Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bradley Manning Acquitted of Treason, Aiding the Enemy

26 year old Bradley Manning has been acquitted of charges of aiding the enemy for his release of hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. He was charged with 22 offenses, of which aiding the enemy was the most serious. He was convicted of 17 of those charges. Sentencing has begun.

Before his arrest he was a quite low-ranking intelligence analyst in the US army. Very smart, but a lonely, na├»ve, unsocialized young man who longed for justice and fairness in the world, and who became disillusioned with US military behavior in Iraq. In May 2010 when still serving in Iraq he read a story about Adrian Lamo published at which fired him up. He contacted Lamo and thought he had found a friend and a like-minded soul. 

Actually what he’d found was a devious, self-serving, “serial self promoter” with no integrity, a whole lot of capacity to get out of a tight situation, a groomer and a betrayer.  

Lamo got Manning to talk about his personal life and his challenges - and how he had downloaded 260,000 classified State Department diplomatic cables and submitted them to WikiLeaks, along with the video of the 2007 helicopter incident, and another in 2009.

Manning said at one point “I can’t believe what I’m confessing to you: I’ve been so isolated so long…I just wanted to be nice, and live a normal life...but events kept forcing me to figure out ways to survive…” He was outraged and distraught at what the US was doing in Iraq, but more than anything else he was lonely and he wanted a friend. He was easy prey for Lamo who heartlessly conned him, then turned him in. And testified at his trial.

After sending the cables to WikiLeaks Manning said “god knows what happens now…hopefully worldwide discussions, debates and reforms…if not…then we’re doomed as a species…I will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens. I want people to see the truth, regardless of who they are…because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public...” 

The incident that made him want to do something about the injustices in Iraq was when he saw 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police for printing “anti-Iraqi literature”. The police wouldn’t cooperate with US forces, so Manning was told to investigate.  He found out that the literature was a benign political critique.  

He ran to the US officer to explain, and was told to shut up and rather explain how the US could assist the Iraqi Police in finding more detainees.

Manning said he had always questioned the way things worked, and looked for the truth, but now he’d been forced to be actively involved in something every fibre of his being revolted at. “…I was a part of it…and completely helpless” he said, to which Lamo replied sympathetically “sometimes we’re all helpless”, then asked Manning what he would do if he was exposed.  Manning said he didn’t think it would happen, because nobody ever noticed him. 

“I was regularly ignored…except when I had something essential…then it was back to ‘bring me the coffee, then sweep the floor’…I never quite understood that…felt like I was an abused work horse”.
It’s easy to understand how such a young man would be seduced by Lamo and drawn to a shadowy, folk hero figure like Julian Assange. But the ending of the story is tragic. Having been turned in by Lamo, on May 26 2010 Manning was arrested by Army authorities and put into pre-trial detention in Kuwait. At the time he faced at least 50 years in gaol. Some US politicians were calling for the death sentence.  

Throughout the trial he conducted himself with dignity, took responsibility for his actions. In fact, what damage did he actually do? Nothing in comparison to the damage the US did to Iraq for no legitimate reason at all. 

Manning has learned a hard lesson. As for Adrian Lamo he became a government informant to get out of a 15 year gaol sentence for principally for breaking into a series of high-profile computer networks, The New York Times being one, and running up a $300 000 bill for using a pay-and-search facility. Without paying.  

Before he made the deal he said of the possibility of going to gaol “I'm sure it would be educational. The beautiful thing about the universe is that nothing goes to waste.” Easy to say that when you’ve never taken responsibility for anything you’ve done. And it’s fine if you want to take the risk of committing crimes and going to gaol. But it’s not okay to encourage somebody else to do it – somebody who’s very vulnerable and desperately in need of a friend and mentor - and then inform on them so they go to gaol. Then testify against them. 

Adrian Lamo is the one who should be in gaol.