For Sunshine Week, it seems appropriate to shine the light on the secrecy surrounding the military court proceedings in Ft. Meade and for the American public to hear Private First Class Bradley Manning's full statement about why he leaked over 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks. The Freedom of the Press Foundation claims it is "building a stronger foundation for press freedom and transparency in a digital age." It released the entire 1:07:59 leaked audio of Bradley Manning's statement to the court and also made it available via MP3 or OGG download. Since the site is under heavy traffic, you might try the download. The Freedom of the Press Foundation wrote, "By releasing this audio recording, we wish to make sure that the voice of this generation's most prolific whistleblower can be heard-literally-by the world."
Regardless of whether one believes that Manning's acts were right or wrong or a mix of both, he has taken responsibility for them by pleading guilty to 10 charges, for which he faces up to 20 years in prison. The government, however, is continuing to pursue all of the charges against him, including charges under the Espionage Act and "aiding the enemy" - which could have huge consequences for press freedom and the First Amendment. The ACLU has expressed concern that this "aiding the enemy" charge could criminalize speech for all sorts of active military members, noting that "In its zeal to throw the book at Manning, the government has so overreached that its 'success' would turn thousands of loyal soldiers into criminals."
Manning said he first tried "to expose the SigAct tables to an American newspaper." After an unsuccessful conversation with the Washington Post, he left a message with the New York Times but said no one from the newspaper replied. He also consider Politico, but bad weather stopped him from traveling. That is when, in an IRC conversation, Manning was first directed "to the link for the WLO web site online submission system."
Glenn Greenwald transcribed some specific segments before adding, "Whatever else is true, Bradley Manning is responsible for the most significant and valuable leaks since Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers."
The Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg saluted Manning before pointing out, "First, it's important to point out most of the material he put out was unclassified. The rest was classified 'secret,' which is relatively low level. All of the Pentagon Papers was classified top secret." Since Manning took responsibility for the leaks, saying "Julian Assange and WikiLeaks had nothing to do with his decision to leak," Ellsberg said, "Now, there's really no excuse for the grand jury chasing Julian Assange for conspiracy to commit espionage to continue. If they're not going to indict the New York Times--and there is no constitutional basis for them to do so--there's no reason for them to investigate or indict Assange or WikiLeaks."
Regarding the "absurd charge of 'aiding the enemy,' a capital offense, of which the prosecutors are asking for life in prison," Ellsberg wrote:
This charge could have huge effects on the free speech of anyone in the military and journalists across the country. Any op-ed that is critical of military tactics or any news story that exposes misdeeds of the government can potentially lead to a capital offense.
Worse, the charge purports to apply to anyone, not just the military. It's blatantly unconstitutional.
Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake has been attending Manning's court martial proceedings. He heard Manning give the statement along with 20 - 30 other people in the public gallery of the courtroom. Gosztola wrote, "At the moment, I think the recording was made inside the courtroom. If it was recorded from inside the media center, one would be able to hear members of the press pool making noise and reacting to Manning's statement."
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is representing a group of journalists who are "engaged in a legal battle to force the court to be more open." That lawsuit has been stuck in the appeals court for months, leading Michael Ratner, president emeritus of CCR, to say the government is "utterly unresponsive to what is a core First Amendment principle."
Gosztola drafted another declaration which CCR submitted to a military appeals court currently hearing the case. It states:
On February 26, 2013, Judge Lind read her ruling on the defense's speedy trial motion in open court. It took two hours for her to complete reading this order. The order contained a large number of dates and abbreviations for government agencies and other military terminology that might have been readily comprehensible in a written document but that we in the press could scarcely keep up with when listening to Judge Lind's rapid-fire oral delivery. A colleague of mine in the press room calculated that Judge Lind was reading at a rate of 180 words per minute, and that the entire ruling contained at least 23,000 words, an estimate which comports with my observations as well. (For comparison, a very good professional typist can manage about 80 words per minute, and my understanding is that the absolute maximum speed at which humans can type for extended periods is approximately 150 words per minute.) [emphasis added]
You can listen to Manning's entire statement, or watch a five minute video of Manning describing his thoughts upon first watching the "Collateral Murder" video. The video was edited by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras.
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