Guilty of telling THE TRUTH

by our American Affairs correspondent

BRADLEY Manning, the US Army whistleblower who exposed thousands of American war crimes after revealing military documents to Wikileaks, has been cleared of “aiding the enemy” at his court-martial in Fort Meade, Maryland.

But the judge, Colonel Denise Lind, convicted Private Manning of six counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and most of the other crimes he was charged with. The dissident soldier had previously accepted responsibility for providing classified information to Wikileaks, actions covered by 10 of the 22 charges; so Manning still faces the possibility of over 100 years behind bars.

“We won the battle, now we need to go win the war,” defence attorney David Coombs declared following Tuesday’s verdict. “Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out of the fire,” he said to dozens of emotional supporters outside the military courtroom. Manning will now have to wait for another month while the military court considers how long he will spend in jail. Following sentencing supporters will lodge an appeal and a campaign to urge President Barack Obama to pardon Bradley Manning will follow.

The Obama administration has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the First World War era Espionage Act than all its predecessors combined. Many believe that Manning will get a massive sentence to deter others from following his example and that of Edward Snowden, who fled to Russia after exposing secret United States and British mass surveillance programmes to the media.

Manning is best known for passing on the “collateral murder” video of the massacre of 12 civilians by an American helicopter gunship in occupied Baghdad in 2007. His case generated widespread international support and may have even speeded the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. His courageous actions, for which he has three times been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, were an inspiration to others, including Edward Snowden, who recently revealed massive US government electronic surveillance of the people of the US and also against European governments and citizens.

Ann Clwyd, the Welsh Labour MP who has raised Manning’s case in Parliament, said she was pleased to see that prosecution charges that Manning had actively sought to help Al Qaida had been dismissed. She suggested the culpability for his actions lay in part with Manning’s superiors who had deployed him to Iraq despite his “fragile” emotional state.

Clwyd, who chairs the all-party parliamentary groups on human rights and on Iraq, also questioned the decision to prosecute Manning when US military pilots involved in the “collateral murder” video had not been charged.

“At this point I would throw out some questions,” she said. “What about the people who sent Manning to Iraq? Let’s hear some things about them. Let’s hear about what happened to those pilots who shot at unarmed civilians.”

She said she would consider the other verdicts and the as yet undetermined sentences before deciding if there was any further action she would urge Britain to take in relation to Manning’s case.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London to avoid extradition to the United States on similar charges, said Manning was a hero and 17 members of the European Parliament have called on President Obama to: “End the persecution of Bradley Manning, a young gay man who has been imprisoned for over three years, including ten months in solitary confinement, under conditions that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez deemed cruel and abusive. Bradley Manning has already suffered too much, and he should be freed as soon as humanly possible.”

Assange said: “Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions, and induced democratic reform. He is the quintessential whistleblower.

This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that cannot be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage’.”