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February 5, 2013

Army whistleblower deserves fair trial

Who is Pfc. Bradley Manning and why has he been in a military prison, perhaps tortured, for more than 30 months?

His name may sound familiar, but perhaps you cannot place it in context because his case does not get much attention in the mainstream media. Maybe one of the football Manning brothers, the one who decided on the Army instead of the gridiron? No, not quite.

If you are up on current events, you might recall that he was a guy somehow connected to WikiLeaks, which published sensitive government cables and other documents a few years ago.

Manning, 25, was an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010 when he was arrested and shipped back to the military jail at Quantico, Va. He was accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy group that posted hundreds of thousands of them on its website and provided some to major media such as The New York Times.

The Oklahoma native faces 22 charges, including communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy, a capital offense. Prosecutors, however, said they would not seek the death penalty, just a life sentence.

Many people considered Manning a traitor, a wayward soul who committed treason. Others thought he was a whistleblower, who was less guilty of aiding the enemy than of embarrassing the homeland.

He has been detained for nearly 1,000 days, and his incarceration at Quantico has included solitary confinement with stretches of forced nakedness. Though his court martial is not scheduled until June, an Army judge already has reduced his sentence because of his treatment.

So why would a guy who was bullied in school, forced to hide his homosexuality in the Army (”don’t ask/don’t tell’’), and acquired an advanced computer knowledge decide to use that skill by leaking classified documents? As an intelligence analyst, Manning had access to the information and apparently was shocked at what he learned.

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