David Swanson: Private Manning becomes latest victim of President Obama’s war on whistleblowers and efforts should be made to remember him as a hero not a traitor
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
Today, Private Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents.
Now joining us to discuss the sentence is David Swanson. David is the author and activist who works for RootsAction.org. And he’s been following the Bradley Manning case even before the trial.
Thanks for joining us, David.
DAVID SWANSON, COFOUNDER, WAR IS A CRIME: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: So, David, what was your reaction to the sentence?
SWANSON: It’s outrageous. It’s a crime. Here is someone who revealed crimes, which is his moral and legal duty, who was of great benefit to ending the war on Iraq, the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, the movements for democracy around the world, four-time Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and he’s being punished with decades in prison, potentially, and a dishonorable discharge by a judge who in fact is being given a dishonorable promotion during the course of this trial, who has disgraced herself.
And here’s a young man–yes, he may get–he’ll get three and a half years off immediately that he’s already served. He may get time off for being a good prisoner and so forth. He may be out in a decade. But there’s going to be a movement pursuing clemency and pardon. And I’m not sure to what extent Bradley Manning’s lawyer will be making the case that he’s a good, apologetic prisoner and to what extent he’ll be making the case that those of us in the street will be making, that he is a hero who ought to be rewarded rather than punished. But that clearly is how he’s going to continue to be thought of by the many, many people around the world and in this country who know the benefit he’s been to democracy and transparency in government.
DESVARIEUX: Let’s talk about the defense’s case. Do you think they went about it in the right way? Should they have played up more Bradley Manning’s role as a whistleblower? And what do you make of Bradley Manning’s actual apology?
SWANSON: Well, you know, it’s just galling to have to witness, as I did in the courtroom, Bradley Manning apologizing for what is rightly seen as a heroic act and an act that he himself saw at the time, as documented in various chat logs, as a moral, legal act that he understood the risks of and that he understood the goals behind. And they were the goals of promoting democratic awareness and accountability. To see him apologize while the people responsible for the wars and the crimes are on book tour, having presidential libraries opened for them, going to golfing events for wounded warriors, and so forth, it’s just so incredibly frustrating.
I can’t offer him legal advice. I don’t know whether he and his lawyers made the right move by apologizing and going to his personal troubles and suggesting that he was overstressed and not thinking clearly. Maybe they reduced his sentence from 90 years to 35 years by that strategy. Who am I to say?
But there is the alternative that could have been pursued that would make more sense in terms of requesting a presidential pardon from a future president down the road, which would have been to insist consistently that he did the right thing, that he behaved morally and legally and ought to be rewarded and protected as a whistleblower. And that, of course, politically would have been the thing that the nation and the world needed to hear. And that, of course, is the story that we need to continue telling each other about Bradley Manning regardless of what legal defense his lawyers are pursuing.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about President Obama and his record in prosecuting whistleblowers. Now that Bradley Manning has been sentenced, where do you think this goes? How is this going to affect future whistleblowers from coming forward?
SWANSON: Well, we already have heard from many journalists that their sources are drying up. We’ve seen a few people, including Edward Snowden, perhaps inspired by Bradley Manning and continuing courageously, but many others keeping quiet, and this internal threat program established to require that government employees snitch on each other if they appear to possibly be whistleblowers, suspicious behaviors listed as including dissatisfaction with U.S. foreign policy, which is absolutely the healthiest attitude a citizen in a government of, by, and for the people can have. This trend is going to continue unless we manage to check it. And people are going to be concerned.
And Edward Snowden looks like evermore he was absolutely right to flee the country. We’ve seen the owner of–his internet service provider saying that he can’t speak about why he’s had to shut his company down unless he flees the country, and he doesn’t want to. And most people don’t want to.
So there’s a great danger of over-secrecy and fear of speaking out. And this sentence adds to that fear substantially.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Thank you so much for joining us, David.
SWANSON: Thank you.
DESVARIEUX: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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