/ Daniel Ellsberg / 8 am Tue, Mar 12 2013
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  • A Salute to Bradley Manning, Whistleblower, As We Hear His Words For The First Time

    A Salute to Bradley Manning, Whistleblower, As We Hear His Words For The First Time

    Today, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an organization that I co-founded and for which I serve on the board, has published an audio recording of Bradley Manning’s speech to a military court from two weeks ago, in which he gives his reasons and motivations behind leaking over 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks.

    Whoever made this recording, and I don’t know who the person is, has done the American public a great service. This marks the first time the American public can hear Bradley Manning, in his own voice explain what he did and how he did it.

    After listening to this recording and reading his testimony, I believe Bradley Manning is the personification of the word whistleblower.

    L: A young Daniel Ellsberg, whistleblower and former U.S. military analyst. R: PFC Bradley Manning, 24; former Army intelligence analyst.

    Today, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, an organization that I co-founded and for which I serve on the board, has published an audio recording of Bradley Manning’s speech to a military court from two weeks ago, in which he gives his reasons and motivations for leaking over 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks.

    Whoever made this recording, and I don’t know who the person is, has done the American public a great service. This marks the first time the American public can hear Bradley Manning, in his own voice, explain what he did and how he did it.

    After listening to this recording and reading his testimony, I believe Bradley Manning is the personification of the word whistleblower.


    Manning faces some of exact same charges I faced forty two years ago when I leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and eighteen other papers. The only difference is that I was a civilian, so I could stay out of jail on bond while the trial was going on, and was able to talk to the media throughout. I took responsibility for what I had done on the day of my arrest, and I was able to explain why I did it.

    But thanks to the judge’s rulings in Manning’s case, the public has barely heard anything from Manning at all. No official transcripts of the proceeding are released to the public, and when documents like the judge’s court orders are released, they are released weeks after the fact—and only in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

    Now I hope the American people can see Manning in a different light. In 1971, I was able to give the media my side of the story, and it is long overdue that Manning be able to do the same. As Manning has now done, I stipulated as to all the facts for which I was accused. And I did that for several reasons, and I suspect that Manning had the same motives.

    First, it was to exonerate a number of people who were suspected of helping me, like former Defense Department colleagues Mort Halperin, Leslie Gelb and others. I was able to state flatly they did not know about the release in the midst of President Nixon’s anxious desire to indict several of them.

    And Manning, in saying he took responsibility for the leaks and describing in great detail how he did it, was able to say Julian Assange and Wikileaks had nothing to do with his decision to leak. WikiLeaks had not giving him any special means beyond what a normal newspaper would do.

    Now, there’s really now excuse for the grand jury chasing Julian Assange for conspiracy to commit espionage to continue. If they’re not going to indict the New York Times—and there is no constitutional basis for them to do so—there’s no reason for them to investigate or indict Assange or WikiLeaks.

    As the former general counsel of the New York Times James Goodale once said, “Charging Julian Assange with ‘conspiracy to commit espionage’ would effectively be setting a precedent with a charge that more accurately could be characterized as ‘conspiracy to commit journalism.’”

    The second thing Manning did with his statement—which you can finally hear today—was to explain his motives (he could not do that while he was still putting the responsibility on the government—by pleading not guilty—to prove what he had done beyond a reasonable doubt).

    They were the same motives I felt 42 years ago. We both felt the horror of reading about deceptive, and even criminal, activity. We both felt the public needed this information and should have had it years ago. So we both released classified documents about a bloody, hopeless war.

    Such criminal, dangerous, and deceptive behavior by the government can only be changed if Congress and the public are informed of them. And when official secrecy allows the government to cover these facts up, the only way to bring them to the public is to break secrecy regulations.


    Some of the most critical documents leaked by Manning revealed torture by the Iraqi government, which the US knew about. According to the international treaty on torture, the US should have required investigations.

    In fact, the Iraq war logs show hundreds of instances of cases of torture, and in every case, the soldiers were given the illegal order not to investigate.

    In his statement to the court, Manning talks about an incident where he thought men who were apprehended shouldn’t have been, and that they were being handed over to the Iraqis to possibly be tortured. He went to his superior and was told to forget about it.

