Chelsea Manning walked out of prison this week, finally free. But, should we celebrate her as a hero? Thank you for joining me on the thirty-ninth episode of The LAVA Spurt, Is Chelsea Manning a Hero? This episode is brought to you by Praxis, where you can get a full-time job in nine months making $50,000 a year with no college degree.

Chelsea Manning walked out of federal prison on Wednesday, May 17th, and her first actions were to take a picture of her feet as she made some of her first steps of freedom in seven years, then she went to eat pizza. Chelsea was granted clemency by Obama, cutting her 35-year sentence for leaking an enormous trove of military intelligence records short by a few decades.

Then known as Bradley Manning, she leaked nearly 750,000 military files and cables to WikiLeaks aged 22. The materials included battlefield video.

Manning said she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military's disregard for the effects of war on civilians and that she released information that she didn't believe would harm the U.S. No document was classified higher than secret and her defenders say no one was endangered by the leaks.

Critics said the leaks laid bare some of the nation's most sensitive secrets and endangered information sources, prompting the State Department to help some of those people move to protect their safety. Several ambassadors were recalled, expelled or reassigned because of embarrassing disclosures. Frankly, if the ambassadors were embarrassed by their actions, maybe they should have thought about the implications of those actions prior to taking them, just sayin'.

But what exactly did Chelsea reveal? It is important to remember the crimes her leaks revealed.

 

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Chelsea Manning walked out of prison this week, finally free. But, should we celebrate her as a hero? Thank you for joining me on the thirty-ninth episode of The LAVA Spurt, Is Chelsea Manning a Hero? This episode is brought to you by Praxis, where you can get a full-time job in nine months making $50,000 a year with no college degree.

Chelsea Manning walked out of federal prison on Wednesday, May 17th, and her first actions were to take a picture of her feet as she made some of her first steps of freedom in seven years, then she went to eat pizza. Chelsea was granted clemency by Obama, cutting her 35-year sentence for leaking an enormous trove of military intelligence records short by a few decades.

Then known as Bradley Manning, she leaked nearly 750,000 military files and cables to WikiLeaks aged 22. The materials included battlefield video.

Manning said she wanted to expose what she considered to be the U.S. military's disregard for the effects of war on civilians and that she released information that she didn't believe would harm the U.S. No document was classified higher than secret and her defenders say no one was endangered by the leaks.

Critics said the leaks laid bare some of the nation's most sensitive secrets and endangered information sources, prompting the State Department to help some of those people move to protect their safety. Several ambassadors were recalled, expelled or reassigned because of embarrassing disclosures. Frankly, if the ambassadors were embarrassed by their actions, maybe they should have thought about the implications of those actions prior to taking them, just sayin'.

But what exactly did Chelsea reveal? It is important to remember the crimes her leaks revealed.

Likely the biggest and most popular bombshell from her release was the "Collateral Murder" video which showed indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad -- including two Reuters news staff on July 12th, 2007. Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. 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.

There was also the Cablegate section of the leak, which included over 250,000 diplomatic cables from US embassies around the world. These cables revealed tons of new information including:

The US had been secretly bombing Yemen, killing several civilians.
The US knew that Chinese hackers were responsible for breaking into Google and other US business, the US government networks, and even the personal computer of the Dalai Lama.
Then secretary of state Hillary Clinton issued a classified directive ordering U.S. diplomats to gather information on the leadership of the United Nations, including credit card numbers, DNA, fingerprints, and iris scans. Officials targeted included U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and representatives from China, Russia, France, and the U.K. This was in direct violation of international treaties.
Some of the cables included details on the Vatican hiding big sex abuse cases in Ireland.
The US used threats, spying, and more to try and get its way at a crucial climate conference in Copenhagen.
Documents revealed that US soldiers sent 1,300 reports to headquarters with graphic accounts, including a few about detainees who were beaten to death.
An Iraqi wearing a tracksuit was killed by an American sniper who later discovered that the victim was the platoon’s interpreter. The documents also reveal many previously unreported instances in which American soldiers killed civilians—at checkpoints, from helicopters, in operations.
Her revelations were so important that, according to New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, they helped to spark the Arab Spring uprisings because of some of the information revealed in the documents. Even more significantly, revelations about how the U.S. military executed Iraqi civilians, then called in a bombing raid to cover up what they did, prevented the Iraqi government from granting the Obama administration the troop immunity it was seeking in order to extend the war in Iraq. These are very significant results of the revelations.

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But why did Manning send this information to WikiLeaks instead of going directly to the press, like Snowden did? Manning tried going to the press first. Manning contacted The Washington Post, Politico, and The New York Times to ask if they were interested in the material; the Post reporter did not sound interested, and the Times did not return the call at all. I bet those reporters were kicking themselves after all this was revealed.

In the wake of these disclosures, the U.S government — as it reflexively does — claimed that the release of the documents would endanger lives, and that those responsible for publishing the leaks had “blood on their hands.” But subsequent investigations by the Associated Press found those accusations utterly unfounded, and ultimately, even Defense Secretary Robert Gates ridiculed the hysteria driving the government’s claims about the leak’s harms as “significantly overwrought.”

As Glenn Greenwald from the Intercept and one of the reporters who personally met with Edward Snowden and helped his release his leaks, said:

Chelsea Manning was revealed as the whistleblower responsible for one of the most important journalistic archives in history, her heroism has been manifest. She was the classic leaker of conscience, someone who went at the age of 20 to fight in the Iraq War believing it was noble, only to discover the dark reality not only of that war but of the U.S. government’s actions in the world generally: war crimes, indiscriminate slaughter, complicity with high-level official corruption, and systematic deceit of the public.

In the face of those discoveries, she knowingly risked her own liberty to disclose documents to the world that would reveal the truth, with no expectation of benefit to herself. As someone who has spent years touting the nobility of her actions, my defenses of her always early on centered on the vital nature of the material she revealed and the right of the public to know about it.

I personally can't wait to meet Chelsea Manning, shake her hand, and thank her for her service. Not her service as a member of the US military, but her service as a whistleblower who risked her life and liberty to expose real crimes committed by governments around the world. Someone should be pinning a medal on her chest.

Until next time... keep striking the root!

 

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