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Birgitta Jonsdottir writes, "The alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower, detained and abused for two years in prison, now on secret trial, defends all our freedoms."

Bradley Manning. (photo: US Army)
Bradley Manning. (photo: US Army)

Bradley Manning, America's Martyr for Open Government

By Birgitta Jonsdottir, Guardian UK

30 May 12


ittle did I know when I was helping with the preparations for making public the historic leak "Collateral Murder" – the 2007 footage of a US Apache helicopter firing at and killing a group of people claimed to be insurgents, which included a Reuters journalist, released by WikiLeaks in 2010 – that the person possibly responsible for the courageous act of bringing the war crimes exposed in that video into the public domain, where it belonged, would end up in a military prison, even subjected to torture for months. Today marks two years of imprisonment of Private Bradley Manning. Two years out of his 24 years is a long time in military prison. His treatment has been highly controversial, every step of the way.

Following every bit of information available during the first few months of his ordeal made it clear that the US government was going to use Manning as a warning to anyone else who might feel compelled to report on war crimes, or any other crimes they witness from within the system. Blow the whistle, goes the warning, and you will be buried alive by the state, shredded by the same secrecy machine a whistleblower would try to expose.

Because of courage and creativity of activists, Bradley Manning has not been forgotten, even if that was the aim of authorities, and he never shall be forgotten. His case has been largely shunned by most of the mainstream media, especially in the US. This needs to change, because if he is indeed found guilty of being a whistleblower of such magnitude that it shook the entire secrecy machine of our world out of its comfort zone, his acts would need to be honored as an inspiration to change the way governments hide the reality of their actions from the people they are supposed to be serving and informing.

Manning should not be convicted in secret: the media should be given access to the court filings; and the media should be pushing harder for the first amendment of the US constitution to be honored in the Manning case. The state should acknowledge its responsibility towards its citizens and honor the promises of the current president, Barack Obama, of a more transparent state. Let the sunshine in, Mr President: if you have nothing to hide, there is nothing to fear.

Reporter Kevin Gosztola describes the bizarre situation at the Manning trials in his article "Why I Am Challenging Secrecy in Bradley Manning's Court Martial":

"Reporters have come together multiple times during hearings in the past months to compare notes because we are unable to reference anything after the proceedings for the day are over to verify that what we heard was written down properly. The scene is like one you might see in a high school classroom when students are asking each other if they were able to get down what the teacher said because it might be in an exam.

"Of course, members of the press don't need to know this information to pass any test. They want to know this information so the public can know what is happening in one of the most significant cases in US history."

One of Manning's most visible supporters is the world's best known whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg. It is worth remembering what he did and why, and at what level, because there has been much confusion about the parallels between the two. This was clearly demonstrated by President Obama when he said the cases were "not" similar because "Ellsberg's material wasn't classified the same way." The fact of the matter is this: the material disclosed in the Pentagon Papers leaked by Ellsberg was designated "top secret", the highest secrecy designation under law, whereas the material allegedly leaked by Manning to WikiLeaks was marked "secret" or "classified" – among the lowest-level secrecy designations. Yet Obama himself declared that Manning "broke the law" – months before the pre-trial hearings. It is obvious to anyone who cares to look into the Manning case that he will not get a fair trial if for no other reason than that the head of state has already declared he is guilty.

It is of the utmost importance that we do not cave into the fear the US government is trying to impose against whistleblowers and WikiLeaks. The main lesson in this saga is that governments should be open, be accountable, and understand they are not to govern but to serve those who put their trust in them. The trial, Manning's treatment, and the lack of accountability of those who have had their crimes exposed by the digital files Manning is accused of leaking, has put the US in the same global category as China, with its authoritarianism, secrecy and fear-mongering.

