What Did Bradley Manning Reveal?

Attorney Tony Munter wonders if the frenzy of reporting surrounding Bradley Manning’s gender identity is already making people forget the important legal lessons of his case.

Yesterday Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years, with the possibility of parole in seven.

Today comes some sensational news that Manning wants hormone therapy and is a Transgender person.  Manning wants to be known as Chelsea rather than Bradley now.

Yes of course, these are sensational revelations and legitimate news items.

Unfortunately, we are losing track of the things Manning revealed, which we really should have not needed a leak to know about and which we should demand to know more about.

There are many in the whistleblower community who feel that Manning and WikiLeaks should have been more careful about what they revealed in public.  It may be true that some of the revelations harmed the U.S. war efforts or the abilities of the United States to conduct diplomacy. Of course that is serious.

At the same time, there seems to be an alarming reduction in the available methods by which legitimate whistleblowers can act responsibly. Courts continue to strip the rights of anyone even vaguely related to national security, as they did in a decision just this week.

Most important, we are losing track of the serious revelations of wrongdoing Manning brought forward.

Let’s put it this way. Manning revealed many potential crimes we would usually think of as more serious than leaking information, and those crimes appear to be going uninvestigated and unpunished. The evidence of such issues Manning revealed, according to a compendium published by The Guardian, includes:

“A video showing a US helicopter crew laughing as they launched an air strike killing a dozen people in Baghdad in July 2007, including a photographer and driver working for the Reuters news agency. The footage was recorded on one of two Apache helicopters which were hunting for suspected insurgents. They encounter a group of men on the ground, who do not immediately appear armed, and there is no sign of gunshots. But one helicopter crew opens fire, with shouts of “Hahaha. I hit ’em,” and “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards”. As the wounded are helped, one of the helicopters opens fire again, with armour-piercing shells.

Cables providing details that U.S. Marines escaping an attack outside the city of Jalalabad fired their guns indiscriminately, killing 19 unarmed civilians and wounding 50 more. While the aftermath of the attack was plain to military authorities, the files suggested, the incident was referred to in an official report only as this: ‘The patrol returned to JAF [Jalalabad air field]’

Diplomatic cables providing an equally candid view of rampant government corruption in Afghanistan, including details of an incident in October 2009 when the then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was stopped and questioned in Dubai carrying $52m in cash.”

The list goes on and includes many serious alleged crimes. Yet we do not read about investigations into the people purported to have committed these actions, or really much of anything about them at all.

Manning will serve 35 years. Will the potential crimes brought to light by these leaks even be investigated? Only if people remember what all the fuss was really about in the first place.