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The Meaning of the Manning Verdict


Although Manning was not convicted of the harsher “aiding the enemy” charge, which would have introduced a death-eligible charge into the government’s anti-whistleblower toolbox, he was convicted of several other lesser counts. He probably will not receive a life sentence, but still faces potentially decades or more in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. ET tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, and if he receives the maximum sentence on all counts he will face over 100 years.

The acquittal on the “aiding the enemy” charge is undoubtedly a small victory, but Manning’s case will still serve as a deterrent to those who might shine light on America’s dirty secrets.

He was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial, waiting over three years to appear in court. He was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, held first in Kuwait and then for eleven months in solitary confinement in a 6 x 12 foot windowless cell at Quantico. During that time he was often deprived of clothing and not allowed to sleep or lie down during certain hours.

If you haven’t already seen it, watch the Collateral Murder video here. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded. Before Manning anonymously shared the video with Wikileaks in 2010, Reuters had been unsuccessfully trying to obtain it through the Freedom of Information Act since the time of the attack.

Manning’s so-called crimes consist of leaking the Collateral Murder video, the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, which betrayed more war crimes and the extent of America’s quagmires in the Middle East, and the embarrassing diplomatic cables that demonstrated the low-level corruption, bullying, and hypocrisy of modern diplomacy.

Professor Yochai Benkler has written, “The implications of Manning’s case go well beyond  Wikileaks, to the very heart of accountability journalism in a networked age.”

[W]e have to look at ourselves in the mirror of this case and ask: Are we the America of Japanese Internment and Joseph McCarthy, or are we the America of Ida Tarbell and the Pentagon Papers? What kind of country makes communicating with the press for publication to the American public a death-eligible offense?

What a coup for Al Qaeda, to have maimed our constitutional spirit to the point where we might become that nation.

Kate Epstein is a lawyer and activist who manages the blog The Lone Pamphleteer. She can be reached at


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