The Snowden affair, which captured the attention of the world’s media, somewhat overshadowed another no less important story also linked to the creation of a global system of total surveillance and suppression by the US administration – the case of WikiLeaks informant Bradley E Manning. Yet at the end of July, a military court in Fort Meade, Maryland, acquitted him of the most serious charge. In August, the court removed a few more of the charges against Manning, such as espionage, theft, computer fraud and so on. As a result, the maximum term of imprisonment the defendant could be sentenced to was reduced from 136 years to 90 years…
After enlisting in 2007, Manning was a private first class in the US Army, an intelligence analyst with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, a rapid reaction force, and was part of the occupation contingent in Iraq. He was arrested at the end of May 2010 after being denounced by hacker Adrian Lamo and was retained in custody without charge for more than two months at the American military base Camp Arifjan (Kuwait), after which he was taken back to the US, where he was placed in solitary confinement on the pretext of possible suicide.
Eyewitnesses who saw Manning after his arrest repeated time and again that they were concerned about the prisoner’s mental health as a result of the constant humiliation and pressure he was subjected to in prison. The reason: Bradley Manning handed over hundreds of thousands of documents on military crimes and incidents in the wars unleashed by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq (such as the now famous video of Americans shooting Iraqi civilians from the air), a file on crimes committed in secret American prisons and nearly 250,000 US State Department diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks to be published.
It is a fundamental moment. The US military court found Manning guilty on virtually all counts except the most serious – «aiding the enemy». The private was complete cleared of this charge, which is a capital offence. The former United States Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip Crowley, in a speech he gave at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on 10 March 2011, was forced to admit: «What is happening with Manning is ridiculous and counterproductive. I don’t know why the Department of Defense is doing it» (three days after this declaration, the State Department official had to hand in his resignation).
American and European human rights defenders and politicians proposed Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize on several occasions between 2011 and 2012. On the last occasion he was put forward by the Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research in America and Icelandic parliamentarians. They maintain that following the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2011, the US authorities have been using legislation on espionage to commit «actions forbidden by international law and American legislation».
Canadian scholars point out that previous US legislation on espionage was only used against «spies and traitors, not whistle-blowers» and yet «President Obama has used the Espionage Act to prosecute more whistle-blowers than all prior administrations combined».
In actual fact, it is impossible to classify Manning as a spy for another country or a traitor to the national interests of the US. He only produced documentary evidence so that what was «secret» is known by all. The fact that Manning’s actions were guided by the intention to prevent fatal consequences being suffered by mankind as a result of some of the actions of America’s political and military leadership that break moral standards and violate laws is shown, amongst other things, in an entry in his private chat log in which he said he hoped the material would lead to: «hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. if not… than [sic] we’re doomed as a species».
And so an American court was unable to find Manning guilty of «aiding the enemy», which in this instance is what the entire global community is turning into for the US government. At the same time, the Manning case and its verdict, alongside the persecution of Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange, are a warning that the US authorities are sending out to anyone bent on letting their fellow citizens and the world know the truth about the dark sides of «globalisation American-style».
According to Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program and a senior lawyer at the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice: «Manning is one of very few people ever charged under the Espionage Act prosecutions for leaks to the media… Despite the lack of any evidence that he intended any harm to the United States, Manning faces decades in prison. It is a very scary precedent».
Meanwhile, Amnesty International is certain that the conviction of Bradley Manning is an open indication of «the irresponsibility of US authorities». In a statement on the organisation’s official website it states: «While Manning could face more than a century behind bars, numerous high-level officials have never faced even the threat of investigations – in effect they have been let off scot-free. No criminal charges have ever been made in relation to the US secret detention programme where enforced disappearance and torture were authorized at the highest level of government. Details of the programme remain classified».
The main message of the Manning trial can be boiled down to the following:
A) Any US citizen taking it upon himself to say and prove that the authorities in his country are committing crimes when they shoot innocent civilians and journalists, detain and torture thousands of prisoners in secret prisons, and place under total control and surveillance the citizens of its own and other countries may end up in prison for the rest of his life.
B) The system does not only cover up the real criminals and law breakers, it offers them the opportunity to break the law even further. This is also recognised by members of human rights organisations in the West: «The government’s priorities are upside down. The US government has refused to investigate credible allegations of torture and other crimes under international law despite overwhelming evidence. Yet they decided to prosecute Manning who it seems was trying to do the right thing – reveal credible evidence of unlawful behaviour by the government».
There are two key reasons for the conviction of the former US Army private who attempted to warn of the threat to the world being caused by «globalisation American-style»:
1) The annoyance of the US government because of loss of reputation – after all, Manning produced documentary evidence of violations being committed by the US authorities of both the constitution of their own country and international law.
2) The need to adopt coercive measures to curtail US occupation troops abroad. According to American researchers, following the disclosure of documents on tortures and atrocities in the Iraqi branches of the American GULAG and the actions of the US military, which directly fall within the scope of the Geneva Convention under the definition «war crimes», even the puppet authorities in Iraq have refused to guarantee the safety of American soldiers committing crimes against innocent civilians in their country.
«Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are people who were not afraid to go against the authorities in order to bring justice to the world», declared British Labour Party politician and MP Jeremy Corbyn. And that is the point. Nobody owns the monopoly on truth. It is a common heritage of mankind. The truth expressed by Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning has shown mankind the true face of «Pax Americana».