Governability

    Access to information has the unquestionable effect of strengthening accountability of, and trust in, government institutions. It fosters greater efficiency and integrity in the management of public resources and is essential for making the State more transparent in its operations, more effective in its actions, more responsible in respecting and promoting individual rights, and more responsive to public needs and demands.

    Access to information is a vital tool in the fight against corruption – one of the most powerful threats to every country’s economic and social development – by effectively implementing public oversight of all government acts, making corruption more difficult, thus promoting greater accountability, and making it possible to reveal abuses, errors, and weaknesses in the public sector.

    Unquote:

    Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” It seems as if his words were referring to Manning’s act.

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