For the first time ever the voice of U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning has been heard around the world after a military court audio clip of the man charged with leaking a massive trove of secret government data, including confidential State Department cables, was posted on the Internet this week.
In contravention of the rules of the trial, under which all media are to be blacked out during the court martial proceedings against Mr. Manning in Fort Meade, Maryland, the Freedom of the Press Foundation published an audio clip and transcript of his statement to the court on February 28.
In the audio Mr. Manning can be heard explaining his motivation for leaking U.S. government data to online whistleblower Wikileaks, saying he wanted to show the American public the “true costs of war… and spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan”.
Describing his initial involvement in reading State Department classified cables, Mr. Manning added, “The more I read, the more I was fascinated with the way that we dealt with other nations and organisations. I also began to think the documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity that didn’t seem characteristic of the de facto leader of the free world.”
He also spoke of the U.S. Army video showing the July 2007 incident in Baghdad in which troops in an Apache helicopter can be seen attacking and shooting down a group of men including two journalists. Mr Manning said, “[They] dehumanised the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote ‘dead [expletive]’ unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers.”
Commenting on the specifics of that incident he said, “At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.”
Mr. Manning was arrested in mid-2010 on suspicion of passing on the data to Wikileaks, and has been in prison in the U.S. since then, including in solitary confinement at times. He was arraigned in February 2012. On February 28, 2013, Mr. Manning pled guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him, facing a potential total sentence of up to 20 years. He was however said not to enter a plea for the charge of “aiding the enemy,” which could carry a life sentence for him.
Freedom of the Press Foundation co-founder Daniel Ellsberg — who is also the 1971 whistleblower for the Pentagon Papers on the U.S.’ military engagement in Vietnam — said that while he did not know who precisely made the recording of Mr. Manning’s court statement, that person “has done the American public a great service”. He added that this marked the first time that the American public could hear Mr. Manning, “in his own voice explain what he did and how he did it”.