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Stein would pardon Bradley Manning

Dr. Jill Stein released a video statement today in support of Pfc. Bradley Manning, in coordination with today's Occupy the Justice Department actions:

"My name is Jill Stein and I’m running with the Green Party for President of the United States. If elected,  I will immediately pardon Bradley Manning,  the U.S. Army soldier accused of leaking classified material to the whistleblower website, WikiLeaks, while working as an intelligence analyst near Baghdad.

Many people know some of the highlights among the 3 million pages of leaked cables. Probably the most well-know is the horrifying so-called “Collateral Murder” video of the Apache helicopter attack on Reuters journalists and then on the civilians, including the children in that van, who tried to take the wounded away for treatment.

Another revelation concerned a military night raid that killed six children, followed by a U.S. air strike to destroy the evidence and cover up the atrocity.

The overall impact of the leaked information has been huge, leading indirectly to the recent withdrawal of the U.S. military from Iraq much sooner than our government intended. That’s because these revelations compelled the Maliki government in Iraq to refuse to extend criminal immunity to U.S. soldiers. It contributed to the turn of American public opinion to overwhelmingly oppose the war in Afghanistan. And it added momentum to the Arab Spring uprisings against dictatorial U.S.-backed regimes. 

The war criminals whom these Wikileaks cables exposed have suffered no consequences. The only one who is suffering consequences is Bradley Manning, the one who is accused of exposing the crimes.

Whistleblowers are indispensable for democracy. They enable the people to defend themselves against government malfeasance and tyranny. Those U.S. cables released to Wikileaks contained more information on the wars in Iraq,  Afghanistan, and other countries than all the media organizations in the world combined have been able to unearth. And they are all too filled with malfeasance, tyranny and war crimes.

So it may be that Bradley Manning was actually doing his duty, since he swore in his Oath of Enlistment to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” It is, after all, the duty of every citizen to bring their government to account when it violates the Constitution and the law, including especially laws against war crimes.

Regardless of these justifications, if Bradley Manning leaked the cables, he violated the law by committing what was essentially an act of civil disobedience.   For acts of civil disobedience,  a measure of punishment is accepted as a matter of course.  But the unconscionable violations of international law that have been exposed, and the war crimes that were revealed, all compel extreme leniency in this case.

Bradley Manning will have spent more than two years in detention before his court martial begins. For the first 10 months, he was held in solitary confinement, restricted to his cell 23 hours a day, and subjected to degrading treatment, including being forbidden reading material or the right to exercise, and being stripped naked while under constant observation. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, accused the U.S. Government of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment in his report based on a 14-month investigation. It said that the U.S. might have violated laws against torture as well as Manning's basic right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law.

Let me be clear. Defending Bradley Manning in this particular case, does not argue for  license for the release of classified information more generally. However, if Bradley Manning was the source of these leaks, he has served his country and the cause of liberty heroically by providing very disturbing truths to the American people that the Obama Administration sought to withhold. The time he has been imprisoned and the harsh treatment he has received are more than enough.  He should not be further punished.

In fact, the President should have brought Bradley Manning under the protections of the Whistleblower Protection Act. But the President, as well as the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have publicly stated that Manning broke the law. Those statements from the top of the chain of command constitute unlawful command influence that prejudices the proceedings of the court martial. It is one of many reasons why Bradley Manning cannot now get a fair trial in the military justice system.

The assault on Manning Bradley's basic rights for allegedly blowing the whistle on government misconduct comes at a time of an unprecedented assault on whistleblowers by the Obama administration. The Obama Justice Department has charged six people, including Manning, under the Espionage Act for leaking government information to a journalist. Prior to Obama, there were only three cases prosecuted under the Espionage Act since it was enacted in 1917.

If I am elected and have the opportunity to pardon Bradley Manning, I will do this as an affirmation that my country, the United States of America, strives to achieve the highest possible standards of justice, transparency, and honor.  

We must strive as a nation to so conduct ourselves that we have nothing to fear if the truth of our actions should be revealed to the world. If we can aspire to that goal – to be beyond reproach – then we will earn the sincere respect of the people of the world. The cause of freedom and democracy advance through honesty and defensible action, not state secrecy and attacks on whistleblowers."

 

The video is as follows:

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