The right to “press freedom” is supposed to be a fundamental right. It was deemed so important, that the 1st Congress under the (current) constitution, recognized freedom of the press in the same amendment as free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly & the right to petition for redress of grievances. Over the years, governments have placed restrictions on these rights to the point that they have become “privileges” in most jurisdictions.
Most people do not realize that they have rights whether a government or a court recognizes them or not. True, people get arrested for exercising their right to free speech or right to assemble if they don’t have a permission slip; and people have been arrested for exercising their right to film and/or record as a member of the press. I’m not denying that, though I am saying that those individuals still have those fundamental rights. Those rights were violated, not absent.
Another place in which the right to free press is being stifled is in the courthouse. Many jurisdictions have rules in place that limit the ability to record court proceedings and require members of the press to register in order to exercise their right as a member of the media. I’ve had my right to record hindered in courts in New Hampshire, as have many of my friends. So, you can imagine my excitement when I read that someone was able to sneak an audio recorder into Bradley Manning’s February 28 pretrial conference and record his statement in which he explained why he leaked government documents to WikiLeaks.
Manning’s guilty plea to 10 lesser charges included possessing and willfully communicating to an unauthorized person all the main elements of the WikiLeaks disclosure. The UK Guardian reports:
“That covered the so-called ‘collateral murder’ video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq; some US diplomatic cables including one of the early WikiLeaks publications the Reykjavik cable; portions of the Iraq and Afghanistan warlogs, some of the files on detainees in Guantanamo; and two intelligence memos.
These lesser charges each carry a two-year maximum sentence, committing Manning to a possible upper limit of 20 years in prison.”
Reading from a prepared statement, Manning said he was not pressured by WikiLeaks to release the information and that he wanted to give the documents to The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Reuters, but they did not want what he had to offer. He also said the leaked information had “upset” or “disturbed” him, but did not contain anything he thought would harm the United States if it became public.
Regarding the Collateral Murder video, Manning said the “most alarming part to me was the seemingly delightful blood-lust ” and that those in the video “seemed to not value human life by referring to them as ‘dead bastards.’”
Manning added, “I was disturbed by the response to injured children… I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan was a target that needed to be engaged and neutralized.” He also said, “I believe that if the general public … had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general,” and “I felt I accomplished something that would allow me to have a clear conscience.”
An attorney who serves on the steering committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network wrote in an email, “Whether this plea helps him or not is not the critical issue. In fact, the government has already announced that they will be prosecuting him on the aiding the enemy and espionage charges, so it did not stop them from going forward with offenses that could result in life in prison for Manning.” The attorney added, “Manning obviously put his liberty in jeopardy in an act of conscience for the patriotic reason of trying to improve US foreign policy which has gotten horribly off-track.”
The debate regarding “the role of the military and foreign policy” that Bradley Manning hoped to spark, has yet to take place. Hopefully his trial will be the catalyst for that debate, hopefully the debate will lead people to the conclusion that the American Empire is on the verge of collapse and is creating more enemies every day.
You can find the recording here.