We’ve known for a while what Pfc. Bradley Manning looks like, but thanks to the Freedom of the Press Foundation we also now know what he sounds like.
The organization violated court rules when late Monday it released the full audio of Manning’s hourlong statement before a military court in Fort Meade, Md., marking the first time since his arrest in May 2010 that the American public has heard him speak.
Freedom of the Press Foundation:
Freedom of the Press Foundation is dedicated to supporting journalism that combats overreaching government secrecy. We have been disturbed that Manning’s pre-trial hearings have been hampered by the kind of extreme government secrecy that his releases to WikiLeaks were intended to protest.
...The information provided by Manning has uncovered stories of wrongdoing by the United States, as well as by leaders and politicians around the world. The cables were reportedly one of the catalysts that led to the Arab Spring and sped up the end of the Iraq War. To this day, more than two years after their release, the information provided by Manning is used every day by journalists and historians in major publications are the world to enlighten and inform the public, both in the United States and around the world. In a time when the extent and reach of U.S. government secrecy is unprecedented, and there are credible reports that the government has abused its secrecy and classification systems to cover up numerous illegal and unconstitutional activities, Manning’s actions should be seen as an overdue sliver of sunlight into an overly secret system rather than as a basis for a prosecution seeking decades of imprisonment.
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By releasing this audio recording, we wish to make sure that the voice of this generation’s most prolific whistleblower can be heard—literally—by the world.
The foundation also posted an edited clip of Manning discussing his reaction to a 2007 video he released to WikiLeaks. The video, titled “Collateral Murder,” depicts a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad that killed a number of civilians, including two Reuters journalists.
“At first, I did not consider the video very special, as I have viewed countless other ‘war porn’-type videos depicting combat,” Manning said. “However, the recording of audio comments by the aerial weapons team crew and the second engagement in the video of an unarmed bongo truck troubled me.
“It was clear to me that the event happened because the aerial weapons team mistakenly identified Reuters employees as a potential threat and that the people in the bongo truck were merely attempting to assist the wounded. The people in the van were not a threat but merely ‘good Samaritans.’ The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful blood lust they appeared to have,” he said. “They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging in and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as ‘dead bastards’ and congratulating themselves on their ability to kill in large numbers.”
Manning added that he felt “emotionally” burdened by the video.
Manning pleaded guilty to 10 charges and faces up to 20 years in prison. However, he also pleaded not guilty to 12 other charges that constitute the more serious allegations against him, including aiding the enemy and espionage.
As Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges—who witnessed Manning’s statement in court—wrote earlier this month in a piece titled “We Are Bradley Manning :
A statement that Manning made to the court was a powerful and moving treatise on the importance of placing conscience above personal safety, the necessity of sacrificing careers and liberty for the public good, and the moral imperative of carrying out acts of defiance. Manning will surely pay with many years—perhaps his entire life—in prison. But we too will pay. The war against Bradley Manning is a war against us all.
This trial is not simply the prosecution of a 25-year-old soldier who had the temerity to report to the outside world the indiscriminate slaughter, war crimes, torture and abuse that are carried out by our government and our occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a concerted effort by the security and surveillance state to extinguish what is left of a free press, one that has the constitutional right to expose crimes by those in power. The lonely individuals who take personal risks so that the public can know the truth—the Daniel Ellsbergs, the Ron Ridenhours, the Deep Throats and the Bradley Mannings—are from now on to be charged with ‘“aiding the enemy.” All those within the system who publicly reveal facts that challenge the official narrative will be imprisoned, as was John Kiriakou, the former CIA analyst who for exposing the U.S. government’s use of torture began serving a 30-month prison term the day Manning read his statement. There is a word for states that create these kinds of information vacuums: totalitarian.