By Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights
America, Bradley Manning stood up for your right to know what the government does in your name and with your tax dollars. The truth was ugly, eye-opening, embarrassing for the Bush and Obama administrations alike. It also came at a high cost: As of today, Bradley Manning has spent over 1,000 days in prison without trial. He was tortured. And if the U.S. government gets its way, he will have a trial marred by secrecy and spend the rest of his life locked up.
But you can help change this. You can stand with this brave soldier, this true American hero and demand his freedom. The government’s conduct in this case has been so shameful, unlawful and immoral that Judge Lind should dismiss all charges. It sounds like a long shot, but it has been done before.
Daniel Ellsberg, who has campaigned tirelessly on Manning’s behalf, was also subject to incredible government misconduct during his trial over the release of the Pentagon Papers. He was also being made an example for anyone who attempted to expose state crimes. The judge in his case, Judge Byrne, who had been comprised by a secret offer to head the FBI while presiding, was forced to condemn the government’s unlawful behavior and drop the case. “An insult to justice,” he called it.
By Ellsberg’s own account, the prosecution of Manning has been “unprecedented in legal terms.” The government is trying to charge Manning under the Espionage Act, accusing him of aiding Al Qaeda. They are subjecting him to incredible pressure to implicate his publisher, WikiLeaks, and they are making not just his legal defense but also media coverage of his case practically impossible.
Walking into the pre-trial hearings has been like waking up in a Franz Kafka novel: endless proceedings, one’s legal defense made impossible. This is quickly becoming the government’s playbook for whistleblower cases. Jeremy Hammond’s case is a concurrent example. Aaron Swartz’s a tragic one.
And so, despite the excellent work David Coombs is doing to defend Manning, I wonder if anything short of massive mobilization by the American people will change this brave soldier’s fate. How can his lawyer defend him when the key evidence the government is supposedly using to claim Manning harmed U.S. national security can be withheld? How can he show Manning did not intend to “aid the enemy” when the judge will not allow him to present evidence about Manning’s motives for releasing the information? It’s outright absurd.
A soldier takes this oath when enlisting:
“I solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
Unfortunately, we live in a time in which the first part of this oath is often in conflict with the second part. In the face of the government’s lies and abuse, the horrors of war Manning witnessed, what would you have done? Manning chose true faith and allegiance to the higher law: the Constitution. Now it’s our turn: Stand with Bradley Manning, join the Bradley Manning Support Network, support the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case demanding public and press access to the court case again Manning, and defend the vital role of whistleblowers in a democratic society.