    Bradley Manning, by releasing this information, is the only solider who actually obeyed this law, the international treaty, and by extension, the Constitution.


    Critics have alleged that a major difference between my case and Manning’s is that I was discriminating in what I leaked, while Manning wasn’t. He just dumped some material that doesn’t need to be out, they say. This is simply false.

    First, it’s important to point out most of the material he put out was unclassified. The rest was classified ‘secret,’ which is relatively low level. All of the Pentagon Papers was classified top secret.

    But in a fact no one seems to observe from his statement, Manning was working within a “SCIF,” which stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. To get into a SCIF, a soldier needs a clearance higher than top secret. This means he had access to the highest classified material, such as communications and signals intelligence. This means he could’ve put out information top secret and higher, and purposely chose not to do so.


    It’s important to remember through all this that Manning has already pled guilty to ten charges of violating military regulations (few of which, if any would be civilian crimes) and faces twenty years in jail. Yet the prosecutors are still going ahead with the absurd charge of “aiding the enemy,” a capital offense, for which the prosecutors are asking life in prison.

    Nixon could have brought that charge against me too. I was revealing wrongdoing by our government in a public way, and that information could have been read by our enemies in Vietnam. Of course, I never had that intent and Manning didn’t either. We both leaked information to provoke a domestic debate about military force and government secrecy. And to say we did so to aid the enemy is absurd.

    This charge could have huge effects on the free speech of anyone in the military and journalists across the country. Any op-ed that is critical of military tactics or any news story that exposes misdeeds of the government can potentially lead to a capital offense.

    Worse, the charge purports to apply to anyone, not just the military. It’s blatantly unconstitutional.


    For the third straight year, Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by, among others, Tunisian parliamentarians. Given the role the WikiLeaks cables played in the Arab Spring, and their role in speeding up the end of the Iraq War, I can think of no one more deserving who is deserving of the peace prize.

    He’s also deserving of the Medal of Honor. This medal, awarded by Congress—and not the executive branch—is given to military personnel, who during wartime, do what they should do for their country and their comrades, at the greatest risk to themselves.

    Of course, there have been many who shown great courage on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Iraq. But some have noted that we don’t have the named heroes of the kind we did during World War I and World War II, such as Sergeant York or Audie Murphy.

    I see a hero in these wars whose example should inspire others. His name Bradley Manning.

    Previously: "Leaked Audio of Bradley Manning’s statement released by Freedom of the Press Foundation"

    / / COMMENTS


    1. Thanks to BB for hosting Ellsberg’s words and for highlighting Manning’s heroism. 

      Here’s hoping the corporate media starts catching up with this angle on this historic story. Will any of those outlets acknowledge this recording of Manning, let alone attending to any of the details of what he has to say in anything like an unbiased way? Well, a person can dream.

      1. Gotta love a country where we try Nazis in Nuremburg and tell them that they “knew better” and should not have followed orders to kill Jews, but here people who whistleblow are automatically guilty before proven innocent.

    2. So basically, this guy saw our soldiers behaving badly (to whatever degree or formality you wish to call it.) He blew the whistle, and now they are trying to screw him over it, in secret.

      Makes me feel like I live in an oppressive state. This is all so contrary to our values. 

      1. If you live in the US you live in an oppressive state.  It’s going to be police states for the lot of us.  By the time North American nations start breaking out the concentration camps we’ll all have shouted “Godwin’s law” so many times we won’t even be able to make the connection in our heads.

      2. This is all so contrary to our values.

        This is exactly our values. When I was a child in the 1960s, the common response to seeing protesters on the news was, “They should all be shot.”

    3. Mr. Ellsberg, Thanks for clearing some questions I had about your case and Manning’s regarding holding back sensitive information. I was under the impression that he indiscriminately dumped data. 

    4. Thank you for posting this sober and realistic perspective. The government has been motivated by political posturing and to convey a public image of strength rather than to serve justice.  They really want to make an example out of him. I have a hard time believing Manning would get a fair trial as a result.  Whatever his crime is, if any, the government’s disproportionately heavy-handed prosecution and general treatment of this defendant is appalling and only lends greater credibility to Manning’s cause.

