from the messed-up dept
First, your honour I want to start off with an apology. I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I'm sorry that they hurt the United States.There's more to the apology, but that's basically the first half. There's just one problem with it. There remains no evidence that he hurt anyone or the United States. We've discussed some of this before, but Rainey Reitman, over at the Freedom of the Press Foundation has a detailed breakdown of how the US government admits, quite clearly, the lack of any real damage or harm from Manning's actions:
At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing and continuing to effect me. Although a considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for my actions.
I understood what I was doing, and decisions I made. However I did not fully appreciate the broader effects of my actions.
Those factors are clear to me now, through both self-refection during my confinement in various forms, and through the merits and sentencing testimony that I have seen here.
I am sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions. When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people.
In fact, she notes that Manning's original assessment that he was trying to help not hurt is borne out in what actually happened thanks to his leaks:
Even when the WikiLeaks hysteria was in full swing, government officials from the State Department briefed Congress on the impact of the Wikileaks revelations, and said that the leaks were "embarrassing but not damaging." U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that, while some of the information may have been embarrassing, "I don't think there is any substantive damage."
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has admitted the leaks caused no serious damage, telling Congress that the reactions to the leaks were "significantly overwrought." He went on to say: "Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest."
At the same time, Reuters reported that other officials were admitting in private that they were exaggerating the damage that resulted from the leaks in order to bolster the legal efforts against WikiLeaks and Manning.
This has born out in Manning's trial and sentencing hearing. It's why the government fought so hard to keep its official WikiLeaks "damage assessments" from being revealed in court. It's why, despite all the government's overwrought pronouncements early on of "blood on the hands" of those responsible, a U.S. official was forced to admit under oath in Manning's sentencing hearing that not a single person died as a result of the releases.
The truth is, the public has benefited tremendously as a result of Manning's disclosures to WikiLeaks. Over the least three years, the disclosures have helped shape an international discussion about America's foreign policy. They showed Americans the true face of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- from accurate body counts in Iraq to journalists killed by American soldiers to the government blocking investigations of CIA extraordinary rendition to U.S. turning a blind eye to torture in violation of the Geneva conventions. They've exposed corruption and lawbreaking in dozens of countries around the world. They contributed to democratic movements in the Middle East, and helped spur a movement in defense of free speech online. One State Department cable was even instrumental in helping precipitate the end to the Iraq war.Her concluding paragraph makes the point quite clearly. Embarrassment may feel like "harm" but when that embarrassment is from doing something wrong and exposing that wrongness is part of the necessary process of stopping it, that's not "harm" at all. That's the process of helping:
Bradley Manning didn't hurt us any more than a dentist hurts a patient when removing an abscessed tooth. The brief discomfort that resulted from the WikiLeaks disclosures was necessary to begin the process of healing and reform. It is a process that we do not yet know will be successful, but which began with Manning's decision to leak vital documents to WikiLeaks. And for that, we owe Manning thanks; no apologies necessary.Obviously, the apology is effectively Manning throwing himself on the mercy of the judge -- a last gasp effort to prevent having to spend most or all of the rest of his life in jail. But, as Kevin Gosztola points out, while there are people who should have to plead for mercy from a judge, Manning should not have to, given the total lack of harm, and the tremendous help that came out of his leaks.
The conviction of Bradley Manning will go down in history as an embarrassment for the US -- much more harmful and embarrassing than anything that he leaked. The prosecution and conviction show a country that doesn't stand up for its own principles and looks to massively and disproportionately punish whistleblowers who call attention to government and military wrongdoing and coverups.