By any contemporary western standards of justice, the treatment by the US government of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning has been outrageous.
Last Saturday, Manning spent his 1000th day in prison awaiting trial, a trial repeatedly delayed by the government despite Barack Obama personally declaring Manning was guilty. And the conduct of the US government and its military prosecutors throughout the pre-trial process has been deeply problematic.
Manning’s humiliating treatment in military prison has been found even by the court trying him to be unlawful. As Stella Gray demonstrates in her review of the case for Crikey, the US government has tried to thwart efforts to introduce evidence from government officials themselves of the minimal damage caused by the leaks, and sought to block evidence of Manning’s motive, given the material he is alleged to have leaked included evidence of war crimes and the deliberate killing of journalists.
Most alarmingly, Manning has also been charged with aiding the enemy, which would establish a precedent that any release of national security-related information to the media could result in charges that carry the death penalty. This is not merely alarming for press freedom, but deeply hypocritical from an administration that, like its predecessors, enthusiastically leaks national security information to trusted journalists in the pursuit of political and personal goals.
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The vindictive treatment of Manning and the disturbing attempt to criminalise transparency raise deep suspicions about the bland US assurances that it has no interest in Julian Assange. A grand jury investigation of Assange is a matter of public record; the Obama administration has successfully orchestrated a financial blockade of WikiLeaks; it has harassed and tried to suborn WikiLeaks associates in the hope of having them inform on Assange; it has repeatedly prosecuted whistleblowers even when they have revealed outrageous examples of government waste.
Its treatment of Manning suggests it will do everything it possibly can to subject whistleblowers and those who aid them to exemplary punishment.