    5. There is one important difference between Manning’s case and Ellsberg’s.  In the 1970s we believed the government was accountable to the rule of law.

      1. You don’t even need to be in government to be above the law.  How many Goldman Sachs CEOs have been arrested for fraud so far?

        1.  If you piss off someone in the government or military, the first thing they often put out there is that you are gay. The core of military folks see that as the absolute worst thing a person can be. I saw this all the time when I was in the Army. It’s about 99.9% unlikely that Manning is gay.

    6. We are all indebted to our courageous whistleblowers! Without them, all the secret crimes would never be revealed.
      Please loudly support them, as we the public are their only hope. We know our justice system is seriously unjust.

    7. All he did was log in to SIPRNET and download a bunch of SECRET-level material, going for mass quantity (which points out a serious flaw in how SIPRNET monitors users, incidentally).  He pledged to protect that material and didn’t.  So, he should face prison.  Any other talk is just self-serving window dressing.  “Oooh, I found something that makes me feel bad!  Let’s send it to some random guy I met on the internet!”

      1. So if you made a pledge to protect a friends/work mate/family member/etc’s secrets and then they told you that they murdered someone, you believe that the right course of action would be to honour the pledge rather than take the info to the cops…..  Right…..

        1.  If he’d released just what he was so upset about, he might have a point (still be wrong, but make sense).  That’s not what he did.  He released everything he could get his hands on, no matter what it was. 

          1.  No, he didn’t.  Did you actually read throguh this post?  Ellsberg went over that.  Manning had access to top secret level stuff, and yet absolutely nothing he released was actually classified at that level. 

            I don’t think you can call that “releasing everything he could get his hands on”.

          2. He had access to compartmentalized information. If he was working as an intelligence specialist, he would have had access to information much worse than what was released.

            In all – he released documents regarding what had happened, not was to happen.

        1. The oath to Hitler?

          The classic case of how oaths get people to do evil things and keep people from doing good things, or even from doing less evil things to try to stop the more evil things?

      2.  The day I joined the Army, I took an oath to the Constitution, not to any one person, regulation or order. If a court decides that he is guilty of a crime, he will certainly spend time in prison, but if he upheld his oath, he deserves respect for his actions as a soldier.

        Remember, it’s an oath to defend this country from all aggressors, foreign and domestic.

    8. Captain Ed Freeman of the United States Army died at the age of 70, in Boise, Idaho.

      On November 14, 1967, an Army unit was under fire in the central highlands of Viet Nam.  They were outnumbered eight to one, and the fire was so intense that the Commanding Officer ordered the MedEvac choppers to stop coming in.

      Capt. Freeman was in the area.  He was not MedEvac, so it wasn’t his job.  But he heard the call and came in.  He landed through the machine gun fire, and sat there while three wounded were loaded onto his helicopter.  Then he flew them through the gunfire and to a hospital.

      After which he came back.

      Thirteen more times.

      He took 29 wounded soldiers to safety and medical treatment.

      And it wasn’t until it was over that anyone knew Capt. Freeman had been shot four times in the legs and left arm.

      THAT, gentlemen, is a hero.

      Even though the media chose not to report his death.

      It took them 34 years to award him the Medal of Honor.

        1. I am not much impressed by medals that were given for risk-free actions.

          Apparently an Air Force Chaplain got a Bronze Star for creating a PowerPoint presentation.

          I cannot further discuss that without recourse to massive amounts of profanity.

    9.  One thing still confuses me: PFC Manning is an enlisted man, and so his oath of office includes the pledge to obey orders. A first Lieutenant does *not* have that part of his oath. In a military tribunal, that makes a difference.

       Why does an enlisted man have access to so much sensitive information? Shouldn’t the officers who set that system up be held accountable for their role in the leak?

       Danial Ellsberg was a civilian at the time he released the pentagon papers, so he was protected by the constitution in a way that military personnel are not. Though I suppose the way Julian Assange is being treated should tell us all we need to know about freedom of the press here.

      TL;DR:  Bradley Manning is not the only person involved in the story, but it’s less embarrassing to the pentagon if he’s held up as a ‘lone gunman’.

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