Wikileaks, Internet Activism And The Case of Bradley Manning

Who is Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning is accused of being the source of one of the most damaging leaks of United States Government information in history. Manning was a soldier posted with a unit of the army in Iraq and was charged with 22 separate charges including unauthorised access of government information and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Manning had boasted of his access in an online chat forum and was given up by the other party to the conversation. The scale of the disclosure was unprecedented.

Why were the cables damaging?

The main reason that the disclosures are damaging are that they reveal many of the private communications of American diplomats which say embarrassing things about the relation between the United States and the United Kingdom. The communications express doubts about the military capabilities of the British forces, the policy experience credentials of senior British politicians and information about officers of the British government. The disclosures also revealed that the American government was collecting private medical information on the King of Saudi Arabia. The disclosures also revealed that the Secretary of State of the United States had encouraged US diplomats to collect personal information about foreign diplomats at the United Nations. The information requested included credit card numbers, frequent flyer numbers and even biometric information. The cables also revealed that although the United States was providing $1.3bn worth of aid each year to Mubarack’s regime, its diplomats were actively encouraging the downfall of the regime. The most notable disclosures were regarding a German national known as Mr Al Masri. The cables revealed that the practice of rendition was in use by the United States. One of the cables said that ‘taking Al Masri was a mistake’. This is in the context of Al Masri saying that he had been kidnapped by the Central Intelligence Agency

One of the main reasons that the impact of the disclosures is controversial is that it is argued that the disclosures assisted as a catalyst of the Arab spring both in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. The cables revealed that the United States government was supporting the Egyptian regime despite knowing that it was an inherently anti democratic government. The outcome which resulted from the disclosures was arguably something of greatly international public benefit and Manning’s supporters therefore argued that he was in fact a patriot.

Speculation about Manning’s State of Mind

It is thought that Manning was suffering from depression for a number of reasons. He appears to have been in a state of either gender confusion or confusion about his sexuality. He had homosexual relationships with a few men and subsequently made disclosures which were part of the public record and indicate that at various points he was depressed about the breakdown of a relationship, his difficulty in being a gay member of the military and society in general. It is not clear whether these issues precipitated his decision to make the classified information public although it is speculated by many that it would have been a contributing factor.

The Case Against Bradley Manning

Manning pled guilty to 10 of the charges in February 2013. In relation to the other charges, he pled not guilty and the trial began on June 3 2013. The trial is expected to progress for 3 months after which the jury will give its verdict.

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