Accused whistle-blower Bradley Manning turned 24 on Saturday. He spent his birthday in a pre-trial military hearing that could ultimately lead to a sentence of life ... or death. Manning stands accused of causing the largest leak of government secrets in United States history...
Renowned whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers that helped end the war in Vietnam and who himself is a marine veteran who trained soldiers on the laws of war, told me: "Helicopter gunners hunting down and shooting an unarmed man in civilian clothes, clearly wounded ... 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."
Another recently revealed Cablegate release exposed details of an alleged 2006 massacre by US troops in the Iraqi town of Ishaqi, north of Baghdad. Eleven people were killed, and the cable described eyewitness accounts in which the group, including five children and four women, was handcuffed, then executed with bullets to the head. The US military then bombed the house, allegedly to cover up the incident. Citing attacks like these, the Iraqi government said it would no longer grant immunity to US soldiers in Iraq. President Barack Obama responded by announcing he would pull the troops out of Iraq. Like a modern-day Ellsberg, if Manning is guilty of what the Pentagon claims, he helped end the war in Iraq...For now, Manning sits attentively, reports say, facing life in prison for "aiding the enemy." The prosecution offered words Manning allegedly wrote to Assange as evidence of his guilt. In the email, Manning described the leak as "one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetrical warfare." History will no doubt use the same words as irrefutable proof of Manning's courage.
According to a report of the pre-trial hearing by Kevin Gosztola of the liberal website Firedoglake, Manning's offer of a plea was intended to simplify the evidentiary element of the trial. By accepting responsibility for transferring some information, the soldier would avoid pleading to more serious offences including breaches of the Espionage Act – the "aiding the enemy" count – and Computer Fraud and Abuses Act.