We've discussed before just how secretive
the court martial process has been for Bradley Manning. Part of that is that there is no recording allowed in the courtroom, and thus there was no recording or official transcript of Manning's long statement to the court, even though some reporters tried to piece together a statement
from their notes. However, it appears that someone snuck a recorder into the room, and recorded Manning's statement, which has now been leaked
by the Freedom of the Press Foundation. As they note, this is actually the first time that the public has been able to hear Bradley Manning speak. As the FPF notes:
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.
Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald highlights why this is so important
The US government and its military has carefully ensured that people hear about Manning from the government, but do not hear from Manning himself. It is way past time for Manning's voice to be heard.
Greenwald has also broken down the statement and highlighted some key points. For example, he notes that many of Manning's critics argued that Manning released information willy nilly with no concern for what was in the documents, and whether releasing them would cause harm. From the transcript, we learn that this is simply untrue. He did review the content, and came to the conclusion that the documents he was releasing needed to be released for the benefit of the US, and not to harm the US. He admitted they might be embarrassing, but that's very different from harmful.
Up to this point, during the deployment, I had issues I struggled with and difficulty at work. Of the documents release, the cables were the only one I was not absolutely certain couldn't harm the United States. I conducted research on the cables published on the Net Centric Diplomacy, as well as how Department of State cables worked in general.
"In particular, I wanted to know how each cable was published on SIRPnet via the Net Centric Diplomacy. As part of my open source research, I found a document published by the Department of State on its official website.
"The document provided guidance on caption markings for individual cables and handling instructions for their distribution. I quickly learned the caption markings clearly detailed the sensitivity of the Department of State cables. For example, NODIS or No Distribution was used for messages at the highest sensitivity and were only distributed to the authorized recipients.
"The SIPDIS or SIPRnet distribution caption was applied only to recording of other information messages that were deemed appropriate for a release for a wide number of individuals. According to the Department of State guidance for a cable to have the SIPDIS caption, it could not include other captions that were intended to limit distribution.
"The SIPDIS caption was only for information that could only be shared with anyone with access to SIPRnet. I was aware that thousands of military personnel, DoD, Department of State, and other civilian agencies had easy access to the tables. The fact that the SIPDIS caption was only for wide distribution made sense to me, given that the vast majority of the Net Centric Diplomacy Cables were not classified.
"The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this was the type of information that should become public. I once read and used a quote on open diplomacy written after the First World War and how the world would be a better place if states would avoid making secret pacts and deals with and against each other.
"I thought these cables were a prime example of a need for a more open diplomacy. Given all of the Department of State cables that I read, the fact that most of the cables were unclassified, and that all the cables have a SIPDIS caption.
"I believe that the public release of these cables would not damage the United States, however, I did believe that the cables might be embarrassing, since they represented very honest opinions and statements behind the backs of other nations and organizations."
It really is a travesty that the US government has kept all of this so closed, and has refused to release a recording or a transcript. Are they really so afraid that the public might hear Bradley Manning explain himself?