Bradley Manning is facing 90 years in prison. The government barred his defense team from presenting a whistleblower defense during his trial’s first phase as to guilt or innocence. Since Manning’s rationale for revealing secret information that showed devastating and routine lies, war crimes, and crimes against humanity was to whistleblow – so that people could know what their government is actually doing — he was prevented from really presenting his case. Given this, he was not surprisingly, but nonetheless outrageously, convicted on nearly every charge prior to the current sentencing phase of the trial.
Under the pressures that he and his team are feeling in the face of this, they are attempting to obtain leniency from the judge. This is how his latest statement from the court needs to be seen:
“I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry that they hurt the United States,” he said. “I am sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions. When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people. The last few years have been a learning experience.”
Manning says he understood what he was doing and the decisions he made. However, he says he did not believe at the time that leaking the information would cause harm.
Manning took the stand and gave the statement as part of the defense team’s efforts to persuade the judge to issue a lighter sentence.
“I should have worked more aggressively inside the system…Unfortunately, I can’t go back and change things,” Manning [said].
I have been in political trials as a defendant and have observed closely political trials for decades. There is always a tension between what lawyers who represent you are trying to do – get the best terms for you as a defendant – and what political activists are trying to do and most acutely aware of – that especially overtly political trials have to mainly be fought in the realm of public opinion. They are first and foremost political contests and not first and foremost legal disputes. What Manning’s defense team has elected to do is to try to obtain leniency however they might and in the circumstances that they find themselves in. It is unfortunate, however, that this has led them to have Manning make this statement in court.
It must be said here once again that a) Manning’s whistleblowing was righteous and necessary, b) it did not “hurt the United States” nor did it lead to anyone being injured or killed, and c) as other whistleblowers from the NSA who were suppressed in their earlier efforts have stated, working within the system DID NOT WORK.
Here is the most relevant excerpt from an earlier article of mine (“Stop the U.S. Government’s Attempt to Criminalize Dissent”) on this point:
One of the things that my students and I discuss in my classes, especially in my theory and senior seminar classes, is the implacable, banal, and prevaricating nature of bureaucracies. This stands out in stark reality in the comments of former NSA insiders who have stepped forward, consciences in hand, to tell the story of their work. In The Atlantic’s summary, for example, you can see this:
- “The idea that we have robust checks and balances on this is a myth.”
- Congressional overseers “have no real way of seeing into what these agencies are doing. They are totally dependent on the agencies briefing them on programs, telling them what they are doing.”
- Lawmakers “don’t really understand what the NSA does and how it operates. Even when they get briefings, they still don’t understand.”
- Asked what Edward Snowden should expect to happen to him, one of the men, William Binney, answered, “first tortured, then maybe even rendered and tortured and then incarcerated and then tried and incarcerated or even executed.” Interesting that this is what a whistleblower thinks the U.S. government will do to a citizen. The abuse of Bradley Manning worked.
- “There is no path for intelligence-community whistle-blowers who know wrong is being done. There is none. It’s a toss of the coin, and the odds are you are going to be hammered.”
In short, it is Kabuki Theatre when senators, congressmen, congresswomen, Obama and his operatives claim that there is “Congressional oversight” and “checks and balances” and that it’s all being done with adequate safeguards and supervision by the people’s representatives. It is no such thing. Very few members of Congress are brave and truthful enough to admit this, such as Sen. Ron Wyden, who I quoted from last night, contrasting his candid comments to the outrageous lies of Obama that the NSA needs specific warrants if they are going to listen into the content of Americans’ calls or emails. As Wyden stated in the US Senate on 12/27/12:
“[U]nder the FISA Amendments Act the government does not have to get the permission of the FISA Court to read particular emails or listen to particular phone calls.”
Whatever lies that are told by our government about Manning and whatever coerced concessions are made in this moment by Manning, what Manning revealed with his courageous whistleblowing should speak for itself and people should review it once again compared to the spin that those in authority and responsible for grave crimes on a daily basis want to put on this. Watch the Collateral Murder video. Listen to U.S. pilots laugh as they kill innocent people and shoot children. Read what Manning revealed to the world and what a difference it has made. The stakes in this battle include not only Manning’s particular fate as an individual but the fate of the world. What will prevail – lies and crimes or truth and justice?
About the author: Dennis Loo is Professor of Sociology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He is a Harvard honors graduate in Government and received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of “Globalization and the Demolition of Society” and Co-Editor/Author of “Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney”. Website: Dr. Dennis Loo