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Bradley Manning: Famed Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg on Alleged WikiLeaks Soldier's 1st Day in Court

StoryDecember 16, 2011
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Daniel Ellsberg

in 1971, he leaked the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Alleged U.S. Army whistleblower Private Bradley Manning is scheduled to make his first court appearance today after being held for more more than a year and a half by the U.S. military. Manning is suspected of leaking hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks in the biggest leak of classified U.S. documents in history. We’re joined by perhaps the nation’s most famous whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, and go to Ft. Meade, Maryland, for a brief update on a rally in support of Manning outside the base where he’ll appear. Noting that the WikiLeaks revelations helped spark the Arab Spring and in turn the Occupy Wall Street movement, Ellsberg offers this qualified praise, if Manning indeed committed the leak of which he stands accused: "The Time magazine cover gives protester, an anonymous protester, as 'Person of the Year,' but it is possible to put a face and a name to that picture of 'Person of the Year.' And the American face I would put on that is Private Bradley Manning." [includes rush transcript]

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Alleged U.S. Army whistleblower Private Bradley Manning is scheduled to make his first court appearance today after being held for more than a year and a half by the U.S. military. The 23-year-old Manning is suspected of leaking hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks in the biggest leak of classified U.S. documents in history. The pre-trial hearing begins today at Fort Meade in Maryland. According to news reports, the hearing could last an entire week. Military prosecutors are aiming to show there is sufficient evidence to bring Manning to trial at a general court-martial on 22 criminal charges. If convicted, Manning could face life in prison.

AMY GOODMAN: Bradley Manning has been detained since May of 2010. He has not been seen or heard by the public since then. He was initially held on a charge of leaking a classified video to WikiLeaks that showed a 2007 helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Iraq, including two Reuters employees—a journalist and his driver.

Supporters of Manning are rallying outside Fort Meade today and are planning another protest outside the base tomorrow. Kevin Zeese is an attorney for the Bradley Manning Support Network.

KEVIN ZEESE: The people who should be prosecuted are not Bradley Manning. He’s accused of letting the truth out. He’s not accused of doing any criminal activity. He’s accused of letting the truth out, and he should be given an award for that, not prosecuted. He’s facing the death penalty, potentially. He’s facing the death penalty for exposing war crimes.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Bradley Manning, we turn now to perhaps the nation’s most famous whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg. In 1971, he leaked the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Daniel Ellsberg joins us from the studios of the University of California, Berkeley.

Dan, welcome to Democracy Now! You have Bradley Manning first held in Kuwait, then at Quantico, then at Leavenworth, now being brought to Fort Meade. Can you talk about the significance of this Article 32 hearing and what it means?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, it’s equivalent to a grand jury hearing. It’s kind of symptomatic of the present state of law in the United States, sort of like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland: punishment first, trial afterwards, sentence after that. He’s been effectively punished now ten-and-a-half months in Quantico in isolation, a kind of torture, according to the U.N. standards and to our own domestic law, that he couldn’t be sentenced to under our amendment to the Bill of Rights against cruel and unusual punishment. He couldn’t be assigned to that, but he has already. That, in itself, makes a travesty of this continued trial.

I was the first to face the kind of charges that he’s facing, under the Espionage Act, specifically, a civilian charge that he’s facing, 18 U.S.C. 793, back in 1971, the first time that act had been used against someone disclosing information to the American people. In the end, my trial was ended because of gross governmental misconduct against me under President Nixon. This court-martial should be ended now for exactly the same reason. There has been gross, illegal conduct against Bradley Manning in the form of his incarceration for these many months without trial. And that’s one of several reasons why this trial is a travesty.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Dan Ellsberg, his defense lawyer has not been given permission to call most of the witnesses that he would like to call for this hearing. Could you talk about that?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, I believe one of the witnesses, I’m not sure whether the defense has specifically called him. I haven’t seen the list. But we know—I know two people who—of official status, who have tried to get in to see him now for most of this year. One is Juan Méndez, the U.N. special rapporteur for torture, who has heard credible reports, as he puts it, of inhumane treatment. And under his mandate, under the U.N., he should see, in private, as an official representative of the U.N., Private Manning to see that. He has not been allowed to do that, either in Quantico or Leavenworth. And he has specifically complained about prevarication of the—by the American government in their unwillingness to let him see that. U.N. and Red Cross representatives have seen people in Guantánamo, but they can’t get in, apparently, to Quantico or Leavenworth. Representative Dennis Kucinich, in his official capacity, tried repeatedly to see him in there, for the same reasons, and was again put off, again and again, told that he would be able to see him, but never allowed to see him.

