Bradley Manning Statement

SUBHEAD: Extreme secrecy in our courts, just like in our government’s policies and our politics, is an anathema to democracy.

By Trevor Trimm on 11 March 2013 for Freedom of the Press -

Image above: Bradley Manning in happier times. From slideshow in original below.

Today, Freedom of the Press Foundation is publishing the full, previously unreleased audio recording of Private First Class Bradley Manning’s speech to the military court in Ft. Meade about his motivations for leaking over 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks. In addition, we have published highlights from Manning’s statement to the court.

Hear the entire hour-and-eight-minute statement here.

While unofficial transcripts of this statement are available, this marks the first time the American public has heard the actual voice of Manning.

A group of journalists, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), has been engaged in a legal battle to force the court to be more open. While the government has belatedly released a small portion of documents related to the case, many of the most important orders have been withheld—such as the orders relating to the speedy trial proceedings or the order related to Manning’s prolonged solitary confinement.

Michael Ratner, president emeritus of CCR, called the government "utterly unresponsive to what is a core First Amendment principle." Ratner noted this is a public trial, the information being presented is not classified, and that contemporaneous access to information about the trial is necessary to understanding the proceedings. Nonetheless, the lawsuit has been tied up in the appeals court for months.

Freedom of the Press Foundation’s mission is to support and defend cutting-edge transparency journalism by supporting those organizations that publish leaks in the public interest. We often report on news surrounding government secrecy, educating the public about the important relationship between leaking and independent journalism. When we received this recording, we realized we had a unique opportunity to bring some small measure of transparency directly by allowing the world to hear for itself the voice of someone who took a controversial and important stance for government transparency.

We hope this recording will shed light on one of the most secret court trials in recent history, in which the government is putting on trial a concerned government employee whose only stated goal was to bring attention to what he viewed as serious governmental misconduct and criminal activity. We hope to prompt additional analysis of these proceedings by other journalistic institutions and the public at large. While we are not equipped (technically or as a matter of human resources) to receive leaked information nor do we plan on receiving them in the future, we are proud to publish and analyze this particular recording because it is so clearly matches our mission of supporting transparency journalism.

The information provided by Manning has uncovered stories of wrongdoing by the United States, as well as by leaders and politicians around the world. The cables were reportedly one of the catalysts that led to the Arab Spring and sped up the end of the Iraq War. To this day, more than two years after their release, the information provided by Manning is used every day by journalists and historians in major publications are the world to enlighten and inform the public, both in the United States and around the world.

In a time when the extent and reach of U.S. government secrecy is unprecedented, and there are credible reports that the government has abused its secrecy and classification systems to cover up numerous illegal and unconstitutional activities, Manning’s actions should be seen as an overdue sliver of sunlight into an overly secret system rather than as a basis for a prosecution seeking decades of imprisonment.

By releasing this audio recording, we wish to make sure that the voice of this generation's most prolific whistleblower can be heard—literally—by the world.

Regardless of whether one believes that Manning’s acts were right or wrong or a mix of both, he has taken responsibility for them by pleading guilty to ten charges, for which he faces up to twenty years in prison. The government however, is continuing to pursue all of the charges against him, including charges under the Espionage Act and "aiding the enemy" —which could have huge consequences for press freedom and the First Amendment.

The ACLU has expressed concern that this "aiding the enemy" charge could criminalize speech for all sorts of active military members, noting that "In its zeal to throw the book at Manning, the government has so overreached that its ‘success’ would turn thousands of loyal soldiers into criminals."

And Harvard Law professor Yochai Benkler has argued that this prosecution could decimate national security journalism by outlawing whole categories of journalist-source relationships in the future: "[T]he prosecutors seem bent on using this case to push a novel and aggressive interpretation of the law that would arm the government with a much bigger stick to prosecute vaguely-defined national security leaks, a big stick that could threaten not just members of the military, but civilians too."

Extreme secrecy in our courts, just like in our government’s policies and our politics, is an anathema to democracy. Whether military or civilian, this type of closed-door legal process impairs the public’s right-to-know and journalists’ ability to report on matters of deep public concern. The courtrooms of America should be open to the public, so they can see and hear what is being done in their name.

You can donate to aggressive journalism outlets dedicated to transparency and accountability on our homepage. You can learn more about Bradley Manning’s case by visiting the Bradley Manning Support Network.

By Luke Johnson on 12 March 2013 for Huffington Post -

Video above: A portion Bradley Manning's court martial statement in a film by Laura Poitras. From ( 

The Freedom of Press Foundation released audio late Monday of Pfc. Bradley Manning's statement before a military court in Fort Meade, Md., in violation of court rules.

The group released Manning's full statement, clocking in at one hour and eight minutes. The recording is the first the public has heard of Manning's voice since his arrest in May 2010.

Manning has admitted to leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, as well as two videos of American airstrikes, in order to provoke a debate about U.S. foreign policy. He has pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including misusing classified material. However, he has pleaded not guilty to 12 other, more serious charges, including "aiding the enemy" and violating the Espionage Act.

"I am the type of person who always wants to figure out how things work," says Manning in the recording, "and as an analyst this always means I want to figure out the truth."

Manning described one of the videos, titled "Collateral Murder," of a 2007 airstrike in Iraq, in which a helicopter fired on a group of men that included a Reuters employee and his driver.

"At first, I did not consider the video very special, as I have viewed countless other 'war porn'-type videos depicting combat," says Manning in the audio. "The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemingly delightful bloodlust the aerial weapons team seemed to have."

"They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging in and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as 'dead bastards' and congratulating themselves on their ability to kill in large numbers."

He said the video, released by Wikileaks in June 2010, "burdens me emotionally."

The military has said it is pursuing the additional charges, which carry the possibility of a life sentence in prison. Manning is expected to receive at least 20 years and a dishonorable discharge from the military after pleading guilty to the lesser charges.

NBC's "Today" teased some of the audio in a segment Tuesday morning.

"Extreme secrecy in our courts, just like in our government's policies and our politics, is an anathema to democracy," wrote the Freedom of the Press Foundation. "Whether military or civilian, this type of closed-door legal process impairs the public's right-to-know and journalists' ability to report on matters of deep public concern."

Daniel Ellsberg, the Department of Defense employee who leaked the Pentagon Papers and whose psychiatrist's office was unsuccessfully burglarized at the direction of Nixon aides in retaliation, noted that Manning has received a harsher treatment in the courts than he did.

"Manning faces some of exact same charges I faced forty-two years ago when I leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and eighteen other papers. The only difference is I was a civilian, so I could stay out of jail on bond while the trial was going on, and was able to talk to the media throughout," he said, according to a statement provided by the group.


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