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US government fails to chill whistleblowers with harsh punishments

Published time: July 19, 2013 01:46
U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (C) (AFP Photo)

In an era of unprecedented secrecy and unprecedented openness the US government will criminalize whistleblowing activities even further and will continue the witch-hunt on activists, writer on Bradley Manning, Denver Nick has told RT.

RT: If found guilty, Manning will face life imprisonment, plus 154 years, is that really in proportion to what he’s done?

Denver Nick:
People are living longer and longer every year buts it’s doubtful that Bradley Manning will live that long. He’s charged that way of course I think probably to make a point. The government is maybe trying to make a point that whistleblowing is a serious crime or that leaking documents is a serious crime and scare potential leakers/whistleblowers into remaining silent. He’s facing of course as you mentioned the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, which is the military justice version of treason and that in particular represents a really gross overreaction, it’s kind of a dangerously absurd charge to level Manning with.

RT: This is a warning then to other whistleblowers not to do it, curious though, I wonder if it will almost have the opposite effect, if people deep down have conviction and think they’re going to do this, that isn’t going to stop them?

DN: He was already charged with aiding the enemy when Edward Snowden purported his leaks, so the attempt to sort of chill whistleblowers hasn’t been successful yet, if that in-fact is what the government is trying to do. Yes, it does seem doesn’t it, if someone was going to make this kind of chance, to blow the whistle and take a moral stand, that life in prison versus 25 years in prison. At some point it’s just a harsh punishment and you’re either going to take a stand or you’re not.

U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (C) (AFP Photo)

RT: The flip side to this is, if you’re in the military, you sign up to it, you need to keep secrets, and indeed a country, a state needs some secrets kept secret. That is a strong argument; a lot of people hold that argument. What do you think about that?

DN: That’s right, I agree with that argument.

RT: Where does Bradley Manning fit in then?

DN: Bradley Manning is charged with a number of different things, he’s charged to perpetrating these leaks, which he has admitted to and he’s offered to plead guilty to, which would land him in prison for well over a decade. He’s also charged of course with a number of violations of the espionage act and aiding the enemy, these charges have to do with motive and have to do with the damage already done by the leaks. And that’s where in my view these charges go way over board because what he is ultimately guilty of doing is providing information to a group of journalists. To charge somebody for what is tantamount to treason for speaking to a journalist contravenes centuries of precedent in the United States of how we balance the First Amendment freedom of speech and the responsibility of the press to be a check on the government with the need for state secrecy. Those charges in particular re above and beyond the charges of him perpetrating the leaks and violating his security clearance of which he admitted to being guilty.  

RT: Are we going to see more of these uber-leakers, such as Assange, Snowden and Manning?

DN: I think probably we will. The fact of the matter is we live in a new era. For Daniel Ellsberg to leave with Pentagon papers, he had to walk out of the room of the Rand cooperation with the box full of documents, hole-up in the hotel room for 72 hours and run thousands of pages of documents on a photocopier. Bradley Manning had to burn them on a disc drive and upload them on a computer. Snowden presumably did something similar. It is just a lot easier to lift documents. We live in an era of unprecedented secrecy and unprecedented openness. These two forces are bound to collide.

RT: Are we going to see an even more relentless pursuit of the whisleblowers by the government?

DN: It is hard to envision the government being even more relentless then they are right now in pursuing the whisleblowers but one will certainly assume that that will continue.

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