The land of the free has long gone into a cloak of dark secrets which most people in America would never accept if they knew. If freedom of expression,freedom of speech and freedom of information are taken from the marginalized few, you will never know when you will be next: do nothing and when they come for you, there will be no one left to defend you.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir is a poet who has served since April 2009 as an MP in the Icelandic parliament for the Movement, a political movement for democratic reform beyond party politics, which she helped create. Birgitta was chief sponsor for the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), and is chair of the International Modern Media Institute. She is also on the Bradley Manning advisory board. your social media marketing partner


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+18 # Lisa Moskow 2012-05-30 09:15
This man is a true hero. Just heard a BS story on NPR about our soldiers going into a small Afghan town and blowing up the Taliban cache of weapons in the mosque.
Not a soul in the town killed!
+26 # Merschrod 2012-05-30 10:02
To see a solid documentary of how we are not winning hearts and minds see, at Netflix "Hell and Back Again." It is an award winning documentary showing what the mainstream and the government do not show.

Yes, Manning is an unsung hero the calibre of Daniel Ellsberg and yes, Birgitta is a great national leader. We need a few hundred of her in the good old US of A to replace the flunckies.
+5 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-30 11:11
Another good movie: Taxi to the dark side.
+24 # spanky 2012-05-30 10:06
Isn't it interesting that, when there is a whistleblower in private industry, that person is given certain protections under the law, and those who retaliate or seek to cover up wrongdoing are subject to prosecution.
Apparently, the national security myth of the United States has managed to turn the legal tables so that that which is supposedly protected in the "land of the free" is punished, and that which is criminalized for private citizens suddenly becomes standard procedure for the military. And we justify that with our national paranoia. 9-11 just gave the military/securi ty complex an excuse to exercise the despotism they have always craved.
+2 # JSRaleigh 2012-05-31 10:06
Quoting spanky:
Isn't it interesting that, when there is a whistleblower in private industry, that person is given certain protections under the law, and those who retaliate or seek to cover up wrongdoing are subject to prosecution.

It's in the law, but the laws are not enforced ... neither the protections, nor the prosecutions.

If you're going to buck the system, you better have the strength to endure the consequences. You're going to need it.
+21 # leslie griffith 2012-05-30 10:18
What a wonderful article.

I fear with the media so isolated from events around the world and here at home, that we are already left without reporters to document events for us. So, as with Manning, when "they come for you"
don't expect anyone to notice.
+13 # Douglas Jack 2012-05-30 10:35
Birgitta, Thank you for this comparison between Bradley Manning and Wiki-leaks' exposure of 'internal documents' compared with the 'Top-secret' documents which Daniel Ellsberg released. We need to develop a much larger system's understanding for how each of us contribute to these massacres and exploitation, as well as knowledge of the 'fractals' by which individuals, communities and corporations can address dysfunctional 'systems'. These ongoing massacres are a continuation of colonial exploitation, policy and worldview, which Canada and the USA as #1 exploiters of the world are founded upon. While exposing massacres may help to shock our docility, we as well need to co-create healthy livelihood interaction.
+16 # wrodwell 2012-05-30 10:54
As pointed out in the article Bradley Manning is being used as "an example" of what will happen to whistleblowers. When the Bushies were in power, and when government officials charged with overseeing taxpayer $$ disbursement to the likes of Halliburton, Brown & Root and other well-connected war machine contractors blew the whistle, they were summarily fired; Dick Cheney saw to that. Others who dared question the Bush Administration' s tactics also lost their jobs and some were even put on no-fly lists as further punishment. All fascist-minded regimes use the same tactics: punish whistleblowers in order to cow the population as a whole. It's an often used tactic because it works. Still, remaining silent is acquiescence. The pattern is a familiar one and repeats itself over and over again throughout history. Seems like we never wise-up.......
+22 # Jill of York 2012-05-30 10:56
We no longer punish people for war crimes, crimes against humanity or the planet, collateral murder, collateral damage, oil spills, lies, genocide, destroying the global economy. We only prosecute whistle-blowers and truth tellers. Because to look at what’s really going on would reveal the truth and the empire, the corporate state doesn’t allow the truth because the truth exposes them for the liars, frauds and criminals they truly are. In a culture awash in lies telling the truth has indeed become a radical act. Bradley Manning is a true American patriot and hero.
+23 # giraffee2012 2012-05-30 11:11
This is not the America our vets fought for and it is not the America I loved. My parents, who (luckily) ran from Nazi Germany to America, were the most patriotic persons I have ever known. They told me over and over about the German government and the difference with the "freedoms" etc in America - but believe me - they would not love the USA today. They would tell YOU that America is heading to what they ran from - Private Manning is an example of the justice the Nazi government's justice system.
+6 # Listner 2012-05-30 12:37
I wonder if there has ever been a government anywhere in the world that has been "truly transparent"? Can't think of one.Humans are devious, some more than others.
If you want to read about a truly devious person, read a book called "Angler", it's about Dick Cheney. Truly a frightening account.
+10 # JetpackAngel 2012-05-30 14:48
I used to think America was the country that all other countries wanted to be when it grows up. Now it's more like some embarrassing backwoods relative who's finally beginning to display hints of underlying and very serious psychosis. The kind of relative that makes you wary and want to watch their hands whenever they get too close to you.