I think that other witnesses, I see from the witness list without their names, are to establish the point that the strictly military charges that he’s facing, that Bradley Manning is facing, things like unauthorized downloading or uploading of software onto military computers, are done by virtually everyone in his department. And this is selective prosecution, obviously intended to get him, even if they can’t prove the charges that they want to get connecting him to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. Obviously, the torture to which he was subjected was meant to break him down, to get him to acknowledge links that would enable them to indict Julian Assange. And evidently that pressure has failed against Private Manning.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play an excerpt of the video WikiLeaks released last year showing U.S. forces indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians in New Baghdad, an area of Baghdad. Military prosecutors have accused Manning of giving the video to WikiLeaks. The footage is from July 2007. The video shows U.S. forces killing 12 people, including two Reuters employees: Saeed Chmagh, the driver, and Namir Noor-Eldeen, an up-and-coming videographer working for Reuters.

U.S. SOLDIER 1: Have individuals with weapons.

U.S. SOLDIER 2: You’re clear.

U.S. SOLDIER 1: Alright, firing.

U.S. SOLDIER 3: Let me know when you’ve got them.

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Let’s shoot. Light ’em all up.

U.S. SOLDIER 1: Come on, fire!

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Keep shootin’. Keep shootin’. Keep shootin’. Keep shootin’.

U.S. SOLDIER 4: Hotel, Bushmaster two-six, Bushmaster two-six, we need to move, time now!

U.S. SOLDIER 2: Alright, we just engaged all eight individuals.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s an excerpt of the video that Reuters was not able to get, even after the death of its reporter and driver, for years, but was released by WikiLeaks. Dan Ellsberg, the significance of this? And the significance of Time magazine naming "protester" as the "Person of the Year"?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: First of all, on that video, which I’ve seen a number of times, let me speak as a former Marine company commander, and I was a battalion training officer who trained the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines on rules of war. No question in my mind, as I looked at that, that the specific leaked pictures in there of helicopter gunners hunting down and shooting an unarmed man in civilian clothes, clearly wounded, in an area where a squad of American soldiers was about to appear, as the helicopter gunners knew, to take custody of anyone remaining living, that shooting was murder. It was a war crime. Not all killing in war is murder, but a lot of it is. And this was.

The Time magazine cover gives protester, an anonymous protester, as "Person of the Year," but it is possible to put a face and a name to that picture of "Person of the Year." And the American face I would put on that is Private Bradley Manning. The fact is that he is credited by President Obama and the Justice Department, or the Army, actually, with having given WikiLeaks that helicopter picture and other evidence of atrocities and war crimes—and torture, specifically—in Iraq, including in the Obama administration. That, in other words, led to the Tunisian uprising, the occupation in Tunis Square, which has been renamed by—for another face that could go on that picture, Mohamed Bouazizi, who, after the WikiLeaks exposures of corruption, in Tunis, himself, Bouazizi, burned himself alive just one year ago tomorrow, Saturday, December 17th, in protest. And the combination of the WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning exposures in Tunis and the exemplification of that by Mohamed Bouazizi led to the protests, the nonviolent protests, that drove Ben Ali out of power, our ally there who we supported up 'til that moment, and in turn sparked the uprising in Egypt, in Tahrir Square occupation, which immediately stimulated the Occupy Wall Street and the other occupations in the Middle East and elsewhere. So, "Person of the Year," one of those persons of the year is now sitting in a courthouse in Leavenworth. He deserves the recognition that he's just gotten in Time. Julian Assange, who published that, another person of the year, I would say, who’s gotten a number of journalistic awards, very much deserve our gratitude. And I hope they will have the effect in liberating us from the lawlessness that we have seen and the corruption—the corruption—that we have seen in this country in the last 10 years and more, which has been no less than that of Tunis and Egypt.

AMY GOODMAN: Dan Ellsberg, I want to thank you for joining us. We’re on the line right now with Jeff Paterson. We only have 30 seconds. He served—was the first resister of the first Gulf War, Marine corporal.

You’re at Fort Meade right now. Can you tell us what’s happening just before Bradley Manning’s hearing?

JEFF PATERSON: Well, we have media entering the base. There’s about 60 to 70 media credentialed to cover the hearing, that will happen every day from today through next Thursday. We have dozens of Bradley Manning supporters out here with banners and flags. We’re on military property, so our relationship with the military mobile police is a little dicey, but it looks like they’re going to let us stay here. Tomorrow we have buses coming from Occupy D.C. and Wall Street. [inaudible]

AMY GOODMAN: Jeff Paterson, we have to leave it there, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network. Bradley Manning turns 24 years old tomorrow.

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