Wednesday, July 31, 2013
The Bradley Manning verdict may seem a victory of sorts for the defense -- it's certainly being treated that way in the mainstream media -- but the decision handed down Tuesday by Court Marshal Judge Colonel Denise Lind is actually a devastating blow not only to Manning, who was convicted of unjustifiably serious charges brought by an aggressive administration seeking to make an example of him, but also to Internet activity in general and information-sharing in particular.
Judge Lind found the young Army private not guilty of the most serious charge he faced: "aiding the enemy". But it was the most serious because he could have faced life imprisonment as a result. Now he faces a sentencing hearing on 17 charges of which he was convicted.
Much of the media reaction reflected relief:
"We won the battle, now we need to go win the war," Manning's trial lawyer David Coombs told a press conference. "Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out of the fire."
Or as Marcy Wheeler wrote in Salon: "But the big news — and very good news — is that Manning is innocent of the aiding the enemy charge. That ruling averted a potentially catastrophic effect on freedom of speech in this country."
The relief may be misguided. We have not averted a catastrophe; we have experienced one. Manning's convictions include five counts of "espionage" under the 1917 Espionage Act and therein lies the poison. The logic of that espionage finding means that any of us could potentially be convicted of the very same crime if we were to publish anything on the Internet that the government considers "dangerous" to its functioning or activities.
Hand in hand with the recently-revealed system of surveillance that effectively models a police state, this verdict is spectacularly pernicious.
That may be easier to understand when the decision is matched with the facts of the case.
Bradley Manning, an intelligence technologist with the Army, released a large number of documents to Wikileaks, among them the famous video tape of U.S. pilots bombing a wedding in Afghanistan and laughing as they killed many of the people in attendance. He was arrested and imprisoned in 2010 and then charged thereafter, after being held in a military brig for eight months under conditions human rights activists and a UN reporteur termed "torture," including being kept in solitary, naked in an unheated cell.
He has never denied that he released the information and has offered to plead guilty to 10 of the charges levelled against him -- basically that he released information against the rules of the Army and the regulations governing his security clearance. He did all that, he said, to spark a debate about a foreign policy he had come to deeply question during his work in the Army; he felt that important debate that was being quashed by government secrecy. In short, Manning admitted to being a whistle-blower who was completely clear, competent, missions-driven and ready to go to prison for what he considered a service to his country...
For the rest of this article by ALFREDO LOPEZ in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent three-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/1895
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