While the world has become fixated on the NSA’s domestic and foreign surveillance activities in the past months, the trial of Private First Class Bradley Manning is coming to a close. Concluding arguments were heard today. The government, as BoingBoing notes, is trying to convict Manning using the Espionage Act, and slap him with the charge of ‘aiding the enemy.’ Manning has plead guilty to “lesser” charges.
We in technology must pay attention to those willing to leak from the government, given that such information has played a key role in the shaping of public opinion regarding piracy and privacy among other issues. The Snowden effect is material, and critical.
Firedoglake has done a masterful job of not only reporting on the case, but also live-blogging as much as possible.
The government alleges that Manning leaked not out of a desire to spread knowledge of government and military misdeed, but instead out of a lust for fame. His pride, it was asserted, was proven because the government produced a picture of a smiling Manning. Hard evidence, certainly.
At the same time, as Nathan Fuller pointed out, “Govt repeating over & over #Manning was obsessed about his own fame, craved notoriety. At same time arguing further he kept identity hidden.” If you can untangle the logic behind that argument, you are a better person than I.
Regarding the Collateral Murder video that showed needless civilian deaths, the government, according to Firedoglake merely stated that the clip contained “actions and experiences of service members conducting a wartime mission.” The government put a price on the “worth” of the Afghanistan and Iraq Logs that Wikileaks released to the public at $1.3 million and $1.9 million, respectively.
The idea of prosecuting Manning for “aiding the enemy” is worrisome, as it is an around-the-side charge: Manning provided information to the enemy because he gave it to a journalistic organization that published it, allowing the “enemy” to read it; this would make all leakers and whistle blowers potentially legally damnable on the same charge. If we set that precedent, investigative journalism will take a body blow.
From a pure journalism perspective, current treatment of reporters inside the courtroom would be laughable if it weren’t so blatantly intimidatory. I quote, to preserve the original voice, Alexa O’Brien:
Journalists sending me emails telling me soldier stationed right behind me with a gun. I tell you, OVER THE TOP JUDGE LIND #Manning
And, for taste, Kevin Gosztola:
Armed military police officer leans over my shoulder & informs me not to have browser windows open during court proceedings #Manning
So, we aren’t being fed what could be called a full dish of the proceedings, because armed folks are telling people to knock it the hell off. We can disagree all evening about the guilt of Mannning, and the efficacy of leaks to the national discourse, and their potential denigration of our national security, but at least we can agree that threatening the press with soldiers isn’t in the best of taste.
When the verdict is given, we’ll update this post and bring you the news. That is, if the government allows the press to report it.