Will Americans – and U.S.
media – give it the attention
it deserves? The jury is still out
This is Page 3 of the Monday morning edition of The Guardian, the U.K.’s leading newspaper. © SGE, Inc.
IN WHAT is arguably the biggest case of the year in American courts, the trial begins today of the army private accused of leaking massive amounts of secret U.S government documents to Wikileaks.
Pfc. Bradley Manning stands accused of, among other charges, “aiding the enemy,” a charge which could bring the death penalty if prosecutors were inclined to pursue it. They are not.
His military tribunal begins in Ft. Meade, Md., before the presiding authority, Col. Denise Lind.
Manning has already languished for 1,100 days in military custody, and allegedly was thoroughly abused during his first stint by being forced to stand naked for hours at a time.
The story is given huge display on Page 3 of this morning’s The Guardian, the U.K.’s number one newspaper seen in the image with this story. Read it here.
WILL The New York Times even cover this trial? It was roundly criticized for virtually ignoring the pe-trial hearings until other media coverage – including The Guardian, BBC and other American outlets – almost forced it to pay attention.
America’s foremost scholar on constitutional law, Lawrence Tribe, professor at Harvard University, is quoted first in The Guardian because he raises why the case is so important for the whole of America.
“…[The case] does indeed break new ground,” Tribe said. “[It} could have far reaching consequences for chilling freedom of speech and rendering the web a hazardous environment, well beyond any demonstrable national security interest.”
Also quoted is America’s hitherto most famous whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, famous for his role in leaking The Pentagon Papers, the document which irrevocably changed American public opinion about the Vietnam War when it was published in 1971.
“This is part of [President] Obama’s overall policy of criminalizing investigative reporting on national security,” Ellsberg told The Gardian.
The Obama Administration’s record in prosecuting government whistleblowers is abysmal.
According to The Guardian, Obama has launched six prosecutions under the Espionage Act, twice as many as all previous presidencies combined. However, only Manning’s has gone to trial.
The prosecution, however, has an uphill battle.
Col. Lind has ruled that for Manning to be found guilty of the “aiding and abetting” charge, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he “knowingly” transmitte useful information to terrorist organizations like Al Qaida, its Arabian-peninsula branch and a third, secret group (still classified.)
MANNING, in a earlier pleading, admitted he leaked classified information to Wikileaks, but those charges carry a lesser sentence of a maximum of 20 years in prison.
This is undoubtedly a case of national significance. It involves government secrecy of the highest order. It concerns free speech and the internet. It has broad implications, and the fact that it is being adjudicated in a military court does not bode well for Americans and the justice system.
At the heart of it is a young, fragile man, who has been abused by his own government – which he nobly served – and who has been permanently damaged by harsh treatment those outside of America consider torture.
The case raises many important issues. Will the U.S. media – in particular, The New York Times pay it the attention it deserves?
The jury is still out on that one.