Manning threatened with life in a Fort Leavenworth cage

Bradley Manning has been found guilty of espionage. The verdict was actually a partial victory. Nonetheless, he faces up to 136 years in prison (the source is @nathanLfuller; the Manning trial is exhibit A in the failure of the corporate media to report on an important topic in anything close to an adequate fashion and how reliant we are instead upon nontraditional sources).

Now it should be immediately evident from the outset that Manning did not engage in espionage. This is how Merriam-Webster defines the word: “the practice of spying or using spies to obtain information about the plans and activities especially of a foreign government or a competing company.” Manning instead published information about his own government’s activities, not for the benefit of a foreign power but for the global public.

Manning stated his motivation in his own words (before he was identified and detained so we know this statement is sincere, not uttered for the cause of his legal defense): “Hypothetical question: If you had free reign over classified networks over a long period of time, if you saw incredible things, awful things, things that belonged in the public domain and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington, D.C., what would you do?'”

Does that sound like espionage to any reasonable person? And what of the terrible consequences of his leaks, about which government and media figures filled the news cycle with so many warnings? A congressional aide told Reuters that State Department officials privately told Congress in late 2010 during a briefing that the WikiLeaks revelations were “embarrassing but not damaging.”

So why is Manning still facing what could be effectively a sentence of life in prison?
Few in the public favor such an outcome. The conservative polling firm Rasmussen found that of those asked “If Bradley Manning is found guilty, should he be given life in prison or a lighter sentence?,” only 33% favor life in prison for him. (This is despite the relentless distortions of the corporate media which led only 7% of respondents in the same poll to conclude that it is “Not At All Likely” that he harmed national security. So DESPITE that erroneous conclusion the public is broadly against a life sentence).
It is difficult to ignore the relevance of the career track of the judge ruling in the case. Michael Ratner, of the invaluable Center for Constitutional Rights, is quoted by the Institute for Public Accuracy emphasizing some very pertinent background on the judge presiding over Manning’s trial:
“[Judge Col. Denise Lind] Yeah, she’s been given, apparently, from a Washington Post report, an appellate judge job, the higher court, which I found pretty extraordinary. I don’t know whether it’s — I don’t think it’s necessarily illegal, but it does — it’s interesting to me that she’s going upstairs during the very trial that’s going on, and given that promotion. And it reminded me when the Ellsberg judge, the judge in Daniel Ellsberg’s case, the federal judge, during Ellsberg’s trial on espionage was offered to be the head of the FBI, secretly, by the Nixon administration. And, of course, there was a huge stink. I don’t see any stink so far in any of the media about the fact that Denise Lind, the judge, is being offered a higher position.”

Manning’s conviction on multiple counts of violating the Espionage Act came after last week’s closing arguments “in which a prosecutor portrayed Private Manning as an anarchist and a traitor who was merely out to make a splash.”

Even Morris Davis, a retired Air Force colonel and a former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, concluded that saddling Manning with more than what he had already admitted to – leaking the secret documents that exposed war crimes – “Beyond that is government overreach.”

The sentencing phase of the trial will begin Wednesday and “the prosecution is expected to press the judge, Col. Denise Lind, to impose the maximum sentence.”

Reportedly, Manning will then serve his sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. One can only hope that he will receive a steady stream of letters at his cage in the heartland in the coming years from appreciative citizens.

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