“I start from the supposition that the world is topsy turvy. That things are all wrong. That the wrong people are in jail, and the wrong people are out of jail. That the wrong people are in power, and the wrong people are out of power. I start with the supposition that we don’t have to say too much about this because all we have to do is think about the state of the world today and realize that things are all upside down.”
Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower responsible for the trove of Iraq, Afghan War and diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, is scheduled to stand trial beginning on June 3. This weekend at Ft. Meade there will be a protest before her trial calling for Manning’s release (For more info check out this site). I plan on attending and have outlined a few reasons why I personally am committed to freeing Chelsea Manning
- Chelsea Manning has been tortured.
While Chelsea Manning has pled guilty to some of the charges against her, she has not yet been tried and has been in custody since May 2010, meaning that she has been held for three years without a trial. The military judge ruled that part of her time in custody was an illegal form of pretrial punishment and has credited any future sentence Manning would receive with 112 days time served.
Even more disturbing than the fact that the treatment Manning endured was pretrial punishment is that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture found that her treatment during this time constituted “cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment.” / Manning was kept in an extreme form of solitary confinement during which ss was confined to a windowless 6 x 12 ft cell for 23 hour day. The conditions were worse than those experienced by American citizens on death row.
- The Charges Against Chelsea Manning Are Not Only Baseless, but Dangerous
As mentioned earlier Manning has pleaded guilty to ten of the charges against her. Amongst the charges she has not pleaded guilty to include the count of “aiding and abetting the enemy.” This charge is very serious, as it carried the possibility of death sentence (although the prosecution is not seeking the death penalty Manning would still receive life without parole if convicted). It also undermines any notion of democracy as it essentially criminalizes whisteblowing, journalism, and even dissent. Manning is not accused of giving secrets to a hostile foreign state or terrorist organization. Instead, she is accused of leaking information to the whistleblowers website Wikileaks, which in turn turned over such information to newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Guardian.
At first glance, it is unclear who the government considers the enemy to be. Is it Wikileaks? The New York Times? Or we the American people? However, the prosecutor’s argument is that by placing information in the public domain through such sources as Wikileaks and the New York Times “the enemy,” which includes al-Qaeda, was able to access it.
If this was a work of fiction, perhaps something from the cannon of Franz Kafka, this charge would be comical. However, its implications are deeply disturbing and essentially criminalize all whistleblowing and even journalism since any information in the public domain, on the internet, or in newspapers can potentially be accessed by the “enemy.”
Furthermore, no US lives have been endangered by Manning’s action and she revealed no military intelligence or battle plans. It is unclear why al-Qaeda would feel aided by knowing that the American occupation forces in Iraq had a policy of ignoring complaints of torture or that American diplomats conspired with American corporations in actively pressuring the Haitian government against raising the minimum wage. This is unless the American government believes that any information exposing corruption or unflattering actions on their part aids groups engaged in violence against the American people and the American government. This too has deeply disturbing implications. If carried to its logical extreme once again it would de facto criminalize any whistle blowing or even any dissent as “aiding the enemy.”
Luckily, the military judge has rejected the prosecutor’s theory of what it means to aid the enemy and instead ruled that the government must prove that Manning acted “with reason to believe such info could be used to the injury of the US or to advantage of any foreign nation.”
This is certainly is an improvement over what the prosecution wanted, but it still is a threat to whistleblowers everywhere to try Manning for aiding the enemy, particularly when she has already pled guilty to leaking classified information. Furthermore, Manning is a whistleblower and should not be facing any criminal prosecutions.
- Manning’s Whistleblowing was a Contributing Factor for the Arab Spring and the US Withdrawal From Iraq .
It is hard to determine what role a single event ever plays in the course of human history. There is also no question that oppostion to corrupt US-backed dictators in Egypt and Tunisia, as well as opposition to the occupation of Iraq long predated Manning’s actions. However, while we do not know what would have happened had Manning not leaked information documenting extreme corruption amongst US client states or the Arab world or the Collateral Murder video such releases helped to spur both the Arab Spring and the eventual US withdrawal from Iraq.
- NO ONE HAS BEEN JAILED FOR REAL CRIMES
To this day not a single American official has been charged with any crime relating to the murderous, brutal, illegal, and quite frankly evil invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. None of the key architects of the post 9/11 policies of torture have ever faced any criminal sanctions. Obama, to this day, continues to assassinate people via drone strikes, including a 15 year-old American citizen accused of no crimes or links to terrorism (Robert Gibbs suggested his death was his own fault though not having picked a better father). Decades of support for Israel’s brutal policies of apartheid, colonization, and occupation and for Latin American oligarchs, death squads, and coups have similarly warranted no formal legal sanctions. Yet, Manning stands accused of essentially revealing to the American people the corrupt acts of their government and she has been punished without being tried, tortured, and now stands to potentially be imprisoned for life. Clearly the world is topsy turvy.