Bradley Manning’s statement taking responsibility for giving documents to Wikileaks is a remarkable document. In it, he says several important things.
Most notably, from the point of view of the war the US government and its toadies are waging against Wikileaks and Julian Assange, Manning says quite clearly that he volunteered all the information and was never pressured to send anything:
Over the next few weeks I did not send any additional information to [Wikileaks]. I continued to converse with [the Wikileaks representative] over the Jabber client and in the [Wikileaks] IRC channel. Although I stopped sending documents to [Wikileaks], no one associated with [Wikileaks] pressured me into giving more information. The decisions that I made to send documents and information to [Wikileaks] and the website were my own decisions, and I take full responsibility for my actions.
This is very important because the US case against Assange (still in a secretive grand jury) is based on the idea that Assange and Wikileaks solicited information, rather than passively received it. If that were the case, they would then argue, he is not covered under freedom of the press, but is instead a spy. This line of reasoning is ridiculous, because journalists request specific information from sources all the time, but, nevertheless, it was the best legal angle the US had, and it seems quite clearly out the window now.
Manning gave Wikileaks quite a bit more stuff than I knew about. He lists:
- CableGate – 250,000 US diplomatic cables
- the Iraq War logs (“CIDNE-I SigActs table”)
- the Afghanistan War logs (“CIDNE-A SigActs table”)
- the Collateral Murder video
- the Reykjavik 13 Department of State Cable (detailing how Iceland was being bullied by Great Britain regarding banking deposits and turned to the US for help, only to be brushed off)
- documents concerning Iraqis detained for criticizing the Iraqi Prime Minister (“the SigAct report and supporting documents concerning the 15 individuals detained by the Baghdad Federal Police”)
- Guantanamo Detainee Assessment Briefs
- a US Army report on Wikileaks
- two documents from an unnamed “Government entity” regarding something that “upset [him] greatly”
- information about and videos of an airstrike in Garani, Afghanistan in which 100 to 150 civilians were killed
Assessment of Harm
Manning says that of the above sets of documents, “the cables were the only one I was not absolutely certain couldn’t harm the United States”. In other words, he was absolutely certain that all the others could not harm the US. Of the cables, he goes on to say that they are probably at the most embarrassing, and notes that many thousands of people had access to them (indeed, actually more than a million may have access).
Manning is very clear about his motivations. He believed that the US was doing wrong, and his attempts to use official channels to address this were denied. He felt that the public was not being shown the true cost of war. He knew that Reuters was being stonewalled in their FOIA request for what is now known as the “Collateral Murder” video. He was appalled at the way the US treated other countries diplomatically, and felt that a more open diplomacy would make the world a better place, referring to the secret pacts that led to WW I as an example. He knew that many of the people held indefinitely at Guantánamo were innocent.
In short, Bradley Manning knew that the US was doing many morally reprehensible things, and he knew that only outside pressure and accountability through media attention could change that. He is, without question, a whistleblower and a hero. Unfortunately, he is being judged by the same entity that he blew the whistle on, and it never, ever plays fair.