"If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear." An excellent point, and yet one that our government doesn't seem to grasp.
+10 # Shanti 2012-05-30 14:50
giraffee 2012
Your words really hit home. Those of us living here during WWII were told constantly of how evil Hitler and his supporters were, but now we use the same tactics. Those born later could never know the frustration felt when everything you were taught to think
honorable and ethical are no longer practiced by the government in the U.S.
The U.S. seems to think that,like the banks, they are too big to fail. We'll see.
+10 # RobertMStahl 2012-05-30 14:52
B Obama has pardoned Bush, Cheney, and the likes of those paving the way to perdition for all of us, vis a vis the Old Guard. Manning stood on the other side of the fence, in this new era where structure, for the first time, is supposed to outmode sport, or the fields that exist within this supposed structure called the universe. Good luck, and do you think he is going to pardon someone whose priorities are in order? HA
+1 # mdhome 2012-05-31 07:37
I wonder if someone is "holding a gun to his head" and who or what it could be! What has Bradly Manning released that caused a single death, much embarrassment ,yes, but maybe they deserved that.
+3 # mdhome 2012-05-31 07:43
What ever happened to "the free press"? Where did the honest reporters go? Have they ALL died off? With so many college grads id journalism, is there none who have any interest in the truth? Could it be that the DoD and MIC has become so powerful that the light of truth cannot escape?
+4 # Michael_K 2012-05-30 17:02
If miscreant Obama had even a shred of honour left, an iota of a conscience, he would, as suggested by a poster on another thread, give his Nobel Peace Prize to Bradley Manning, in a public ceremony full of pomp and circumstance.

This won't happen, as he's a man of low character. Apparently, that's a sine qua non condition to become President of the USA.
+4 # Innocent Victim 2012-05-30 18:51
I feel grateful to Julian Assange and to Bradley Manning (if he did as alleged) for exposing the wrong-doing of US rulers. I feel a sadness that the British High Court issued a ruling that is extraordinarily deferential to French understandings.

In the Assange case, I am reminded of the behavior of Bill Clinton, a person not at all admirable. Both men allowed themselves to become victimized by their own sexual indiscretions. We know what Clinton did in the Oval Office. We don't know the truth of the allegations of the two Swedish women about which Assange may soon be extradicted. What I surmise is that he put himself in situations where the two women could make and have made charges against him. The extradition that may result could put Assange in great peril from the vindictiveness of Barack Obama.

Why people who have bad enemies put themselves in harm's way I could not say. Is it arrogance? Self-destructiv eness? Loneliness?

In Assange's case, it is a shame. He has paid a great price. He may yet pay a higher one.

Clinton escaped with a few scrapes and bruises. A bad man's good luck!
+2 # AMLLLLL 2012-05-31 15:58
While Assange is not my favorite character, he did a service in exposing the ugliness in our involvement in the Middle East, etc.

The back story is that he already faced these charges (he merely came in for questioning) in the sexual misconduct cases that were dismissed by the judge there in Sweden. Then the Wikileaks video went viral. Enter Karl Rove, a pal of the PM in Sweden, whom Rove helped get elected. The charges were renewed and highly publicized as 'rape'(I'm sure that's a Rovian touch). All part of the smear tactics so familiar to American politics.

It was the height of ignorance/dirty pool for our President to utter those words:"He broke the law." Not exemplary for a Harvard Law graduate. It sure is tough to stay positive these days....
-2 # fliteshare 2012-05-30 21:31
Herzlich willkommen summ Viertem Reich.

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