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February 5, 2013

Army whistleblower deserves fair trial


He told a friend he became aware of “crazy, almost-criminal political back dealings … the non-PR versions of world events and crises.”

Probably the most-publicized leak was a video, given to WikiLeaks, of a July 2007 air strike by U.S. helicopters in Baghdad. An Apache fires on a group of men, two of those killed being Reuters journalists, and then blasts a van that arrived to pick up the wounded. It appears as if the U.S. personnel knew they were firing on civilians; in fact, two children in the van were injured and their father was killed.

As the months pile up before the trial, Army prosecutors and defense lawyers have been busy arguing motions about evidence, physical and mental, before the military judge. The judge’s most recent ruling, last month, was that prosecutors had to prove that Manning knew he was providing information to the enemy when he leaked documents.

The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, also said that the defense could present evidence that shows Manning deliberately did not leak information he thought would jeopardize national security.

So what was he doing? Why did he want to leak anything to anybody? That’s a question of motive, and the military has been trying to avoid having that as an issue during the court martial.

Numerous names and groups have come forward to support Manning, and especially are pushing for dropping the “aiding the enemy’’ charges. He actually was acting as a whistleblower, they say, in trying to expose the realities of not only the war in Iraq but also the war on terror in general.

Daniel Ellsberg, the Vietnam War whistleblower who made the Pentagon Papers public in 1971, has called on the government to free Manning. He has written that “the prosecution has withheld key evidence which the defense believes will show that Bradley’s alleged actions have not damaged U.S. national security. And there is clear evidence that the leaks were motivated entirely by conscience.’’

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