The trial of Army Private First Class and two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Bradley Manning is set to finally begin on Monday, at Fort Meade, Maryland. Supporters are planning a rally for Manning on Saturday, with ABC News reporting that large crowds are expected to come out in a demonstration of support for the intelligence analyst who leaked over 700,000 government and military documents to WikiLeaks in the largest leak in U.S. history. Manning potentially faces up to life in prison if found guilty of the most serious charges against him, aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act. The trial is expected to last three to four months.
Despite being arrested back in May 2010, Manning has still yet to stand trial, having been detained for over three years, including 11 months under conditions of solitary confinement described as “at a minimum cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article 16 of the convention against torture.” Rather than facing years and possibly life in prison, however, Manning should instead be celebrated and honored as a hero for having the courage to stand up and reveal the true nature of U.S. government actions around the world, in particular the costs of the Iraq and Afghan Wars.
The rally outside Fort Meade will include speeches by the Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and Ethan McCord, the former U.S. solider who helped save children attacked in the Collateral Murder video, arguably the most famous release by WikiLeaks. Other events around the U.S. and the rest of the world are also planned for Saturday, in an international show of solidarity with Manning.
Image credit: Bradley Manning Support Network
Facing a total of 22 charges, Manning plead guilty in February this year to 10 of the lesser charges, which relate to the misuse of classified information and carry with them the possibility of up to 20 years in prison. He pleaded not guilty to 12 other more serious charges, including the charge that he knowingly helped Al-Qaida and that he knowingly made military intelligence accessible to them.
Manning argues that he leaked the Iraq and Afghan War Logs to WikiLeaks because he “believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the [Iraq and Afghan War Logs] this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.” As for the State Department cables, he argued that they revealed, “documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity that didn’t seem characteristic of the de facto leader of the free world [and] were a prime example of a need for a more open diplomacy.”
Parts of Manning’s trial will be conducted in secret, with the judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, ruling that 24 prosecution witnesses will be able to provide at least some of their testimony in secret. A group of activists and journalists, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, are suing the military in an effort to force it to make the proceedings of the trial public. Having previously been rebuffed by military courts, the group is now trying in federal civilian courts and expect to have their case heard in the Maryland U.S. District Court not long after Manning’s trial begins. The Freedom of the Press Foundation has also launched a campaign to crowd-fund a court stenographer for the trial to create a public transcript since the government refuses to make its transcripts publicly available.
Despite the aggressive prosecution of him by the U.S. government and being labelled a traitor by some, Manning is a true patriot for helping to bring to light the true nature of the Iraq and Afghan Wars, including the massive number of civilians casualties, war crimes committed by the U.S. troops, Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. checkpoints, and torture committed by Iraqi authorities with the full knowledge of the U.S. Yet instead of those responsible being held to account, it is the person who carried out perhaps the ultimate patriotic act, speaking truth to power, and revealed this reality to the public who is facing life behind bars.