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Justice, Whistleblowing And Wikileaks: U.S. Soldier Bradley Manning Pleads Guilty To Ten Charges
March 1, 2013
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Manning in June 2012 (Photo: AP/Patrick Semansky)

U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning was arrested in 2010 on charges that he leaked 260,000 pages of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks.

Well, he's finally had his day in court. Manning read a prepared statement for more than an hour, and confessed that he provided the files to WikiLeaks.

He said he did it because he thought it "should become public" because it could "spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general," and let the public know "what happens and why it happens."

In all, Manning pleaded guilty to ten of the 22 charges the U.S. Army brought against him, including improperly storing classified information, having unauthorized possession of information, willfully communicating it to an unauthorized person, and other "lesser-included" offenses, Wired reports.

The 25-year-old could face up to 20 years in prison for the charges he pleaded guilty to - each one carries a two-year sentence.

But he also pleaded not guilty to 12 other charges, including disseminating information he believed could harm U.S. national security and "aiding the enemy," which is punishable by life in prison.

He told the court that he didn't start out by taking the information to WikiLeaks: he approached the Washington Post and the New York Times before contacting Julian Assange's organization.

Manning outside the court, Friday March 1, 2013 (Photo: AP/Patrick Semansky)

Manning has been in jail at a Marine Base in Virginia for more than 1,000 days, including long stretches in solitary confinement.

The military judge has suggested his trial could last three months.

The case has received a lot of attention from the media. Here are some of the most thought-provoking reads we've come across. If you want to dig a little deeper, these are good places to start:

An Explainer from The Guardian

If you're looking for a good overview of the whole case, from Manning's arrest in July 2010 to yesterday's court appearance, start with the Guardian's Explainer. It features a brief look at each step of the story along with links to articles.

An In-Depth Look at Yesterday's Trial from Wired

For a look at exactly what Manning said in court yesterday, and what the scene was like, check out this piece from Wired writer Spencer Ackerman. He gives a detailed first-person account of yesterday's court statement from Manning, breaking down exactly what he said and how he went about obtaining and disseminating the information.

Manning's Full Statement

If you have the time, you can read the full text of the statement Manning delivered at trial right here. It was posted on Alexa O'Brien's site - she's been covering the case from the courtroom.

'The Dangerous Logic of the Bradley Manning Case' from the New Republic

This piece is by Yochai Benkler, whose expert testimony may be a part of the trial. Benkler points to a moment in yesterday's hearing when the prosecution was asked this question: "Would you have pressed the same charges if Manning had given the documents not to Wikileaks but to the New York Times?"

The prosecution responded simply "Yes Ma'am." Benkler sees this as a potentially dangerous moment in American justice: if someone can be sent to prison for 20 years over providing sensitive information to a journalist, it may become very difficult to protect journalistic freedom in the U.S.

Benkler says "The prosecution case seems designed, quite simply, to terrorize future whistleblowers." And he suggests that if it successful, "the consequences for the ability of the press to perform its critical watchdog function in the national press will be dire."

'Bradley Manning Offers 'Naked Plea'' from Public Radio International

Arun Rath, who has been following the trial, speaks to Public Radio International's The World program about the context of the case. One of the fascinating aspects of Manning's statement: he described a "lax security environment" in the U.S. military, with people regularly making backups of sensitive information, making it easy for Manning to take sensitive materials to WikiLeaks.

Rath also describes Manning's "naked plea," meaning he did not negotiate with the prosecutors, but decided on his own which charges he would plead guilty and not guilty to. This means he's getting no concessions on his sentence from the prosecution.

'The Bradley Manning 'Plea Deal'' from Hot Air

Writing for conservative website Hot Air, Jazz Shaw describes Bradley Manning as "traitor" and discusses the Pfc's decision not to make a deal with prosecutors: "Not only has Manning copped to charges which can earn him two decades behind bars if the military really feels like throwing the book at him, (and at this point, well...) but he got nothing in return.

"Further, the "lesser" charges he owned up to have effectively removed any and all question as to whether or not he did what everyone has been alleging he'd done all along."

'The U.S. Press Failed Bradley Manning' from The Dissenter

This post by journalist Kevin Gosztola, who is present at the trial, discusses the revelation that Manning tried to go to major news outlets, but received no response from the New York Times, the Washington Post and Politico.

Gosztola concludes "the statements by Manning further show how the U.S. media fail to report on major stories or refuse to do so because it will draw the ire of the U.S. government." He says the Manning case "fits how the press has failed in its duty to be the Fourth Estate and check the power of government by informing Americans of what is being done in their name."

The Media's Defence

In this piece in the New York Times, correspondent Charlie Savage writes...

"Private Manning said he first called The Washington Post and spoke to an unidentified reporter for about five minutes. He decided that the reporter did not seem particularly interested because she said The Post would have to review the material before making any commitment."

"He said he then tried to reach out to The New York Times by calling a phone number for the newspaper's public editor -- an ombudsman who is not part of the newsroom -- and leaving a voice mail message that was not returned."

Curated Twitter List from Matthew Keys

If you want to keep an eye on what people are saying about the trial, and follow any new developments, check out this curated Twitter list from @TheMatthewKeys, deputy social media editor at Reuters.

It features journalists who are in the courtroom, other writers who are covering the case, and a writer and editor for the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Manning Pleads Guilty, Michael Moore Hails As Hero from Twitchy

Conservative blog has a round-up of Tweets about the case, in which they cast a critical eye on those who support Manning's actions, including filmmaker Michael Moore.

The site sarcastically says "Conspicuously, he pleaded not guilty to "aiding the enemy." If leaking piles of classified documents isn't "aiding the enemy," we don't know what is."

'Bradley Manning Provides More Evidence of Why We Need a Media Entity Like Wikileaks' from Paid Content

Mathew Ingram, a senior writer with GigaOM, says in this piece that the Washington Post and the New York Times didn't fail "to do their jobs as media outlets or journalistic investigators." He says the way in which Manning approached them made it likely that any journalistic organization would have ignored him.

But he does believe the case proves "how valuable it is to have something like WikiLeaks." He says "in the pre-WikiLeaks days, he might never have found a way of publicizing [the documents] at all." He also suggests that if the New York Times had published the story, "it's unlikely there would have been the same kind of U.S. government attack on the media entity that published the documents, since the Times is seen as protected in a way that WikiLeaks is not."


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