WASHINGTON, June 14, 2013 — While much of the press this week has been covering The Guardian’s groundbreaking story of the covert programs conducted by the National Security Agency, some have forgotten about another whistleblower who occupied the media’s spotlight before Edward Snowden: Bradley Manning.
Chase Madar, a journalist for The Nation,has extensively covered Manning. He has also written a book on Manning, “The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower.” Madar discusses his analysis of the court marshal, debunks claims made to discredit Manning, and explains why he along with several other journalists filed a suit to allow for greater transparency in the court proceedings.
Kevin Kelly: What is your reaction to the first week of proceedings?
Chase Madar: I haven’t been down there myself. I’ve been reading Kevin Gosztola and Nathan Fuller, I’m sure you know who they are. No big surprises, the prosecution is gunning hard for the aiding the enemy charge. I think they’re overreaching. I give it a one out of three chance of sticking, although I know one very smart lawyer who thinks that it has a very high chance of sticking.
The only little surprise is how much they seem to be trying to set up the next big Wikileaks case which might be the prosecution of Julian Assange. In the his opening statements, the prosecutor was really trying to cast Julian Assange as someone who is managing and manipulating the defendant, Bradley Manning. I think that is unlikely and farfetched.
I hate to kill the suspense, but I don’t think there is any chance of an acquittal. I have never thought there is any chance of a total acquittal, and even without the aiding the enemy charge sticking, there will still be a conviction on most of the charges, enough for about 40 to 50 years or even higher.
Kelly: You are reporting and covering the court proceedings against Manning over at The Nation. In one blog entry entitled “Seven Myths About Manning” you debunk one myth that these leaks he is responsible for may have gotten people killed. Could you elaborate on that?
Madar: First of all, that’s a legitimate question. People asked it about the leaks when they came out: Did they harm anyone? Was there any damage? What’s the downside if there is one?
This was all fueled by Chicken Little warnings from the Department of Defense, and then from the State Department. They said that Bradley Manning and Wikileaks have blood on their hands, they’ve harmed soldiers, people could be dying right now because of these leaks. After this initial panic, if those reporters had done their jobs and followed up and asked questions of the Department of Defense spokesmen, or followed up with the civilian sources that are named in the State Department Cables, they would have found that there was not any damage.
They have not found instances of anyone being harmed, and they found that any harm is entirely speculative, hypothetical — imaginary even. Now when people talk about the harm — supposed harm — from these leaks, they do so in this strange language of double subjunctive mood. Instead of saying that Wikileaks harmed people or harmed American interests, they say Wikileaks may have put people at risk. Of course putting people at risk is different from harming people, and if you say “may have put people at risk” then that’s already two degrees removed from actual damage.
If you look at the balance, you see two American Ambassadors who were recalled as a result of the Wikileaks, one from Ecuador, one from Mexico. These are nations with which Washington has increasingly volatile relationships as Latin American countries get more self confident, and more independent, and more power of their own. I don’t see the recall of these two Ambassadors as any kind of major tragedy. I think it’s a very tiny price to pay, and it bothers me.
Kelly: You have joined several other journalists in a suit to challenge the secrecy of Manning’s court proceedings. Why do you believe the government has been so secretive and restrictive in its treatment towards the media regarding the prosecution of Bradley Manning?
Madar: Part of it is just normal court marshal procedure, but I think that the government should make an exception for a case that is really of important public interest. The government is calling one hundred twenty five witnesses, twenty eight of whom are going to be secret, four almost totally secret, twenty four partially secret. This gets to be a farce. What they agreed on is that a member of Seal Team Six is going to testify, but he’s going to be wearing a disguise. Not so heavy that you can’t see his facial expressions; it has to be light enough so that the defense can see his face and the judge can see his facial expression.
It’s all a bit carnivalesque at this point. Important trials, even if they are court marshals, should not be held in secret, and there is more openness and transparency at Guantanamo at the military commissions down there than at this court marshal. That said, I see the secrecy in this case a symptom rather a cause of what’s wrong here. Even if they make it more open I think that the outcome is going to be pretty much the same.
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