Some thoughts about Army Pfc. Bradley Manning's pretrial hearing, which concluded this week.
Manning, of course, is charged with leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the website WikiLeaks and, at his trial in March, will be pleading guilty to certain charges while rejecting the military's contention that he "aided the enemy" in doing so.
Manning was in court this month seeking dismissal on the grounds that since his arrest in May 2010, he has been subjected to unlawful pretrial punishment. Certainly the conditions Manning and his civilian lawyer David E. Coombs described in often dramatic testimony were inhumane, especially for someone not convicted of anything -- two months in a dark "cage" in Kuwait; nearly nine months in solitary confinement in Quantico, Va.; orders to stand for inspection naked.
Oddly, the mainstream media and conservative media have been cool, if not callous, to the whole story. This is hard to understand on many levels. To begin with, the media are the main consumers -- beneficiaries -- of WikiLeaks documents presumably leaked by Manning. Among the first 115 editions of The New York Times in 2011, for example, 54 of them contained stories sourced to WikiLeaks, The Atlantic Wire reported. That's almost half. The Grey Lady, however, had to be publicly browbeaten by online criticism and her own ombudsman into sending a correspondent to cover even one day of hearings on this biggest leak case in history. Could the media's aversion to the story be related to their noted adulation of President Barack Obama, who has already prosecuted more leak cases (six) than all other presidents combined (three)?
As for conservatives, it was only two years ago that pundits were openly calling for the 'execution' of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks' founder and publisher. Now, with Manning's pretrial proceedings under way, their silence is notable.
I, too, am both a consumer and beneficiary of WikiLeaks, only I've never harbored bloodlust for Assange, nor outrage over WikiLeaks. As far as I've been able to tell, these document dumps jeopardize only the deployment of U.S. government lies, not U.S. troops, and, personally, I would like to see many more such revelations.
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