While there's been a ton of attention paid to Julian Assange's arrest and situation, much less attention has been paid to Bradley Manning, the Army Private who has been accused of being the source of many of Wikileaks' more recent leaks concerning the US government and military. It seemed like a reasonable question to ask, upon his arrest, whether or not he was simply whistleblowing
or breaking the law
. Certainly this is a question that is open for debate. What is
pretty clear is that his intentions
were absolutely to be a whistleblower.
In his internet chat with Adrian Lamo (the guy who turned him in), Manning made it clear that if he was trying to cause problems
for the US or had malicious intentions, he could have sold the info to foreign governments. However, his reasoning for leaking the info was clear, saying he was hoping it would cause "worldwide discussion, debates and reform." He also noted that he was driven to do this after being involved in detaining Iraqis who had simply done a scholarly critique of the current government, which he believed went against basic free speech principles. Again, no matter what you believe about his specific actions, it's pretty clear his intent was to whistleblow. He was upset about what he felt were illegal activities and his goal was to get that information out and to create discussion leading to reform. That's the classic definition of whistleblowing.
I knew Manning had been arrested and was being held somewhere, but Glenn Greenwald is now covering how he is being tortured
, despite the fact he has not been tried. He has been held in intensive solitary confinement, meaning he spends 23 hours of the day in total isolation. He has not even been given a pillow or sheets for his bed. As Greenwald highlights, there is widespread agreement that such prolonged solitary confinement is well beyond the standard level of torture, is forbidden in many modern civilizations, and leads to long term psychological issues for those who go through it.
And all this for a guy who has not even been convicted of anything.
Again: I recognize that some people believe that Manning is a "traitor" or some sort of "enemy." But even if that's the case, why should he not be put on trial for it, before he's put into solitary confinement? As Greenwald notes, "Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems." Solitary confinement is normally used as punishment for such outbreaks for those already convicted. Putting Manning in such conditions is a purely punitive attempt to torture him, without him even being convicted.
We've already covered just how bad the Defense Department is at protecting whistleblowers
, but this goes way beyond any of that. The message being sent here is that, even if your intentions are to expose wrongdoing, the military may lock you up and torture you for months without end and with no due process. This is not what America is supposed to be about. We're not supposed to support torture. We're not supposed to ignore due process. We're supposed to encourage whistleblowing. Instead, we're locking it up and torturing it with no trial or conviction.
This is, frankly, horrifying.
I'm not convinced that Manning did the right thing in leaking all of those documents. Rather, I think there's a compelling argument that he went way too far in releasing way too much. But it's a point that can be debated. However, Manning has no such opportunity to debate it. Instead, he's being psychologically tortured with no method of even making his own case.