U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, 23, who has been locked in solitary confinement for ten months, under conditions that some argue count as torture, has been hit with 22 military charges for his involvement in allegedly passing secret U.S. diplomatic cables to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks organization. The charges include “aiding the enemy,” which could be punishable by death, though the “enemy” in question is undefined. Manning is being held in a maximum security jail on Virginia’s Quantico marine base, and is set for a provisional hearing in May or June, when the final charges will be filed.
In addition to the diplomatic cables, it is thought that Manning could be source of WikiLeaks-released videos shot in Iraq and Afghanistan, which show brutal airstrikes and civilian death.
David House, a researcher at MIT who is one of very few people to have visited Manning in prison, told the Firedoglake news website that the “aiding the enemy” charge was similar to Richard Nixon’s heavy-handed treatment of Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Nixon called Ellsberg “the most dangerous man in America” and said he was “providing aid and comfort to the enemy”.
“Today we see the Obama administration continuing the legacy Nixon started by declaring whistleblowers as enemies of the state. It is a sad and dangerous day for transparency advocates everywhere,” House said.
For more critical analysis of the charges and what they mean, Glenn Greenwald of Salon is outraged.